SPRINGDALE, AR - Vance Wilson was introduced as the second manager in Naturals history earlier this afternoon in a press conference at Arvest Ballpark. The Kansas City Royals, the Naturals parent club, announced the appointment earlier today in conjunction with former Naturals Skipper Brian Poldberg's designation as manager of the Omaha Storm Chasers in the Pacific Coast League. Andre David was named hitting coach for the Naturals entering the 2014 Season. Jim Brower will return as Pitching Coach and Masa Koyanagi will remain the team's Athletic Trainer. Austin Driggers will join the field staff as strength coach.
"It is exciting to welcome Vance Wilson as our new manager," said Naturals General Manager Justin Cole. "Vance lives in Springdale, is a well known supporter of our local community and brings tremendous enthusiasm, knowledge, and experience from his own big league career into our dugout. It's going to make for a very exciting 2014 Season."
"It is bittersweet not to have Poldberg back for a seventh season," Cole added, "but we are thrilled he'll be managing in his hometown team in Omaha. Brian gave us six seasons of tremendous leadership and brought a Texas League Championship to Northwest Arkansas."
Wilson, 40, is a Springdale resident and veteran of eight Major League Seasons spent with the New York Mets from 1999-2004 and the Detroit Tigers in 2005 and 2006. In 2002, the former catcher threw out 49% of would-be base stealers which led all Major League Catchers. After undergoing his second "Tommy John" Surgery in 2009, Wilson signed with the Royals and played 59 games with the Naturals in 2009 before retiring in 2010 ending a 15 year professional playing career. He settled in Northwest Arkansas with his wife, Bridget, and daughter, Peyton Blaise.
In his first managerial appointment, Wilson led the Class-A Kane County Cougars to the second round of the Midwest League playoffs in 2011. Kansas City then promoted Wilson to HiA - Wilmington where the Blue Rocks amassed a 129-151 record. In three managerial seasons in the Kansas City organization, Wilson has managed many recent notable Naturals including RHP Yordano Ventura, LF Brian Fletcher, CF Brett Eibner, 3B Cheslor Cuthbert, and RF Jorge Bonifacio.
Andre David will serve as the fourth hitting coach in Naturals history. David will begin his sixteenth season in the Royals Organization after most recently serving on the coaching staff for the Major League team earlier this season and in parts of the 2005 and 2006 seasons. David was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the 8th Round of the 1980 Amateur Draft out of Cal State-Fullerton and spent parts of two seasons in Minnesota in 1984 and 1986.
Jim Brower will return for his second season in Northwest Arkansas and fourth in the Royals Organization. Originally drafted by the Texas Rangers out of the University of Minnesota in the 6th Round of 1994 Amateur Draft, Brower pitched for eight Major League teams in nine seasons, and perhaps most notably led the majors in appearances in 2004 where he went 7-7 with a 3.29 ERA in 93 innings over 89 games. Brower guided the Naturals pitching staff to a 4.19 ERA in 2013.
Masa Koyanagi will begin his third season as Athletic Trainer for the Naturals and seventh season with the Royals Organization. Koyanagi graduated from Fresno State University with a degree in kinesiology. He had previously served as Athletic Trainer in the Milwaukee Brewers Organization and led the training staff for WBC Champion Japanese National team in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.
Austin Driggers joins the Naturals field staff as Strength Coach for his first season in Northwest Arkansas and second overall in the Royals Organization. Last season the Abilene, Texas-native served in the same position for the Burlington Royals in the Rookie Level Appalachian League. Driggers graduated with a Bachelor's Degree in Applied Health Science from Wheaton College in 2012. Upon graduation, he served as Assistant Strength & Conditioning Coach for the Men's Baseball team at East Tennessee State University where he is also pursuing a Master's Degree in Exercise and Sport Physiology.
The Seventh Season of Naturals Baseball begins Thursday, April 3, 2014 in Frisco, TX. The team opens at Arvest Ballpark on Thursday April 10, 2014 against the same Frisco Rough Riders.
The Northwest Arkansas Naturals are the Double-A Texas League Affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and proud host of the 77th Annual Texas League All Star Game. The Naturals play at state-of-the-art Arvest Ballpark in Springdale, AR. For more information including statistics, ticket options, and more, please visit NWANaturals.com, and follow us on Twitter @NWANaturals and Facebook.com/Naturals.