CURVE, Pa. - After leading a championship campaign a year ago, Michael Ryan will return to manage the Altoona Curve for a second season in 2018, the Pittsburgh Pirates, Senior Director of Minor League Operations Larry Broadway and the Curve announced on Tuesday.
Ryan, a native of nearby Indiana, Pa., will enter his sixth season as a minor league manager. Bryan Hickerson will return for a second season as the Curve's pitching coach, and Keoni De Renne will take over as the team's hitting coach.
"I'm honored to be coming back to that beautiful stadium to work with the Curve staff again this year," Ryan said. "It's extremely exciting. The expectations aren't going to change. Our goal is to get these guys ready to perform in Pittsburgh, first of all. Our team is going to be really good. It's just a matter of if they can handle a so-called target on their back."
After leading the A-Adv. Bradenton Marauders to the Florida State League championship in 2016, Ryan and the Curve won the Eastern League championship in his first Double-A season in 2017. Ryan, 40, served as a coach on Altoona's staff in 2012 and began his managerial career with the Single-A West Virginia Power from 2013-2014 before leading Bradenton the following two seasons. Over his five seasons as a manager in the Pirates' minor league system, Ryan has compiled a 355-335 record.
"I'm sure a bunch of the core players will be back this season," Ryan said. "It's a close-knit group. They're comfortable with me and I'm comfortable with them. That's an advantage that we're going to use."
As a player, Ryan was drafted in the fifth round by the Minnesota Twins out of Indiana Area Senior High School in 1996, where he played baseball, basketball and football and was an all-state selection in football and baseball in 1996. Ryan played 15 professional seasons, including five in the majors. The former outfielder spent four seasons in the big leagues with the Twins from 2002-2005 and played for the Los Angeles Angels in 2010.
Hickerson, 54, joined the Pirates organization as Altoona's pitching coach in 2017 and directed a staff that combined for a 1.50 ERA over six postseason games en route to the league title, with the starters combining to go 6-0 with a 1.66 ERA. A left-handed pitcher in his playing days, Hickerson was drafted in the seventh round by the Twins in 1986 and played for the San Francisco Giants, Chicago Cubs and Colorado Rockies over his five-year MLB career from 1991-1995. A native of Bemidji, Minn., Hickerson began his coaching career in the Giants organization with Single-A Bakersfield in 1997 and A-Adv. San Jose in 1998 before spending 18 years working in ministry.
"Hickerson is a calm man, so laid back," Ryan said. "He helps keep me on course. He is going to be even better this year with a year of experience and the relationship that we've built for a year. He's excited to be back."
De Renne, 38, joins as the Curve's hitting coach after spending the last two seasons in the same role with Bradenton. He was the hitting coach with the West Virginia Power for two seasons from 2014-15. In 2013, He managed the Pirates' affiliate in the Dominican Summer League to a 46-26 record. A native of Honolulu, Hawaii, De Renne was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 12th round in 2000 out of the University of Arizona and played eight affiliated minor league seasons as an infielder with the Braves, New York Yankees, Arizona Diamondbacks and Boston Red Sox organizations and three years with the independent York Revolution. His great-grandfather, Wilbur Cooper, played for the Pirates from 1912-1924 and holds the franchise record for career wins as a pitcher with 202.
"Keoni is such a hard worker," Ryan said. "This will be our third season working together at some level of the organization. He's very knowledgeable about what our guys need each day to make them better. He prepares extremely well. I'm excited that we'll be working together."
Justin Ahrens returns to the Curve for his second season as the team's athletic trainer and his seventh with the Pirates organization. Strength & conditioning coach Joe Schlesinger is also back for his second season with Altoona and his fifth with the Pittsburgh organization.
The 20th Season of Altoona Curve Baseball, presented by Stuckey Subaru, opens at Peoples Natural Gas Field on Thursday, April 5 at 6 p.m. Season Tickets, Mini Plans and Flex Books are currently on sale by phone at 877.99.CURVE, online at AltoonaCurve.com or in person at the Peoples Natural Gas Field offices.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.