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Cesar Nicolas had not even managed his first game for the Arkansas Travelers when he was asked about the somewhat unusual circumstances leading to his appointment.

The question was posed to Nicolas late Saturday night at Dickey-Stephens Park in North Little Rock, about 14 hours before his managerial debut, which came in a 5-2 victory Sunday over Midland.

Nicolas, 37, who is fluent in Spanish as well as English, acknowledged that managerial changes don't normally occur when things are going good in professional baseball.

But previous manager Mitch Canham left the Travelers on Thursday because he landed his dream job -- head coach at Oregon State -- on the heels of leading Arkansas to the first-half title in the Texas League North.

Nicolas, listed at 6-4, 230, was a power-hitting infielder and designated hitter during seven seasons in the minor leagues (Arizona and Detroit organizations) and several more seasons in Independent ball, Mexico and the Dominican Republic.

Nicolas shrugged his broad shoulders when it was suggested he was being put into an awkward spot.

"There is that element of looking at it, of them already having done everything so well, that all I can do is ruin it," Nicolas said, with a big grin.

Nicolas, a fifth-round selection by the Diamondbacks in the 2004 Major League Baseball Amateur Draft out of Vanderbilt, said the only pressure he feels is for him to get acquainted with the players already in place and them getting acquainted with him.

"I've told them my goal isn't to come in here and replace Mitch," Nicolas said. "Nobody can really do that. Mitch is amazing, an awesome person and coach, great friend and mentor.

"I think our styles are similar. Maybe our approaches vary a little bit. But we have very much aligned visions from what we'd like to see our players do to develop in the framework of the organization."

Left fielder Jake Fraley, one of eight Travelers chosen to participate in the June 25 Texas League All-Star game in Tulsa, said the Travelers are focused on making Nicolas' transition as smooth as possible.

"It definitely changes stuff," said Fraley, who entered Sunday's game hitting .318, second in the Texas League, with 11 home runs and 46 RBI. "I'd be lying if I said anything else. But this is such a unique group of guys.

"The biggest thing for us is welcoming in the new manager with open arms and allowing him to get to know each and every one of us personally."

They will get that chance in the next seven days.

The team left Little Rock by bus after Sunday's game, embarking on a trip to Corpus Christi (11 hours by bus) and Midland before next week's All-Star break.

Arkansas doesn't play again at Dickey-Stephens Park until June 27, when it hosts Tulsa.

Nicolas, promoted to manager after overseeing the Mariners' program of developing Latin American talent, said he joked with the team executive Dave McKay that it might have made more sense for him to take over in Corpus Christi today instead of Sunday.

"I could have just flown into Corpus," Nicolas said, grinning as he spoke.

But Nicolas, who has been traveling all over country in his current duties, said the upcoming road trip is a great time to get to know his new players.

"I don't look to change a whole lot," Nicolas said. "I don't think a lot needs to be changed, as you can see by the play on the field."

It just takes time for everybody for everyone to get acquainted.

"It's a trust thing," said Nicolas, who worked with some of the current Travs when serving as Canham's hitting coach at Class A Clinton (Iowa) in 2016. "Some of these guys know me. Some of these guys, I've got to earn their trust.

"I'm definitely not going to come in and impose my will on anyone. My goal is to come and support them the best I can. They're all doing a fantastic job. It's just a matter of me coming in and supplementing things."

Sports on 06/17/2019

Print Headline: Nicolas jumps in as Travs' manager

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