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Crawdads announce 2021 coaching staff after moving to High-A

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Hickory Crawdads

The Hickory Crawdads' first season as a Class High-A team will see familiar faces in the dugout for the 2021 season.

On Wednesday, the Texas Rangers, the Major League Baseball parent club of the Crawdads, announced the player development staff for the team once play resumes this season.

Managing the club this season will be Josh (J.J.) Johnson. Assisting him will be pitching coach Steve Mintz, hitting coach Chad Comer and assistant coach Hiram Bocachica. All but Bocachica have been with Hickory in previous seasons.

Johnson returns to the Crawdads two years after he served the team as an assistant for the South Atlantic League runner-up under former manager Matt Hagen. A native of Tampa, Florida, the 35-year-old was the fourth-round pick of the Kansas City Royals in 2004. He played in the Royals organization through 2009, then played in the Washington Nationals system before his playing career ended in 2015.

Johnson managed the Nationals' Gulf Coast League rookie affiliate from 2016-17, and had a record of 64-45. He was an infield coach with the San Diego Padres' major league team in 2018 before coming to the Rangers system in 2019. He was assigned to manage at High-A Down East in 2020 before the minor league season was shuttered due to COVID-19.

Mintz was the Crawdads' skipper in 2016, when he led the team to a 74-66 record. A native of Leland, the 42-year-old spent parts of two seasons pitching in the major leagues, parts of one season each with the San Francisco Giants and the Anaheim (now Los Angeles) Angels. This is his ninth season with the Rangers organization, his fifth straight as a pitching coach at the High-A level.

Comer returns to the Rangers organization after spending a season as the hitting coach at his alma mater, the University of Texas-Arlington. This is the sixth season for the 32-year-old Mansfield, Texas native, who was the Crawdads' assistant coach in 2015 when they won the South Atlantic League title. He was the 29th-round pick of the Atlanta Braves in 2011 and spent two seasons in the club's minor league chain.

Bocachica is in his first season with the Rangers organization. The 44-year-old native of Ponce, Puerto Rico was the first-round pick of the Montreal Expos in 1994 and went on to spend eight seasons in the major leagues, mostly as an outfielder. His final season in the majors was with the San Diego Padres in 2007.

The training staff was also announced by the Rangers. Yuichi Takizawa will serve as the athletic trainer for the Crawdads and Jon Nazarko is the strength and conditioning coach. Both are in their first seasons in Hickory.

The Crawdads are still waiting to hear news on when the season is expected to begin. On Tuesday, the club announced they had accepted the terms set out by MLB during their offseason restructuring of the minor leagues, and signed a professional development license. The agreement is for 10 seasons, lasting through the 2030 season.

Here is a look at Tuesday's full press release:

Crawdads officially become Rangers' High-A affiliate

The Hickory Crawdads formally accepted the invitation from the Texas Rangers to become their new High-A affiliate. The affiliation becomes official after the Crawdads signed Major League Baseball’s Professional Development License (PDL) on Tuesday. The 10-year agreement assures that Texas’ High-A team will call Hickory home through the 2030 season.

“We’re thrilled to make things official with the Rangers and become the new High-A affiliate,” Crawdads general manager Douglas Locascio said. “We are excited to be able to welcome Crustacean Nation back to L.P. Frans Stadium this season and in the years to come.”

This offseason, Major League Baseball (MLB) restructured the Minor League Baseball (MiLB) system following the expiration of the Professional Baseball Agreement (PBA) between the two entities last September.

Under the new PDL system, MLB will govern all aspects of MiLB moving forward. Back on Dec. 9, each MLB club invited four minor league affiliates to join their farm systems. MiLB clubs were given a Feb. 10 deadline to accept the terms of the PDL after receiving the governing documents in mid-January. Under the new PDL system, all affiliation agreements between MLB and MiLB clubs will be 10 years in length.

Under the new PDL structure, MiLB will feature 120 teams competing across four levels — Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A — a change from the previous structure that included 160 clubs competing across six levels. The Rangers' farm system is rounded out by the Triple-A Round Rock (Texas) Express, Double-A Frisco (Texas) RoughRiders, and Low-A Down East (North Carolina) Wood Ducks.

Additional information regarding the Crawdads’ 2021 schedule, league structure, coaching staff, roster and ticketing procedures will be announced in the near future.

For more information, contact Douglas Locascio at (828) 322-3000 or at dlocascio@hickorycrawdads.com.

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