A trio of former Midwest League players are joining the Detroit Tigers’ coaching staff: Omar Vizquel, Wally Joyner and Mick Billmeyer.
Vizquel will serve as Detroit’s first base/infield/baserunning coach. Last season he was a roving infield instructor in the Los Angeles Angels’ minor-league system and was a fill-in manager for the Burlington Bees during the Midwest League team’s June 20-23 homestand at Community Field. (The Clinton LumberKings won three out of four against the Vizquel-managed Bees.)
Vizquel retired from playing after the 2012 season; he was an active major-leaguer for 24 years and won 11 Gold Glove Awards during that time. He played for the Midwest League’s Wausau Timbers in 1986, hitting .213 with 4 HR, 28 RBI and 19 SB in 105 games. He has the distinction of being the last Wausau player to play in the major leagues. (The Wausau franchise later moved to Illinois and became the Kane County Cougars in 1991.)
Joyner is Detroit’s new hitting coach. He played 16 seasons in the major leagues and was a Midwest Leaguer in 1983. He played for the Peoria Suns in the first season Peoria was part of the Midwest League; the Suns were renamed the Chiefs the following season. He batted .328 with 3 HR and 33 RBI in 54 games with the Suns.
(Side note: Current Tampa Bay Rays manager Joe Maddon was Peoria’s skipper in 1984, the year after Joyner played for the Suns.)
Billmeyer is Detroit’s new bullpen coach. Primarily a catcher during his minor-league career, he batted .269 with 5 HR and 33 RBI in 77 games with the 1990 Quad City Angels. That QC team won the Midwest League title and was managed by Don Long, who recently was named hitting coach of the Cincinnati Reds.
Longtime major-league catcher Brad Ausmus was named the new skipper of the Tigers earlier this month, replacing Jim Leyland, who retired from managing.