Happy New Year, Cougars fans! Hoping that you and your family had a safe and enjoyable holiday.
It’s usually around the December/January timeframe that most major league clubs will announce field staffs for their minor league affiliates. We have some updates on the 2013 Cougars field staff, which will be the first season of our affiliation with the Chicago Cubs. We also have some updates on past Cougars managers and coaches, and where they will be in 2013.
Mark Johnson was recently named the 15th manager in Cougars history, receiving a promotion from the same position with the Boise Hawks, the Cubs’ Short-A affiliate. Johnson spent the past two seasons in the managerial post for Boise, guiding last year’s squad to the Northwest League Championship Series. His team included numerous Cubs prospects such as last year’s first-round draft pick Albert Almora, Dan Vogelbach, Gioskar Amaya, Marco Hernandez and Jeimer Candelario.
Johnson’s big league playing career included portions of eight seasons as a catcher, beginning with his major league debut in 1998 with the White Sox. Following his time with the White Sox (’98-’02), Johnson played with Oakland in 2003, Milwaukee in 2004, and closed out his major league tenure with St. Louis in 2008. Johnson hit 16 home runs and drove in 83 runs in 332 major league games.
Johnson was a first-round pick of the White Sox in the 1994 draft, chosen as the 26th overall selection. (Random side note: last season’s Cougars manager, Brian Buchanan, was selected 24th in that same draft by the New York Yankees). Johnson has some familiarity with the Midwest League, having played in 67 games during the 1996 season with South Bend – a White Sox affiliate at the time.
Ron Villone has been named Cougars pitching coach after serving in the same role for Peoria last season. Villone, a first-round pick of Seattle in the 1992 draft, played for 12 (that’s right, 12!) teams during his major league career and recorded a 61-65 record with 717 appearances.
Tom Beyers has been named Cougars hitting coach. Beyers has been a coach or coordinator for more than a decade in the Cubs system, dating back to 2000. A 15th-round draft pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1979, Beyers advanced as high as Triple-A as a player and spent time in the Midwest League with Clinton in 1979 before concluding his playing career in 1983. Beyers managed the 2004 Boise squad which won the NWL championship.
Shane Nelson has been named Cougars athletic trainer. Nelson served in the same role with Peoria last season and began as a Cubs athletic training intern in 2011.
Here are some other updates on former Cougars managers, coaches and where they’ll be in 2013. Feel free to email me at email@example.com if you have updates on any of our other former field staffs.
– Last year’s Cougars manager Brian Buchanan has been named skipper for the Royals’ new Class-A team in Lexington (KY). Vance Wilson (Cougars ’11 manager) will return to manage the Royals’ Class-A Advanced team in Wilmington (DE). Jim Brower (Cougars pitching coach in ’11 and ’12) was promoted to pitching coach at Double-A Northwest Arkansas. And last year’s Cougars hitting coach, Julio Bruno, will serve in the same role with Vance at Wilmington in 2013.
– Aaron Nieckula, who managed the Cougars from 2006-2008, as well as in 2010, will manage the Midland RockHounds, the A’s Double-A affiliate. Nuke led the Cougars to their last Midwest League Championship Series appearance in 2006. Elsewhere in the A’s system, ’09 Cougars manager Steve Scarsone was promoted to the managerial post at Triple-A Sacramento, while ’03 Cougars skipper Webster Garrison returns to Class-A Advanced Stockton in the same managerial role.
– Congratulations to ’04-’05 Cougars manager Dave Joppie, who was promoted to hitting coach at Triple-A Pawtucket in the Boston Red Sox farm system. This is Joppie’s eighth season in the Red Sox organization.
Thanks for reading!