Some recognizable faces will occupy the Tulsa Drillers dugout this season. The Drillers and Los Angeles Dodgers announced today that manager Ryan Garko and his entire coaching staff will return to Tulsa for the 2017 Texas League campaign.
In addition to Garko, pitching coach Bill Simas, hitting coach Terrmel Sledge and coach Leo Garcia will also return to Tulsa to rejoin Garko in the dugout for 2017.
"When the (Los Angeles) Dodgers asked me if I'd like to come back to Tulsa for a second year, I was excited. I can't think of a better affiliate in minor league baseball," Garko said. "I've been all over and can say that we are lucky to have such a wonderful facility as ONEOK Field. Having a year under our belt and having a familiarity with the (Texas) league, with the whole staff coming back as well, should help us get off to a really good start."
Garko will return to Tulsa in 2017 with what promises to be a team once again filled with high-potential prospects as the Los Angeles Dodgers appear to be loaded with talent throughout their minor-league farm system.
Garko added, "The (LA Dodgers farm) system is strong from top to bottom so there will be a lot of competition at Spring Training between players to earn spots at Double-A and Triple-A."
As the 22nd full-time manager in Drillers history, Garko led the Drillers to a 68-71 overall record in 2016 in his first professional season of managing. The Drillers raced out to a 37-32 first half mark with Garko at the helm, including a franchise record 10-game winning streak from May 28 through June 8, before second-half player promotions took their toll down the stretch.
A total of 18 Drillers from that 2016 squad were promoted to play at Triple-A Oklahoma City this past season with Brock Stewart, Grant Dayton and Andrew Toles each making it all the way to the majors with the Dodgers.
"It is great to get Ryan Garko and his entire staff back for a second season," said Drillers President Mike Melega. "Ryan gained valuable experience last year in his first season as a professional manager."
"Overall, there is a great deal of major league experience on the staff, and that can be so valuable for the young and talented players who are continually being sent to Tulsa by the Dodgers."
Before joining the coaching ranks, Garko was originally drafted in the third round of the 2003 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Stanford by the Cleveland Indians.
He made his big-league debut as a player with the Indians at the end of 2005, just two years after being drafted, and he remained in the Majors for the next 5 seasons. He retired with a career .275 batting average, 55 home runs and 250 RBIs over 463 total MLB games.
Simas comes back to the Drillers as he enters his seventh season as a pitching coach in the Dodgers minor league system. In his first year with Tulsa in 2016, he played a big part in helping develop pitchers like Stewart and Dayton, along with the Texas League Pitcher of the Year, Chase De Jong.
Prior to coaching, Simas enjoyed a six-year MLB playing career from 1995-2000 as a member of the Chicago White Sox where he compiled an 18-19 record with 23 saves and a 3.83 career ERA in 308 total MLB appearances.
Sledge will be in his second year in the Dodgers organization after serving as the Tulsa hitting coach this past season. In just his second year of being a hitting coach, Sledge was able to guide players like Toles, Cody Bellinger and Willie Calhoun into top prospect status going into 2017.
Before beginning his coaching career, the former outfielder played four seasons in the big leagues from 2004-2007 before going to Japan to play professionally from 2008-2012.
Garcia rejoins the Tulsa staff in the same capacity that he has served for the past two seasons. He has been a coach in the Dodgers organization since 2009. Prior to joining the Dodgers, he coached in the San Francisco Giants minor league system for 6 years and was their Latin America coordinator in 2007.
Before his coaching career began, Garcia spent 13 years in the White Sox, Royals, and Reds organizations as an outfielder, culminating with playing in parts of two major league seasons with the Reds in 1987 and 1988.
The Drillers will open their 2017 season on the road in Midland on April 6, but will play their first home game of the year at ONEOK Field against the same Midland RockHounds on Thursday, April 13 at 7:05PM. Both full and mini-season ticket plans are still available and can be purchased through the Drillers Ticket Office online by clicking HERE or over the phone at 918-744-5901.