Greenville, SC - The 2017 season was an exciting one in Downtown Greenville, beginning with major enhancements to Fluor Field, and culminating with a South Atlantic League championship and the John H. Johnson President's Award, Minor League Baseball's highest honor. As that momentum looks to continue into 2018, the Drive, in conjunction with the Boston Red Sox, have announced the coaching staff for the upcoming season.
Iggy Suarez will pilot the Drive in 2018, becoming the eighth manager in franchise history. Bob Kipper, an Upstate resident, will be coming home to serve as the Drive pitching coach. The staff will also feature a pair of returnees from last year's championship season, with hitting coach Wilton Veras and athletic trainer Phil Millan continuing in those same roles.
"We are very excited to bring Iggy to the Drive and the Greenville community while welcoming Bob, Wilton and Phil back," said Drive Owner/Team President Craig Brown. "Last season in Downtown Greenville was an incredible ride, as our fans truly embraced our team and the Fluor Field enhancements to make for an unforgettable season, which culminated in a South Atlantic League championship."
"This year's coaching staff shares Boston's organizational passion for player development, and the outstanding young talent that will be coming to Greenville for the upcoming season is in extremely good hands."
Suarez takes over for Darren Fenster, the Drive's manager the past four seasons, who will manage the Portland Sea Dogs, Boston's AA-affiliate, in 2018. The 36-year old Suarez has managed the Lowell Spinners, Boston's short-season affiliate, for two seasons. He led the Spinners to 47-29 record and the New York-Penn League's Stedler Division title in his first season as manager in 2016.
"I couldn't be happier to join the Drive organization for the upcoming season," said Suarez. "Fluor Field is a first-class venue, and to have the opportunity to continue the outstanding work this organization has done on and off the field is very special. Bob, Wilton, Phil and I are excited to aid in the development of our talented young players as they continue to progress towards their dream of joining the Boston Red Sox."
Prior to his appointment as manager in Lowell, Suarez served as the Spinners hitting coach in 2015. A 24th round selection by the Red Sox from Texas State in 2003, he played seven seasons in the Boston organization, reaching AAA-Pawtucket in 2009. He also played four seasons playing in the independent Atlantic League from 2010-2013 before his coaching career.
Kipper will begin his third stint as the Drive's pitching coach in 2018, having previously held the role in 2005-2006 as well as 2008-2009. The 53 year-old has spent the past the past three seasons as the pitching coach for the AAA Pawtucket Red Sox, and he spent 2010-2014 as the Portland Sea Dogs pitching coach. He replaces Walter Miranda, Greenville's pitching coach the previous three seasons, who will serve as Boston's Latin America pitching coordinator in 2018.
A former first round pick (8th overall) by the California Angels in 1982 out of high school, Kipper spent eight seasons in the major leagues, with seven of those coming with the Pittsburgh Pirates. His best season came in 1989 with the Pirates, where he logged a 2.93 ERA in 52 appearances out of the bullpen.
Veras is back for his second season as the Drive's hitting coach in 2018. Under Veras' guidance, the Drive ranked in the top five in the South Atlantic League in runs, doubles, home runs, total bases, walks and stolen bases. The 40 year-old served as the hitting coach for the Lowell Spinners in 2016, and he began his coaching career in 2012 as the hitting coach with the Dominican Summer League Red Sox, where he spent four seasons.
The Dominican Republic native signed with the Red Sox as an international free agent in 1995 and spent parts of two seasons in Boston in 1999-2000, hitting .262. Following a nine-year career in affiliated baseball, he played in independent leagues, as well as in Mexico and Taiwan.
Millan will serve as the Drive's head athletic trainer for the second consecutive season. He joined the Red Sox organization in 2016 as the assistant athletic trainer for the Gulf Coast League Red Sox.
The Drive's assistant coach will be added at a later date. Corey Wimberly, who served in that role last season, will receive his first managerial assignment with the Lowell Spinners this summer.
Drive General Manager Eric Jarinko commented, "The Red Sox emphasis on player development is evident by the recent successes of Drive alums such as Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Jackie Bradley, Jr. and most recently, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers. Iggy, Bob, Wilton and Phil will have a significant role in the development of the future stars in Boston this season, and we are looking forward to another successful year at Fluor Field."
Ticket plans, group outings, and hospitality accommodations are currently on sale for the 2018 season. Call (864) 240-4500 to speak with a representative or log on to www.GreenvilleDrive.com for more information.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.