Last Wednesday the Dodgers announced their minor league coaching staffs. There were some changes of assignments within the organization, some not returning, and others added from outside. The shuffling of the assignments is always a bit mind boggling as some coaches move to lower levels such as Justin Viele moving from Rancho Cucamonga to Great Lakes and Seth Connor moving from Great Lakes to Ogden. Others moved up such as Jeremy Rodriguez from Great Lakes to the Oklahoma Dodgers and Pedro Montero from Rancho Cucamonga to Tulsa.
The reasons for the shuffling are not always -well never – clear to the casual observer. Some are obvious promotions, but others remain mysteries. By design there is always one Spanish speaking coach at each level which might necessitate some moves while others may be as a result of particular skill sets such as those of the inimitable John Shoemaker. Perhaps others are by request of certain coaches. In other cases, coaches may actually follow players up the ladder.
Two mysteries for me from last year’s coaching fraternity have been what happened to OKC manager Bill Haselman and Great Lakes pitching coach Bobby Cuellar. Haselman, who no doubt is close to breaking into MLB as a manager, is moving to a roving instructor position essentially changing places with Travis Barbary who has been the team’s catching coordinator for the past twelve years. I have been unable to find where Bobby Cuellar might have landed or if he has retired, which I doubt.
Looking at the Oklahoma City coaches for 2019 there are some clues as why they make up this year’s coaching corps.
Bill Simas – Pitching Coach
The 47-year-old Simas is back after last season’s OKC pitching staff finished second in the Pacific Coast League with a 3.92 ERA and tied for first in fewest home runs allowed.
Some may recall that Bill Simas pitched as a relief pitcher with the Chicago White Sox for six years in the mid to late nineties. During a career ended by an arm injury in 2000, He pitched quite well for the Sox having a career ERA of 3.83 and recording 18 saves in 1998. Following surgery for ligament damage Simas missed the entire 2001 season. He worked briefly in the minor league systems of the Tigers, Mariners and Dodgers but never again pitched at the MLB level. With the Las Vegas 51’s in 2003 he went 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA and allowing only 9 walks in 46 IP.
Pitching in Mexico in 2005 Simas had a 4-6 record with 21 saves and a 2.82 ERA. He led the Mexican League with 50 games finished and was third in saves. After his season in the Mexican League he was out of baseball until 2009 when he returned to pitch for the Long Island Ducks in the Atlantic Independent League where he had pitched in 2004. The California native earned Atlantic League Closer of the Year honors with the Ducks in 2009 after leading the league in saves with 27. Following that season, he became the Ducks pitching coach in 2010 thus beginning his coaching career. In 2011 he was signed by the Dodgers as the pitching coach for the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer Rookie League.
A 6thround selection by the California Angels of the 1992 MLB June Amateur Draft outof Fresno City College, Simas is a member of the pitching school of hardknocks. He has climbed the ranks of the Dodgers minor league system and nowperhaps would be considered their number one in-house option to replace RickHoneycutt when he retires. Below is the ladder he has climbed.
Ogden Raptors: 2011-2012
Great Lakes Loons; 2013-2014
Rancho Cucamonga: 2015
Scott Coolbaugh – Hitting Coach
Coolbaugh was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 3rd round of the 1987 MLB June Amateur Draft from University of Texas in Austin.
He played 167 games at the MLB level over four years with Texas, San Diego and St. Louis in which he hit .215.
His minor league career, which included two stops in Japan, consisted of 1036 games in which he had a batting average of .261 and a .343 OPB.
Following his playing career which ended in 1999, Coolbaugh began his coaching career in 2000 as the manager of the High Desert Mavericks of the California League. Since then he has managed with the Lancaster JetHawks and the AAA El Paso Chihuahuas and served as a hitting coach with Double-A Frisco and two years (2008-09) with the Oklahoma City RedHawks. For him, this a return to Oklahoma City.
For the past four years he has served as the hitting coach for the Baltimore Orioles. He is indeed familiar with the launch angle revolution but sees it more as pertinent to certain players and not a panacea for all hitters.
“You can get caught up in it,” Orioles hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh said. “You never want to impose a higher launch angle on someone who’s not a power guy . . . You could be asking a guy to be doing something that works against them.”
One of the now 52-year-old former third baseman’s protégés was former Dodger Manny Machado who had this to say about Coolbaugh.
“… Coolbaugh’s been a big influence on why I’ve been doing so well, staying on me every day, getting me in the cage,” Machado said. “I talk to him between innings — if he sees something wrong or he sees how pitchers are pitching to me. I think that’s why, offensively, we’ve been so different. He’s been on top of us a little more. It just makes the game easier. It’s already hard enough.”
Coolbaugh’s son Tyler, also a third baseman, was selected by the Orioles in the late rounds of the 2017 June Draft.
Baseball fans might recall that his brother Mike was struck by a line drive while coaching first base for the Tulsa Drillers on July 22, 2007 and died as a result of the accident. Scott and Susan Coolbaugh started Diamond Dreams in 2009 to honor Mike’s legacy in the game. In Mike Coolbaugh’s honor, Diamond Dreams has raised money to build safe, state-of-the-art batting cages and practice facilities; provided financial assistance and baseball equipment to others in the baseball community nationwide who have been affected by tragedy; awarded college scholarships to student-athletes from Mike’s high school in San Antonio and Dallas/Fort Worth area high schools; and provided financial contributions to the Orioles Charitable Fund and Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation.