Longtime Los Angeles Dodgers minor-league coach John Shoemaker will manage the Great Lakes Loons in 2018, after previously serving as the team’s skipper in 2011 and 2012.
Shoemaker has been with the Dodgers organization for over 40 years, starting when he was drafted by the team in 1977. (He played in the Midwest League that year, batting .322 in 76 games with the Clinton Dodgers.) The former infielder played four seasons in the minor leagues, reaching Triple-A before transitioning to the coaching side of the dugout. In 2015, the Dodgers named him their Captain of Player Development. That same year, he received the Mike Coolbaugh Award, which is given annually by Minor League Baseball to an individual who has shown outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game, and skill in mentoring young players on the field. This will be the 25th year he serves as a minor-league manager. (LA Times sports columnist Bill Plaschke wrote a great piece about “Shoe” in 2015 that I highly recommend reading. You can find it here.)
Another former Loons coach returning to Midland for the 2018 season is pitching coach Bobby Cuellar, who previously served in that capacity for Great Lakes in 2016, the year the Loons won the Midwest League championship. The former pitcher has been a coach since 1983, with major-league stints as a pitching coach with the Seattle Mariners (1995-96) and the Montreal Expos (1997-2000), and as a bullpen coach with the Texas Rangers (2001), the Pittsburgh Pirates (2006-07), and the Minnesota Twins (2013-14). His coaching career also includes two years managing in the Midwest League (1986-87 Wausau Timbers). The most notable player he managed in the MWL was Omar Vizquel, who batted .213 with 4 HR, 28 RBI and 19 SB in 105 games with the ’86 Timbers.
Jair Fernandez is returning for his second season as the Loons’ hitting coach and his third year as a coach in the Dodgers organization. As a team last year, Great Lakes posted a .236 batting average (second-worst in the MWL) and had a .313 on-base percentage (tied with Clinton for third-worst in the league). Fernandez played 10 seasons in the minor leagues, including the 2007 season with the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and the 2008 season with the Beloit Snappers. (He batted .271 with 3 HR and 33 RBI in 88 MWL games.)
Seth Conner will serve as an assistant coach for the Loons. He played five years in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system, including parts of the 2013 and 2014 seasons with the Lansing Lugnuts. (He batted .165 with 11 RBI in 40 MWL games.) This is his first year as a coach in the Dodgers organization.
Last year’s Loons skipper, Jeremy Rodriguez, is assigned to manage the Ogden Raptors, the Dodgers’ affiliate in the short-season Pioneer League.