PORT CHARLOTTE - Jim Morrison, the winningest manager in franchise history, is returning to the lead the 2018 Charlotte Stone Crabs after five years away from the team.
Morrison heads a veteran staff of four coaches who have rich ties with the Stone Crabs and the Port Charlotte community.
Steve "Doc" Watson, Joe Szekely and German Melendez will accompany Morrison as part of a four-man staff that represents 21 seasons of combined Stone Crabs experience.
"We're very excited to have four familiar faces returning to the Stone Crabs for the 2018 season," Stone Crabs General Manager Jared Forma said. "We also want to thank Michael Johns for his leadership both on and off the field over the last three years. In our tenth season, it couldn't be more appropriate to have four men who have been an integral part in the fabric of the Stone Crabs."
Morrison spent the past five season as the skipper for the Gulf Coast League Rays, mentoring the organization's youngest farmhands, many of whom will be on the Stone Crabs' roster in 2018. The 12-year Major League veteran enters his 12th season with Tampa Bay, and 14th straight season as a minor league manager.
Morrison guided the inaugural Stone Crabs' club to a 71-66 record in 2009 before leading them to their best season in franchise history the following year. The 2010 Stone Crabs set franchise records for wins (80), winning percentage (.576), walks (466) and strikeouts (1,189).
The following season, Morrison managed a 2011 team that set the franchise mark for first half wins (39) while scoring more runs (611) than any Charlotte team ever. The Pensacola, Fla. native helped develop some of the greatest Stone Crabs in club history, including Alex Cobb, Stephen Vogt, Tim Beckham, Matt Moore, Hak-Ju Lee, Tyler Bortnick, Alex Colome, Enny Romero and Derek Dietrich.
Steve "Doc" Watson returns to Port Charlotte for his fifth consecutive season as the Stone Crabs' pitching coach and seventh overall. He headed up the best pitching staff in Stone Crabs history in 2015, a group that set franchise records in ERA (2.87), shutouts (17) and fewest hits allowed (1,033).
The Bradenton, Fla. resident has tutored 14 former Stone Crabs who have reached the Major Leagues, including Rays starters Jake Faria and Blake Snell, Rays closer Alex Colome and Colorado Rockies' right-hander German Marquez. Prior to his time with the Tampa Bay, Watson spent 12 years with the Pittsburgh Pirates, five with the Baltimore Orioles and three with the Miami Marlins, serving as a pitching coordinator, rehab coordinator and pitching coach.
After spending the 2017 season in Bowling Green, Joe Szekely comes back to southwest Florida to coach his ninth season in ten years with the Stone Crabs. Szekely has instructed nearly all of the franchise's hitters, helping players like Stephen Vogt, Kevin Kiermaier, Tim Beckham and Derek Dietrich reach the Bigs.
Prior to his nine years as a hitting coach, the 10-year minor league catcher served as a manager for eight seasons, making the rounds to four different Tampa Bay affiliates. Szekely managed the Devil Rays' Advanced-A affiliates in both Visalia (2006) and Vero Beach (2007) before going to Princeton in 2008. He broke in with Tampa Bay in 2005 as the skipper of the Low-A Southwest Michigan Devil Rays. The Paris, Texas native also spent six years with the Kansas City Royals and three with the Atlanta Braves.
German Melendez joins "Doc" Watson as the two returning members of the 2017 Stone Crabs' staff. The Guacara, Venezuela native brings with him 10 years of playing experience in the minor leagues. After playing internationally for three seasons, Melendez came to the states in 2002 and hit .291 with the Martinville Astros.
He played catcher for three seasons and pitched for four before finishing his playing career in 2008. Melendez began his Rays tenure as a coach for their Venezuelan Summer League team from 2010-12 before managing them from 2013-15. In 2016, he served as the manager for the Rays Dominican Summer League team before coming stateside.
Additionally, the Rays have announced that James Ramsdell will serve as the team's athletic trainer while Paul Jones will be the Stone Crabs' 2018 conditioning coach.
Ramsdell makes his Stone Crabs' debut in 2018 after spending two seasons with the Bowling Green Hot Rods. This year marks his sixth season in the Rays' organization. Ramsdell spent the 2014 and 2015 campaigns with the Princeton Rays of the Appalachian League after logging two seasons as a Rays' athletic training intern.
A native of Pembroke, Maine, Ramsdell graduated with a B.S. in athletic training from Salem State University in Massachusetts before completing a master's degree in sport management at East Carolina University in 2013. While at East Carolina, he worked with the university's softball, swimming and diving and track and field teams.
Jones returns to the Stone Crabs after serving as the strength and conditioning coach for the 2013 season. Entering his eighth year with the Rays, Jones spent the last four years as the strength and conditioning coach with the Montgomery Biscuits. The Maple Grove, Minn. native also spent a season with the GCL Rays (2011) and the Bowling Green Hot Rods (2012). He's spent time overseas as the strength and conditioning coach for Leones del Caracas of the Venezuelan Winter League.
Jones earned a B.S. in Kinesiology and Exercise Science from Arizona State University in 2009. He interned with the school's strength and conditioning program before earning a similar internship with the Los Angeles Dodgers for the 2009 season.
The Stone Crabs embark on their tenth season in franchise history on April 5 when they visit the Fort Myers Miracle. They will open up their home slate on April 7 as they host the Miracle at 6:05 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.