New coaching staff to guide Hillcats in 2019

Veteran minor league skipper Jim Pankovits will lead Lynchburg

By Max Gun / Lynchburg Hillcats | January 23, 2019 12:06 PM

Lynchburg, Va. - Following their sixth consecutive postseason appearance, the Lynchburg Hillcats, in conjunction with the Cleveland Indians, announced an all-new coaching staff on Tuesday.

Leading the club in 2019 will be manager Jim Pankovits. Joe Torres will join the team as the Hillcats' pitching coach, Johnny Naron will take over as the club's hitting coach and Mike Mergenthaler will serve as the bench coach.

"We're extremely excited to welcome our new manager, Jim Pankovits, and his staff to the Hillcats family in 2019," Hillcats President and General Manager, Chris Jones said. "He has a plethora of experience in professional baseball and we can't wait to introduce him to our fanbase and community."  

Pankovits, 63, is entering his second year in the Indians organization. The former infielder played in the major leagues for the Houston Astros from 1984-1988, and the Boston Red Sox in 1990. Last season, Pankovits was the skipper for short-season Mahoning Valley in his first year with the Tribe. He has previously served as a minor league manager in the Red Sox, Astros and Mariners systems, where he has accumulated 980 victories. In addition to his managerial duties, the Richmond, Va. native has also served as a roving minor league infield instructor for the Boston and Seattle organizations.

"I'm really excited to get back to Lynchburg and the Carolina League," said Pankovits, who is familiar with the league having managed Salem in the mid-2000s. "Having grown up in Richmond, any time you can get back to the state of Virginia is nice. There's some really nice places to play in the Carolina League. It's one of the best leagues in the professional baseball as far as the travel and level of play. The last time I was in Lynchburg they were a Pirates affiliate. They drew well and had very enthusiastic fans, and I look forward to making City Stadium my home ballpark."

 

Torres, 36, enters his third year with the Cleveland Indians. The former left-handed pitcher was drafted in the first round (10th overall) by the Anaheim Angels in the 2000 MLB Draft. Torres played for 13 seasons, reaching as high as Triple-A. Last season, the Bronx, N.Y. native held the same position with the Tribe at Single-A Lake County. Prior to joining the Indians, Torres coached at King's Ridge Christian Academy in Georgia.

Narron, 68, will join Lynchburg's staff after spending last season in Triple-A Columbus as the hitting coach. The native of Goldsboro, N.C. is embarking on his third season with Cleveland's organization. Narron has served eight seasons on Major League coaching staffs, including three as the hitting coach for the Milwaukee Brewers from 2012-2014.

Mergenthaler, 30, arrives in Lynchburg to begin his third season coaching for the Indians. He spent the past two seasons as the hitting coach for Cleveland's Dominican Supper League co-op with the Milwaukee Brewers. The former outfielder was drafted in the 32nd round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants, after playing his college ball in The Commonwealth at Richmond. The Thiells, N.Y. native played two minor league seasons for the Giants, reaching Single-A Augusta. He played the 2013 season in the Frontier League for the Rockford Aviators before retiring.

 

"I'm very excited to have a chance to work again with Cleveland," Pankovits said. "I'm very impressed after one year of working with them and their commitment to player development."

Jake Legan joins the Hillcats' staff as the team's athletic trainer. He is in his fifth year with the Indians, and first in the Hill City. Eric Ortego returns for the second straight year as Lynchburg's strength and conditioning coach, his third season overall with Cleveland.

"The Cleveland Indians have provided us with not only top-tier coaches, but top-tier individuals since our affiliation began in 2015," Jones said. "We anticipate the 2019 season being no different, and look forward to a great season with Jim and his staff guiding us."

Season ticket, group packages and mini plans for all 70 of the Hillcats 2019 home games are on sale now. Fans interested in purchasing tickets for the 2019 season can reach out by phone at 434-528-1144 or stop by the City Stadium offices.

The Lynchburg Hillcats are the Advanced-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians. The Hillcats are eight-time Carolina League Champions, having most recently won the Mills Cup Championship in 2017. The Hillcats play their home games at City Stadium, which has been home to Minor League Baseball in Lynchburg since 1963. For more information about the Lynchburg Hillcats, please contact Max Gun at mgun@lynchburg-hillcats.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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