ZEBULON, N.C. - The Milwaukee Brewers announced today that Joe Ayrault will once again return as manager of the Carolina Mudcats for the 2019 season. Ayrault enters his third year as manager of the Mudcats and will be joined this year by Pitching Coach Cameron Castro, Hitting Coach Bobby Bell, Coach Fidel Peña, Athletic Trainer Matt Deal and Strength and Conditioning Specialist Jonah Mergen.
Ayrault, Bell and Mergen are all returnees to the Carolina staff; with Ayrault returning for his third straight with the Mudcats and eighth straight as manager of Milwaukee's Class-A Advanced affiliate. Bell is back for his second consecutive season with the Mudcats, and Mergen, like Ayrault, returns for his third in Carolina as well. Castro, Peña and Deal all enter their first seasons with Carolina; with Castro joining the Mudcats and Brewers organization for the first time.
"We're really excited to see Joe back as our Manager once again this season," said Joe Kremer, Mudcats Vice President and General Manager. "He's always been a fan favorite here and is well on his way to becoming one of the most successful managers we've had in our near 30-year history. We can't wait to see him reach new milestones and put together a winning season here this year"
Ayrault, 47, has led the Mudcats to a 138-138 (.500) record over the last two seasons, and is 435-517 (.457) over seven seasons as Manager of Milwaukee's Class-A Advanced affiliate. He previously managed Milwaukee's Class-A Advanced club, the Brevard County Manatees of the Florida State League from 2012 through 2016 before transferring with the Brewers to the Mudcats and the Carolina League in 2017. Ayrault's 138 managerial victories is currently second on Carolina's all-time managerial wins list. He trails only David Bell who totaled 176 managerial victories while managing the then-Cincinnati Reds affiliated Mudcats from 2009 through 2011; posting a record of 176-239 (.424). Ayrault is also third in most games managed in Mudcats team history (276 games) trailing both Bell (415 games) and Ron Gideon (277 games, 2000-2001).
A native of Rochester, MI, Ayrault is entering his 10th consecutive season as a manager in Milwaukee's farm system and 13th consecutive season as a manager in Minor League Baseball. He began his managerial career in the Cincinnati Reds organization from 2007 through 2009 before joining the Brewers system in 2010 as skipper of the Pioneer League's Helena Brewers. In 2010, Ayrault went on to earn Pioneer League Co-Manager of the Year honors while leading Helena to a 41-34 record and the Pioneer League championship in his first season at the helm. A former catcher, Ayrault was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the fifth round of the 1990 amateur draft and went on to spend his entire playing career (1990-1997) in the Atlanta organization.
Bell, 55, is back as Carolina's hitting coach for the second straight season and his second straight as a coach in the Milwaukee farm system. Bell previously spent five seasons as a hitting coach in the Miami Marlins organization from 2009 through 2013. Before joining the Mudcats last season, Bell had previously worked as a private hitting instructor. He additionally served as hitting coach of the independent Northern League's Joliet Jackhammers from 2004 through 2005 and the Northern League's Schaumburg Flyers in 2006. He also coached the Frontier League's Evansville Otters in 2008.
A former catcher, Bell signed as a non-drafted free agent with the California Angels in 1986 out of Mesa State College in Colorado. The Lafayette, IN native then went on to play as a catcher and third baseman for three minor league seasons; including stints with the Palm Springs Angels (California League) and Quad Cities Angels (Midwest League) from 1986 through 1988. While at Mesa State College, Bell earned All-District and All-Conference honors and was a two time All-American.
Castro, 28, replaces Bob Milacki as Carolina's new pitching coach for the 2019 season and is entering his first year in the Milwaukee farm system. The Brewers recently signed Castro from Lake Erie College (NCAA Division-II) where he was head coach of the Storm baseball program since August of 2016.
A native of Lorain, OH, Castro was in the middle of his third year as skipper of the Storm before recently joining the Brewers organization. He was also in his seventh year at the collegiate level and his ninth overall as a coach after originally playing for Lake Erie from 2008 through 2011. He became head coach at Lake Erie after working as an assistant coach at Augustana University (NCAA Division-II) in 2016. He was also a trainer at Driveline Baseball in Seattle, WA from late-2015 through 2016 and an assistant coach at The Defiance College in Defiance, OH from 2012 through 2015.
Peña, 27, enters his first season as a coach with the Mudcats and his third year overall as a coach in the Milwaukee system. He spent the last two seasons as a coach with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Milwaukee's Class-A, Midwest League affiliate. Peña is a former catcher who last played in the Brewers system in 2016 while with the Brevard County Manatees, Milwaukee's previous Class-A Advanced and Florida State League affiliate. A native of Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic, Peña originally came up in the Arizona Diamondbacks system after signing as a non-drafted free agent in 2009. He spent seven seasons in the Arizona system before signing with the Brewers as a free agent in 2016. Peña replaces former Mudcats' coach Edwin Maysonet.
Deal, 25, is in his first year with the Mudcats and his fifth as a team athletic trainer in the Brewers system. Deal comes to Carolina in place of former trainer Jeff Bodenhamer and after working the last two seasons with the Rookie Level Helena Brewers of the Pioneer League. A native of Evergreen Park, IL, Deal graduated from Marquette University with a degree in Athletic Training in 2015. He was first hired by the Brewers in 2015 and spent his first season in the organization with the Dominican Summer League Brewers before joining the Arizona League Brewers in 2016.
Mergen, 34, begins his third straight year with the Mudcats and ninth season in the Milwaukee organization, all of which with the club's Class-A Advanced club. A native of McFarland, WI, Mergen has also worked with the Greeneville Astros and in the strength and conditioning departments at NC State University, UW-La Crosse and the National Strength and Conditioning Association World Headquarters. He first graduated from St. Ambrose University with a dual degree in exercise science and Spanish in 2007, before receiving his master's from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse in human performance in 2009.
The 2019 Mudcats season officially begins on Thursday, April 4 at Grainger Stadium in Kinston versus the Down East Wood Ducks. Carolina's 2019 home schedule, however, begins with Opening Night 2019 on Thursday, April 11 versus the Wilmington Blue Rocks at Five County Stadium.
Season ticket packages as well as group ticket packages and the latest mini plans are all available now by visiting the Five County Stadium front office in Zebulon, by calling (919) 269-CATS (2287) and by visiting carolinamudcats.com.
The Carolina Mudcats are the proud Carolina League, Class-A Advanced affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers. First established in 1991, the two-time Southern League Champion Mudcats are entering their 29th consecutive season of baseball at Five County Stadium in Zebulon, N.C. The Mudcats are owned and operated by Milwaukee Brewers, LLC.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.