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Mudcats’ Players Have Unique Comfort with Coaches

Mudcats’ Players Have Unique Comfort with Coaches

| On 13, Aug 2014

In the Minor Leagues, player personnel is, at best, a fluid situation. With the turnover that occurs almost weekly, the Cleveland Indians are unique in that there is solid stability within the respective coaching staffs of it affiliates. In Zebulon, the Carolina Mudcats are benefitting from the low turnover rate.

Manager Scooter Tucker, hitting coach Tony Mansolino and pitching coach Steve Karsay are the trio leading the Mudcats in 2014. The three were promoted in unison from Lake County after last season’s staff–led by manager Dave Wallace–were assigned to Double-A Akron.

Many of this year’s squad also made the trek up the ladder in Cleveland’s Minor League system from Lake County to Carolina. Familiarity has not bred contempt, and the Mudcats speak glowingly of the team in charge with development some of the Tribe’s youngest talent.

“Having Scooter, Steve and Tony in Lake County last year was helpful for me,” Carolina left-hander Ryan Merritt said during the first half of the campaign.

“It is great that they’re here now,” the Carolina League leader in victories (11) said. “They are fun to play for and the bring a lot of knowledge. They are real easy-going and I’ve learned a lot.”

Karsay, a former-first round pick, has seen the bright lights of the Major Leagues. He thinks Merritt and several others have what it takes to advance.

“I definitely want to see some things but overall it’s a good group,” Karsay said. [Merritt] has great stuff. A lot of them do. The objective is to refine some things and then send them on their way.”

Prior to his promotion, Anthony Gallas also spoke glowingly of the Carolina staff. Returning to the team after missing extended time due to injury, the Cleveland-native was in flux initially.

“At first, being older and coming back from injury, I wasn’t really sure where I stood,” Gallas recalled. “Everyone was clear with me. Scooter is great to play for. It is a great atmosphere. They’ve helped me a lot.”

Tucker understands that player will come and go. While the manager is hopeful that he makes an impact in the career of each of his players, there is still a twinge of sadness when it is time for a prospect to move up the chain.

“You get a joy but there is also that part of you that wishes you could keep them a little bit longer,” Tucker said. “Ultimately, it is our job to groom players for the Cleveland Indians and when the time comes for them to move up we will make due.”

The Mudcats, 5.5 games out of the lead in the Carolina League Southern Division, have a chance to play baseball in September. Tucker is delighted with the play of the top four teams in the Cleveland system, with each having a chance to reach the postseason.

However, at the end of the day, the second-year manager, who was a hitting coach for the Mudcats under Edwin Rodriguez in 2012, gets his biggest thrill watching his pupils grasp the concepts being taught and showing improvement on the field.

“Certainly, when you see them improve and move closer to their dreams it gives you a big thrill,” Tucker said. “That is the goal. It is what we are here for.”

Photo: Carolina Mudcats

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