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Vancouver Canadians Name Coaching Staff

Once again the Blue Jays have pipped me to the post and named their minor league coaching staffs before I had the chance to make a fool of myself with any sort of incorrect predictions. And, in this case, that would have not been a problem as two new faces will be in Vancouver come June.

Taking over the reigns as skipper is sixth year coach John Schneider. Like Clayton McCullough, John is an ex-catcher (the minor league system is awash with them) and is far younger than me. Which will be awesome the first time he gently corrects me after a blatantly stupid question.

John was a 13th round selection of the Jays in the 2002 draft out of the University of Delaware. He spent six seasons in Toronto’s minor league system before transitioning to managing upon his retirement in 2008. The last two seasons were spent with the complex team in the Gulf Coast League. Although he would have had experience with most players who move through Vancouver, whether by managing them directly or at extended spring training, coaching the C’s full time will still be a bit of a transition as the average age of the Northwest League is approximately one and a half years older than the GCL. Basically the difference between managing a team primarily of high school draftees versus ex-college players.

He will also have first hand experience with many of the young studs drafted/signed recently by Jays, which will be interesting to get his opinion on.

Taking over the reigns from Big Jim Czajkowski on the pitching side of things will be former first round pick and ex-Tampa Yankees pitching coach Jeff Ware.

Drafted by the Jays 35th overall in 1991, Ware was a bit of a bust, only making eighteen appearances with the big club.

After his major league career was over Ware did spend five seasons pitching for various independent league teams before retiring in 2002. With his experience as a minor leaguer, he missed a full season due to injury, as well as his independent career, he should bring quite a bit to the table.

He’ll have to hit the ground running, as there will (hopefully) be some live arms passing through the Nat in 2014.

Rounding out the coaching staff will be our only returnee, as Dave Pano will complete his fourth tour of duty in Vancouver. I admit, I didn’t speak to Dave as much as the other two coaches last year, but that was more down to my opinion on the quality of the C’s hitters the first half of the year. With any luck, a few more top end prospects (please let it be Franklin Barreto) could see some time in Vancouver next year.

Of course, with the new, means we have to wish best of the luck to the old. Big Jim Czajkowski makes a rather large leap to double-A New Hampshire. Usually I wouldn’t talk about this a promotion per se, as I get the sense that minor league coaches are shuffled around as needed, but the fact that Czajkowski is being trusted with overseeing what is a massive season for Jays number one prospect Aaron Sanchez has to be seen as a huge vote of confidence from the organization.

Selfishly, I’ll miss my post game chats with Jim. Once I’d proved myself to him, he was always open, honest, and engaging. Providing a ton of insight, not only, on current C’s pitchers but also those that had passed through and were on their way.

I recently spoke to C’s alum Shane Dawson and he remarked on Czajkowski’s willingness to let players be themselves. Where other pitching coaches attempted to reign in Dawson’s intensity, Jim was happy to let that ride, provided that his charges stuck to the gameplan and made their pitches.

I doubt his players took that laid back approach for granted though. I mean, the man is 6’4″ 250ish. I remember him giving Chuck Ghysels an ear-full one night as the C’s closer nibbled rather than attacked. He’ll do well in New Hampshire.

Finally, after a rather successful two Northwest League titles in two season, Clayton McCullough takes on a different role for 2014, serving as the minor league co-ordinator of instruction.

Admittedly, I’m short of knowledge on the job specifications of minor league co-ordinator of instruction, but I have no doubt that Clayton will be a success. You can say what you want about his in-game management, and two titles don’t lie, but what continually impressed me was the time Clayton spent teaching.

I watched a couple of pre-game warmups and it was a constant learning experience. Players were also regularly taken aside for in-game tutorials.

I only hope his new role allows for a bit of roving instruction. I have a feeling that Clayton was not given a new team due to his new family and a desire to stay closer to his Florida home, but that shouldn’t stop him from the odd trip to the various affiliates.

I mean, what could be better than the Nat in early September?

Clayton celebrates with Dawel Lugo (image courtesy of Charlie Caskey)

Clayton celebrates with Dawel Lugo (image courtesy of Charlie Caskey)

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