The Princeton Rays announced that Michael Johns will return in 2012 for his third straight year as the team's manager but also that the remainder of the coaching staff would be new faces to the Princeton professional baseball scene.
Joining Johns in Princeton this coming summer will be Darwin Peguero as pitching coach with Reinaldo Ruiz to handle the duties of pitching coach.
Johns, with 63 career managerial wins at Princeton, is already in third place on the franchise's all-time victory list behind Jamie Nelson (141) and Edwin Rodriguez (81). Before his managerial debut in Princeton in 2010, he had spent one prior year in the Tampa Bay organization as the hitting coach for the 2009 Hudson Valley Renegades of the New York-Penn League. Prior to joining the Rays organization, he was the head coach from 2004-07 at Orange Park (FL) High School after spending the four years prior to that as assistant coach at Fernandina Beach (FL) High School. His professional playing career spanned two seasons (1997-98) as a middle infielder at the class-A level in the Colorado Rockies farm system at Portland, OR and Asheville, NC. He is a graduate of Tulane University, where he was a two-time Conference USA, all-conference shortstop for the Green Wave.
"I have enjoyed working with ‘M.J.' the past two summers. It is always good to have someone on board that has previously managed in the Appalachian League so that they already know in advance what this league is all about," commented P-Rays' general manager Jim Holland while making the announcement and added that this will be especially important since the balance of the P-Rays' 2012 coaching staff will be new.
Peguero, 33, comes to Princeton after spending the past three seasons as pitching coach for Tampa Bay's entry in the Gulf Coast League. His GCL Rays' pitching staff logged an impressive 3.32 earned run average last season and it is expected that many of these same pitchers will join him in Princeton this summer. The three seasons prior to that (2006-08) he served in the same capacity for the Dominican Summer League Rays. As a professional player, he pitched seven years (1996-2002) in the Astros' organization, reaching his highest level at Double-A Round Rock in his final season. He also played three years of independent ball. In his professional debut season in 1996, Peguero was named to the DSL All-Star Team. The native of Hato Mayor, Dominican Republic also had a sterling season at Short-A Auburn (NY) in 1998, posting a 2.80 ERA to go along with 86 strikeouts in 64.1 innings of work.
"I have heard a lot of good things about Darwin and it is nice that when you install a new pitching coach here, it is one who will be familiar with most of our new pitchers since he coached them in Gulf Coast League last year," said Holland of Peguero, who will take the P-Rays' pitching reins from veteran pitching coach, Marty DeMerritt, who tutored the mound corps in Princeton the past five seasons.
Ruiz, 32, will journey to Princeton as hitting coach after spending the prior two seasons as hitting coach for the Hudson Valley Renegades following a 2009 season spent on the coaching staff of the GCL Rays. The current Punto Fijo, VZ resident served as catching instructor for the Venezuelan Summer League Rays in both 2007 and 2008. His coaching career began with a two-year stint (2005-06) as the hitting coach for Magallenes de Carabobo of the Venzuelan Winter League. He had an eight-year playing career as a professional, seeing time with the VSL Astros (1997-98) and the DSL Astros (1999) before missing all of 2000 with an injury. His peak as a player was reached by playing three seasons (2003-05) with nearby Class-A Salem (VA) before turning his career path towards coaching.
"A lot of hitters we had here in Princeton in 2010, worked with ‘Ray' in Hudson Valley last season as he helped them with their progression as players. We look forward to having him here with us this summer and know that he will be a nice addition to our staff," forecasted Holland.
The Princeton Rays 68-game 2012 Appalachian League season will commence with a home game on June 19 versus the Kingsport Mets and stretch through the end of August. The P-Rays complete 2012 schedule can now be seen on-line at www.princetonrays.net. Persons needing tickets or other related information about the Princeton Rays are asked to contact the team either by e-mail at email@example.com or by telephoning the team's Hunnicutt Field office at (304) 487-2000.
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