Jared Sandberg, who was the Most Valuable Player of the Appalachian League in 1997 as an infielder for the Princeton Rays, will be returning to Princeton this coming summer as manager of the P-Rays. This was made known on Friday, December 19, through an announcement issued by P-Rays' General Manager Jim Holland.
Joining Sandberg on the team's four-man coaching staff will be pitching coach Marty DeMerritt and hitting coach Rafael Deleon along with another former P-Rays' All-Star from the 2000 Appy League season, Dan DeMent, as infield coach. This coming season will be DeMerritt's third straight summer in Princeton and Deleon's fourth consecutive season. The 2009 season will be the first in a coaching capacity for DeMent. Also, Andrew Hauser was named as the team's athletic trainer.
Although this will be Sandberg's first season as a manager in the professional ranks, it will be his second in coaching as he filled the role of hitting instructor last year at Tampa Bay's Hudson Valley (NY) affiliate.
He had a 12-year professional playing career, including three major league seasons (2001-2003), all spent with Tampa Bay. The 30-year old native of Olympia, WA was drafted by the Rays in the 16th round of the 1996 draft, and following his debut summer in the Gulf Coast League, proceeded in 1997 here to feast on Appalachian League pitching enroute to helping spark the P-Rays to a 39-30 record. He led the league in runs batted in with 68 and complimented that with .302 batting average to go along with 17 homers, 61 runs scored, 81 hits, 157 total bases, and a .586 slugging percentage in 67 games. His most significant major league season came as a member of the 2002 Tampa Bay Rays, primarily as a third baseman, when he smashed 18 homers and drove home 54 runners in 102 games. He finished his playing career by playing from 2005-2007 in the Red Sox, Astros, Indians, and Royals organizations. He and his wife Julie have a two-year old son Evan. He is the nephew of Baseball Hall of Famer Ryne Sandberg.
"I know our fans always looked at Jared as a leader when he played here and he has a great baseball background so I feel confident this will be a good step for him as he moves deeper into the coaching side of the game," said Holland.
2009 will mark the ninth season in the Tampa Bay organization for Demerritt. Prior to his arrival in Princeton in 2007, his previous seasons for Tampa Bay were spent as a pitching coach at Bakersfield (2001-2003), Charleston, SC (2004), and Visalia (2005-2006). This will be his 33rd year in professional baseball and his 25th as either a manager or coach. He pitched eight minor league seasons in the Cardinals, Brewers, and Astros organizations. Prior to Tampa Bay, he tutored pitchers in the Pirates, Cubs, Giants, and Marlins organizations.
The 55-year old native of San Francisco, CA was a major league pitching coach with the Giants in both 1987 and 1989 and also with the Cubs in 1999. Both Giants' squads qualified for postseason play with the 1989 team playing in the World Series versus the Oakland Athletic in what has become commonly known as "the Earthquake Series."
"Marty has really helped launch the careers of a lot of good young pitchers here over the past two seasons. Being around someone with his background this early in their careers has probably helped accelerate the development of several of Tampa Bay's young pitching prospects that have come through here," commented Holland.
Deleon, who will turn 35 on Christmas Day, returns as hitting coach at Princeton for the fourth straight season. He played professionally for three seasons as a member of the Tigers, A's, and Cubs in the Dominican Summer League from 1986-1988. Deleon served as a manager,coach, and scout with Tampa Bay's Dominican Republic operations between 1996-2001.
He previously also worked as a coach for the Dominican Summer League entries of the Yankees (1993-1995) and the Mets (1992) and also served as a scout in the Dominican Republic for the Montreal Expos from 1990-1991.
"Sweet Pea (Deleon)" has always been a big help with the transition our Latin players have to make and he always will go out of his way to work even longer than normal with the hitters," said Holland. DeMent, 30, joins the coaching ranks after spending 2008 out of baseball.
A scrappy middle infielder as a player, DeMent donned the Princeton colors shortly after being signed as a free agent on June 19, 2000. His professional debut season of 2000 was a successful one, hitting .301 62-for-206) for the P-Rays in 60 games while also clubbing seven homers and 39 RBI to go along with 48 runs scored. Enroute to his selection to the 2000 Appalachian League All-Star team, he saw time at three infield positions (2B, 3B, & SS) for the P-Rays.He played in the Tampa Bay organization through the conclusion of the 2004 season before playing his final three seasons (2005-2007) in the Washington Nationals' organization.
During those three seasons, he bounced between the Nationals' AA and AAA teams at Harrisburg, PA, where he played for former Princeton Reds' manager John Stearns, and New Orleans, LA. His best minor league season was in 2005 when he logged a .324 batting average along with 14 homers and 52 RBI in 127 games.
His final career totals saw him hit .268 in 864 professional games. DeMent and his wife Krista currently make their home in Birmingham, AL and are parents of two young daughters: McNally,4, and Fallon, 16 months.
"One thing about Dan DeMent and that was he always gave 110 percent as a player when he was here in 2000 and got the most out of his abilities every time he stepped on the field. That is certainly the type of work ethic I predict he will be showing our young rookies here," said Holland.
Hauser, who will turn 24 years old in about two weeks, will be spending his first year in the Rays organization after spending last season as the strength and conditioning coach of the Clearwater (FL) Thrashers, a Philadelphia Phillies affiliate that plays in the Class-A Florida State League. He received his degree in Athletic Training from the University of Kansas and currently resides in Farmington, NM.
The P-Rays are tentatively scheduled to arrive in Princeton on June 19, 2009 with the 2009 season opener to follow on June 23 at home in a 7:00 p.m. game versus the Burlington Royals.