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My Town: Whitecaps manager stays, two former players join coaching staff | Sports & Recreation

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My Town: Whitecaps manager stays, two former players join coaching staff
My Town: Whitecaps manager stays, two former players join coaching staff


COMSTOCK PARK, MI – The Detroit Tigers Tuesday announced that Andrew Graham will return to the West Michigan Whitecaps in 2015 for a second season as the team’s manager.

The Tigers also announced that Mark Johnson will be returning to the Whitecaps as pitching coach and Phil Clark will join the organization as Whitecaps hitting coach for the 2015 season.

Graham successfully balanced his primary task of player development with his desire to win in his first season as Whitecaps manager, guiding the 2014 team to an 82-58 record, the most successful team on the field since 2007. He led the team to the Midwest League Eastern Division first-half championship and a berth in the league playoffs for the first time since 2010.

Graham is the first former Whitecaps player to become the team’s manager. A native of Sydney, Australia, Graham was drafted by the Tigers in 2003 as a catcher. He played in 26 games for the Whitecaps in 2004 (.253 batting average) and 32 games in 2005 (.190 batting average) before advancing to Class A-Advanced Lakeland, Class AA Erie and finally Class AAA Toledo in 2007. In 2009 and 2010, Graham served as a coach for the rookie Gulf Coast League Tigers, and in 2011, at the age of 29, he earned his first managerial assignment with the short-season Class A Connecticut Tigers. He spent three years there, compiling a 107-117, before being promoted to West Michigan in 2014.

Whitecaps Vice President of Baseball Operations Jim Jarecki said he looks forward to having Graham return to West Michigan as a manager.

“Andrew Graham provides great leadership and a respectful passion for the game,” said Jarecki. “He has a positive presence both on and off the field and that makes the players strive for improvement every game, which is so important at this level. Andrew continues to make great strides as a manager. The Whitecaps were energized by his presence and it showed on the field with the run to the playoffs. Getting the word that Andrew is coming back to West Michigan in 2015 is great for the fans and the players.”

Johnson is making his return to West Michigan after spending the last two seasons with the organization’s short-season Class A Connecticut Tigers. Johnson served as long-time pitching coach for the Whitecaps, from 2008 to 2012, and Jarecki says he’s happy to have him back.

“Mark Johnson is one of the best at handling a young pitching staff and looking forward to having him return to the Whitecaps after two seasons in Connecticut,” Jarecki said.

Johnson was a first round pick by the Houston Astros in the 1996 draft and pitched nine seasons with the Astros, Marlins, Yankees, Tigers, Brewers and Dodgers organizations. He spent part of the 2000 season in the Major Leagues with the Tigers.

Clark, a former first-round pick by the Tigers in 1986, played for parts of five seasons in the Major Leagues. He debuted with the Tigers in 1992, played three seasons with the San Diego Padres and finished with the Boston Red Sox in 1996. He played the next four seasons in Japan. Clark then spent eight seasons as a hitting coach in the Indians organization, most recently with the Class AAA Columbus Clippers (2012-2013) and Short-Season Class A Mahoning Valley Scrappers (2014).

“Phil has some great experience from all levels of the Minors and he knows what it takes to make it to the Majors,” Jarecki said. “The Whitecaps position players have a lot to look forward to with him leading in their development.”

The Whitecaps will open the 2015 season at home on Thursday, April 9 at 6:35 p.m. against the Dayton Dragons. Season and group tickets are on sale now; individual game tickets will go on sale in the early spring. Please visit www.whitecapsbaseball.com for more information.