December 11, 2007 - Appalachian League (ApL) - Princeton Rays
Joe Szekely, who is entering his 24th year in professional baseball, was named the manager of the 2008 Princeton Rays on December 11. His coaching staff this coming season will feature two returnees in pitching coach Marty DeMerritt and hitting coach Rafael Deleon. They will be joined by an additional coach, Hector Torres, to give Princeton it\'s largest coaching staff in the franchise\'s 21-year history.
Szekely, 46, is entering his fourth season in the Tampa Bay Rays\' organization, all as a manager and most recently managed the Vero Beach Devil Rays to a 59-79 mark in 2007. He has a career minor league record of 351-402 in his seven years as a manager. He also led the Visalia Oaks to within one win of the California League title in 2006, which happened on the heels of him leading the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays to the Midwest League playoffs in 2005.
Prior to joining the Tampa Bay organization, the Marion, TX resident spent six seasons with the Kansas City Royals serving as hitting coach with single A Spokane (1999), manager of the single-A Charleston (WV) Alley Cats (2000), and manager of single-A Burlington, Iowa (2001-2003) and as the Royals minor league catching instructor in 2004. As a player, he was the second round draft pick of the Royals in the 1982 draft and had a minor league playing career that spanned 11 seasons for four organizations: Royals (1982-1983), Dodgers (1983-1989), Blue Jays (1990), and Braves (1991-1992). A catcher, he was a career .263 hitter in 815 professional games. He also spent four seasons with the Atlanta Braves as a minor league coach and instructor.
DeMerritt, 54, returns to lead the P-Rays\' mound staff after seeing his pitchers in 2007 set Princeton single-season franchise records for most shutout games (6) and least runs allowed in a season (303). He has been in the Tampa Bay organization since 2001 and prior to his arrival in Princeton, he was at Bakersfield (2001-2003), Charleston SC (2004), and Visalia (2005-2006). His long and distinguished coaching career began in 1983 in the Giants organization. He has spent four years as a major
league pitching coach both with the Giants (1987, 1989, 1991) and the Cubs (1999). He was the pitching coach for the 1989 San Francisco Giants World Series team and also their 1987 National League Western Division champions. He also has been either a coach or instructor in the Pirates and Marlins organizations. His professional pitching career started with him being selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1971 amateur draft and he pitched for eight seasons in the minors with the Cardinals, Brewers, and Astros.
Deleon, 43, will be returning to Princeton in 2008 in the role of hitting coach for the third straight season. He served as a manager, coach, and scout with Tampa Bay\'s Dominican operations between 1996 and 2001. He previously worked as a coach for the Dominican Summer League entry for the Yankees (1993-95), and Mets (1992), and also served as a scout in the Dominican Republic for the Montreal Expos in 1990-91. He played minor league baseball for three seasons (1986-1988) with the Tigers, Athletics, and Cubs in the Dominican Summer League.
Torres, 62, has been in the Rays organization since 2005 and has served in coaching positions with double-A Montgomery (2005, 2007) and short-A Hudson Valley (2006). He began his coaching career in the Blue Jays organization and stayed there for 24 seasons (1979-2002) as either a coach, manager, or instructor. Just prior to joining the Rays, he spent one year (2004) in the Giants organization as the hitting coach at single-A Hagerstown. He appeared in 622 major league games, primarily as an infielder, over nine seasons with the Astros (1968-1970, 1973), Cubs (1971), Expos (1972), Padres (1976), and Blue Jays (1977). He hit the first grand slam in Toronto Blue Jays history off pitcher Ron Guidry of the New York Yankees on June 27, 1977.
In other Tampa Bay Rays\' news today, Jamie Nelson, who managed the P-Rays for five seasons from 2003-2007, was named as Tampa Bay\'s 2008 roving minor league catching instructor. It is expected that local fans will still see him periodically throughout the Appalachian League season as he visits Princeton to check on the progress of the team\'s catchers.