VISALIA, Calif. -- The Visalia Rawhide announced its 2009 coaching staff yesterday, and it features two familiar faces and a promising newcomer.
Mike Bell returns to Visalia as manager for the second consecutive season. Bell guided an injury- and trade-riddled ballclub to a 67-72 record, as the team narrowly missed out on the playoffs after a heroic late push.
"I am excited to be back in Visalia," Bell said from his Arizona home. "In my career, I have not been able to spend consecutive years in the same city often. The opportunity to return for a second year in Visalia means a great deal to me this year because I saw the hard work and determination that went into the renovations last year. Seeing the stadium come to fruition will be exciting for the players, myself, and most importantly the fans who stuck with us."
Bell, 34, played 13 professional seasons, including a spell in the Big Leagues with the Cincinnati Reds, before retiring to pursue a managerial career. This year will be his third overall managerial season.
Of course, Bell is not the only coach returning for '09, as 31-year-old Wellington Cepeda also remains the club's pitching coach. Cepeda is entering his sixth overall season as a coach. His work with the 2008 Visalia team was outstanding, as the pitching staff recorded an ERA of 4.14 (the third-best mark in the California League), despite playing in one of the most hitter-friendly ballparks on the circuit. Visalia pitchers took Cepeda's emphasis on control and command to heart, as they issued the second-fewest walks in the league.
Meanwhile, the Rawhide is also pleased to introduce Alan Zinter as its 2009 hitting coach. Zinter, 40, enters his second overall season as a hitting coach. Last season, Zinter began his coaching career with the Rookie-level Missoula Osprey. The Diamondbacks were so pleased with his work that they promoted him to Class A Advanced, the fourth level of Minor League Baseball, despite his short overall coaching tenure.
Zinter's resume is loaded with first-hand playing experience. He was a first-round Draft pick by the New York Mets in 1989, and he spent 15 seasons in professional baseball, hitting over 200 career home runs and batting .259 overall. He played in 39 games with the Houston Astros in 2002 and 28 more with the Diamondbacks in 2004. His Major League debut came after 14 seasons in the Minors. His refusal to give up on his Major League dream paid off, and he will hope to impart some of that tenacity (and the ability to hit a professional curveball) on Visalia's young hitters next year.
Jason Downing also makes the jump from Missoula to Visalia as the new strength and conditioning coach. He will partner with head trainer Nick Oldroyd, who was formerly the head trainer at Utah State University.
With a new nickname, new uniforms and new stadium renovations debuting in 2009, the Rawhide will welcome their coaches, returning and new, and hope that their dedication will help deliver on-field success to compliment the club's off-field improvements.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.