The fourteen teams of the International League will once again be piloted by an experienced group of field managers in 2009. This year's crop of IL skippers has won over 12,000 games combined in the Minor Leagues.
All four managers from the 2008 Governors' Cup playoffs are back for another run at the IL's postseason championship. That includes IL Manager of the Year Rick Sweet, who became Louisville's all-time winningest field general en route to leading the Bats to the West Division flag last season. Dave Miley guided Scranton/Wilkes-Barre to its first Governors' Cup championship in 2008, one year after winning Manager of the Year honors. Charlie Montoyo looks to lead the Bulls to their third straight division title in his third season at the helm in Durham. Last year's Wild Card club, Pawtucket, brings back Ron Johnson after the PawSox won a franchise-best 85 games in 2008.
The playoff managers won't be the only familiar faces in International League dugouts this season. In fact, thirteen of the fourteen skippers have previously managed in the IL, including eleven who were in the League in 2008. In an interesting twist though, only eight managers are returning to the same city in which they served last year, thanks in part to the Major League affiliation shuffle this past offseason.
Larry Parrish has already won two Governors' Cups and an IL Manager of the Year Award in Toledo, where he looks to lead the Mud Hens to another strong campaign in 2009. Stan Cliburn is back for his fourth season in Rochester, where his Red Wings have finished in the top half of the IL North three straight times. Former IL MVP Gary Allenson will once again pilot the Norfolk Tides, as he has done in each of the club's first two years affiliated with Baltimore. Rounding out the group of managers returning to the same city is Dave Huppert, back for the second season of baseball in Lehigh Valley. Huppert's 20th victory this season will be the 1,500th of his career.
The other six IL managers will spend 2009 in a new city, although three of them were in the League last year. Dave Brundage, who won the Governors' Cup in 2007, will be the first manager for the Gwinnett Braves after relocating from Richmond. Former Clipper Torey Lovullo returns to Columbus to continue his tenure piloting Cleveland's Triple-A team after three years in Buffalo. Columbus' most recent affiliate, Washington, along with their former manager, Tim Foli, have moved on to Syracuse.
A new affiliation with the Mets brings a new skipper to Buffalo in Ken Oberkfell, who has managed New York's Triple-A club in Norfolk (2005-06) and New Orleans (2007-08). Seventeen years after managing Richmond, Chris Chambliss returns to the IL to pilot the Charlotte Knights, his sixth season as a manager. Chambliss was in Richmond last season as the hitting coach. The only field manager who will be making his IL debut in 2009 is Indianapolis' Frank Kremblas, but Kremblas is no stranger to Indianapolis or Triple-A Baseball. The former Indians infielder spent the last four years managing Nashville of the Pacific Coast League, a stint which included both a PCL Championship (2005) and a Manager of the Year Award (2007).
With such a high level of Triple-A experience in every one of the IL dugouts this season, 2009 is sure to be an exciting year. The League will also open two brand new facilities this season in Columbus (Huntington Park) and Gwinnett (Gwinnett Stadium). As the season unfolds, only time will tell who will become the 77th manager to have his name etched on the Governors' Cup trophy.