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Peña Returns to Whitecaps Dugout

January 9, 2023

COMSTOCK PARK, MI (JANUARY 9, 2023) - West Michigan Whitecaps manager Brayan Peña is headed back to LMCU Ballpark, returning for his third season at the helm in 2023 with an all-new coaching staff, in a move announced in conjunction with the Detroit Tigers on Monday. The former Detroit Tigers

COMSTOCK PARK, MI (JANUARY 9, 2023) - West Michigan Whitecaps manager Brayan Peña is headed back to LMCU Ballpark, returning for his third season at the helm in 2023 with an all-new coaching staff, in a move announced in conjunction with the Detroit Tigers on Monday.

The former Detroit Tigers catcher and 14th manager in Whitecaps history led his team to a 72-59 record in his second season – a 14-win improvement from his first year in 2021. The second half was especially strong for West Michigan – posting a 41-24 record in the latter portion of the year. West Michigan posted one of the best offenses in the Midwest League, ranking within the Top-3 in virtually every offensive category, while their pitching staff tied for the league lead in shutouts with 13.

“I appreciate the Tigers and Whitecaps for trusting me with such great young talent,” said Peña. “I love Whitecaps fans – from everyone that works on and off the field to the front office, that helped take our players to the next level and made all of us feel like big leaguers!”

Peña’s reassignment to West Michigan comes alongside a return for a former player, as Francisco Contreras takes over as hitting coach. Contreras played parts of two seasons with the Whitecaps, including as a vital piece of the 2015 Midwest League Championship team. The 31-year-old hit .294 with a home run and six RBI in the 2015 postseason to help the ‘Caps to their last league title. Last season, Contreras served as the hitting coach for the Lakeland Flying Tigers.

“You want to play for a manager like Brayan Peña,” said Whitecaps Vice President and General Manager Jim Jarecki. “Brayan brings passion and enthusiasm to the ballpark every day and is always dedicating his time to those in clubhouse.”

Contreras joins a group of new faces to West Michigan, including pitching coach Dan Ricabal, and development coach Tim Garland, while athletic trainer Sean McFarland returns for his second season in 2023. The remainder of the coaching staff will be announced at a later date.

Ricabal spent 2022 managing the pitching staff of the Double-A Erie Seawolves to the best record in their division at 80-58. His pitchers compiled the second-best ERA in the Eastern League at 3.79, finishing second in the league in strikeouts. Ricabal’s previous stops include time as a Pitching Coach at his alma mater and perennial college baseball power Cal State Fullerton. Before his time with the Titans, the Los Angeles native served as pitching coach at multiple stops in the college ranks at Long Beach State, UC Santa Barbara, and College of the Canyons. Ricabal played six seasons in the minor leagues, making it as high as Double-A within the farm systems of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants.

Garland spent the 2021 season as the developmental coach with the Low-A Lakeland Flying Tigers. The Baltimore native played 15 seasons in the minor leagues stealing over 350 bases and now enters his 15th season as a coach. Garland has spent time in the minor league systems on the Oakland Athletics and Houston Astros before becoming the hitting coach for Lakeland from 2017-19. McFarland, an alum of Bowling Green State University and the 2018 New York-Penn League Athletic Trainer of the Year, has worked in the Tigers system since 2017.

Peña enjoyed a variety of accolades in 2022, opening the season by guiding the ‘Caps to their 2000th win on Opening Night on April 8 at Great Lakes. The native of Havana, Cuba, becomes the first manager to serve three seasons or more since Andrew Graham guided the Whitecaps from 2014-16. Near the end of last season, Peña was named the top managerial prospect in the Midwest League in a vote of his peers to Baseball America.

“Win or lose, Brayan Peña knows how to handle and motivate the players through a long season,” said Jarecki. “As his presence continues in West Michigan, we are looking forward to another energized season with the Whitecaps.”

The Whitecaps have preparations for the 2023 campaign well underway. The scheduled season opener is Thursday, April 6, at LMCU Ballpark against the Fort Wayne TinCaps at 6:35 p.m. Get information on 2023 season tickets by calling the Whitecaps front office at 616-784-4131 or visiting www.whitecapsbaseball.com.

About West Michigan Whitecaps: The Whitecaps minor league baseball team was established in 1994. The Whitecaps are the High-A affiliate of the Detroit Tigers and play in the Eastern Division of the Midwest League. The team’s home games are played in West Michigan’s favorite, largest, outdoor, multi-purpose venue, LMCU Ballpark. For more player information, contact Dan Hasty at **[email protected] or 586.604.6755. For more information on Whitecaps and LMCU Ballpark, visit whitecapsbaseball.com or *contact Dan Morrison at *[email protected] or 616.460.3565.**