The Rocket City Trash Pandas on Thursday revealed the team's coaching staff for the inaugural season that's set to get underway May 4 on the road and May 11 at Toyota Field in Huntsville.
Here's the full news release from the team:
The Los Angeles Angels announced their Double-A coaching staff for the 2021 season today including the return of manager Jay Bell to Rocket City, bringing a well-credentialed staff that includes a combined 26 years of Major League playing experience and 21 seasons of managing and coaching in professional baseball.
Bell was scheduled to lead the Trash Pandas in 2020 before the season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. An 18-year Major League veteran, a two-time All Star, and a Gold Glove recipient, Bell played for five teams and scored the winning run in the World Series for the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2001. He finished with a .265 career average, 195 homeruns and 860 RBI.
Before joining the Angels organization, Bell was the Hitting Coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates and Bench Coach for the Cincinnati Reds before becoming a minor league manager with the New York Yankees in 2017. Over three seasons, he won division titles every year he managed three different affiliates of the Bronx Bombers.
Joining Bell will be a coaching unit with as varied a background as any in baseball. Included in the mix are a former independent league player and manager as hitting coach, an ex-Major League reliever as pitching coach, a defensive coach who worked most recently for a bat company, and a U.S. Military Veteran and SEC strength coach as conditioning coach.
Hitting Coach Kenny Hook was slated to be in the same position at then High-A Inland Empire last season. It was going to be his first season with the Angels after spending the last six in the Texas Rangers organization. Hook worked as a coach at the Rookie and Class-A levels with the Rangers before becoming the Manager of the Spokane Indians (Short-Season A) in 2019. There, his team finished 45-31 before falling in the first round of the playoffs. Before the Rangers, Hook spent two seasons at the helm of the Kansas City T-Bones of the independent American Association.
As a player, Hook played independently with the Amarillo Dillas of the Texas-Louisiana League. Primarily a shortstop, the Kansas City native batted .282 with six homers and 179 RBI over four seasons. After taking a season off in 2001, Hood had a 38-game stint in 2002 with the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings where he drove in 13 runs. He also stole 45 bases in his career.
A big-league reliever of 426 games, Pitching Coach Michael Weurtz comes to the Trash Pandas after spending three of the last four played seasons with then High-A Inland Empire. He was the Pitching Coach for Rookie League Orem in 2018. He was scheduled to return to Inland Empire in 2020 as well.
As a Major League pitcher, Wuertz posted a 3.71 ERA and a 21-11 record along with 11 saves over eight Major League seasons. His best season, perhaps, came in 2009 with Oakland where he matched a career-high in wins (6), registered his lowest ERA at 2.63, tossed a career-best 78.2 innings, and fanned 102 batters. In addition to three years with the A’s, Wuertz spent the first five seasons of his career with the Cubs.
Defensive Coach Derek Florko enters his third season with the Angels in 2021. He was slated to come to Rocket City last season after spending 2019 at Inland Empire. While not having played professionally, Florko has been praised for his work ethic as a hitting coach at both the high school and collegiate levels. He is certified by the Titleist Performance Institute, which focuses on the biomechanics of swinging motions in baseball and golf. Before joining the Angels in 2019, Florko was the Manager of Hitting for AXE Batting Company, which manufactures bats for several Major League players.
Joining the Trash Pandas staff as their Strength and Conditioning Coach is Jon Hill who enters his third season with the Angels. He was penciled in as the Trash Pandas’ Strength Coach last season after spending 2019 in Mobile.
Hill has quite a history. In addition to his time with the Angels, he was also an Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach for the University of Kentucky football team from 2016-2018. Before then, he served in the United States Army and Federal Government for 13 years including time in Baghdad during the Iraq War as a counterintelligence agent. He was moved to serve following the events of 9/11.
Rounding out the staff is Trainer Yusuke Takahashi who comes to Rocket City after spending the last three seasons, including 2020, at Inland Empire.
The Rocket City Trash Pandas are the Double-A Affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels. The Trash Pandas are one of 120 Professional Development Licensee (PDL) clubs in the restructured Minor League system and will play their games as part of the eight-team Double-A South League. For directions and information on other upcoming events, visit TrashPandasBaseball.com.