COLUMBIA, S.C.- Fireflies fans can expect to see Pedro Lopez back in the Fireflies dugout this season as manager, but he will be only one of two familiar faces on Columbia's coaching staff this season. 2019 will be Lopez's second season managing the Fireflies and his 12th season with the New York Mets. In his first season in Columbia he led the team to a 64-70 record.
"I'm definitely excited to be back in Columbia," said Lopez. "I'm looking forward to another challenge and to giving the fans a great show, something that they can remember for a long time."
The Vega Baja, Puerto Rico native was a 21st round draft pick by the San Diego Padres in 1988. After spending six years with the Padres, Lopez went on to play in the Milwaukee Brewers organization for two years before finishing his playing career with the Houston Astros in 2000. Prior to coaching in the Mets organization, Lopez coached in the Texas Rangers system from 2000 to 2007. He has previously been named Eastern League Manager of the Year (2013, Binghamton Mets (AA)) and won the Eastern League Championship with Binghamton in 2014. He managed the Las Vegas 51's in (AAA) in 2017.
Royce Ring will join the Fireflies staff this season as pitching coach, replacing Jonathan Hurst who was with the team since the Inaugural Season in 2016. Royce was selected in the first round by the Chicago White Sox in 2002. The lefthander would go on to make his way to the majors in 2005, where he had stints with the Mets, Atlanta Braves, San Diego Padres and the New York Yankees. While with the Mets, Royce finished with a 3.47 ERA after appearing in 26 games.
After finishing his playing career in 2013, Royce joined the Mets coaching staff as pitching coach with the Gulf Coast Mets (Rookie) from 2014 to 2015. He was also the pitching coach with the Kingsport Mets (2016, Rookie) and the Brooklyn Cyclones (2017 to 2018, Short Season-A) before moving to Columbia this season.
The 2019 season also brings a new hitting coach to Columbia. Luis Rivera joins the Fireflies staff after being with the Mets organization since 2010. Rivera was a middle infielder who played in both the Mets and the Chicago Cubs minor league systems from 2005 to 2010. Rivera is familiar with the South Atlantic League, having worked a half-season with the Savannah Sand Gnats (Low A) as player coach in 2010; he spent the other half of that season as an infield coach for Kingsport.
Rivera would continue to coach in Kingsport for the 2011 season as the team's hitting coach. He went on to be the hitting coordinator in Brooklyn from 2012 to 2014. He also spent part of the 2014 season with Lopez in Binghamton when the team won the Eastern League Championship. After the 2014 season Rivera became the manager of the Kingsport Mets for three seasons (2015 to 2017). Rivera spent the 2018 season as the bench coach in Binghamton.
The Mets have added bench coach Gilbert Gomez to the Fireflies coaching staff as well. This will be Gomez's second season coaching in the Mets Organization. He spent his first season with the Mets as the hitting coach for the Dominican Mets (Rookie Dominican Summer League).
Gomez was an outfielder in the Mets minor league system from 2009 to 2015. After concluding his playing career, and before joining the Mets organization again as a coach, Gomez was the manager of the Dominican National Team in 2017 and the assistant hitting coach for the Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Winter League in 2017 and 2018.
Derek Swartout-Mosher is the only other familiar face in the dugout this season besides Lopez. Swartout-Mosher returns as the team's assistant coach. Before joining the Fireflies in 2018, he was the mental skills coach with the Gulf Coast Mets.
Daichi Arima joins the Fireflies staff as the team's new athletic trainer, taking over for Hiroto Kawamura. 2019 will be Arima's fifth season as a trainer in the Mets organization. Arima started his Mets career in 2015 as the Dominican Republic Athletic Training Coordinator, moving on to be the trainer with the Gulf Coast Mets (2016), Kingsport Mets (2017) and the Brooklyn Cyclones (2018).
Sam Nickelsen rounds out the new coaching staff as the team's strength and condition coach, taking over for Tanner Miracle who was with the team in 2017 and 2018. This will be Nickelsen's third season with the Mets, after having spent the last two years as the strength and conditioning coach in Brooklyn.
Season tickets for the 2019 Columbia Fireflies season are available now. Tickets can be purchased at the Fireflies box office, over the phone at 803-726-HITS, or online at FirefliesTickets.com. Individual game tickets for the 2019 season will go on sale on February 20 at 10:00am.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.