(AKRON, OHIO) January 17, 2017 - The Cleveland Indians have announced the organization's staff alignment within its Player Development System for the 2017 season, and former Akron outfielder Mark Budzinski will be the new Akron RubberDucks manager.
Budzinski will be joined on the field staff by pitching coach Tony Arnold, hitting coach Johnny Narron, and bench coach Omir Santos. The support staff will include trainer Jeremy Heller and a strength and conditioning coach who has yet to be named. Of that group, only Arnold and Heller return from last season's championship club.
Budzinski, 43, becomes the 16th manager in club history. He follows David Wallace who managed the RubberDucks from 2014-16, leading the team to two Eastern League playoff appearances and the 2016 Eastern League Championship. Following being named the 2016 Baseball America Minor League Manager of the Year, Wallace is moving to the role of Special Assignment Coordinator for 2017.
Budzinski enters his fourth season in the Indians' Player Development System with a career record of 221-198. For the past two seasons (2015-16), he managed the Advanced Single-A Lynchburg Hillcats to consecutive Carolina League playoff appearances, including an 84-59 record in 2016 and a runner-up finish in the Carolina League Championship Series. In 2015, the Hillcats were 72-68, topping the Northern Division overall standings before falling in the playoffs. He managed the Single-A Lake County Captains in 2014 and help lead them to the Midwest League Championship Series during his first managerial season.
"I'm very excited to be coming back to Akron (he played in Akron 1998-2000) and I'm looking forward to gaining experience at the Double-A level," said Budzinski.
After playing baseball at the University of Richmond, Budzinski was selected by the Indians in the 21st round of the 1995 draft. The outfielder played seven seasons in the Cleveland system from 1995-2001 before spending time with the Chicago Cubs, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, and Philadelphia Phillies before retiring in 2005. He made his Major League debut with the Reds on Aug. 3, 2003, and appeared in four games with the club. Budzinski was also a member of the United States team in the 2001 Baseball World Cup.
During his playing career, Budzinski played 231 games for Akron in parts of three seasons from 1998-2000, hitting .267 with 17 home runs and 113 runs batted in while roaming the Canal Park outfield.
"I was fortunate to play (in Akron) in the late '90s. It's an awesome town with amazing fans and Canal Park is a great place for a ballgame," said Budzinski.
Arnold, 57, is a familiar face at Canal Park. A fixture in the Indians player development system for the last 25 years, Arnold joined the RubberDucks in 2016 in his fourth stint as the Indians' Double-A pitching coach, helping lead the team to the Eastern League Championship. He previously served in the same capacity from 1996-99, 2008, and 2011-12. In 2015, Arnold began as the pitching coach at Class A Lynchburg under Budzinski and finished at Triple-A Columbus, helping the Clippers to the International League title. Arnold's 2012 Akron Aeros staff crafted a franchise-record 3.03 ERA, and went on to claim the Eastern League championship. A former All-American at the University of Texas, Arnold pitched in the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles in 1986 and 1987. Arnold is just the second man to wear the uniforms of the Canton-Akron Indians, Akron Aeros and Akron RubberDucks, joining former hitting coach Rouglas Odor in that exclusive group.
"It was fantastic working with Tony in Lynchburg (2015). He has a ton of experience in the game and has seen everything at the major and minor league levels," said Budzinski. "In 1998, I played in Akron and got to know him when he was part of the staff. Tony always had the respect of the players and was able to handle various roles such as a mentor, a teacher, and a coach."
Narron, 65, joins the Indians' Player Development after most recently serving as the Hitting Coordinator and Triple-A Hitting Coach in the Los Angeles Angels system since 2015. Prior to that, he was the Major League Hitting Coach of the Milwaukee Brewers from 2012-14 after being the Texas Rangers' Assistant Hitting Coach for four years. He spent one season in Cincinnati as an administrative coach and he was manager of the Helena Brewers in 2004 and was the club's Hitting Coach in 2003 and 2006. In 2005, he was with Single-A Brevard County and Single-A West Virginia. Narron has been involved with baseball since beginning his playing career in 1974. His brother, Jerry, is a former Major League player, coach, and manager, who currently manages in the Arizona Diamondbacks' system.
Santos, 35, is in his second season with the Indians' Player Development Department after serving as a coach with Triple-A Columbus in 2016, his first as a professional coach. Drafted by the New York Yankees in the 21st round of the June 2001 draft, Santos had a 12-year professional career as a catcher, including 122 games at the Major League level over five seasons, hitting .248 with seven home runs and 41 runs batted in. He appeared in one game for Cleveland in 2013 and 62 games for Columbus that season. He retired following the 2014 season where he was a catcher with Triple-A Indianapolis in the Pittsburgh Pirates' organization.
The Akron RubberDucks are the Double-A affiliate of the Cleveland Indians and defending Eastern League champions. The 2017 season will be the franchise's 21st since moving to Akron and its fourth since becoming the RubberDucks. The 20th year of Canal Park kicks off with the Home Opener on Thursday, April 6, at 6:35 p.m. vs. Bowie Baysox.
For more information about the team, please visit the RubberDucks' website, www.akronrubberducks.com, Facebook page www.facebook.com/AkronRubberDucks, Twitter feed @AkronRubberDuck, and Instagram at @akronrubberducks.