Hall of Fame second baseman Ryne Sandberg, who guided the IronPigs to a franchise-record 80 wins and the club's first-ever postseason berth in 2011, will return as manager of the Lehigh Valley IronPigs for the upcoming 2012 season, the Philadelphia Phillies announced today. Familiar faces will surround Sandberg in the dugout as Rod Nichols will remain pitching coach for a fifth consecutive season and Sal Rende will resume as hitting coach for a second straight season. The lone newcomer on the staff will be Head Athletic Trainer Chris Mudd, who arrives to the IronPigs after a five-year stint in the same capacity with the Double-A Reading Phillies.
Under Ryne Sandberg's watch in 2011, the IronPigs advanced to the International League post-season for the first time in club history only to finish two wins shy of capturing the first league championship by a Phillies Triple-A affiliate since 1983. Sandberg, 52, spent the previous four seasons as a manager in the Chicago Cubs' minor league system with Single-A Peoria (2007-08), Double-A Tennessee (2009) and Triple-A Iowa (2010). He led his clubs to two first-place finishes and was named 2010 Manager of the Year in the Pacific Coast League after leading the Iowa Cubs to a tie for the best record in the Northern Division (82-62).
Including last year's 80-win campaign, Sandberg has amassed a 364-341 (.516) mark in five seasons as a Minor League manager.
A 2005 inductee to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Sandberg was a 10-time National League All-Star and won nine Gold Gloves and seven Silver Slugger awards during his 16-year career (1981-94, 1996-97). He was originally drafted by the Phillies in 1978 and made his Major League debut with the club in 1981, appearing in 13 games. Sandberg finished his career with a .285 batting average, 282 home runs, 1,061 RBI and 344 stolen bases in 2,164 games. At the time of his retirement, his 277 home runs as a second baseman was a Major League record.
In 1984, Sandberg batted .319 with 19 home runs, 84 RBI, 32 stolen bases and a league-leading 19 triples en route to winning the National League Most Valuable Player award - the first by a Cub since shortstop Ernie Banks won back-to-back award in 1958-59. Sandberg led Chicago to a N.L. East title that season, the Cubs first championship of any kind since 1945. He had his number 23 retired in a ceremony at Wrigley Field on August 28, 2005, becoming only the fourth Chicago Cub to receive such an honor.
Rod Nichols, 46, has guided the pitching staff of Philadelphia's Triple-A affiliate since 2005 and enters his 13th consecutive season as a coach in the organization. In 2011, Nichols' staff was among the best in the International League, ranking among the top five teams in the league in saves (1st, 47), fewest walks allowed (T-1st, 401), shutouts (2nd, 12), ERA (3rd, 3.68) and strikeouts (4th, 1126).
Under his watch, the IronPigs bullpen was unquestionably the best in the IL, going a combined 38-16 with a 2.82 ERA and a league-best 46 saves.
Nichols began his coaching career in 2000 as pitching coach for Piedmont (Low-A, South Atlantic League) and rapidly advanced through the system, moving to Lakewood in 2001 and to Reading (AA) from 2002-04. His progression to the Triple-A level in 2005 coincided with Rich Dubee's promotion to Philadelphia that same year.
Originally drafted by Cleveland in the fifth round of the 1987 draft, Nichols made his Major League debut with the Indians in 1988. Throughout a 12-year professional career, Nichols appeared in the Major Leagues with Cleveland (1988-93), Los Angeles (1993) and Atlanta (1995) and compiled a career record of 11-31 with a 4.43 ERA in 100 games and 48 starts. He also recorded 45 saves in his two seasons playing in the IL with the Richmond Braves (1995-96).
The Burlington, Iowa, native concluded his professional playing career overseas in Japan -- pitching for the Fukuoka Daiei Hawks in 1997.
Sal Rende, 56, embarks on his second season as hitting coach for the IronPigs, after replacing Greg Gross who was promoted to Charlie Manuel's staff during the 2010 season. Rende also spent his first four seasons in the organization in this capacity with both Scranton/Wilkes-Barre (2004-06) and Ottawa (2007).
Rende's post-playing resume is extensive and impressive and includes managerial stints in the Chicago-A (1984), Seattle (1986-87) and Kansas City (1988-91) farm systems. In 11 seasons as a Minor League skipper, he posted eight sinning seasons, six first-place finishes, three league championships and a combined 736-618 (.544) record. He was named Minor League Manager of the Year by The Sporting News and the American Association in 1990, going 86-60 with the Triple-A Omaha Royals.
After being selected by Cleveland in the 27th round of the 1977 draft, Rende spent seven years in the Indians minor league system, which included winning the New York-Penn League MVP award in 1977 for Batavia (A).
Chris Mudd, 33, is entering his ninth campaign with the organization including each of the last five seasons as the head athletic trainer for the Reading Phillies. A native of Leitchfield, Ky., Mudd has also spent time with Clearwater (2007), Lakewood (2006) and Batavia (2004-2005) while in the Phillies system. Mudd replaces Jason Kirkman, who presided this post for the IronPigs first four seasons.
In addition to naming Lehigh Valley's 2012 manager and coaches, the Phillies unveiled the staffs for all their Minor League affiliates yesterday. The staffs are listed below:
Lehigh Valley (AAA):
Ryne Sandberg (manager), Sal Rende (coach), Rod Nichols (pitching coach), Chris Mudd (athletic trainer)
Dusty Wathan (manager), Frank Cacciatore (coach), Bob Milacki (pitching coach)
Chris Truby (manager), John Mizerock (coach), Dave Lundquist (pitching coach)
Mickey Morandini (manager), Greg Legg (coach), Les Lancaster (pitching coach)
Andy Tracy (manager), TBA (coach), Aaron Fultz (pitching coach)
Gulf Coast Phillies (R):
Roly deArmas (manager), Kevin Jordan (coach), Steve Schrenk (pitching coach)
To renew or order season tickets and mini plans for the 2012 IronPigs season presented by Capital BlueCross, call (610) 841-PIGS or visit Coca-Cola Park's ticket office during normal business hours.
The Lehigh Valley IronPigs are dedicated to providing family-friendly entertainment and are the only Minor League team to offer bubbles to fans entering the AT&T Plaza and balloons for all children exiting Coca-Cola Park.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.