News release from the TinCaps:
2015 TinCaps Coaching Staff Announced
(February 13, 2015) – The San Diego Padres have announced the TinCaps’ coaching staff for the 2015 season. Francisco Morales is set to become Fort Wayne’s manager, while Burt Hooton will return for his third year as the team’s pitching coach and Lance Burkhart replaces his brother Morgan as hitting coach.
Additionally, Ricky Huerta is back for a third term as the team’s athletic trainer and Gabe Lazzaro comes aboard as strength and conditioning coach.
“There’s a ton of great experience and leadership on this staff,” TinCaps President Mike Nutter said. “We loved having Michael Collins and Morgan Burkhart here and are happy to see them move up within the San Diego organization. It’s an exciting time to be affiliated with the Padres and we’re optimistic that we’ll continue to see incredible player development, and wins, at Parkview Field once again in 2015.”
Morales was the Padres’ Double-A hitting coach for the San Antonio Missions in 2014. Prior to that, the 42-year-old from San Pedro de Macoris, Dominican Republic, served three years as a bullpen catcher and staff assistant with the Cleveland Indians.
“I’m excited to be joining the Fort Wayne community and to work with the TinCaps family,” Morales said. “I feel blessed to have the opportunity to manage, especially at a place with such a great ballpark and front office. I can’t wait for the season to get here. I’m ready to go.”
Morales has experience in the Midwest League as both a player and a coach. Originally signed by the Chicago Cubs in 1991, he played eight years of Minor League Baseball (MiLB), counting part of the 1993 season with the Peoria Chiefs. Morales also played in the St. Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos organizations â€” primarily as a catcher â€” and reached as high as Triple-A.
From 2000-03, Morales played in the independent Atlantic League, where he became an All-Star with the Long Island Ducks. Morales also played for the Cafeteros de Cordoba of the Mexican League in 2003. Upon concluding his playing days, Morales began his MiLB coaching career in 2005 with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Following two years as an instructor for the Diamondbacks in the Dominican Summer League, Morales returned stateside as hitting coach for the Rookie-Level Yakima Bears in 2007. From 2008-10, he was in the same role with the South Bend Silver Hawks.
Though Morales may be a first-year manager, he’ll have plenty of experience next to him on the bench. Hooton, 65, has mentored TinCaps pitchers each of the last two seasons. In 2013, “Hoot” helped Zach Eflin post the lowest ERA in the Midwest League (2.73). In 2014, the Texan aided Kyle Lloyd, who led the league in strikeouts (155).
Not only did Hooton pitch in the big leagues from 1971-85 for the Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Texas Rangers, he also has experience as a major league pitching coach with the Houston Astros from 2000-04. In all, Hooton has 19 years of experience as an MiLB pitching coach, plus three seasons (1997-99) guiding the pitchers at his alma mater, the University of Texas at Austin.
From his playing days, Hooton is best known for throwing a devastating knuckle curve, as well as for throwing a no-hitter with the Cubs as a 22-year-old rookie. In 1981, Hooton was a National League All-Star for the Dodgers. That year he also was named MVP of the National League Championship Series as L.A. went on to win the World Series. Hooton won 151 games in his career, not counting six postseason wins (three of which came in the World Series).
In the role of hitting coach this year, the TinCaps won’t have a familiar face, but it will be a similar one. Following Morgan Burkhart’s promotion to hitting coach for Double-A San Antonio, it’s his younger brother of three years who will take over the reins in Fort Wayne.
Lance Burkhart, 40, managed the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League in 2014. Like Morales, Burkhart was a catcher who played eight years of Minor League Baseball, making it up to Triple-A, before continuing his career in the Atlantic League as an All-Star.
Selected by the Expos in the 15th round of the ’97 Draft out of Missouri State University, Burkhart also played in the Milwaukee Brewers, Rangers, and Baltimore Orioles organizations through 2004. Along the way, the Missouri native played in the Midwest League in 2000 with the Beloit Snappers, and briefly with the Clinton LumberKings in 2003.
Burkhart spent four years with the Atlantic League’s Lancaster Barnstormers before concluding his playing career with Southern Maryland in 2009. He then returned to Lancaster as a hitting coach for four years.
The Padres have assigned Michael Collins, who managed the TinCaps in 2014, to manage the Advanced-A Lake Elsinore Storm of the California League.
Fort Wayne’s new coaching staff will debut on Thursday, April 9 when the TinCaps begin their 2015 season on the road against the Great Lakes Loons. Opening Day at Parkview Field is slated for Sunday, April 12 at 4:05 p.m. against the Lansing Lugnuts. Season tickets are currently available, while single game tickets go on sale Wednesday, Feb. 18 at 8:00 a.m. at Parkview Field, on TinCaps.com, and by phone at 260-482-6400.