The Peoria Chiefs and St. Louis Cardinals have announced the 2013 Chiefs field staff as the Cardinals make their return to Peoria as an affiliate for the first time since 2004. Former Major League catcher Dann Bilardello will serve as the 21st Manager in Chiefs history and his staff will include former MLB players Jason Simontacchi and Erik Pappas and athletic trainer Mike Petrarca.
Bilardello has managed three seasons in full-season leagues and four seasons in Short-Season leagues while posting a career record of 366-349. He made his Managerial debut in 2002 with Great Falls of the Pioneer League in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. He led the Dodgers to a 47-28 record in his first season and a Pioneer League Championship. He spent two seasons with Low-A South Georgia going 64-72 in 2003 and 69-69 in 2004. He stayed in the South Atlantic League in 2004 with the renamed Columbus Catfish going 69-69. Bilardello left the Dodgers and managed the Boston Red Sox affiliated Wilmington Blue Rocks to a 60-80 record in Advanced-A in 2005. Bilardello spent the 2007-2009 seasons as the St. Louis Cardinals Minor League Catching Coordinator before getting back into managing in 2010 with Short Season-A Batavia. He led the Muckdogs to a 45-29 record in 2010 and a Semifinal playoff appearance. The 2011 Muckdogs were 37-39 under Bilardello and the 2012 team went 44-32 but missed the playoffs. Among the Cardinals prospects he managed in Batavia are: Patrick Wisdom, Mike O'Neil, Nick Longmire, Colin Walsh, Breyvic Valera, John Gast, Kevin Siegrist, David Medina, Nick Martini, Danny Miranda and Sam Gaviglio, Joe Cuda, Tim Cooney and Ben O'Shea.
A native of Santa Cruz, California, Bilardello starred at Marello Prep before attending Cabrillo College in Aptos, California. He was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the third round of the 1978 January draft and then by the Los Angeles Dodgers with the seventh overall selection in the first round of the 1978 June Free Agent draft. Bilardello signed with the Dodgers and hit .239 with two homers and 15 RBI in 1979 for Clinton in the Midwest League. He worked his way to Double-A with the Dodgers before being selected by Cincinnati in the 1982 Rule V draft. Bilardello made his Major League debut on April 11, 1983 with the Reds and hit .238 with nine home runs in 109 games as a rookie catcher. His first career home run came on April 26 off Hall of Famer Tom Seaver. Bilardello spent time in the Majors with Montreal, Pittsburgh and San Diego while also seeing MiLB time with Kansas City and the New York Met before retiring in 1993. In 1984, Bilardello led the National League by throwing out 41.5 percent of would-be base stealers and he finished third in 1985 at 48.8 percent. On December 19, 1985 he was traded to the Montreal Expos with John Stuper and two others for Sal Butera and Bill Gullickson. His final MLB game was on October 4, 1992 with San Diego. Overall Bilardello played in 382 Major League games batting .204 with 18 home runs, 39 doubles, 91 RBI and 79 runs scored. From 1978 to 1993 he played in 818 Minor League games, 469 of those at the Triple-A level. Overall in the minors he hit .260 with 90 home runs, 121 doubles, 347 runs scored and 385 RBI.
Bilardello, 53, resides in Vero Beach, Florida and has three children, sons Trey and Davis and daughter Kammie. Davis, a pitcher, was drafted by the Cardinals in the 43rd round in 2007 out of the University of South Florida. He pitched in 26 games in 2007 for Batavia and 33 games in 2008 for Advanced-A Palm Beach going 9-3 with a 4.21 ERA and three saves. Trey is currently a professional caddie for Tag Ridings on the Nationwide Tour and Kammie played both tennis and volleyball at Webber International University.
Jason Simontacchi, 39, makes his coaching debut this season as the Chiefs pitching coach and was announced Thursday as a participant on the Cardinals Caravan while will come through Peoria on January 20. A native of Sunnyvale, California, Simontacchi pitched at Fremont High School, San Jose State and the Albertson College of Idaho before being drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 21st round of the 1996 draft. After a season of short-season ball in Spokane, Simontacchi went 3-7 with a 6.97 ERA in 29 games and one start for the Lansing Lugnuts in the 1997 Midwest League season. He was released by the Royals after the season and played independent ball in Springfield, Illinois in 1998. Simontacchi signed with Pittsburgh and pitched in A-ball in 1999 before signing with Rimini Baseball Club in the Italian Professional League. He was 12-1 with a 1.17 ERA in 2000. He was named to Team Italy for the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney and beat South Africa before taking the loss against the Netherlands. In three Olympic outings, Simontacchi struck out 10 in 15 1/3 innings and posted a 1.17 ERA. He made it to Triple-A Edmonton with the Minnesota Twins in 2001 before signing with the Cardinals for the 2002 season.
Simontacchi made his MLB debut on May 4, 2002 and finished the 2002 season with an 11-5 record and a 4.02 ERA in 24 starts as the Cardinals won the NL Central. Simontacchi finished ninth in the NL Rookie of the Year voting and also finished seventh in the NL in win percentage. In 2003, Simontacchi pitched seven innings for the Chiefs in an exhibition game win over Bradley University before going 9-5 with a 5.56 ERA in 46 games for the Cardinals. He pitched in 13 games in St. Louis in 2004 but spent most of the season in Triple-A Memphis going 7-4 with a 4.33 ERA. Simontacchi pitched again in the Majors in 2007 with the Washington Nationals going 6-7 with a 6.37 ERA in 13 games. He pitched in the Independent Atlantic League in 2008 with Long Island and 2010 with Lancaster before retiring. As a Major Leaguer, Simontacchi was 26-17 with a 5.09 ERA in 96 games and 53 starts
Pappas makes his Minor League Baseball coaching debut as the Chiefs 2013 hitting coach. The 46-year-old native of Chicago joined the Cardinals organization this offseason having coached youth baseball and at coaching clinics in the Chicago area.
Pappas, a former catcher, played at Mt Carmel High School in Chicago and was drafted by the California Angels with the sixth overall selection of the First Round in the 1984 June draft. The Chiefs were affiliated with the Angels in 1984 but Pappas was assigned to Short-Season Salem in the Northwest League. In 1985 he played in the Midwest League for the Quad City Angels hitting .240 with two home runs. Pappas climbed to Double-A Midland with the Angels where he hit .276 in 1988 before being chosen by the Chicago Cubs in the December 1988 Minor League Rule V draft. He played in Double-A Charlotte for in 1989 and had a break-out season batting .299 with 16 home runs and 31 doubles. He then played for Triple-A Iowa in 1990 and 1991 hitting 16 home runs in 1990 and seven more in 1991. Pappas made his Major League debut for the Cubs on April 19, 1991 as a defensive replacement in Pittsburgh. He collected his first MLB hit and RBI two days later as a starter while catching former Chief Mike Harkey in Pittsburgh. Overall in 1991 he played in seven MLB games with three hits and two RBI.
Pappas was released by the Cubs in November 1991 and signed with the Kansas City Royals a month later. He began the 1992 season with Triple-A Omaha before being traded to the Chicago White Sox on July 9 and finishing the season in Triple-A Vancouver with a .276 average. Pappas signed a free agent deal with the St. Louis Cardinals on January 5, 1993 and split the next two seasons between St. Louis and Triple-A Louisville. In 1993 he hit a MLB career-high .276 with one home run, 12 doubles and 28 RBI while playing in 82 games for Joe Torre. Pappas collected a 16-game hit streak from May 14 to June 5, still the second longest hit streak by a Cardinals catcher since 1957. He hit his first MLB home run on June 14, 1993 against Pittsburgh off Denny Neagle. In the strike-shortened 1994 season he played in 15 MLB games with a double and five RBI while batting .199 in 64 Triple-A games. He signed with the Florida Marlins for the 1995 season and played in Triple-A Charlotte before finishing his career with Texas Rangers in Triple-A Oklahoma City. In 104 MLB career games, Pappas hit .242 with one homer, 13 doubles and 35 RBI. He appeared in 1166 MiLB games batting .248 with 85 home runs, 201 doubles and 495 RBI.
After his playing career, Pappas returned to Chicago where he began a company called Baseball Alley to teach the sport to kids in Chicago's Morgan Park area. He also worked at the Cangelosi Baseball Clinic in Chicago. Pappas also worked as a stock trader and eight years after retiring was asked to play for the Greece National Team in the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens as his grandfather was born in Greece. In seven games Greece won just once, but Pappas homered in the final game, a 6-1 loss to Canada.
Petrarca has been an athletic trainer with the Cardinals for the last four seasons. He worked in rookie ball with the Appalachian League Johnson City Cardinals in 2009 and 2010 before spending the last two seasons with Bilardello in Short-Season A Batavia. Petrarca graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2004 with a degree in Kinesiology and Exercise Science. He earned a Master's degree in Sport and Fitness Administration/Management from Troy University in 2008.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.