The coaching staff is an extremely underrated aspect of a minor league system. The importance of good coaching at the minor league level is tremendous. When you draft kids out of high school and college, there has to be a voice that is able to help them adjust to pro ball. For today’s Down on the Farm Report, let’s take a look at each of the Cubs’ minor league managers, coaches, and instructors and learn a little bit about them.
Manager- Ryne Sandberg
In the winter of 2006-2007, Cubs legend Ryne Sandberg met with general manager Jim Hendry. The Cubs big league managerial job was open, but the two decided that it would be best for Ryno to work his way up through the system. Sandberg has done just that managing two years at Class-A Peoria, one year at AA Tennessee, and now enters his first year at the helm for the AAA Iowa Cubs. His Hall of Fame playing career speaks for itself. Sandberg can help younger players a lot because he knows what it takes to make it to the majors. It’s also helpful that young guys are willing to listen and learn from a legend more so than from any other coach. With Lou Piniella’s contract expiring at the end of this season, perhaps 2011 will be the year that Sandberg breaks into the bigs for the second time.
Hitting Coach- Von Joshua
Von is set to embark on his 27th year coaching professional baseball. Last season, when the Chicago Cubs dumped hitting coach Gerald Perry, Joshua was given the opportunity to be with the big league club for the second half of the season. When Jim Hendry saw no offensive improvement, he decided that he would look to the free agent coaching market, where he found Rudy Jaramillo. Joshua was offered his job at AAA back, which he gladly accepted. Clearly, he was not to fault for the Cubs struggles at the plate in 2009. Before going into coaching, Von played ten seasons in Major League Baseball. He has had a major impact on guys like Jake Fox, Koyie Hill, Micah Hoffpauir, Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot, and Geovany Soto.
Pitching Coach- Mike Mason
A former Cub himself, Mason had been with the I-Cubs since 2008. Prior to joining the organization, he spent many years serving in various positions in the Kansas City Royals’ system, plus two years as a coach for a Phillies affiliate. Mason posted a 4.53 ERA in his eight year playing career.
AA Tennessee Smokies
Manager- Bill Dancy
Bill will join the Cubs organization this year after spending the bulk of his minor league coaching career with the Phillies. He coached one year (2009) in the Royals organization. His playing career consisted of six minor league seasons with Phillies farm clubs. Dancy spent 2005 and 2006 coaching third base at the big league level for Philadelphia. He will take over for Ryne Sandberg as the Smokies’ skipper.
Hitting Coach- Tom Beyers
Beyers is in his second year with Tennessee, but has been in baseball since 1980. After a short playing career in the Dodgers organization, he entered retirement. His love for the game brought him back, and he would spend the next 16 years as a Dodger minor league coach. He served as a hitting coach for three separate clubs, as a manager for three different clubs, and spent four years as their minor league hitting coordinator. After leaving Los Angles, he came to the Cubs where he spent most of his time on the Boise Hawks staff.
Pitching Coach- Dennis Lewallyn
Yet another veteran on the Smokies coaching staff, Dennis broke into baseball in 1975. He played from ’75 to ’82 for the Dodgers, Rangers, and Indians. In his MLB career, Lewallyn, who was a right-handed pitcher, had a 4.48 ERA. Now he is in his fourth year as a Tennessee coach.
Class-A Daytona Cubs
Manager- Buddy Bailey
This will be Bailey’s second season at the helm for Daytona. He has been with the Cubs since 2006 serving in an array of different capacities: roving catching instructor (2006), interim Daytona Cubs manager (2006), Iowa Cubs manager (2007), Tennessee Smokies manager (2008), and Daytona Cubs manager (2009-present). Welby Sheldon “Buddy” Bailey was a catcher for four minor league years with Atlanta before becoming a talented coach. He managed in the Braves organization from 1983 to 1990, then spent about 15 years in the Red Sox organization. His time with Boston was highlighted by one year as the bench coach for the parent club in 2000. To date, this is still his lone appearance on a major league staff. Bailey also worked as a minor league manager, roving instructor, and scout with the Red Sox.
Hitting Coach- Richie Zisk
Zisk was two-time All Star during his 14 year playing career. He spent time as an outfielder and designated hitter for the Pirates, White Sox, Rangers, and Mariners. Richie was a factor in the progress of Starlin Castro in 2009. This will be his 12th year as the Daytona hitting coach. His impact on young Cub hitters has been so great, that Daytona retired his number 22 in 2007.
Pitching Coach- Tom Pratt
This will be Pratt’s fourth year as the pitching coach for the D-Cubs. His staff was impressive last season, posting the third best ERA in the Florida State League. Daytona pitchers also combined for two no-hitters in August.
Up Next: Part 2 of our series on the Cubs’ minor league coaching staffs!