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THROWBACK THURSDAY: Looking back at the timeline of Crawdads managers

THROWBACK THURSDAY: Looking back at the timeline of Crawdads managers

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Matt Hagen

Former Hickory Crawdads manager Matt Hagen (39) waits for the start of the team's 2019 home opener in this file photo from April 11, 2019. Hagen is one of 17 previous managers for the Crawdads, who have won nearly 1,900 games since their inaugural season in 1993 and are three-time South Atlantic League champions.

(Editor’s Note: Following the recent cancellation of the 2020 Minor League Baseball season, the Hickory Crawdads won’t take the field again until next spring. Consequently, the Hickory Daily Record has decided to introduce a new feature called “Throwback Thursday,” where we will briefly revisit some of the major events in the history of the Crawdads once a week for the foreseeable future.)

In their 27 seasons of on-field action, the Hickory Crawdads have had 17 different managers. The Crawdads have ended 16 of those seasons with a winning record, capturing three South Atlantic League (SAL) championships and making 11 postseason appearances.

Hickory has an all-time winning percentage of .507 (1,898 wins and 1,845 losses), while its overall postseason record is 23-20. Of their 17 previous managers, seven have posted winning records, one has finished at .500 and nine have finished with losing marks.

Carlos Cardoza was named the 18th manager in Crawdads history last December, and he will look to lead the team to its second straight playoff appearance when Minor League Baseball resumes next spring. Prior to that, let’s take a look at the timeline of previous managers for the franchise between its inaugural season in 1993 and its most recent season in 2019:

Fred Kendall (1993-94); 138-142

After finishing 36 games below .500 in 1993, the father of former major league catcher Jason Kendall led the Crawdads to their first playoff appearance the following season. Also a former big league catcher himself, Fred Kendall helped Hickory secure the Second Half Northern Division title in 1994, but the Crawdads lost to the Hagerstown (Maryland) Suns in the first round of the SAL playoffs.

Mike Rojas (1995); 49-89

Although the Crawdads finished 40 games under .500 in his only season at the helm, Rojas has continued to serve in various roles for multiple organizations following four seasons as a catcher in the Oakland Athletics and Toronto Blue Jays minor league systems from 1983-86. Previously a coach for Major League Baseball’s Detroit Tigers and Seattle Mariners, he is currently the manager of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals, the Kansas City Royals’ Double-A affiliate.

Chris Cron (1996-97); 131-149

Like Fred Kendall before him, Cron also had a difficult first season as Hickory’s manager before helping them reach the SAL playoffs in his second year, although they again lost in the first round. A 1984 draft pick of the Atlanta Braves who made his major league debut with the California Angels in 1991 and also saw time with the Chicago White Sox in 1992, Cron is currently the manager of the Reno Aces, the Triple-A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Mark Haley (1998); 56-84

In 12 seasons as a minor league manager, former 1977 Pittsburgh Pirates draft pick Haley — who chose to attend college instead — posted an overall record of 837-827. He began his managerial career with the Winston-Salem Warthogs (now the Winston-Salem Dash) in 1997 before jumping to Hickory in 1998, while he spent the 2005-14 seasons as the manager of the South Bend Silver Hawks, who are now the South Bend Cubs.

Tracy Woodson (1999); 70-70

A third baseman on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 1988 World Series championship squad, Woodson played for the Dodgers from 1987-89 before also seeing time with the St. Louis Cardinals during the 1992 and 1993 seasons. An alumnus of North Carolina State University, he was the manager of several minor league teams from 1998-2004, and with him at the helm, the Crawdads won their first playoff series against the Macon (Georgia) Braves during the 1999 SAL season.

Jay Loviglio (2000); 75-66

Hickory finished with a non-losing record in back-to-back seasons for the first time in franchise history under Loviglio’s watch, as the former major league second baseman helped the Crawdads follow a 70-70 season the year before he arrived with a 75-win season in 2000. Nevertheless, Hickory missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and Loviglio continued his career elsewhere the following season.

Pete Mackanin (2001); 67-73

Mackanin also failed to help the Crawdads return to the playoffs in his first year as a minor league manager, with Hickory finishing six games below .500. A former major league second baseman for the Texas Rangers, Montreal Expos, Philadelphia Phillies and Minnesota Twins, Mackanin eventually returned to the major leagues — he had previously been the third-base coach for the Montreal Expos — and was the interim manager of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2005 and the Cincinnati Reds in 2007 before serving as the Phillies’ manager from 2015-17. He was 227-291 in parts of five seasons as a major league manager.

Tony Beasley (2002-03); 165-110

The Crawdads won 80-plus games for the first time since 1994 in Beasley’s first season as manager, and they also captured their first SAL championship by defeating the Charleston Alley Cats (now the West Virginia Power) and South Carolina’s Capital City Bombers (now the Greenville Drive) during the postseason. Hickory returned to the playoffs the following year after surpassing 80 victories once again, but lost in the opening round. Currently, Beasley is the third-base coach for the Texas Rangers.

Dave Clark (2004); 85-55

An outfielder who played for seven different major league teams from 1986-98, Clark has carried the success he enjoyed during his playing career into his coaching/managerial career. Also a championship manager for other minor league squads, he led the Crawdads to an 85-55 record and their second SAL title in three seasons in 2004. He has been an assistant coach for the Detroit Tigers since 2013, and is presently their first-base coach.

Jeff Branson (2005-06); 121-150

Known as a super utility player during his nine-year major league career, Branson’s first managerial job was with the Williamsport (Pennsylvania) Crosscutters of the New York-Penn League in 2004 before taking over in Hickory beginning with the 2005 season. Eventually, he worked his way up to the big leagues, serving as an assistant hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2013 before becoming the main hitting coach the following year and remaining in that role through the 2018 campaign.

Gary Green (2007-08); 122-153

The son of former major league pitcher Fred Green, Gary Green also spent time in the major leagues after a standout college career at Oklahoma State University and a stint as the starting shortstop for Team USA in the 1984 Olympics. One of his numerous managerial stops brought him to Hickory for two seasons, with the Crawdads posting a 70-66 record in 2007 before finishing 52-87 the following year.

Hector Ortiz (2009); 63-76

Currently the first-base coach of the Texas Rangers, Ortiz spent a season as the Crawdads’ manager just over a decade ago. Also a former big league catcher with the Kansas City Royals and Rangers in the late 1990s and early 2000s, he stayed on Hickory’s staff as the hitting coach in 2010 before eventually being promoted to the major leagues.

Bill Richardson (2010-12); 228-187

The first Hickory manager to stay for three years, Richardson led the Crawdads to back-to-back playoff appearances during his first two seasons, although the team lost in the first round both times. Also a former high school coach, he remained a minor league manager for various teams through 2015.

Corey Ragsdale (2013-15); 237-179

The winningest manager in franchise history, Ragsdale also had a three-year stint as the Crawdads’ manager. After missing the playoffs during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, he led Hickory to its third SAL championship in 2015. A 2001 draft pick of the New York Mets who played at the Triple-A level for several years, Ragsdale is presently the major league field coordinator for the Texas Rangers.

Steve Mintz (2016); 74-66

Mintz was unable to take the Crawdads back to the playoffs, but he did help run their streak of consecutive winning seasons to seven. A Wilmington native who saw time on major league rosters in 1995 and 1999, he finished his playing career in 2001 and began his coaching career right away. Mintz is currently the manager of the Auckland Tuatara, a team that plays in the Australian Baseball League.

Spike Owen (2017); 64-76

An above-average defensive player, Owen was a major league shortstop for 13 seasons, spending time with the Seattle Mariners, Boston Red Sox, Montreal Expos, New York Yankees and California Angels during the 1980s and 1990s. After Hickory finished 12 games below .500 during his only year as the team’s manager, he served as the manager of the Down East Wood Ducks, a Texas Rangers minor league affiliate based in Kinston, in 2018.

Matt Hagen (2018-19); 153-120

A 2002 draft pick of the Seattle Mariners, Hagen spent over a decade in minor league and independent baseball before becoming a coach. His first managerial job was with the Spokane (Washington) Indians in 2017, but the Texas Rangers promoted him to Hickory in 2018 and he immediately led the Crawdads to a winning season. The team followed that up with an 83-52 mark in 2019, reaching the SAL championship series before losing to the Lexington (Kentucky) Legends. Hagen remains in the Rangers’ organization as a field coordinator.

The Hickory Daily Record sports department can be reached at sports@hickoryrecord.com.

Josh McKinney is the sports editor for the Hickory Daily Record. 

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