A Monday press release from the Billings Mustangs:
BILLINGS, MT – The Cincinnati Reds have formally announced the Billings Mustangs coaching staff for the 2007 Pioneer League season. The Mustangs will be led by field manager Joe Kruzel, who spent the 2006 season as the hitting coach for the Gulf Coast League Reds, the Reds rookie affiliate.
Kruzel’s staff will include pitching coach Pete Magre, who pitched for the Mustangs in 1993, and hitting coach Aaron Holbert, who played in the Major Leagues for the Reds and the St. Louis Cardinals. Rex De La Nuez will serve as the Mustangs bench coach. De La Nuez spent the ’06 season as a scouting supervisor for the Reds and previously played in the Minnesota Twins organization.
Kruzel replaces Rick Burleson, who guided the Mustangs in five of the last six seasons. Burleson has accepted a roving minor league instructor position with the Reds.
“We are looking forward to the upcoming 2007 season and having Joe and his staff here in Billings,” said Mustangs General Manager Gary Roller. “Joe’s resume is impressive and we’re confident in his abilities to provide the younger players with a professional approach to the game, both on and off the field.”
Kruzel, 40, is entering his second season in the Reds organization. The veteran college coach spent 2005 as the assistant baseball coach at Miami University. Prior to that, he spent 15 seasons (1989-2003) at The University of Toledo, where he served as the assistant baseball coach (1989-92) and then head baseball coach (1993-2003). In addition to his coaching career, Kruzel played second base at Toledo from 1985-1988.
“I’m excited about the opportunity that the Reds have given me to begin my managerial career in Billings,” Kruzel said. “We will work very hard to put a product on the field that the community can be proud of.”
Terry Reynolds, the Reds director of player development, said the Reds are excited to have Kruzel as the manager of the Billings Mustangs.
“Joe has an extensive background in working with young players and this understanding should make him a very good fit in the Pioneer League,” Reynolds said.
Magre, 36, pitched five seasons in professional baseball, four of those with the Reds organization. After pitching for the 1993 Pioneer League championship team in Billings, he went on to pitch for Class-A Charleston, Class-A Winston-Salem and Class-AA Chattanooga.
Holbert enters his first season of coaching after a 16-year playing career. The former infielder was the St. Louis Cardinals first-round pick in the June 1990 Draft. Holbert, 33, played for eight different organizations and spent the majority of his career at the Triple-A level. Holbert hit .271 in his minor league career and stole 310 bases. He played in one game with the Cardinals in 1996 and played in 22 Big League games for the Reds in 2005 before retiring in 2006.
I’ve been a Reds fan since the late ’60’s, with my luck of being able to attend plenty of games at Riverfront during the BRM era. I was sitting in the Green Seats in the OF when Pete came home in ’84 and was in the Red seats when Glenn Braggs reached over the fence in ’90 to beat the Pirates. I have had many favorites from Jim Maloney to Johnny Bench, Barry Larkin, Adam Dunn, and Jay Bruce.