Baseball veteran Johnny Rodriguez will take over as the 32nd manager in franchise history and will be joined by 28-year-old pitching coach Tim Leveque. While the River Bandits' hitting coach and strength and conditioning coach have yet to be named, Manabu Kuwazuru will take over as the team's athletic trainer.
"This new coaching staff is a very talented bunch that combines both youth and experience," said River Bandits' owner Dave Heller. "Our fans will be in line for another exciting season both on and off the field. The St. Louis Cardinals routinely send us a very talented group of up-and-coming prospects, and we look forward to watching them grow and develop under this new leadership."
Rodriguez will take over as the River Bandits' new skipper after spending his first year with St. Louis in 2009 as the hitting coach for the Johnson City Cardinals of the Appalachian League (Short Season-Rookie). Johnson City's 37-30 record was in large part spurred by a powerful offense that finished second in the league in home runs (65) and slugging (.417) and averaged nearly one longball per game. Prior to joining the Cardinals organization, the 53-year-old Miami resident spent time as a manager or coach with the Florida Marlins (2002-2008), Montreal Expos (2000-2001) and New York Yankees at the professional level, and the University of Miami, Miami Dade Community College and Westminster Christian (FL) High School at the amateur level. He has also spent time as a scout for the Houston Astros, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, New York Mets and Milwaukee Brewers. His son, Sean Rodriguez, was a third round pick by the Angels in 2003. Sean played in the Midwest League for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2004 and 2005 and made his major league debut with the Angels in 2008 before being traded to the Tampa Bay Rays.
Joining Rodriguez on the staff will be Leveque, a relative newcomer to the coaching ranks at just 28 years old. Leveque spent the 2009 season as the pitching coach for the Batavia Muckdogs and guided their staff to a collective 3.65 ERA and the third-highest strikeout total in the 14-team New York Penn League (Short Season-A). He was originally hired by the Cardinals in 2006 as a pitching specialist that coordinates and studies video of draft-eligible pitchers, and has continued in that role in addition to coaching responsibilities that began as Johnson City's pitching coach in 2008. A resident of Northridge, California, Leveque was drafted out of high school by the Detroit Tigers before deciding to play collegiately at the University of Michigan.
"The Cardinals are excited about the staff that we're assembling for the 2010 River Bandits," said Cardinals' Director of Minor League Operations John Vuch. "As our Quad Cities club has gotten younger in the last few years, instruction at this level has become increasingly important, and our staff will reflect that commitment to developing our players. We anticipate sending many of our top prospects to Quad Cities in 2010, and we're confident that the River Bandits players will be receiving the best possible coaching and instruction from this staff."
The River Bandits' new athletic trainer will be Kuwazuru, a native of Japan who was originally slated to spend the 2008 season in the Quad Cities before taking the year off for personal reasons. He returned to the Cardinals' organization in 2009 as the trainer for Batavia, where he also spent the 2007 season. A 2003 graduate of the University of Nebraska-Omaha's athletic training program, Kuwazuru was also the athletic trainer for the Cardinals' New York-Penn League affiliate in 2005 (New Jersey Cardinals) and 2006 (State College Spikes).
"We look forward to working with Johnny and his staff in 2010," said River Bandits Vice President and General Manager Kirk Goodman. "We are already anxiously anticipating another great season that we hope ends with the franchise's first Midwest League title since 1990. The brand new playing field is almost finished and I know this staff and the players they bring in are going to love it!"
UP NEXT: Modern Woodmen Park is staying busy as a special events venue over the off-season, providing the perfect atmosphere for holiday parties, corporate functions and more. On Friday, Modern Woodmen Park will host the 2009 USA German Shepherd Dog National Championships as dogs and their handlers from around the country will descend on Davenport for a three-day competition of tracking, obedience and protection. The event is open to the public and tickets are just $5.00 per day. Meanwhile, the 2010 baseball schedule has been released and fans can already put down a deposit on season ticket and mini-plan packages right now by calling (563) 3-BANDIT.
ABOUT THE BANDITS: The Quad Cities River Bandits set a new post-renovation mark for single-season attendance in 2009, as 236,401 fans passed through the turnstiles for an average of 3,694 fans per game. Both figures marked the highest since 1995, while the average attendance was the third highest in franchise history and the total attendance was the fifth highest all-time. The total attendance was up 14 percent over the 2008 season, continuing a 59 percent attendance increase since Main St. Iowa purchased the franchise following the 2007 season. Ticket sales, concessions, merchandise sales, sponsorships and even Kids' Zone revenues were all up over 2008, which was one of the team's best in history! Season ticket deposits for 2010 are already being taken!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.