By Jack Etkin
The Rockies hired John Pierson, an experienced minor league instructor, to be their development supervisor at short season Class A Boise and filled two coordinator roles that had been vacant. Pierson, 64, spent the past two seasons at the Braves’ minor league hitting coordinator after 12 seasons with the Marlins and eight seasons prior to that with the Cubs’ organization. Pierson spent most of his time with the Marlins as their field coordinator. He was the interim major league hitting coach for Miami in the second half of the 2013 season. Pierson was a minor league hitting coach in the Cubs’ organization for three seasons, followed by eight as the organization’s minor league hitting coordinator.
“He’s got a wealth of experience, particularly on the hitting side,” player development director Zach Wilson said. “But organizationally and all of the things that he’s done in the game, he just fits perfectly into that supervisor role, particularly with some of the young coaches that we have.”
Former infielder Cesar Galvez, 26, will be a coach at Boise after playing for seven seasons (2010-2016) the Rockies’ organization. In addition, Jake Opitz, who assisted the hitting coach at Double-A Hartford last year in his first season in the Rockies’ organization, will be the hitting coach at Rookie level Grand Junction. So Opitz, 31, who graduated from Heritage High School in 2004, will be around Pierson in extended spring training before the short-season teams begin play.
And Wilson said the Grand Junction manager, a role that remains to be filled, could be another young staff member.
Pierson replaces Anthony Sanders, who is the outfield and baserunning coordinator after spending two seasons as Boise’s development supervisor and three as the manager at Grand Junction. The Rockies cut back on some of their coordinator positions when they instituted development supervisors for the 2013 season. Their last outfield and baserunning coordinator was Trenidad Hubbard in 2012.
Wilson said a reason Sanders was promoted to coordinator because the Rockies minor leaguers can improve in his areas of emphasis.
“And quite honestly, the ultimate reason is we had the right guy staring us in the face to really take on this challenge,” Wilson said, “and that was Anthony. His knowledge behind what he teaches and the way he teaches is tremendous. He’s been serving the last couple years as basically the outfield coordinator at spring training.”
The Rockies did not have a minor league hitting coordinator last year after Duane Espy, who held that role in 2015 and 2016, become the major league hitting coach. Darin Everson, who has been a Double-A hitting coach and manager for the Rockies and last year was the Triple-A Albuquerque hitting coach, is now the hitting and bunting coordinator, a position that was intentionally left vacant last year.
“I knew that we had several people internally that could fill that role eventually,” Wilson said. “We just waited a year to do it, that’s all. The guys that were in that group, I could have made any of them the hitting coordinator and slept very well at night.”
Everson’s title is hitting and bunting coordinator, which sounds a bit strange but has a definite purpose. Wilson said some organizations have an outfield-bunting coordinator or an outfielder-baserunning-bunting coordinator.
“That was just to create clarity both externally and internally,” Wilson said. “For me, the hitting guy should also be the bunting guy. He’s going to be in charge of anything having to do with having a bat in your hand.”
Two members of the 2017 minor league staff are not returning. Fred Nelson, 70, retired. He spent five years in the Rockies’ organization as a development supervisor, the final three at Boise. High Class A Lancaster hitting coach Derrick May left the organization after one season. May came from the Cardinals’ organization where he was an assistant hitting coach at the major league level in 2015 and before that spent five seasons as the minor league hitting coordinator.
“He had some other things that he wanted to do,” Wilson said, “and we kind of talked through it and we kind of just decided to part ways. It certainly wasn’t a firing. The fit just wasn’t there in terms of some of the things he wanted to do.”