By Kevin Glew
Cooperstowners in Canada
Omar Malave, who spent more than three decades in the Toronto Blue Jays’ organization as a player, coach and manager, passed away yesterday in Dunedin, Fla., at the age of 58.
In a brave and heartbreaking post on Twitter, his daughter shared that her father ended his own life.
Tributes for the legendary coach poured in after the Toronto Blue Jays announced his death on social media last night.
“My condolences to the Malave family,” wrote former Blue Jays shortstop Alex Gonzalez on Twitter. “He was my first coach in pro ball and I will never forget the impact he had on my career. RIP Omar, you will be missed.”
Former Blue Jays pitcher Kelvim Escobar also offered his condolences on Twitter.
“The one who told me… ‘Kid get ready, you going to the show!’ Big impact in my career,” wrote Escobar.
Born on January 17, 1963 in Cumana, Ven., Malave was signed as an international free agent by the Blue Jays on August 23, 1980. He began his pro career as an infielder with the Rookie Ball Gulf Coast League Blue Jays in 1981, batting .253 in 53 games.
Over the next eight seasons, Malave developed into a useful utility man, who played every position except catcher in the Blue Jays’ organization. His finest season was in 1985 with class-A Kinston when he batted .288 with 10 home runs and nine stolen bases in 105 games.
As a player, Malave made it as high as triple-A Syracuse in 1989 before retiring to join the Rookie Ball Medicine Hat Blue Jays as a coach in 1990. The Blue Jays were impressed by his knowledge and rapport with the players and he was named manager of their Gulf Coast League club in 1991. That assignment began a stretch in which he would spend 24 of the next 25 seasons as a manager in the Blue Jays’ system.
In 1993, he was hired as the bench boss of the Rookie-Ball Pioneer League Medicine Hat Blue Jays and he guided them to a 39-34 record and a second-place finish. That helped lead to a series of promotions in the ensuing years that see would him work as the dugout boss with Hagerstown (class-A), Knoxville (double-A), Syracuse (triple-A) and then, in his longest pro tenure, with Dunedin (class-A Advanced).
In the off-season, Malave doubled as a manager for the Venezuelan League’s Cardenales de Lara and led them to consecutive league titles in 1997-98 and 1998-99. He also served as an assistant coach for Venezuela at the 2006 and 2009 World Baseball Classics.
As a reward for his many years with the Blue Jays’ organization, Cito Gaston elevated Malave to the position of big league first base coach in 2010.
“If you were a homegrown player and made the majors, Omar had something to do with your development,” Bruce Walton, then the Blue Jays pitching coach, told the Canadian Baseball Network back in 2012. “He’s loved by everyone from this summer’s teenagers to today’s millionaires.”
Malave returned to manage the Gulf Coast League Blue Jays in 2011 and 2012 before spending the 2013 season as the Blue Jays’ coordinator of Latin American operations. He was back in the dugout in 2014 and 2015, managing the class-A Advanced Dunedin Blue Jays.
This year, Malave managed the Algodoneros de Union Laguna of the Mexican League to a 31-33 record.
Online Tributes to Omar Malave: