PEARL, MS - The Mississippi Braves will return Jackson, MS native Chris Maloney back for his second season as M-Braves' manager in 2019. Pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn, hitting coach Carlos Mendez and 2018 Southern League Athletic Trainer of the Year T.J. Saunders all will return in the same roles. Coach Alfredo Amézaga will make his coaching debut after a 19-year playing career that included time at the major league level in parts of nine different seasons.
During his first season in 2018, Maloney guided the M-Braves to a 67-71 record, boasting a 38-30 mark in the second half of the season, missing out on the playoffs by just one game in the standings. At the end of 2018, Maloney ranked ninth among active minor league managers with 1,417 wins (1,417-1,321 overall record, .517 winning percentage) and has guided his clubs to winning records in 11 of 21 seasons and league championships in 1993 (Savannah Cardinals, South Atlantic League) and 2009 (Memphis Redbirds, Pacific Coast League).
"I'm really happy to be coming back as the Mississippi Braves manager in 2019 and that Dennis, Carlos, and T.J. are returning because we work so well together and continuity is a plus," said Maloney. "Alfredo is a great addition to our staff. He is extremely knowledgeable and a talented instructor, so we are glad to have him. I'm looking forward to making a run at the Southern League Championship in 2019 to bring back to the Atlanta Braves organization and our great fans."
"Hammer's managerial track record speaks for itself," said Mississippi Braves' vice president and general manager Pete Laven. "The M-Braves are thrilled to have him and the entire coaching staff back in 2019 to continue the momentum they built last season at Trustmark Park."
Maloney, 57, the seventh skipper in franchise history attended Jackson's St. Joseph High School and went on to play collegiate baseball at Mississippi State University, graduating in 1983. He was signed as a non-drafted free agent by the New York Mets after his playing days at Mississippi State. The former outfielder and first baseman played minor league baseball for the Mets (1983-1985) and St. Louis Cardinals (1986) organizations prior to beginning his coaching career in 1988.
Prior to joining the Braves last season, Maloney spent six years on the St. Louis Cardinals major league coaching staff as the team's third base coach (2016-17) and first base coach (2012-15). Prior to joining the Cardinals, Maloney was the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds manager for five seasons (2007-11), leading the team to winning records in four of his five seasons.
"Hammer" returned to the Cardinals organization in 2005 after having spent three years in the Astros organization as manager of the Triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs. Maloney posted 212 wins with the Zephyrs, including a first-place finish in 2002. Maloney's previous tenure with the Cardinals included Manager of the Year honors in three different leagues: the New York-Penn League while leading Hamilton to a 56-20 (.737) record in 1992, the highest winning percentage by a Cardinals minor league team; the South Atlanta League with Savannah in 1993, and the Texas League with Arkansas in 1998. His 1993 Savannah squad posted a 94-48 (.662) record and captured the league title as Maloney was named Baseball Weekly's Minor League Manager of the Year. In his 17 seasons as a manager in the Cardinals system, Maloney compiled a 1,016-870 (.539) record. His work with young Cardinals players was formally recognized when he was presented with the 2006 and 2009 George Kissell Awards, presented annually for excellence in player development. The 2009 award made Maloney the first two-time winner.
Chris and his wife Laurie, have a daughter, Ann Bradley, and son, Jake and reside in Jackson during the offseason.
Lewallyn, 65, one of the premier pitching coaches in baseball enters his 48th season in professional baseball, including his 37th year in a coaching role and sixth with the M-Braves. Under Lewallyn's direction, the 2018 pitching staff finished second in the Southern League with 537 strikeouts and a 3.62 ERA. Lewallyn joined the organization in 2013 and worked his first four seasons as the M-Braves pitching coach. Lewallyn spent the 2017 season as the High-A Florida Fire Frogs pitching coach.
Lewallyn spent six seasons, from 2007 to 2012 as a part of the Chicago Cubs farm system, spending his final two years their minor league pitching coordinator. From 2007 to 2010, he served as the Double-A Tennessee Smokies pitching coach. He spent 11 years (1996-2006) as a coach with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. He originally joined the D-backs when the team was formed through expansion in 1996 as the pitching coach for the Rookie-level Lethbridge Black Diamonds. He was Arizona's major league bullpen coach during the second half of the 2004 season. From 2002 to 2006 he was the D-backs minor league pitching coordinator. From 1996 to 2001 he worked as a pitching coach in the D-backs system. The former first-round selection (eighth overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers began his coaching career in 1983 with the Dodgers organization and spent the next 13 seasons (through 1995) in various pitching coach roles.
Lewallyn pitched for three teams (Los Angeles, 1975-79); Texas (1980); Cleveland (1981-82) over an 11-year career, including parts of eight seasons at the major league level. Lewallyn posted a career 4.48 ERA. Dennis and his wife Kathy reside in Pensacola, FL and have two sons, David and Bryan.
Mendez, 44, will enter his 12th season overall in the Braves organization and his second as hitting coach for the M-Braves. Mendez spent the previous four season as the High-A Florida Fire Frogs' hitting coach. Mendez joined the organization in 2008 and has spent the first 10 seasons as a hitting coach at four different levels. In 2014, he opened the season with Rookie-level Danville before being assigned as the hitting coach for the High-A Lynchburg Hillcats in mid-April. From 2011 to 2012, Mendez served as the Low-A Rome hitting coach. He spent the 2013 season with the Gulf Coast League Braves in the same role. Mendez spent his first three seasons with the club, 2008 to 2010, as the hitting instructor in Danville.
The former first baseman and designated hitter was signed by the Kansas City Royals as a non-drafted free agent in 1991. During his 16-year (1991-2007) career, Mendez posted an overall minor league batting average of .297 while playing with five organizations including Kansas City, Detroit, Oakland, Baltimore, and Atlanta. In 2003, Mendez spent nearly four months with the Baltimore Orioles over two stints and played in 26 games, batting .222. Carlos and his wife Cortney have two children, Carlos Jr., and Tatiana, and reside in Wilmington, DE.
Amézaga, 40, played 19 professional seasons, including parts of nine years at the major league level. The Ciudad Obregon, Mexico native was the quintessential utility player, logging 265 games in the outfield (most of them in center field), 115 games at shortstop, 71 games at third base, 60 games at second base and six games at first base. The only positions he did not play were pitcher and catcher. Amézaga was drafted one spot ahead of Albert Pujols at 401st overall in the 1999 Draft by the Anaheim Angels, playing three seasons for the Angels (2002-04), He played at the big league level for Colorado (2005, 2011), Pittsburgh (2005) and Florida (2006-09, 2011). He carried a .241 career major league batting average with 12 home runs, 110 RBI, 49 stolen bases and 173 runs scored over 584 major league games.
In 2013, Amézaga signed with the Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican Baseball League and played in Mexico through the 2018 season. He ended his playing career this fall after playing 2,073 professional games and logging 7,844 at-bats.
Saunders, the 2018 Southern League Athletic Trainer of the Year returns for his third season with the M-Braves. Saunders spent the previous eight years (2009-16) with the Detroit Tigers organization serving three seasons at Double-A Erie (2014-16) where he was named 2015 Eastern League Athletic Trainer of the Year.
The Annapolis, MD native is a 2001 graduate of Florida State University with a bachelor of science degree in exercise science and an emphasis in athletic training. In 2009, Saunders graduated from the University of Tennessee-Knoxville where he earned a master's degree in exercise physiology. Saunders is also a United States Coast Guard Licensed Captain and resides in Lakeland, FL.
The M-Braves will open the 2019 season on the road against the Tennessee Smokies, April 4-8, before beginning the 15th season at Trustmark Park against the Mobile BayBears, April 10-14.
2019 season tickets and holiday stocking stuffer packs are on sale now! For more information, call the M-Braves Front Office at 601.932.8788 or 888-BRAVES4, or visit www.mississippibraves.com. Individual tickets start at just $6!
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.