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Cuellar, McDaniel win Coolbaugh, Bender Awards

Dodgers, Phillies execs honored for player development service
December 5, 2023

Minor League Baseball announced the selection of Los Angeles Dodgers Special Assistant to Player Development Bobby Cuellar as the recipient of the 15th annual Mike Coolbaugh Award and Philadelphia Phillies Director of Minor League Operations Lee McDaniel as the 15th winner of the Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award. The Mike Coolbaugh

Minor League Baseball announced the selection of Los Angeles Dodgers Special Assistant to Player Development Bobby Cuellar as the recipient of the 15th annual Mike Coolbaugh Award and Philadelphia Phillies Director of Minor League Operations Lee McDaniel as the 15th winner of the Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award.

The Mike Coolbaugh Award is presented annually to an individual who has shown outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game and skill in mentoring young players on the field. The award was created by Minor League Baseball in 2008 to honor the late Coolbaugh, a 17-year Minor League player who was in his first year as a coach at the time of his passing. Coolbaugh appeared in 44 Major League games with the Milwaukee Brewers (39 games in 2001) and St. Louis Cardinals (five games in 2002).

The Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award is presented to an individual with distinguished service who has been instrumental in player development. The award honors Bender as a longtime front-office executive and consultant who spent 39 years with the Cincinnati Reds.

Bobby Cuellar -- Mike Coolbaugh Award
Bobby Cuellar began his career in professional baseball in 1974 as a 29th-round selection of the Texas Rangers out of the University of Texas. The right-handed pitcher spent nine seasons in professional baseball, highlighted by a promotion to the big leagues with Texas in 1977.

Following the end of his playing career in 1982, Cuellar immediately jumped into the coaching profession, beginning a long and storied career mentoring young pitchers and players over the past 40 seasons.

His coaching and managing career in Minor League Baseball has taken him through each classification from Rookie ball through Triple-A and through seven different leagues. His stints in the Minors included stretches in the Seattle Mariners organization (1983-94), the Minnesota Twins organization (2002-05, 2008-12) and his current organization, the Los Angeles Dodgers (2015-23).

Cuellar also spent nine years in Major League Baseball, serving as the Mariners’ pitching coach (1995-96), Montreal Expos’ pitching coach (1997-2000), Rangers’ bullpen/pitching coach (2001), Pittsburgh Pirates' bullpen coach (2006-07) and Twins’ bullpen coach (2013-14).

Known for his ability to mentor young players and assist Latin players in getting acclimated to life in the United States, Cuellar is considered a teacher at heart, with an extraordinary ability to bring together people from different cultures with an understanding of the impact coaches can make on players’ careers and lives.

“I am very honored to receive this tremendous honor and to be recognized for something I absolutely love to do,” said Cuellar. “I’d like to thank my wife, Nora, and my family, and I have a deep appreciation for all of the players, coaches, mentors and all others that have played such an important part in my journey in this game.”

Cuellar, 71, and his wife of 45 years, Nora, reside in Alice, Texas. They have three adult children, Tiffany, Bobby Ray, and Emma. The Cuellars have five grandchildren.

Mike Coolbaugh Award Winners
Year Name Team
2008 Bobby Jones Texas Rangers
2009 Charlie Montoyo Tampa Bay Rays
2010 Woody Huyke GCL Pirates
2011 Mike Jirschele Omaha Storm Chasers
2012 Johnny Goryl Cleveland Indians
2013 Mike Guerrero Nashville Sounds
2014 Tom Wiedenbauer Cleveland Indians
2015 John Shoemaker Los Angeles Dodgers
2016 Donald “Spin” Williams Washington Nationals
2017 Dennis Holmberg Toronto Blue Jays
2018 Steve Turco St. Louis Cardinals
2019 Glenn “Goose” Gregson Boston Red Sox
2021 Roly de Armas Philadelphia Phillies
2022 Rick Sweet Milwaukee Brewers
2023 Bobby Cuellar Los Angeles Dodgers

Lee McDaniel -- Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award
Lee McDaniel began his career in professional baseball as an intern with the Rookie-level Martinsville Phillies in 1990, launching what has become a 34-year career in Minor League Baseball.

After two seasons as the Assistant General Manager of the Asheville Tourists (1991-92), McDaniel returned to the Phillies organization in 1993 as the General Manager of Martinsville. Following three seasons in Martinsville, McDaniel was named Assistant General Manager of the High-A Clearwater Phillies prior to the 1996 season, before being named General Manager in 1997.

After three years at the helm in Clearwater, McDaniel moved to the Player Development staff in 2000 and was named Assistant Director of Minor League Operations for the Phillies, a role he held through the 2011 season when he was promoted to Director of Minor League Operations.

As the Director of Minor League Operations, McDaniel oversees the Baseball Operations budget, all business operations with the Phillies’ Minor League affiliates as well as the Phillies’ player development complex in Clearwater. He leads the coordination of the Phillies’ offseason camps, Minor League Spring Training, extended spring training and Florida Complex League season.

Additionally, McDaniel arranges all travel for Phillies Minor League players and coaches throughout the season, and in 2018, he was the recipient of the Richie Ashburn & David Montgomery Special Achievement Award, which is given each year to a member of the Phillies organization who represents the best attributes of the award’s namesakes.

McDaniel, 58, received a Finance degree from Virginia Tech in 1988 and a master’s degree in Sports Administration from Ohio University in 1993. He resides in Odessa, Florida.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to be this year’s recipient of the Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award and to be mentioned with him and the previous winners, several of whom are dear friends, is a tremendous honor,” said McDaniel. “I was fortunate to meet “Chief” at various baseball functions early in my career and had the utmost respect and admiration for him, so I’m forever grateful for this selection. I have truly been blessed to work for the Philadelphia Phillies for so many years and I share this award with the many great leaders at the Phillies both past and present, along with my incredible co-workers, and most of all, my wife, Lisa, my daughter, Riley, and my son, Jason, as this would not be possible without their love and support.”

Sheldon "Chief" Bender Award Winners
Year Name Team
2008 Jim Rantz Minnesota Twins
2009 Keith Lieppman Oakland Athletics
2010 Mark Newman New York Yankees
2011 Bob Gebhard Arizona Diamondbacks
2012 Mitch Lukevics Tampa Bay Rays
2013 Brian Graham Baltimore Orioles
2014 Lois Hudson Cincinnati Reds
2015 Buddy Bell Chicago White Sox
2016 Dan Lunetta Detroit Tigers
2017 Grady Fuson Oakland Athletics
2018 Steve Cobb Arizona Fall League
2019 Junior Noboa Arizona Diamondbacks
2021 Mike Bell Minnesota Twins
2022 Gary LaRocque St. Louis Cardinals
2023 Lee McDaniel Philadelphia Phillies

“Both Bobby Cuellar and Lee McDaniel epitomize the finest qualities of these two awards and are highly regarded throughout the game. On behalf of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball, it is my pleasure to present them with these awards,” said Peter Woodfork, Major League Baseball’s Senior Vice President of Minor League Operations and Development.