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Back In The Game: Familiar Faces Return To The Dugout

Several past major leaguers will be making a return this upcoming MLB season but from a different viewpoint: as a coach. Headlining these names are Craig Counsell, Don Mattingly, Jon Jay, Eric Chavez, and Mark Prior. 

Familiar Faces Returning to MLB to Coach

Craig Counsell

Craig Counsell “The Chicken” recently left the Milwaukee Brewers to become the manager of their rival, the Chicago Cubs. Counsell managed the Brewers for 9 seasons from 2015-2023. He currently holds the Brewers franchise record for managerial wins with a 707-625 record.  He has led the Brewers to five playoff appearances in six years. Prior to his managerial career, he played 16 seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks, Florida Marlins, Milwaukee Brewers, Colorado Rockies, and Los Angeles Dodgers. He is a 2x World Series Champion, winning with the Marlins in 1997 and the Diamondbacks in 2001. Hopefully, he will carry the winning mentality to the Cubs and get them back to the playoffs.

Don Mattingly

Known as “Donnie Baseball” and the “Hit Man” with the New York Yankees, Mattingly played in the majors for 14 years. He played first base and found much success there. He wasn’t just good defensively but also offensively, winning three Silver Slugger Awards and an MVP award in 1985. When he retired from his professional career he began coaching. He has spent 19 years as an MLB coach/manager with the Yankees, Dodgers, and the Marlins. As a manager, he has a winning % of .483 with a record of 889-950.  He is now with the Toronto Blue Jays, where he will be serving as a bench coach. With his experience, he is sure to bring a lot of advice to the young players on the Blue Jays.  Let’s look at some other retired players who will be in the dugout this year.

Jon Jay

The hometown hero made his way back to South Beach to coach first base for the Miami Marlins. Jay went to the University of Miami for college and would be drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals. He would end up playing 12 years in the majors being a part of the Cardinals, San Diego Padres, Chicago Cubs, Kansas City Royals, Arizona Diamondbacks, Chicago White Sox, and the Los Angeles Angels. He was a World Series Champion with the Cardinals in 2011, and between 2011 to 2013 he had an errorless record streak for the National League center fielders (245 games). Following his retirement in 2023, he joined the Marlins as the first base coach and will be returning for the 2024 season.

“Miami kid, lives he said 10 minutes away from the stadium, had built-in relationships with a lot of the players already, a good friend of mine. I know he knows what I’m about, and I think he’s a guy that’s going to hold everyone accountable. I think Jon Jay is a rising star on the coaching side, and I’m lucky that we got him first.” said Marlins Manager Skip Schumaker.

Mark Prior

Mark Prior started his coaching career in 2015 with the San Diego Padres in the minors. He was a pitching coordinator in their system for three seasons. Before he was a coach, he was a major league pitcher for five seasons, all with the Chicago Cubs. He was the pitcher during the infamous Steve Bartman incident in Chicago. He suffered injuries that would cut his career short.

After his stint in San Diego, he joined the Los Angeles Dodgers organization in 2018. He has been their pitching coach since 202o. Because of his experience in Chicago on that fateful day in October, as a coach he instilled in his players “clarity and conviction”. This phrase means that if you’re mentally distracted then it will show in your execution. Since joining the Dodgers, they have ranked 13th among MLB teams for pitching. In addition, they have made the playoffs every year that Prior has been a part of the team, even winning the World Series in 2020.

“I think our job as coaches is to make this game as simple as possible,” he said. “And whether it’s being on the top-ish, or if it’s being hurt or being out of baseball, I do have a lot of experiences that I think can help me and at least push other people’s careers, hopefully, in a better direction.” said Prior.

Eric Chavez

In 2022, Eric Chavez was the Mets hitting coach and he helped lead them to a 101-win season. In 2023, David Stearns entered the Mets organization as president of baseball operations. He fired manager Buck Showalter and it was left up in the air whether Chavez would return to the Mets. Eventually, the Mets re-signed him and elevated him to bench coach in 2023, where he remains this year. Hopefully, he can continue the success he found as a hitting coach in 2022. Before he was a coach, Chavez had a 17-season career mostly spent with the Oakland Athletics. He won six straight Gold Gloves at third base and won a Silver Slugger Award. It is no secret that in the future his goal is to become the manager of a team.


Photo Credit: © Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports


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