By Sean Rooney on October 11, 2018.
It was mission accomplished for the Medicine Hat Mavericks this summer, and for some involved with the team that was a perfect way to say goodbye.
The Western Major Baseball League champions announced a new coaching staff Wednesday, a couple weeks after head coach Andrew Murphy and assistant Kyle Swannack decided they wouldn’t be back for 2019.
Medicine Hat will be led by Californian Tom Vessella, an ex-minor AAA league pitcher, and returning assistant Fehlandt Lentini, who played in the minors for 17 years.
“He’s got everything, the academic background taking his PHD,” said Mavs owner Greg Morrison of Vessella. “His dissertation’s in team culture, and I think that’s how we connected.
“He’s got some good connections down there, he’s coached for several years. We got pretty lucky, I think.”
In a press release Vesella praised the Mavericks’ culture as a reason he applied for the job.
“I’ve been part of several different clubs in my career and found that nothing is more important than being a part of a good organization,” he said. “The Mavericks have a reputation for being a fantastic organization from the top down and I am thrilled to be a part of it.”
Murphy, who guided the Mavs to a 38-9 regular season record and then the league playoff title, said he’d only come to the decision a couple weeks ago that he couldn’t return to Medicine Hat due to a new assistant coaching job at his alma mater, Oklahoma Wesleyan University.
“Just want to thank everyone in Medicine Hat for the support,” Murphy said in a text message to the News. “The fans along with the organization make it one of the best summer ball experiences out there. If I was going to coach again this summer it was no doubt going to be back with the Mavs. The job just won’t allow.”
Swannack has taken a position with Notre Dame Academy’s baseball program. He started coaching with the Mavs five years ago, part of both the 2014 and 2018 championship teams.
“It’s the nature of the beast, I think we’ve had a lot of great coaches over the years,” said Morrison.
The Mavericks won the franchise’s third WMBL title in August, beating Regina in the fifth game of the championship series in front of an estimated 2,500 fans at Athletic Park. While many players are simply not eligible to return having finished their senior college seasons, staff don’t change quite as often. Murphy had moved up from being an assistant with the club in 2017 into the head role and brought a calm demeanour to the position, earning WMBL coach of the year honours.
That, figures Morrison, opened up a lot of doors for the coach.
“We’re a victim of his success, in a way,” said Morrison. “You’ve got to tip your hat.”
A big part of Vessella’s job will be recruiting with the idea of repeating as champs. Morrison says a number of players, including Colton Wright, Connor Green, Nolan Rattai, Reed Odland, Jordan Dray and Julien Ly have all said they’ll be back. Mavericks teams have rarely returned more than a half-dozen regulars from year-to-year due to the nature of the college-age league.
The league is expected to release its 2019 regular season schedule in November.
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