Returning Conklin Leads Lugnuts' 2024 Coaching Staff

February 12, 2024 - Midwest League (MWL) - Lansing Lugnuts News Release

Lansing Lugnuts Manager Craig Conklin
Lansing Lugnuts Manager Craig Conklin
(Lansing Lugnuts, Credit: Natasha Daniels)

LANSING, Mich. - Craig Conklin will serve as the manager of the 2024 Lansing Lugnuts, the Oakland Athletics announced today, helming the A's High-A Midwest League affiliate for a second consecutive season.

Conklin will be joined on the Lugnuts' staff by returning pitching coach Don Schulze and four newcomers to Lansing: hitting coach Kevin Kouzmanoff, assistant hitting coach Rubén Escalera, head athletic trainer Noah Huff and sport performance coach Jonny Christensen.

Conklin's Lugnuts host the Michigan State Spartans in the Crosstown Showdown on Wednesday, April 3, before opening their 28th season with a three-game series at Dayton from April 5-7. The 2024 Midwest League home opener follows with a six-game homestand against the Great Lakes Loons from April 9-14 at Jackson® Field™.

A native of Malibu, Calif., Craig Conklin first arrived in Lansing as the assistant hitting coach for the 2022 Lugnuts, with 2023 marking his debut campaign as manager. Though the team finished 60-71, Conklin's Nuts spoiled the postseason hopes of the Dayton Dragons, West Michigan Whitecaps and Lake County Captains during the final three weeks and had 19 players promoted to Double-A Midland by season's end. A former area supervisor at the Major League Baseball Scouting Bureau, Conklin spent four seasons as an Athletics scout before serving as a coach on the 2019 Triple-A Las Vegas and 2021 Single-A Stockton staffs.

Pitching coach Don Schulze rejoins the Lugnuts for a fourth straight season, his ninth season overall in the Midwest League following previous stints with the Kane County Cougars (2007-2008) and Beloit Snappers (2016, 2018-2019). A first-round selection of the Chicago Cubs out of high school, Schulze pitched six seasons in MLB and three seasons in Japan. His tutelage in Lansing has already produced five Major Leaguers in Mason Miller, Norge Ruíz, Hogan Harris, Garrett Acton and Joey Estes.

Hitting coach Kevin Kouzmanoff, a member of the Athletics' 2010 and 2011 Opening Day starting lineups, joins the Lugnuts' staff after working with short-season Vermont in 2019, Double-A Midland in 2021 and Single-A Stockton the last two seasons. A sixth-round selection by Cleveland from the University of Nevada, Reno, Kouzmanoff played for the Lake County Captains - then in the South Atlantic League - on his way up to a seven-year MLB career.

Assistant hitting coach Rubén Escalera had similarly served as an assistant hitting coach with the Stockton Ports in 2023, working alongside Kouzmanoff. This is Escalera's 29th year in the A's organization, with seasons spent scouting in Puerto Rico, coaching in the Dominican Republic and serving as hitting coach and manager in the Arizona League, earning the honor of Arizona League Manager of the Year in 2005. Originally signed by the Milwaukee Brewers, Escalera batted .271 in the Midwest League for the 1986 Beloit Snappers amid a 10-year playing career.

Head athletic trainer Noah Huff makes his Midwest League debut in his fifth season in the Oakland system, spending two years at the Dominican complex, a year with the Arizona Complex League A's and a 2023 campaign in Stockton. Huff attained his degree from the University of Mary (Bismarck, N.D.), where he was a member of the wrestling team.

Sport performance coach Jonny Christensen, an alumnus of Cameron University (Lawton, Okla.), enters his first season in the Athletics' organization following a 2022 season with the Boston Red Sox and a 2023 season with the Milwaukee Brewers.

For more information on the Lugnuts, follow the Nuts on social media via @lansinglugnuts, visit or call (517) 485-4500.

Images from this story

Lansing Lugnuts Manager Craig Conklin
Lansing Lugnuts Manager Craig Conklin

(Natasha Daniels)

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