Wednesday Winter Hot Stove – Edition 5
One of the most important parts of the on field mission of the Atlantic League is to provide players with a forum to continue their baseball careers and give them a chance to get back into affiliated baseball and eventually the Major Leagues. The league has had over 600 players throughout its history signed by big league organizations, and the Ducks, for example, have had over 50 signed, with 14 players reaching the Major League level after playing on Long Island. However, not all of those making it back into affiliated baseball are doing so as players.
Several Ducks alumni can now be found in the coaching ranks and front offices of affiliated minor league baseball teams. The newest addition to an affiliated coaching staff was Dan Meyer, who announced last week via Twitter that he had accepted a pitching coach position in the Atlanta Braves organization.
I couldn’t be happier to have accepted a pitching coach position with the Atlanta Braves. Feels great to be back…
— Dan Meyer (@Dmy53) November 19, 2013
Meyer will be the pitching coach with the Danville Braves, who are in the rookie-level Appalachian League and just celebrated their 20th Anniversary this past season. The left-hander actually began his career as a pitcher with Danville in 2002 after getting drafted by the Braves with the 34th overall pick (first round) that same year. He would go on to post a 3-3 record with a 2.74 ERA in 13 starts. Just two years later, he found himself on a Major League mound, pitching a pair of scoreless innings in 2004 with Atlanta.
The New Jersey native ended up making 103 appearances (seven starts) over five big league seasons with the Braves, Athletics and Marlins. He eventually joined the Ducks at the start of the 2012 season and pitched in 18 games (eight starts). Meyer eventually suffered a season-ending injury in July. However, he is not the only former Duck to recently join the coaching ranks of affiliated ball.
One notable former Duck to continue in baseball after playing with the Flock is Jamie Pogue. Long Island’s backstop in 2003, 2007 and 2008 is now the bullpen catcher/catching instructor for the St. Louis Cardinals, a position he has held for the last two seasons. He came within two games of a World Series ring this season as St. Louis went to Game Six of the series before falling to the Boston Red Sox. Pogue played in 245 games over his three seasons with the Ducks and hit .257 with 17 home runs and 85 RBI before retiring as a player. He also spent time in the Atlantic League with the Bridgeport Bluefish and Nashua Pride. In fact, here is a picture of Jamie during the 2013 World Series (photo courtesy of Mike Ashmore):
Morales is currently serving as the bullpen catcher for the Cleveland Indians, who shocked the baseball world in 2013 by reaching the playoffs as one of the American League’s Wild Cards. He spent three seasons as a catcher with the Ducks (2000-02) and was selected to Long Island’s 10th Anniversary All-Time team in 2009. He combined for 63 home runs and 261 RBI in 367 games during that span. Morales spent his third season on the Indians coaching staff in 2013. He began his coaching career in 2006 in the Dominican Summer League academy for the Arizona Diamondbacks, was the hitting coach at rookie-level Yakima in 2007 and spent three seasons from 2008-10 at Class-A South Bend of the Midwest League in the Diamondbacks organization.
Speaking of players selected to the Ducks 10th Anniversary All-Time team, another member that’s now coaching in affiliated ball is Kimera Bartee. The former outfielder is now an outfielder/base running coordinator in the Pittsburgh Pirates minor league system and recently served as manager of the Class-A State College Spikes in 2011. Bartee played with the Ducks in 2003 and was then a member of Long Island’s 2004 Atlantic League championship squad. In 226 games with the Flock, he hit .324 with 35 home runs and 175 RBI. This past season, the Ducks hosted Kimera Bartee night at Bethpage Ballpark where he was honored before the game and threw out a ceremonial first pitch. The Nebraska native reached the Major League level in 1996 and played four seasons with the Detroit Tigers and one apiece with the Cincinnati Reds and Colorado Rockies.
Add a third member of the All-time Team to this list in closer Bill Simas. The right-hander went from being an integral part of the Ducks bullpen in 2004 and 2009 to a pitching coach in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. In 2013, he was promoted to the staff of the Class-A Great Lakes Loons after spending two seasons with the rookie-level Ogden Raptors. His coaching career actually began with Long Island in 2010 when he served as the pitching coach under Dave LaPoint and was even activated at one point that season to pitch out of the bullpen. For his Ducks career, the right-hander was 9-9 with a 2.59 ERA and a team-record 48 saves. Simas also spent six seasons in the big leagues and compiled a 3.83 ERA and 23 saves in 308 games with the Chicago White Sox.
Simontacchi, a former Major Leaguer and Ducks pitcher in 2008, can now be found in Peoria, Illinois as the pitching coach for the Class-A Peoria Chiefs in the Cardinals organization. His pitching staff finished the 2013 campaign with the Midwest League’s second-best ERA at 3.54. With the Ducks in 2008, the righty pitched in seven games (three starts) and posted a 6.11 ERA with 13 strikeouts in 17 and two-thirds innings. He also spent the 2010 season with the Lancaster Barnstormers before deciding to retire. In the Major Leagues, he spent three seasons with the Cardinals, including the 2004 National League championship campaign, and one year with the Washington Nationals. He pitching in 93 games (53 starts) and had a 5.09 ERA.
One of the keys to the 2011 Long Island Ducks was catcher J.R. House, and he is currently the hitting coach for the Hillsboro Hops, the class-A short season affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. House tore it up at the plate with the Ducks, batting .305 with 19 home runs and 81 RBI, one of the best seasons ever by a Ducks catcher. He led a dominant Long Island pitching staff to their first division playoff title and Championship Series appearance since 2004. After retiring following the 2011 campaign, he joined the Diamondbacks as the hitting coach with their rookie-level affiliate, Missoula. The former big leaguer, who spent parts of five seasons in the Major Leagues with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Houston Astros and Baltimore Orioles, helped lead the Osprey to the 2012 Pioneer League championship.
UPDATE: J.R. House has been promoted to manager of the Class-A Hillsboro Hops for the 2014 season, according to Jamie Quinn.
Jamie Quinn signed on at the beginning of the 2013 season as a minor league video coordinator with the Diamondbacks. He served as the team’s bullpen catcher in 2009 and 2010 before becoming the bullpen coach in 2011 and 2012. During his four seasons, Quinn helped prepare a Ducks pitching staff that earned three postseason berths, two Liberty Division championships and an Atlantic League championship. He also received an opportunity to get some playing time in 2010, appearing in five games.
Congratulations to Dan Meyer on the new position and the best of luck to all of the other former Ducks in coaching or front office positions with affiliated teams around baseball. It’s always exciting to see former Ducks players living their dream of returning to affiliated baseball, whether as a player or a coach. If you know of any other Ducks alumni who are currently serving as a coach in a Major League organization, please leave us a comment on this story or send us a contact form.
Posted on November 27, 2013, in Winter Hot Stove and tagged Atlantic League, Bethpage Ballpark, Bill Simas, Dan Meyer, Francisco Morales, J.R. House, Jamie Pogue, Jamie Quinn, Jason Simontacchi, Kimera Bartee, Long Island Ducks, Major League Baseball, Minor League Baseball. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.