CORPUS CHRISTI – Manager Joe Thon will lead the Corpus Christi Hooks in 2024, the Houston Astros announced today.
Assisting Thon at the Astros Class AA post is pitching coach Sean Buchanan, hitting coach Bobby Bell, development coach Vincent Blue, athletic trainer Jennifer Bardales, strength coach Joe Powell, dietician Kara Beitler, and mental health coach D’Jenne Egharevba.
Thon, Bell, and Blue all served in the same capacity for Corpus Christi last year.
Thanks to an 11-4 September, the 2023 Hooks won 70 of 138 games, including a 37-31 mark at Whataburger Field. Corpus Christi ranked among the offensive leaders in the 10-team Texas League in home runs (184, 2nd), stolen bases (213, 2nd), total bases (1,969, 2nd), RBIs (668, 4th), and OPS (.765, 4th).
“We are thrilled to welcome Joe, Bobby, and Blue back to Corpus Christi,” Hooks General Manager Brady Ballard said. “We’re looking forward to meeting the new members of our field staff and get the ball rolling on 2024. We saw first-hand last year how Joe’s commitment to his players make him an ideal leader. Not only did the Hooks turn in a winning season for the first time since 2018, but through promotions and trades they have continued in their contributions to a farm system that has fueled this historic run by the Astros. We are very proud to be a part of the process.”
Last season, 11 Hooks were listed among Houston’s top 20 prospects, according to rankings by MLB.com. Outfielder Joey Loperfido and right-handed pitchers Ryan Gusto and Rhett Kouba were named to the Texas League’s postseason all-star team, with Kouba taking home TL Pitcher of the Year honors. Hooks hurlers posted a 4.39 ERA as a team, which slotted second in the circuit.
“We were lucky to have so many talented players come through Double-A last year,” Thon said. “You could see their impact and how they are getting closer to the big club. We had a great coaching staff, and I’m fortunate to have two pillars in Bobby and Blue returning this season. Corpus Christi is a great spot, the way they take care of us and how the fans support the players by showing up every night. I’m happy to be back.”
Hooks Opening Night is Friday, April 5 at 7:05 as the Midland RockHounds (Oakland Athletics) visit Whataburger Field for a three-game series. Season memberships are on sale now. Visit cchooks.com or call 361-561-HOOK (4665) for more information.
Thon came to Corpus Christi following a three-year run at the Astros Class A affiliate in Fayetteville, North Carolina. The ninth manager in 19 seasons of Hooks Baseball, he became Fayetteville’s skipper in 2022 after toiling as the club’s development coach. Thon’s tenure with the Astros began with a business apprenticeship in 2019.
The former infielder was drafted by the Blue Jays in the fifth round in 2010 out of Academia Perpetuo Socorro in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Thon played in parts of seven minor league seasons, with all but one coming in the Toronto system. The final year of his playing career was 2017 when he advanced to Double-A Springfield (Missouri) in the St. Louis organization. Thon closed the campaign with Sugar Land of the independent Atlantic League.
A six-year veteran of the Roberto Clemente Puerto Rican Winter League, Thon became a coach in 2019 by working as a volunteer assistant for the University of Houston baseball program. He was born in Houston and is the son of former Astros shortstop Dickie Thon, who played in 15 Major League seasons with Houston, the Phillies, Angels, Rangers, Padres and Brewers. Dickie Thon was a National League All-Star, won the silver slugger award and finished seventh in MVP voting in 1983 as part of a seven-season run with the Astros.
New to the Hooks field staff in 2024 is pitching coach Sean Buchanan, who worked at High-A Asheville (N.C.) last year. Buchanan was pitching coach at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania in 2021. His career with the Astros began the following year in West Palm Beach as he was hired to tutor rookie arms in the Florida Complex League.
Buchanan’s collegiate coaching stops also include Albright College (Reading, Pa.), DeSales University (Center Valley, Pa.), Ave Maria University (Naples, Fla.), and SUNY New Paltz, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in History in 2013. The New York native spent five summers as a coach in the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League.
Beginning his second season with Houston, Bobby Bell has spent over 20 years in professional baseball. In addition to coaching in the Anaheim Angels, Miami Marlins, and Milwaukee Brewers organizations, Bell has worked in independent ball while leading hitting clinics across the country.
In 1986, Bell signed as a non-drafted free agent with the California Angels out of Mesa State College, now Colorado Mesa University. The Lafayette, Ind. native played in parts of three pro seasons while seeing action at catcher (72 GM) and third base (26 GM).
Vincent Blue, a product of Lamar High School in Houston, is primed for his third season with the Astros and second with the Hooks. Selected in the 10th round of the 2001 draft, he played outfield for parts of seven seasons in the Tigers system. A .261 career hitter, Blue advanced to Triple-A Toledo (Ohio) in 2007 before embarking upon a five-year journey in independent ball.
Primarily a centerfielder, Blue’s last playing campaign was in 2012 when he hit .267 with 60 runs scored, 15 extra-base hits, 37 RBIs, 32 stolen bases and 67 walks in 94 games for the Edinburg Roadrunners of the North American League. He founded both the BE Elite Baseball Academy and the Universal Baseball Players Association before becoming an Astro.
Jennifer Bardales is in her fourth season with the Houston Astros. Prior to working at Class A Fayetteville last year, she served on the support staff at Houston’s training facility in West Palm Beach, capturing 2022 Florida Complex League Athletic Trainer of the Year honors by the Professional Baseball Athletic Trainers Society.
Bardales owns a master’s degree in Athletic Training from the University of Houston. She has also graduated from UTSA (Bachelor of Science, Kinesiology, 2017) and San Jacinto College (Associate of Arts, 2015). The Houston native augmented her time in the classroom by working as a student athletic trainer for the Roadrunners, Cougars and Rice Owls.
Joining the Astros from the Atlanta Braves organization is strength coach Joe Powell, who was at Double-A Mississippi last year after working at High-A Rome (Ga.) in 2022. Prior to pro ball, Powell led the S&C program at Angelo State College before serving as an assistant strength coach at North Carolina A&T State University in Greensboro.
Powell graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Exercise Science from Carson-Newman University (Jefferson City, TN) where he played on the baseball team. The North Carolina native owns a master’s in Kinesiology from the University of Tennessee. In addition to working with the Vols as a graduate assistant, Powell was a strength and conditioning intern for the Mississippi State football program.