13-Year Major Leaguer Mike Benjamin Named Cougars Manager
The Kane County Cougars, in conjunction with the organization’s Major League affiliate Arizona Diamondbacks, have announced the field staff for the 2016 season of Cougars baseball, which kicks off Thursday evening, April 7 against Clinton at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark in Geneva.
Mike Benjamin has been named the 17th manager in franchise history. In his first season with the D-backs organization in 2015, Benjamin served as manager of the AZL D-backs (Rookie League), which compiled a 25-30 record. Prior to that, Benjamin served as an assistant coach for the Arizona State University baseball team (2010-14) and also played collegiate baseball for the Sun Devils in 1986 and 1987.
Benjamin enjoyed a 13-year playing career in the Major Leagues with the Giants (1989-95), Phillies (1996), Red Sox (1997-98) and Pirates (1999-2000, ’02) as an infielder. In 818 games, he hit .229 with 109 doubles, 24 home runs and 169 RBI. Benjamin was a third-round selection by the Giants in the 1987 draft.
Benjamin’s field staff includes pitching coach Rich Sauveur, hitting coach Jonathan Mathews, coach Shawn Roof, athletic trainer Ryne Eubanks and strength and conditioning coordinator Skyler Zarndt.
Sauveur is a first-year coach with the D-backs and appeared in 34 big league games with six teams. Mathews begins his third season in the D-backs organization and was hitting coach at Class-A Advanced Visalia in 2015. Mathews served in the same capacity for the South Bend Silver Hawks of the Midwest League in 2014. Roof, who will begin his first season with the D-backs, has worked in various coaching capacities in Minor League Baseball and at the collegiate level. Roof played for four years at the University of Illinois (2004-07).
Mark Grudzielanek, who served as Cougars manager in 2015, has been named Assistant Hitting Coordinator in the D-backs farm system. Last year’s hitting coach, Vince Harrison, has been promoted to Visalia while pitching coach Doug Bochtler was named bullpen coach for the San Diego Padres earlier this offseason. Athletic trainer Rafael Freitas and strength and conditioning coordinator Sean Light have been promoted to Double-A Mobile in 2016.
Last year, Arizona affiliates were 455-382 (.544), the second-highest winning percentage in the minors behind Houston (.553; 502-405). Four D-backs affiliates advanced to the postseason with two winning league titles (Short-A Hillsboro, Rookie-Advanced Missoula). The D-backs and Houston Astros were the only two organizations featuring two full-season clubs with a .600+ winning percentage, with Visalia (.600) and Kane County (.609), who had the fourth-best winning percentage (.609; 84-54) among all full-season Minor League clubs.
About the Kane County Cougars
The Kane County Cougars, Class-A Major League affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks, have been at the forefront of family-friendly entertainment since 1991. In 2015, the franchise became the first Class-A team in Minor League Baseball history to welcome 11 million fans. More than 130 former Cougars have reached the Major Leagues including Miguel Cabrera, Adrian Gonzalez and Kyle Schwarber. Opening Night at Fifth Third Bank Ballpark will take place on Thursday evening, April 7 against Clinton. Catered event group outings, full-season tickets and ticket packages starting at five games are on sale now. Fans can visit kccougars.com to learn more or follow the Cougars on Twitter (@KCCougars), Facebook or Instagram (kccougars).