WASHINGTON – In 2020, Mario Lisson was set to manage low Single-A Hagerstown in what was then the South Atlantic League.
That was a promotion, as Lisson managed in the Gulf Coast League in Washington’s system in 2018-19. But the pandemic wiped out the 2020 season down on the farm.
Now Lisson, 37 and a former minor league hitter, is making up for lost time.
After managing Single-A Fredericksburg in 2021, the native of Venezuela was chosen to guide the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League.
The Surprise roster includes several prospects in the Washington system and Lisson knows several of them.
Lisson signed with the Royals as an international free agent in 2002 and was added to the 40-man roster of Kansas City after the 2007 season.
The next season he hit 14 homers at the Double-A level in the Kansas City system.
Before the 2010 season, he was designated for assignment by the Royals to make room for Rick Ankiel – who played for the Nationals during his career.
Lisson played overseas for two years then joined the Giants and spent the 2014 season with Richmond in what was then the Double-A Eastern League.
After the 2014 season, he was signed by the Nationals and in 2015 split time between Double-A Harrisburg and Triple-A Syracuse.
He played in Mexico in 2016, then was back in the minors with Washington in 2017 as he again split time between Double-A and Triple-A.
After that season, Lisson began his career in player development with Washington.
“I had played in 2017 in Harrisburg [the Nationals’ AA affiliate], and in the second half of the season they told me to stay as a player-coach. That’s kind of what I did towards the end of the year. And then I went back home [to Venezuela] and had a really good season of winter ball. My options after that were: either go to Mexico or play independent ball. I was always on the hunt to play in the big leagues, and I felt that after that year, I was kind of done. I didn’t have a real opportunity to get there anymore,” he told the Free-Lance Star earlier this year.
Lisson had a challenging year in 2021, as Fredericksburg lost its first 15 games.
The Surprise roster this fall includes several Washington prospects: pitchers Jackson Rutledge, Cole Henry, and Todd Peterson; catchers Drew Millas and Israel Pineda, infielder Jackson Cluff, and outfielder Donovan Casey.
Casey was named the Defensive Player of the Year in the Washington system on October 12.
Casey, from New Jersey, was drafted by the Dodgers out of Boston College and came to the Nationals in the trade in July that sent ace pitcher Max Scherzer and shortstop Trea Turner to Los Angeles.
The Arizona Fall League began October 13.