Fort Wayne, IN - The Fort Wayne TinCaps, in conjunction with the San Diego Padres, announced their 2014 field staff today. Michael Collins, entering his third season as a manager in the Padres organization, replaces Jose Valentín as manager. Pitching coach Burt Hooton, hitting coach Morgan Burkhart, and athletic trainer Ricky Huerta return to the staff. Dan Byrne is the new strength and conditioning coach.
The 29-year-old Collins is a native of Canberra, Australia, and last year managed the Padres rookie-level affiliate in the Arizona League. He led San Diego's Dominican Summer League affiliate in 2012. Collins began his 10-year Minor League Baseball career in 2001 as a 16-year-old in the Angels system, making his debut with the franchise's Arizona League club. Collins moved up to the Midwest League in 2004, playing for the Cedar Rapids Kernels. In 2005, again with Cedar Rapids, he finished third in the league with a .320 batting average.
Collins, a catcher, signed with the San Diego organization in 2009 after eight years with the Angels. He played for San Diego's Triple-A, Double-A, Advanced-A, and Arizona League teams in 2010. For the past two winters, Collins has been the manager of the Canberra Cavalry of the Australian Baseball League. Under his guidance, Canberra won the Claxton Shield, the championship trophy of the ABL. Collins also played for the Cavalry from 2010-2012, and during the 2010-2011 season he hit .360 and was the ABL's batting champion.
Hooton, 63, returns for his second season in Fort Wayne. Last year he oversaw a young and talented staff that at times featured as many as five first-round draft selections on the roster. Under Hooton's tutelage, Fort Wayne had a pitcher lead the league in earned run average for just the second time in franchise history. Zach Eflin's 2.73 ERA was best in the circuit, after the last player from the Summit City to lead the Midwest League was 19-year Major League Baseball veteran LaTroy Hawkins, with a 2.06 mark in 1993. Hooton is a veteran of 15 major league seasons spent with the Cubs, Dodgers, and Rangers. The Greenville, Texas, native threw a no-hitter in his fourth major league start, won a World Series with the Dodgers in 1981, and finished his career with a 151-136 (.526) record.
Burkhart also returns for a second season with the TinCaps. The former major leaguer, who played with both the Red Sox and Royals, helped guide the TinCaps to a .261 team batting average in 2013, the fourth-best mark in the Midwest League. Burkhart, 41, brings extensive experience both as a coach and player. Prior to his arrival in Fort Wayne, the O'Fallon, Missouri, resident served as the manger of both the independent Windy City ThunderBolts and the Calgary Vipers. He played parts of three seasons in the majors, and tallied 11 years as minor leaguer and independent league player, with experience in both Japan and Mexico.
Huerta begins his fifth season in the Padres organization. The 27-year-old Los Angeles native will work with the TinCaps for a second straight season after having worked previously with the rookie-level Arizona League Padres.
Byrne enters his first season with Fort Wayne. He replaces Pat Trainor, who has been assigned to San Diego's Advanced-A Affiliate, the Lake Elsinore Storm, as the strength and conditioning coach.
The 2013 season marks the 16th consecutive year of Fort Wayne's affiliation with San Diego.