Coaches Kenny Hook and Michael Wuertz Return to Rocket City Trash Pandas
MADISON — The Rocket City Trash Pandas, in conjunction with the Los Angeles Angels, today announced the on-court coaching staff for the 2022 season, led by new manager Andy Schatzley.
“I think the Trash Pandas are the best-run affiliate in baseball, and I’m honored and beyond excited to get there and get started,” Schatzley said.
Returning for their second season with the Trash Pandas, batting coach Kenny Hook and pitching coach Michael Wuertz. Coach Dann Bilardello, strength and conditioning coach Henry Aleck and athletic trainer Will Whitehead will make their Rocket City debuts with Schatzley.
“Kenny, Michael and I have worked together in Spring Training and Instruction Leagues and I love them,” Schatzley said. “And then when you throw Dann into that mix, it makes it even better for us as a group.”
The second coach in Trash Pandas history, Schatzley is entering his third season with the Angels organization after guiding High-A Tri-City in 2021. In his role with the Dust Devils, Schatzley has coached future Trash Pandas standouts such as infielder Brendon Davis, closer to Kolton. Ingram, as well as starters Cristopher Molina, Ryan Smith and Davis Daniel. In 2020, Schatzley was named to manage the Rookie-Level Orem Owlz in his first professional season before the cancellation of the minor league season.
Prior to joining the Angels, Schatzley spent eight seasons as an assistant coach at Harding University in Searcy, Arkansas from 2011-19. In that role, he acted as associate head coach and recruiting coordinator while his field titles included batting coach, field coach, and third base coach. In 2019, he helped guide the Bisons to a 34-21 record, the best record of his tenure at Harding.
In 2013, he was the head coach of the Outer Banks Daredevils of the Coastal Plain League, a wooden batting summer league for college players. He was also the head coach of the El Dorado Broncos of the Jayhawk League from 2009 to 2010.
Schatzley, 37, came to Harding from Emporia State University in Emporia, Kansas, where he worked as an assistant in 2011. During the 2009-10 seasons, he served as a graduate assistant at the University Christian from Lubbock. He played collegiately at Pratt Community College (2004-06) in Pratt, Kansas and Lyon College (2006-08) in Batesville, Arkansas. He earned a master’s degree from Lubbock Christian University in Organizational Leadership in 2010.
Batting coach Kenny Hook is back in 2022 after leading a powerful Rocket City offense in 2021 that threw a top-152 home run Double-A South, with six hitting double digits. Hook is entering his third season with the Angels after spending the previous six in the Texas Rangers system, including a stint as Rookie-Level Spokane manager. Hook, 46, played independently for five seasons from 1997 to 2002.
Pitching coach Michael Wuertz, 43, also returns to Rocket City in 2022 after leading a pitching team that finished second in the Double-A South with 1,112 strikeouts in 2021. Under Wuertz, 10 Former Trash Pandas pitchers rose through the ranks and made their MLB debut for the Angels last season. Prior to joining Rocket City in 2021, Wuertz spent three of the previous four seasons playing with High-A Inland Empire, where he was scheduled to be pitching coach in 2020. He spent the 2018 season with Rookie-Level Orem.
As a player, he pitched for eight seasons between the Chicago Cubs (2004-08) and Oakland A’s (2009-11), posting a 21-11 record and 11 saves with 444 strikeouts in 414 ,1 career innings. In 2009, he led all American League relievers with a career-high 102 strikeouts, becoming the third A-rated reliever after Hall of Famers Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley to 100 in one season.
Coach Dann Bilardello, 62, brings a wealth of playing and coaching experience to his first season with the Angels organization. Playing primarily as a catcher from 1978 to 1994, Bilardello hit .204 with 18 home runs, 91 RBIs and 79 runs scored in 382 MLB games in eight seasons between the Cincinnati Reds (1983-85), Montreal Expos ( 1986), Pittsburgh Pirates (1989-90) and San Diego Padres (1991-92). During his career, Bilardello was a teammate of Hall of Famers Johnny Bench, Andre Dawson and Tony Gwynn. He was also a first-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1978.
Following his playing career, Bilardello won a Pioneer League championship on his debut as manager of the Great Falls Dodgers in 2002. He remained in the Dodgers system from 2002 to 2004 before spending a season in the Red Sox organization in 2005. From 2006 to 2009, he was a minor league catch instructor in the Cardinals organization before returning to the dugout in 2010. He remained in the Cardinals system through 2020, managing Rookie-Level Batavia (2010-12), Low-A Peoria (2013), High-A Palm Beach (2014, 2017-20) and Double-A Springfield (2015-16). Bilardello won a Florida State League championship for Palm Beach in 2017.
Making the jump to Rocket City from Tri-City with Schatzley is strength and conditioning coach Henry Aleck. He previously spent time in the Philadelphia Phillies organization with High-A Lakewood in 2018. Prior to that, he worked at the University of Texas at Austin as a strength and conditioning coach in the strength and conditioning department. Longhorns athletics. He received his Masters in Applied Exercise Science from Concordia University and an undergraduate degree from Texas Christian University.
Athletic coach Will Whitehead is heading to the Trash Pandas after spending 2021 with High-A Tri-City in his first season with the Angels organization. He previously spent 11 years in the Colorado Rockies system. Prior to beginning his professional baseball career, Whitehead worked as an athletic trainer for the Winter X Games and the Texas Tech University baseball team. He graduated from Texas Tech University Heath Sciences Center with a master’s degree in athletic training after earning his undergraduate degree from Stephen F. Austin State University.
The Trash Pandas coaching staff will be rounded out by match planning strategist Ryan Santos and video assistant Andrew Hansford.
The Trash Pandas’ 2022 season is unaffected by the current MLB lockdown. The season begins Friday April 8 in Birmingham ahead of the home opener at Toyota Field on Tuesday April 12 against Pensacola.