The Clearwater Threshers look to take a bite out of the Florida State League in 2015 with an all-new coaching staff at the reins.
Greg Legg leads the way as Threshers manager, flanked by hitting coach Rob Ducey and pitching coach Steve Shrenk. Mickey Kozack returns for his second year as the Threshers trainer.
Legg is no stranger to Clearwater. The former infielder kicked off his coaching career in 1994, when he joined the Clearwater Phillies staff as a hitting coach.
At least, temporarily.
"What happened was I coached in Clearwater for a month, and then the Triple-A second baseman Kevin Jordan broke his leg," Legg says. "And they said, 'You're gonna go play again.'
"So I actually left that team and went to the Triple-A team and played in KJ's place until he got well. As soon as he was well - back down to A-ball, as a coach."
Legg would make his managerial debut three years later, when he led the short-season Batavia Clippers to a 47-27 record. He has since managed at every level from rookie ball to Double-A in the Phillies' system, including two seasons with the Clearwater Threshers in 2005 and 2006.
The mentality of managing in the minor leagues stays the same regardless of level, Legg believes, in that it comes down to stressing fundamentals.
"Playing hard and doing a lot of the little things. Moving runners, bunting, hit-and-run, getting the guys in from third, breaking up double plays," Legg explains.
"I think we're trying to establish how the Phillies are going to play baseball, what we want when they get to the big leagues, things that we're going to accept or not accept as far as how they go about their business and playing the game the right way."
First-year hitting coach Rob Ducey brings a fresh perspective to Clearwater, joining the Threshers after serving in the same capacity last year at AA Reading.
Prior to 2014, Ducey spent five years as a professional scout, working four years with the Toronto Blue Jays and one with the Tampa Bay Rays. He had also served as a hitting coach for two years prior, one for the New York Yankees' short-season team and one for the Montreal Expos' Double-A affiliate.
Ducey says his experience in scouting has in turn helped him in numerous ways as a coach.
"Many things," he says, "Many things to look for, many little nuances in how players move and react that can help me in the teaching aspect."
A native of Cambridge, Ontario and a member of the Canadian Baseball Hall of Fame, Ducey played 13 years as an outfielder in the Majors from 1987 to 2001. Ducey coached for Canada in the 2006 World Baseball Classic, as well as for the 2008 Canadian Olympic team.
Returning to Clearwater for his third stint with the Threshers, Steve Schrenk joins the staff as pitching coach in 2015.
His coaching career began in Clearwater a decade ago, when he joined Hall of Famer Mike Schmidt on the inaugural Threshers' coaching staff in 2004. He also spent the 2007 and 2008 seasons with the Threshers.
Schrenk now begins his 12th season as a pitching coach in the Phillies organization
As a player, he was drafted by the Chicago White Sox in the fourth round in 1987, and spent 16 seasons pitching professionally, including two years with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1999 and 2000. Schrenk most recently served as pitching coach for the GCL Phillies from 2012 to 2014.
"For me, my mentality for pitchers is obviously to throw strikes, be competitive," Schrenk says. "We want to win, but yet we're still here to develop pitchers."
"As far as being with the Threshers - we have the best crowds, the best stadium I think in the league."
The Florida State League season begins on April 9, as the Threshers kick off the 2015 slate by hosting the Dunedin Blue Jays at 7 p.m. at Bright House Field.
Opening Night is presented by Regions Bank, and all beverages in the ballpark are 2-for-1 as part of Thirsty Thursday presented by Tijuana Flats. Tickets start at just $6 and may be purchased here or by calling 727-467-4457. The game can also be heard live on threshersbaseball.com, beginning with Threshers Live! at 6:45 p.m.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.