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2018 Hooks Field Staff




Omar Lopez begins his first season as Corpus Christi's field chief in 2018.

Lopez, the seventh skipper in the 14-year history of the Hooks, enters his 20th campaign with the Astros organization.

Last season, Lopez, 41, guided the Advanced A Buies Creek Astros to a 74-65 record, which topped the Carolina League Southern Division. Four Astros earned all-star honors, including outfielder Myles Straw who was placed on the mid-and-postseason squads.

Following the regular year, Lopez managed the Mesa Solar Sox of the Arizona Fall League, a showcase circuit for the game's best prospects. The Solar Sox, outfitted with farmhands from the Astros, A's, Cubs, Nationals and Tigers organizations, lost to Peoria in the AFL championship game.

Lopez has won two Venezuelan Professional Baseball League championships in four years as manager of Caribes de Anzoategui. Caribes claimed the crown this winter, defeating Cardinales de Lara, 4-2, in the title series. In his first year as skipper, Lopez was named 2014-15 LVBP Manager of the Year after piloting Anzoategui to a 39-24 record and circuit title.

His other managerial stops include Class A Quad Cities (2013-14, 2016), Advanced A Lancaster (2015), Rookie Level Greeneville (2011-12), Gulf Coast League (2009-10) and Venezuelan Summer League (2007-08).

A native of Valencia, Venezuela, Lopez led Quad Cities to an 81-57 finish and a Midwest League title in 2013. Carlos Correa hit .320 with 33 doubles, nine home runs, 86 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 117 games for the River Bandits, earning MWL Mid-and-Postseason All-Star honors.

Two years later, Lopez's Lancaster club finished 10 games over .500 at 75-65. The JetHawks earned a wildcard postseason berth but lost to High Desert in the California League Mini Series.

In 2010, he was named Astros Player Development Man of the Year for his efforts to mentor the organization's Spanish speaking prospects through their first year of professional baseball in the United States.

Lopez was the first manager of future American League MVP Jose Altuve. With the 2007 Venezuelan Summer League Astros, the 17-year-old Altuve hit .343 with 40 runs scored, 36 RBIs, and a .429 on-base average in 64 assignments. The club posted a 48-22 record, and won the VSL championship. Lopez was instrumental in sending Altuve stateside the following year.

A full-time scout from 1999-2007, he was a hitting and infield instructor in the Astros Venezuelan program before beginning his managerial career in 2007.

Lopez played three minor league seasons as an infielder with the Chicago White Sox (1996-97) and Arizona Diamondbacks (1998).

Omar and his wife, Helen, make their home in Orlando, Fla. They have two children, Omar Eduardo and Emily Gabriela.


Pitching Coach


Bill Murphy is in his third season as a pitching coach in the Astros organization, and his first with the Hooks.

Murphy, 28, was posted at Tri-City of the New York-Penn League last year, working with manager Morgan Ensberg. The ValleyCats logged a 3.61 ERA, and held the opposition to a .230 batting average. Tri-City hurlers led the loop with 737 strikeouts, averaging 10.5 per nine innings. Their eight shutout wins slotted second in the circuit.

In 2016, Murphy made his professional debut as pitching coach for Greeneville. His staff ranked among Appalachian League leaders in strikeouts (605) and ERA (3.87).

Prior to joining Houston, Murphy served stints as pitching coach at Brown University, and co-manager and pitching coach for the Northwoods Collegiate League Battle Creek Bombers. He also has collegiate league coaching experience with the Rockville Express (Cal Ripken) and Middlesex Rays (Atlantic Baseball Confederation).

In 2013, Murphy was a volunteer assistant coach at Georgetown University.

He was also a full-time coach at his alma mater, Roselle (N.J.) Catholic High School, during the 2010-11 and 2012-13 seasons.

Murphy graduated from Rutgers University in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in psychology and a minor in history. He made 25 Big East appearances through three seasons on the hill for the Scarlett Knights.

Murphy received his MBA in management from Wagner College in Staten Island, N.Y., where, in 2012, he hit .272 as a first baseman during his final year of eligibility.


Hitting Coach


Troy Snitker comes to Corpus Christi for his third season as an instructor in the Houston system.

Snitker served as hitting coach on Omar Lopez's staff at Buies Creek last year. He worked as rehab hitting coordinator and GCL coach in 2016.

Snitker, 29, was selected by Atlanta in the 19th round of the 2011 draft out of the University of North Georgia. The former catcher played two seasons in the Braves system before being traded to Pittsburgh.

Snitker finished his playing career with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League in 2013.

During his final season at North Georgia, Snitker earned Peach Belt All-Conference honors after hitting .340 with a team-best six home runs and 44 RBIs. He started behind the dish in all 54 of the school's games.

Snitker, a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist, owns a bachelor's degree in exercise science and a master's degree in physical education. He is also a certified TPI golf fitness instructor.

Born in Atlanta, Snitker attended Brookwood High School in Snellville, Ga.

He is the son of Atlanta Braves manager Brian Snitker.


Development Coach


2018 marks Mycal Jones' first campaign as a coach in the Astros system.

Jones, who played eight seasons as a shortstop and outfielder in the minor leagues, spent last year running his own baseball academy in Naples, Fla.

He retired in 2016 following a 90-game run with the independent Somerset Patriots of Bridgewater, N.J.

Jones, 30, attended Wolfson High School in Jacksonville, Fla. His collegiate baseball career began in 2007 at the University of North Florida, where he played in 50 games as a freshman.

In 2009, Jones transferred to Miami-Dade College. He batted .447 with 21 doubles, 13 home runs, 50 RBIs, 29 steals and a 1.330 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 50 contests for the Sharks, prompting Atlanta to select Jones in the fourth round of the June draft.

His first assignment was in Danville, Va., with the Braves' Appalachian League affiliate. Led by manager Paul Runge, the Danville Braves went 47-21 (.691), and won the circuit title.

In 2010, Jones' competed at three levels in the Atlanta system, hitting .262 with 83 runs, 31 doubles, 15 home runs, 61 RBIs and 22 stolen bases in 129 games. The bulk of his time was spent between Class A Rome (South Atlantic League) and Advanced A Myrtle Beach (Carolina League). Jones finished the year by belting two homers and driving in five runs over a seven-game stint with Double A Mississippi.

Jones transitioned from shortstop to centerfield the following year, and registered a Mississippi-best 11 outfield assists. He would play in parts of six Southern League seasons for the Braves from 2011 to 2015.

Jones received 62 assignments with Triple A Gwinnett before becoming a free agent after the 2015 season.

The speedster posted double-digit steal totals in seven of his eight pro campaigns, racking up 174 stolen bases for a 75% success rate.

Mycal lives in Naples, Fla., with his wife, Jessica, and two-year-old daughter, Kyndal.


Athletic Trainer


John Gregorich begins his first season with the Hooks, and his fifth campaign as an athletic trainer in the Astros organization.

Last year, Gregorich was stationed in Buies Creek, N.C., the Carolina League home of Houston's Advanced A affiliate. He worked for the Tri-City ValleyCats of the New York-Penn League from 2015 to 2016.

Gregorich also spent a year with the Greeneville Astros, earning 2014 PBATS Appalachian League Trainer of the Year honors.

Prior to joining Houston, the Chardon, Ohio, native served as a sports medicine intern for the Indians organization. Gregorich was with the Major League club in 2013 after working for Cleveland's Midwest League affiliate, the Lake County Captains, in 2012. He was also a graduate student athletic trainer for the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga during the 2012 football season.

Gregorich earned his master's degree in athletic training at UT-Chattanooga in 2013. In 2011, he received his bachelor's degree in exercise science from Bellarmine University in Louisville, Ky.

John and his wife, Chrystal, currently live in West Palm Beach, Fla.


Strength & Conditioning Coach


Rachel Balkovec joins the Hooks after operating as the Astros Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator for the past two seasons. In addition to her coordinator duties, she was a member of the GCL Astros field staff.

Prior to her time with Houston, Balkovec worked for two years as the Cardinals minor league strength and conditioning coordinator. She was also a strength coach with the White Sox during the 2013-14 offseason.

Her pro baseball career began as a minor league strength coach with St. Louis in 2012. Balkovec's next post was with Los Tigres del Licey of the Dominican Winter League, where she assisted in marketing and promotions. She then worked as a strength coach in the Arizona Fall League before serving as a volunteer assistant at Arizona State University.

Balkovec, the first female strength coach in the history of professional baseball, graduated from the University of New Mexico in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology and exercise science. While in Albuquerque, she was a catcher for the Lobos softball team.

Balkovec earned her master's degree in sports administration from LSU. She also served as a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach with the Tigers.