Dillard And Staff Back With Bandits In 2009
The 2008 baseball season was a historic one in the Quad Cities, as the River Bandits made their triumphant comeback and captured the attention of a community. As the organization works to ensure the 2009 campaign will be even more of an attraction, one important thing will stay the same - the steadying hand of manager Steve Dillard and his coaching staff.
The Quad Cities River Bandits, in conjunction with the St. Louis Cardinals, announced on Tuesday that the entire coaching staff will return to Modern Woodmen Park in 2009. Joining Dillard will be hitting coach Joe Kruzel, pitching coach Ace Adams, and trainer Brian Puchalski. Dillard's return is especially significant, as he is likely to break the franchise record for most wins by a manager. He has 181 wins already, and he needs just 29 more to break the record.
"The River Bandits are thrilled to have Steve Dillard and our entire coaching staff return in 2009," said team owner Dave Heller. "It makes a big difference to have coaches that know the fan base, the ballpark, and the front office. They are great guys to work with and they already have built a strong rapport with this community. We are extremely happy to have such a great working relationship with Steve, his coaches and the entire Cardinals organization."
Dillard's return to Davenport marks the baseball veteran's fourth stint as manager of the club and fifth year overall with the team. After managing the original Quad City River Bandits as a Houston Astros' affiliate in 1993-1994, he returned with the Cardinals organization as the hitting coach in 2006 and then manager in 2008. The former major league infielder with the Red Sox, Cubs, White Sox and Tigers is now poised to cement his mark on the history of Quad Cities baseball, needing just 29 wins and 11 games managed to become the franchise's all-time leader in those two categories.
"My wife and I are glad to be coming back to the Quad Cities," said Dillard. "It's great to return to a place where I'm so comfortable and I already know I like the staff, the ballpark, the community and the fans. This year is shaping up to be an exciting one and we're going to work hard to make sure the River Bandits continue developing major league talent and challenging for Midwest League titles."
Dillard is especially excited to be returning this season, as the Quad Cities club looks to be among the strongest in the Midwest League heading into 2009. The River Bandits' principal feeder team, the Batavia Muckdogs, won the New York-Penn League championship in 2008 and their other feeder team, the Johnson City Cardinals, finished a strong second in their Appalachian League division. The best players on both clubs will likely start in the Quad Cities next season.
"We're extremely pleased that our entire staff will be returning to the River Bandits for the 2009 season," said Cardinals Director of Minor League Operations John Vuch. "In speaking with each of them, they were excited to be able to spend another year in the Quad Cities. Last year was an exciting time to be a part of all the positive changes that the Quad Cities franchise experienced, and we feel that they're the right guys to help lead this team to an even better season in 2009 - especially with the great young players we have coming up from Batavia and Johnson City."
Kruzel enters his second season in the St. Louis Cardinals organization after leading a River Bandits offensive attack that was fifth in the Midwest League in home runs last season. He spent the previous two seasons with the Cincinnati Reds, where he served as hitting coach for the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Reds in 2006 and then manager of the Short Season-A Billings Mustangs in 2007. The Ohio native has spent most of his coaching career in the college ranks, including 15 seasons at The University of Toledo as assistant coach (1989-92) and then head coach (1993-2003), and one season as the assistant coach at Miami (OH) University in 2005.
Adams will also be in his second season with both the Cardinals and the River Bandits. Known for building strong relationships with his pitchers, his chief accomplishments in 2008 included developing talented hurlers such as Nick Additon, Mark Diapoules and Richard Castillo - all of whom had breakout seasons that landed them on the prospect radar. Adams previously served as a minor league coach for the Montreal Expos (1997-2001), Florida Marlins (2002), and Boston Red Sox (2004-06). Prior to his professional coaching career, the Massachusetts native coached at the collegiate level for 13 years at Michigan (1989-96), Brandeis (1986-89), Harvard (1985), and Dartmouth (1984).
Also back with the Bandits will be trainer Brian Puchalski, who first joined the Cardinals organization as the Quad Cities trainer in 2005 and 2006. After a year away from Davenport in 2007, the Massachusetts native returned to the River Bandits last season.
"We couldn't have asked for a better group of guys to lead the River Bandits last year than Steve, Joe and Ace," added Vice President and General Manager Kirk Goodman. "Steve and his staff truly know what being a minor leaguer is and do a wonderful job getting out in the community, interacting with our fans and working with our front office to provide the best atmosphere and most competitive team possible. We are all excited to have the whole gang back in the Quad Cities for 2009."
ABOUT THE BANDITS: Under new ownership and management in 2008, the Quad Cities River Bandits topped 207,000 fans for only the sixth time in team history and the first time in 12 years. Having recently completed one of the most successful seasons in the history of the franchise, the club is staying busy over the off-season as a popular venue for Christmas parties and other special events. With a renewed dedication to fans, sponsors and the Quad Cities community, the return of the River Bandits has brought a resurgence of support for the team. Banditwear makes an ideal Christmas gift and season tickets and mini-plans are on sale for the 2009 season by calling (563) 3-BANDITS or heading to www.RiverBandits.com. But hurry - good seats are going fast!
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