The profiling of Toronto Blue Jays’ coaching staff continues with the lower levels of the system. We’ll look at ClassA Short Season and Rookie leagues. For lack of a better term, we’ll call these the “entry level” teams of the Blue Jays’ organization. We keep hearing about the money the Jays are throwing into scouting and developing. Hopefully, the staff they’ve chosen will help in progressing the young talent toward the Rogers Centre. The coaching staff profiled below have lots of experience in the minors. The wisdom they’ve gained should prove to be useful for players to adjust and learn. The final installment of Managing the future of the Toronto Blue Jays will focus on the Minor League Coordinators.
Vancouver Canadians (Northwestern League- ClassA Short Season)
John Schneider- Manager
Drafted by the Detroit Tigers in 2001 and Toronto Blue Jays in 2002, Schneider spent 6 seasons in various levels of minor league baseball. In 2009 and 2010, he managed the Gulf Coast Blue Jays (Rookie League). In 2001 Schneider managed the Vancouver Canadians. 2013 saw him back in the Gulf Coast League with the Blue Jays. He’s compiled a .506 winning percentage as a manager, but at this level, his job has more to do with player development, etc. than it does with winning.
Dave Pano- Batting Coach
Pano played high school baseball against former Jays’ GM J.P. Ricciardi. He became a scout for the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates. Pano was named head coach at St Petersburg College from 1998- 2010. He was also a coach in the Appalachian League in 2005. He managed the Gulf Coast Blue Jays in 2008 and a coach for them in 2009/10. He moved to the Vancouver Canadians as hitting coach from 2001-2013. Perhaps Pano’s experience in scouting will prove valuable in the development of young talent.
Jeff Ware- Pitching Coach
Ware was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays in 1991. He spent 10 seasons as a minor league pitcher and appeared in 18 MLB games over the 1995/96 seasons. In 2006, he was pitching coach for the Can-Am League North Shore Spirit. 2007, saw Ware as the pitching coach for the Staten Island Yankees of the NY-Penn League. From 2008 through 2010, he was pitching coach for the Charleston RiverDogs of the south Atlantic League. For the seasons of 2011 through 2013, he was the pitching coach for the Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League.
Bluefield Blue Jays (Appalachian League- Rookie)
Dennis Holmberg- Manager
Drafted by the Montreal Expos in the 1969 June Amateur Draft and then by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 1970 January Draft-Secondary Phase, Holmberg played 8 seasons in the minors. He has a 26 year coaching career coaching in the lower minors. All of these seasons, save his first are with affiliates of the Toronto Blue Jays. He’s managed a .520 winning percentage. But, as with Schneider above, Holmberg is charged with molding young players more so than compiling a winning record.
Cesar Martin- Hitting Coach
There is not much information available on Cesar A. (Martin) German. He did play 2 seasons of minor league ball with Toronto’s Rookie and A teams. He hit .211 in 111 games. He played OF and 1B with most of his at bats coming at 3B. Martin also played for the Dominican Republic team in 1999 and 2000. At age 34, he has lots of time to grow in the coaching role.
Antonio Caceres- Pitching Coach
Antonio Caceres has been with the Blue Jays organization for 13 seasons. He signed with them in 1995 at the age of 17. He pitched in the Dominican Summer League and in the Pioneer League with the Medicine Hat Blue Jays. In 1998, he compiled a 6-4 record with a 3.81 ERA in 21 games for Medicine Hat. From 2000-2003, he returned to the Dominican Summer League as a pitching coach. He served under Holmberg as a pitching coach when the Auburn Doubledays won the NY-Penn League championship in 2007. In 2009 Caceres moved to the Lansing Lugnuts for two seasons. Needless to say, Caceres is familiar with the Blue Jays system.
Gulf Coast Blue Jays (Gulf Coast League- Rookie)
Kenny Graham- Manager
According to his LinkedIn profile, Graham is a teacher. So, it is not that much of a stretch to picture him in a coaching role. Aside from his teaching career (which, as a teacher, we should not be too quick to dismiss…just saying) Graham worked as a collegiate level coach for the University of Indianapolis as well as Olney Central College from 2004 through 2006. For the 2008 season, he was the hitting coach for the American Association Gary Southshore RailCats. From 2010 through 2013, he was the hitting coach for the Auburn Doubledays (NY-Penn League), Bluefield Blue Jays (APPY League) and Lansing Lugnuts (Midwest League)
Here’s a snippet of his advice: (I’m going to use it in my slowpitch beer league)
Paul Elliott- Batting Coach
Elliott has managed in the minor leagues as well as in Australia. He was a coach for Australia in big tournaments like the 2004 Olympics, 2006 WBC, 2007 Baseball World Cup and 2009 WBC. In 1996, Elliott was a scout for Toronto in Australia. He has coached with the Blue Jays organization for a number of years: 1996- Medicine hat Blue Jays, 1997- Knoxville Blue Jays, 2004-2008- Dunedin Blue Jays, 2009- New Hampshire FisherCats, 2010-2011- GCL Blue Jays, 2012- Bluefield Blue Jays and then back to the GCL Blue Jays in 2013. He was inducted into the Baseball Australia Hall of Fame in 2009.
Willie Collazo- Pitching Coach
Collazo was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in the 2001 amateur draft. He pitched 6 games for the New York Mets. He pitched for 12 seasons in the minor leagues for affiliates of the Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Angels, New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays. His playing career ended in 2012. He’s been a coach since January 2013.
Danny Solano- Coach
Solano had a minor league career of 9 seasons in the Texas Rangers and Toronto Blue Jays systems. In 2010, he became coach for the GCL Blue Jays. In 2011 he coached for the New Hampshire FisherCats. In 2012, he coached for the Las Vegas 51s and in 2013, he returned to the GCL Blue Jays.
DSL Blue Jays (Dominican Summer League-Rookie)
Oh, boy! It is getting awfully tough to find info on coaches at this level, but here goes…
Jose Mateo- Manager
Mateo had a minor league career that lasted for 8 seasons that started in 1995. He mostly played independent ball. Mateo served as a coach for the San Diego Padres Dominican League Rookie team in 2008.
Carlos Villalobos- Hitting Coach
Played 15 seasons in the minors from 1994- 2010 compiling a .306 average. He also played 2 seasons in Taiwan.
Rafael Lazo- Pitching Coach
Lazo played for Venezuala from 1997 through 1999. In 2000 he played for the Kingsport Mets in the Appalachian League getting in to 15 games. He served as the pitching coach in the Italian Baseball League in 2011.
Oswaldo Peraza- Pitching Coach
Peraza was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays as a free agent in 1981. He was a highly touted prospect who was traded to the Baltimore Orioles for Mike Flanagan. He pitched one season (1988) for the Orioles going 5-7 with a 5.55 ERA. He pitched 10 minor league seasons compiling a 3.65 ERA.