Better Know the Farm: Sacramento River Cats (AAA)

raley-fieldThe River Cats, as a baseball franchise, has existed since 1978 and has been operated by, in order: the Athletics, Brewers, Pirates, White Sox, Angels, A’s (again), and finally the current-day Giants.  But not all teams have called the beautiful Raley Field home – from ’78 to 1999, British Columbia hosted the (then) international River Cats.

Did you know: Mike Piazza is the only Hall of Fame player to suit up in the River Cats.

Manager Jose Alquacil

Unless you followed the Richmond Flying Squirrels last year, or really pay attention to light-hitting Giants minor league infielders from more than a decade ago, there’s a solid chance that you’ve never heard of Alquacil, who enters his first year managing the River Cats..

For nearly a decade, Alquacil logged over 3,000 plate appearances primarily in the Giants organization.  While never reaching the majors, he was able to transition to coaching positions nearly the second that he hung up his spikes.  First with the Expos / Nationals, filling various roles and briefly coaching at the MLB level in 2005, it wasn’t until 2011 that he found his way back to the Giants.

In his first year, Alguacil worked as the Minor League Defensive Coordinator, and in four years he received his first Giants managing job with the Flying Squirrels.  In the interim, he also coached the Spanish national team during the 2013 World Baseball Classic.

Did you know: In 2012, the River Cats were the most valuable MiLB franchises.

Hitting Coach Damon Minor

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For fans of the early 2000, exciting Giants teams, this should be a name you recognize.  A 12th round, 1996 draft pick for the Giants, Minor crushed it at several minor league levels before he made his big league debut in 2000.  The high-slugging, low-contact hitter would go on to collect 285 big league at-bats with the Giants, spending time in the majors in ’00, ’01, ’02, and ’04.

Looking back, his numbers at all levels might make you wonder why he didn’t see more action in SF.  In 2002, for example, he was homering every 17 at-bats.  But when you recall the offensive era that he played in, and considering that his natural position (first base) was blocked by the unmovable J.T. Snow, and THEN throw in a healthy dose of plaguing injuries, it’s much less confusing.

After his playing career ended, Minor returned to his former school (University of Oklahoma) to assist their baseball program.  From 2011 to 2015, he was the hitting coach for the AAA New Orleans Zephyrs, (a Marlins affiliate).

This will be Minor’s first year with the Giants since 2004.

Pitching Coach  Dwight Bernard

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Bernard, age 64, is the most experienced coach of the ranking three for the River Cats. This is his third season working in the Giants organization and his second as the River Cats pitching coach.  Although – really it’s his third, as the previous year he was with the Fresno Grizzlies.  Bernard has been working as a pitching coach or pitching coordinator since 1986.

Of the three, Bernard is the only one not drafted by the Giants and, arguably, had the most successful major league career.  Although the 2nd round draft pick only logged 176 innings over his four year career (’78, 79’, ’81, ’82), it was in the postseason that he gained moderate fame among Milwaukee Brewers fans for his shut-down, Jeremy Affledt-like performance out of the pen.

Sacramento River Cats

Current River Cats Roster

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