The West Coast League is not only a developing ground for young players, the league is also where young coaches can gain experience to help further their coaching careers.
The league features a couple veteran coaches, but most of the league’s coaches are younger skippers with long-term college coaching aspirations like 2014 WCL Coach of the Year Jeff James at Bellingham. James replaced veteran skipper Gary Hatch last summer and guided the Bells to their first West Coast League title in his rookie campaign.
James is a volunteer assistant coach at Seattle University and like many current WCL head coaches has previous playing and/or coaching experience in the league. The Seattle native was an assistant coach for the Kelowna Falcons in 2009 and 2010.
Kelowna field manager, Billy Clontz, is returning for his second season at the helm of the Falcons. Clontz has spent nearly a decade playing and coaching in the West Coast League as the Corvallis native and Western Oregon alum played for the Corvallis Knights in 2006, 2008 and 2009 and was an assistant coach for the Knights in 2010, 2011 and 2013. He spent the 2012 season as an assistant coach with the Klamath Falls Gems working under his former Knights’ teammate Josh Hogan who played for Corvallis 2007-2009. Clontz is currently an assistant coach at Ohlone JC; his second spring with the school. Both Clontz and Hogan earned all-WCL honors while playing in the league and both got their college playing careers started at Mt. Hood CC in Gresham, Oregon.
Hogan begins his fourth year as a field manager in the West Coast League with the Medford Rogues. Josh spent one season as the skipper of the Gems (2012) before moving to the Rogues in 2013. Hogan led the Rogues to the playoffs in their expansion season and will be guiding the Southern Oregon club for a third season in 2015. Hogan, a disciple of George Horton at University of Oregon and ex-Duck second baseman, is currently an assistant coach at Lane CC; his fourth year with the Titans. Josh also was an assistant coach for the Cowlitz Black Bears in 2010 and 2011.
Three rookie skippers have pitched in the league and one has coached for a team in the league. Trey Watt replaces Marty Hunter in Bend; Matt Cartwright replaces Ryan Parker in Kitsap; AJ Proszek replaces Ed Knaggs in Wenatchee; and Grady Tweit replaces Tim Matz in Cowlitz.
Watt, an alum of Pacific Lutheran, pitched for two summers with Kitsap (2008-2009) and made a start with Corvallis in 2007. He currently is an assistant coach at George Fox; his fourth year with the Bruins. Watt earned all-WCL honors for the BlueJackets in 2009 and was an Elks’ assistant coach last summer.
Cartwright pitched for Kitsap in 2011 following his sophomore spring at Redlands CC (Oklahoma) and set a BlueJackets’ single-season saves mark with 10 that summer. He finished his college pitching career at Morehead State, got his Master’s Degree at Southeastern Oklahoma State and is now an assistant coach and baseball recruiting coordinator at his alma mater Redlands CC; his third season assisting at the school.
Proszek replaces the most successful and longest tenured coach in the WCL, Wenatchee’s Ed Knaggs. AJ pitched in the WCL for the Spokane RiverHawks (2006-2008) and earned honorable mention all-WCL honors in 2007 and 2008. He is currently the pitching coach at Community Colleges of Spokane and was the Sox pitching coach last year. AJ finished his college pitching career at Gonzaga and went on to pitch professionally for three seasons in the Giants’ organization.
And first-year manager – Grady Tweit – was an assistant coach for the Bellingham Bells in 2004. Tweit, a Bellingham native, has been an assistant coach at his alma mater – Lower Columbia College – for nine years. He, like Cartwright, Proszek and Watt, are very familiar with the West Coast League; and David Story Field in Longview, Washington is home to both the Red Devils and Black Bears
Klamath Falls, Victoria and Walla Walla are also introducing new head coaches in 2015. Justin Barchus is set to lead the Gems, Graig Merritt the HarbourCats and Frank Mutz the Sweets.
Barchus spent the past six years managing Capital City Select, a college prep travel team. A grad of Western Oregon, who played college baseball at Western and Lane CC, Justin also served as McNary High School’s pitching coach from 2009 though 2011. The native Oregonian is also a certified trainer.
Merrit hails from Maple Ridge, British Columbia. He played collegiately at College of Southern Idaho and Chico State. Graig won a DII national championship at Chico State in 1999, which was managed by current University of Washington skipper Lindsay Meggs. Merritt, a catcher, signed with Tampa Bay in 2001 and would go on to play professionally for five seasons. Graig currently is an area scout for the Rays. He started scouting in 2008.
Mutz is currently the head baseball coach at Chaminade College Preparatory High School in Southern California. Mutz played his college baseball at University of Hawaii. He was drafted in the 23rd of the 1987 MLB draft by the California Angels and would play three seasons in the Angels’ organization. From there, Mutz scouted for the Diamondbacks and Athletics (1994-1998) before starting his high school baseball coaching career. Shortly after his pro playing career, Mutz managed the Kenai Oilers and earned Alaska Baseball League Manager of the Year honors in 1991.
Former Wenatchee AppleSox infielder Marcus McKimmy embarks on his second season as the skipper of the Yakima Valley Pippins. McKimmy led Yakima to the postseason, a 35-19 record and a division title in their expansion year. Marcus is currently the head baseball coach at Yakima Valley CC; his third year as the Yaks skipper. McKimmy earned all-WCL honorable mention honors for Wenatchee in 2006 and would finish his college playing career at Gonzaga after a season at San Jose State and two springs at Columbia Basin College.
The other returning coach (along with Clontz, Hogan,James and McKimmy) is now the league’s most tenured skipper, four-time WCL Coach of the Year Brooke Knight of the Corvallis Knights. The 2015 season will be Knight’s eighth year at the helm of the Knights. As a collegiate player at Oregon State, Brooke played for the then Aloha Knights in 1991 and 1992. Knight won back-to-back titles as the skipper of the Perth Heat (2011-2012) in the MLB-funded Australian Baseball League (ABL). The native of Corvallis has managed in the ABL for four seasons, the last two with the Adelaide Bite. He played two seasons of professional baseball with Pittsburgh and Milwaukee before getting into pro scouting from 2001-2003 with the Montreal Expos and Florida Marlins.
WCL Head Coaches:
Brooke Knight, Corvallis (8th year)
Josh Hogan, Medford (3rd year)
Billy Clontz, Kelowna (2nd year)
Jeff James, Bellingham (2nd year)
Marcus McKimmy, Yakima Valley (2nd year)
Justin Barchus, Klamath Falls (1st year)
Matt Cartwright, Kitsap (1st year)
Graig Merritt, Victoria (1st year)
Frank Mutz, Walla Walla (1st year)
AJ Proszek, Wenatchee (1st year)
Grady Tweit, Cowlitz (1st year)
Trey Watt, Bend (1st year)