Where Are They Now? Juan Samuel
For the first time in four decades, baseball is not a daily part of Juan Samuel’s life. While treasuring the newfound time he has to spend with his four children, the 57-year-old Samuel wants to get back into the game he so dearly loves.
“I hope I’m not done coaching,” Samuel said by phone from his home in Estero, Fla.
Samuel interviewed for the Phillies' managerial position last offseason, then was not retained on the new coaching staff after seven seasons as an outfield instructor in Philadelphia.
Baseball is all Samuel has ever known. He came to the United States from the Dominican Republic as a 19-year-old Phillies prospect and ended his 16-year major league career in 1998 as a three-time all-star. Along the way, he appeared on the cover of Baseball America five times from 1982 through 1993.
Samuel said he was fortunate to be signed by the Phillies, whose minor league staff included numerous Spanish-speaking coaches at the time. Because his mother hailed from the U.S. Virgin Islands, Samuel had a working command of English and proved to be a valuable translator for other Dominican prospects.
Samuel also was known for his free-swinging approach during an era when a greater premium was placed on on-base percentage and putting the ball in play. It helps explain how he still owns the major league record for a righthanded hitter with 701 at-bats in his rookie season of 1984.
Samuel’s response to leading the National League in strikeouts in consecutive seasons from 1984 through 1987 was representative of the style of play he learned in the Dominican Republic.
“We don’t walk out of the island. We hit our way out,” Samuel said.
Samuel, a career .259/.315/.420 hitter in 6,081 at-bats who amassed 161 home runs and 396 stolen bases, said he once poked fun at fellow Dominicans Julio Franco and Tony Fernandez. “I don’t think you guys are Dominican,” Samuel recalled saying to them. “You guys know the strike zone too well.”
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The Dominican Republic replaced Cuba as the prime international talent source in the 1980s.
Samuel’s late-season callup to the Phillies in 1983 earned him a spot on the postseason roster, and he appeared in three World Series games. Then he finished second to Mets righthander Dwight Gooden for NL Rookie of the Year honors in 1984. He finished second in the league in triples with 19 that season, and his 72 stolen bases set a major league record for a rookie.
He became the first major leaguer to record double figures in doubles, triples, home runs and stolen bases during his first four seasons. He fell one triple short of extending the streak to five seasons in 1988.
Samuel eventually played for the Mets (who traded future MVP Lenny Dykstra to acquire him), Dodgers, Royals, Reds, Tigers and Blue Jays before going directly into coaching in the Tigers, Mets, Orioles and Phillies systems. He served as interim manager for the Orioles in 2010, going 17-34.
He has since interviewed for managerial positions with the Tigers and Phillies.
“That is something I’d like to do before I hang it up,” Samuel said. “I’ve coached first base, the infield, the outfield. I managed a little bit in Baltimore. I’ve kind of done everything. I’d like to get another shot at it.”