This will be Acta's first managerial job in the Major Leagues. He spent the last two years as the Mets third-base coach and three years with the Expos in the same capacity from 2002-04.
Acta, 37, is considered one of the brightest young minds in baseball, and it showed during his interview with the Nationals in late October, according to a source familiar with the meeting. The club came away impressed with Acta, who spent most of the morning interview talking to Bowden. He also had afternoon conversations with Kasten and assistant general managers Bob Boone and Mike Rizzo. Acta would later meet with the Lerner family, owners of the Nationals.
Of all the Nats' managerial candidates, Acta is the most familiar with the organization. He has worked with catcher Brian Schneider, second baseman Jose Vidro, closer Chad Cordero and pitching coach Randy St. Claire.
Acta was born and raised in San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic. He was signed by the Astros as a non-drafted free-agent infielder in 1986, and by the time he came to the United States the following season, he was taking English classes taught by the organization. However, the sessions only dealt with words that involved baseball.
By the time, he was in Class A in 1988, Acta wouldn't go into restaurants, because he didn't know how to read the menu. Instead, he would go into a grocery store and load up on fruits.
Tired of not knowing how to speak English properly, he remembered that former Major League shortstop Tony Fernandez, a neighbor of Acta's in the Dominican, had a book called "Basic English." Not only did Acta read the book, he started to listen to what the players were saying in the Minor League level and also received help from his wife, Cindy.
Today, he is fluent in the English language and advises Latin baseball players to follow his lead when they come to the United States.
"A lot of the guys have to drop the attitude of: 'All I need to do is play ball and my bat will do the talking,' or 'My play will do the talking,'" Acta said three years ago. "I advise kids from the get-go that they have to learn the [English] language. That will help them understand instructions, help understand the coaches and also how to behave and how to act in [the United States], because the laws here are very different than where we come from. And that's how a lot of kids get in trouble, because they really don't know the system, and when they find out, it's too late."
While Acta conquered the English language, he had a tough time hitting the baseball. His best season came in '87 when he hit .268 in rookie ball. By 1991, Acta, who advanced only to Class A, was told by the Astros that he didn't have what it took to be a big-league hitter, but he felt that he could stay in the game as a coach because of his work ethic and how quickly he mastered the English language.
Acta started as a coach for Class A Asheville in 1992. The next season, he made his managerial debut with Auburn in the New York-Penn League, and he guided the team to the NYPL championship series in 1994. Then, he had a stint with Class A Kissimmee and guided the team to its first Florida State League championship in 1999, before moving up as a coach with Triple-A New Orleans in 2001.
As Robinson was putting together his coaching staff in Montreal for the 2002 season, hitting coach Tom McCraw, who also worked for the Astros when Acta was in that organization, recommended Acta to be a part of Robinson's coaching staff.
Acta admitted that it was tough to leave the Astros because people such as scout Julio Linares, former farm director Fred Nelson, president Tal Smith and former general manager Gerry Hunsicker helped him move up in the organization. However, the Astros were honest and told him that they couldn't promise him a job in the big leagues anytime soon, so Acta took the job as the Expos' third-base coach.
During his three years with Montreal, Acta was more than just a third-base coach. He was an infield coach, a go-between for Robinson whenever players on the team had problems and an excellent interpreter for right fielder Vladimir Guerrero and right-hander Orlando Hernandez.
Acta said three years ago that he had dreams of becoming a manager in the big leagues one day. He has done everything in his power to make it possible. He has managed in the Dominican Winter League, and he was also the Dominican Republic's skipper in the World Baseball Classic.
"I have the talent [to be a manager in the big leagues], and I truly believe that I'm going to do it someday," Acta said. "Just like everybody else, I'm just going to need a chance. I'll get mine someday."
Acta will get his chance starting in 2007.