February 9, 2017 - West Coast League (WCL) - Walla Walla Sweets
Walla Walla, Wa - The Walla Walla Sweets officially announced its coaching staff on Thursday, February 9, 2017. The four-man staff features two returning coaches and athletic trainer and one new member. Third-year manager Frank Mutz, who is in the second season of a three-year deal, returns to the dugout in 2017 after a successful campaign last summer. He looks to build on the improvements he has already made in Walla Walla. From Mutz's first season to his second, the Sweets improved their record by seven wins. Now, Mutz hopes to guide the Sweets past the 32-25 mark they managed last year.
"The goal is the WCL championship," said Mutz. "To do that, you must have the talent, commitment from the team ownership, and the backing of the community. All three are in place, which gives us every opportunity to win."
"Our goal is to give back to the people of Walla Walla what they have given to the Sweets and to our players," he added.
During the school year, Mutz, a southern California native, is the head coach at Chaminade College Prep HS in West Hills, CA. Before Chaminade, he was head coach at both Thousand Oaks HS and Oaks Christian HS.
"I enjoy mentoring both high school and college players," Mutz said. "But the college players are completely invested in their careers and have the drive and work ethic needed to develop."
A talented player himself, the 51-year-old Mutz had a successful collegiate career as a pitcher, first at the University of Hawai'i and later at The Masters College in Santa Clarita, CA. He was drafted by the California Angels in the 23rd round of the 1987 Amateur Draft and spent three seasons in the minor leagues, pitching to a 3.82 career ERA and allowing fewer than one hit per inning for his professional career. Mutz also worked as a scout for the Oakland Athletics and the Arizona Diamondbacks during the 1990s and led the Kenai Peninsula Oilers to an Alaska Baseball League title in 1991. He was named ABL manager of the year that season.
Returning alongside Mutz is Kyle Wilkerson, who will reprise his role as the team's hitting coach and infield instructor. For the past seven years, Wilkerson and Mutz have worked together at Chaminade, where Wilkerson began his coaching career in 2011. He currently serves under Mutz as associate head coach of the Eagles.
"Coach Mutz and I both want to build off the success we had last summer," Wilkerson said. "Last summer, I learned how communication between coaches and players is essential to getting the most out of the summer for both ends."
While many of the Sweets' players will be meeting each other for the first time when they arrive in Walla Walla, it is advantageous to have a coaching staff that already has experience working with one another. The chemistry and rapport that Mutz and Wilkerson have cultivated over their time at Chaminade and continued in Walla Walla will be an asset for the team. A product of Simi Valley, CA, Wilkerson was an outstanding prep player and enjoyed a terrific college career, playing first at Los Angeles City College and then at Menlo College. He batted .345 during his senior season in 2010.
The newest member of the Sweets' staff is pitching coach Raul Camacho. Formerly the head coach at Saint Bonaventure HS in Ventura, CA, Camacho now works as the school's assistant athletics director. His relationship with Mutz spans decades.
"Frank and I go way back, back to when we were both coaching youth club ball in the 90s," Camacho said. "I would invite my teams to play in his tournaments and they were always first class so we'd go as much as we could. We would run into each other now and then competing in the high school baseball circuit, he always had a powerhouse team at Chaminade."
As opposed to Wilkerson, who works with Mutz during the schoolyear, Camacho's path to Walla Walla was circuitous. He had spent the last few summers as an assistant coach for the Ventura Halos of the California Collegiate League.
"As a high school athletic administrator, I travel with our teams and ran into Frank at a football game between our two schools [last] fall. We got to talking baseball and he asked if I missed coaching. I told him I did but that I got my fix in the summer coaching in the California Collegiate League. He asked if I would be interested in coming up to Washington this summer and joining his staff."
Although Camacho no longer is a year-round baseball coach, he comes to Walla Walla with a sterling pedigree. His 209 career wins in 11 seasons at Saint Bonaventure remains a school record. During that span, he led the Seraphs to seven league championships, including back-to-back undefeated seasons in 2007 and 2008. Camacho was selected National Western Region High School Coach of the Year by the American Baseball Coaches Association in 2005, and was named Tri-Valley Coach of the Year seven times. He was also voted Ventura County Coach of the Year five times by the Ventura County Baseball Coaches Association.
Camacho is excited to coach top-level collegiate talent this summer.
"I have had quite a few high schoolers go on to college and pro ball at high levels and those kids were special but in these summer college leagues, you have an entire team of those special players, not just 2 or 3 on a single team," he said. "The college player is here to work on his game, to improve as an individual to continue his career while the average high school kid is trying to get better - but most know those are the last competitive games they will be playing.
"Coaching in summer, you are really trying to maintain what the kid is bringing in and maybe tweak it a little but you don't want to change to much as these kids are already at top of their game."
The secret weapon to the staff may just be athletic trainer Nathan Fry, ATC. Fry, who serves as the assistant ATC for Whitman College, has been part of the staff since 2011. While players getting hurt is outside the control of a coaching staff, Fry's ability to rehab players properly on-site has both extended their ability to play and helped return them back to campus in better health than they arrived.
Between Mutz, Wilkerson, Fry and now Camacho, Walla Walla will have an eminently qualified, experienced and tight-knit staff. Often, the demeanor of the coaching staff can set the tone for the attitude their players bring to the ballpark each day. With the trio the Sweets have assembled, fans in the Walla Walla Valley should have plenty to look forward to at Borleske Stadium.