Former UTRGV baseball head coach Mantrana dies at 57

Former UTRGV baseball head coach Manny Mantrana, who coached the team from 2009-2017, died Tuesday in Florida, the school’s Department of Intercollegiate Athletics announced Wednesday. He was 57.

“We are saddened to learn of the passing of Coach Mantrana,” UTRGV Vice President and Director of Athletics Chasse Conque said. “While I did not have the opportunity to know Coach Mantrana personally, he has a great deal of respect and admiration from his student-athletes and those who worked with him over the years. During his tenure, his teams were always active in the community and they excelled academically. Our thoughts are with his wife, Marlane, and their daughter, Maxine.”

During his time at UTRGV, Mantrana won 210 games, second in program history. He amassed 662 wins overall during 21 seasons as a head coach, including 12 seasons at Saint Thomas University, for whom he earned induction into the Hall of Fame while having his jersey retired in 2013-14.

Mantrana’s teams combined to win 92 conference games, tying the program record held by Al Ogletree, the late legendary head coach.

Mantrana’s teams upset two ranked opponents, including No. 8 Texas A&M 5-2 on March 14, 2012, and No. 15 Oklahoma State 3-1 on March 14, 2014.

In the classroom, Mantrana’s student-athletes combined for 30 Academic All-WAC honors and 260 AD Honor Roll awards.

Mantrana’s teams were always active in the community, earning the 2013 Tom Walter Inspiration Award after hosting blood and bone marrow drives in honor of a young boy from Brownsville named Nolan Naranjo, who initially suffered from aplastic anemia before his condition worsened and he developed myelodysplastic syndrome.

Both drives became yearly traditions for the program, with the bone marrow drive extending department-wide and leading to the registration of thousands of students, including every baseball player and coach.

“Coach Manny was far more than a baseball coach during his time with the university. He was a beloved member of our campus community and the Rio Grande Valley community,” UTRGV President Guy Bailey said. “He welcomed me with open arms when I first moved to the Valley in 2014, and I will always treasure his friendship and his support of this university.”

Mantrana had four players selected in the MLB Draft, two who signed with MLB teams as undrafted free agents, and several others who went on to play in independent and international leagues.

Mantrana began his coaching career as head coach for his alma mater, Jackson High School in Miami, for four years. Mantrana then accepted an assistant coaching job in 1995 at Miami-Dade College, where his responsibilities were coaching infielders and hitters while also serving as the recruiting coordinator.

Mantrana was an accomplished player for Miami-Dade College, Middle Georgia Community College and LSU. He was at Miami-Dade for one year before transferring to Middle Georgia, where he helped lead his team to a second-place finish at the Junior College World Series.

Mantrana was named to the JCWS All-Tournament team and was MVP of the region tournament as a second baseman. He spent the last two years of his college career at LSU under Hall of Fame coach Skip Bertman.

Mantrana was selected by the Atlanta Braves in the 10th round of the 1981 MLB Draft as a shortstop out of Jackson High School. Mantrana was drafted another three times during his collegiate career before signing a free agent contract with the Detroit Tigers. Mantrana also played in the New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers organizations.

Mantrana is survived by his wife, the former Marlane Schwartz and their daughter, Maxine.