The Quad Cities River Bandits will have a new field manager in 2015, the Midwest League club announced in conjunction with the Houston Astros on Friday. Josh Bonifay will lead the field staff that also includes returning pitching coach Dave Borkowski and hitting coach Joel Chimelis, who were both on the 2013 Midwest League Championship staff and have been on the coaching staff each season of the River Bandits' current affiliation with the Astros.
Bonifay will be a manager in the Astros organization for a third straight season and become the 35th manager for the Quad Cities franchise since it joined the Midwest League in 1960. In his first two seasons as a manager, Bonifay led the Greeneville Astros in the rookie-level Appalachian League. He was the Appalachian League Manager of the Year in 2013, when he led the club to its second-best record in franchise history and the Appalachian League Championship Series. Bonifay's teams are a combined 70-64 in the regular season and 2-3 in the playoffs. A native of Asheville, N.C., Bonifay joined the Astros organization in 2011 as Greeneville's hitting coach and was the hitting coach for Class-A Lexington in 2012, when he was named to the South Atlantic League Postseason All-Star Team as a coach. Bonifay, 36, began his coaching career as a player/coach in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization from 2007 to 2009, following his eight seasons as a professional player. The son of former Pittsburgh Pirates general manager and current Reds special assistant to the general manager Cam Bonifay, Josh was selected by the Pirates out of the University of North Carolina-Wilmington in the 24th round of the June 1999 draft. He played in the Pirates organization from 1999 to 2005 and played his final season with Double-A Corpus Christi in the Astros organization in 2006. In 812 professional games - at every position except shortstop and catcher - Bonifay posted a .284 batting average with 133 home runs and 516 RBI in his career.
Former major league pitcher Dave Borkowski will return for his third season as the River Bandits pitching coach and sixth as a coach in the Astros organization. Borkowski, 37, was the pitching coach of Lexington in 2011 and 2012, and the pitching coach of Greeneville in 2010. He also served as a pitching coach for Peoria in the Arizona Fall League during the fall of 2013, following a year in which the Quad Cities pitching staff issued the fewest walks (394) in the league and posted a 3.62 team ERA that was fourth-best among 16 teams to help lead the club to a Midwest League Championship. In 15 seasons (1995-2009) as a professional pitcher, Borkowski appeared in 181 Major League games (21 starts) and was 13-20 with one save and a 5.87 ERA in seven seasons with Detroit (1999-2001), Baltimore (2004), and Houston (2006-08). He had a career-high five wins with Houston in 2007. A native of Sterling Heights, Mich., Borkowski was selected in the 11th round of the June 1995 draft by Detroit, and he pitched in the Midwest League for the 1997 West Michigan Whitecaps.
Hitting coach Joel Chimelis will return for his third season with Quad Cities and 10th season as a hitting coach in the Astros organization. Last season, the River Bandits led the Midwest League in doubles (261), walks (510), on-base percentage (.340), slugging percentage (.408) and on-base plus slugging (.749). Chimelis, 47, will serve his 12th season overall as a minor league coach following a 14-season professional career. He has also coached in the Astros organization with short-season Class-A Tri-City (2006-10), Class-A Lexington (2011) and Double-A Corpus Christi (2012). Chimelis also won a championship with the Tri-City staff in 2010. He spent 2004 and 2005 with the Savannah Sand Gnats of the Washington Nationals (Montreal Expos in 2004) organization. A native of Brooklyn, N.Y., Chimelis played for Howard (Texas) Junior College and the University of Texas before being drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 11th round of the 1988 Major League draft out of the University of Texas. He was a minor league infielder in the Athletics (1988-1991), San Francisco Giants (1991-1995) and New York Mets (1996) organizations and also played in Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Taiwan and Korea.
The River Bandits' new development specialist will be Tim Garland, who will focus on the development of the River Bandits outfielders, as well as the baserunning for all players on the club. He enters his third season in the Astros organization. He was the hitting coach for the Double-A Corpus Christi Hooks the past two seasons. Garland spent the first seven seasons as a minor league coach in the Oakland Athletics organization, debuting with the Midwest League's Kane County Cougars in 2006, before moving on to the Class-A Advanced Stockton Ports (2007-2010) and Double-A Midland RockHounds (2011-2012). Born in Baltimore, Md., Garland was selected by the New York Yankees in the 48th round of the 1989 Major League draft out of Pensacola (Fla.) Junior College. Garland went on to play 1,356 minor league games - primarily as an outfielder - across 15 seasons in the Yankees (1989-1992), San Francisco Giants (1996-1998), Baltimore Orioles (1998), and Oakland Athletics (1999) organizations, as well as independent teams in the Texas-Louisiana League, Atlantic League, Mexican League, Northern League and Central League.
Corey O'Brien enters his first season as the River Bandits' athletic trainer and fourth season with the Astros organization. He was the athletic trainer for Tri-City in 2014 and Greeneville in 2012 and 2013. Prior to joining the Astros, O'Brien was the athletic trainer for the Joliet (Ill.) Slammers, an Independent Professional Baseball team that won the Frontier League cup in the team's inaugural season of 2011. O'Brien earned his bachelor of science degree in athletic training at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and worked as an intern athletic trainer for the Rochester Honkers of the Northwoods League in 2008 and at the Minnesota Twins' Spring Training in 2009. He went on to earn his master's degree in education in health, physical education and recreation at Delta State (Miss.) University, where he was also a graduate assistant athletic trainer.
Dwayne Peterson enters his first season as the River Bandits' strength and conditioning coach after his first season in the Astros organization in 2014 with Greeneville. Prior to joining the Astros, Peterson completed strength and conditioning internships with Northern Kentucky University and the College of Mount St. Joseph (Ohio). He graduated with a bachelor of science degree in exercise science from Northern Kentucky University in 2013, and he is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) as well as a USA Weightlifting (USAW) Level 1 Sports Performance Coach.
The River Bandits open the 2015 Midwest League season Thursday, April 9, at 7 p.m. in Peoria and begin their home schedule with a 1:15 p.m. game against Clinton on Sunday, April 12, at Modern Woodmen Park. Eight of the Houston Astros' top 10 prospects, according to Baseball America, played for the River Bandits during the last two seasons.
UP NEXT: Save money and enjoy exclusive benefits as a ticket plan holder for the 2015 River Bandits season at Modern Woodmen Park. With a ticket plan of 12 to 70 games, receive free parking, merchandise discounts, guaranteed giveaways and more. Call 563-324-3000 to speak with a River Bandits account representative and lock in seats for the upcoming season.
ABOUT THE BANDITS: The River Bandits ownership in 2014 made one of the biggest improvements to Modern Woodmen Park since the ballpark was first built back in 1931! A new Ferris wheel, standing 105 feet over the playing field, opened May 24, Space Camp opened June 20; the new Drop'N Twist debuted in July; and the newly expanded 300-foot long zip line also reopened.