Turco tops in Cardinals player development

Gulf Coast League manager Steve Turco takes the George Kissell Award for excellence in player development in the St. Louis Cardinals organization. Farm director John Vuch discusses the award and its winner.

Steve Turco, manager of the rookie league Gulf Coast League Cardinals, is the 2011 winner of the George Kissell Award for excellence in player development across the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

Turco, 53, first joined the Cardinals back in 1978 as an infielder and spent 30 of the 34 years since in the organization. The Florida State University graduate retired as a player in 1984 and began his coaching career the next season. He logged three seasons as a coach, nine years scouting and 11 seasons managing.

The recognition was announced by farm director John Vuch at the Cardinals annual minor league spring training orientation meeting held Friday, March 9 in Jupiter, Florida.

Kissell essentially wrote the book that defines "The Cardinal Way" as a player, manager and teaching leader of the organization from 1940 until he passed away in the fall of 2008 due to injuries suffered in an automobile accident.

The winner was chosen through voting by the Cardinals minor league field staff, with the peer recognition making it all the more meaningful. That change in the selection process was made in 2008.

"When the organization has the type of season like 2011, there are always plenty of deserving candidates for an award like this, but it's appropriate that somebody like "Turc" was the one recognized by his peers for the job he did last season," Vuch said.

"It's only fitting that Steve was picked by our staff to receive the award that bears George's name, as he's always lived up to the qualities that George Kissell stood for."

Turco teaching with his "White" extended spring training squad, May 2011.

"His managerial style always emphasizes teaching, even if it comes at the expense of winning a particular game," Vuch noted. "As an organization, that emphasis on development is our priority, and our goals are always designed around developing success at the major league level."

The last three seasons, as manager of the GCL Cardinals, Turco has guided the transition of newly-signed players and Latin Americans arriving in the US for the first time. After logging the best record in GCL Cardinals history in 2010, Turco's 2011 club did it again, but fell just short of the post-season.

"Steve had a group of extremely young players and it was fun to watch the improvements they made over the course of the summer thanks in large part to his leadership," Vuch observed. "The fact that his team also came within a half-game of making the playoffs, and that they posted the best record by our GCL club since we rejoined the league five years ago made it even more impressive."

The Cardinals recognized Kissell's importance long before his untimely passing, first establishing the Award in 1995 to recognize a member of the organizational staff for excellence in player development. Not surprisingly, Kissell himself received the first Award. The 2010 winner was then-Johnson City skipper Mike Shildt, who will be leading Double-A Springfield in 2012.

Vuch is delighted about this year's choice.

"On a personal level, it was gratifying for me to see somebody who I've respected for years receive this award," the farm director said. "'Turc' was extremely close with George and I know George was very fond of Steve. Much like Steve has had such a positive influence on our young players, George was a mentor and great example for Steve as he developed as a player and later as a coach and manager."

Congratulations to the George Kissell Award winner for 2011, Steve Turco.

George Kissell Award winners

2011 Steve Turco Gulf Coast League (SS-R) manager
2010 Mike Shildt Johnson City (SS-R) manager
2009 Chris Maloney Memphis (AAA) Manager
2008 Mark DeJohn Batavia (SS-A) Manager
2007 Dan Radison Minor League Hitting Instructor
2006 Chris Maloney Springfield (AA) Manager
2005 Ron "Pop" Warner Palm Beach (A-Adv) Manager
2004 Blaise Ilsley Tennessee (AA) Pitching Coach
2003 Mark DeJohn Tennessee (AA) Manager
2002 Danny Sheaffer Peoria (A) Manager
2001 Dyar Miller Memphis (AAA) Pitching Coach
2000 Gaylen Pitts Memphis (AAA) Manager
1999 Mark Riggins Minor League Pitching Coordinator
1998 Joe Pettini Minor League Field Coordinator
1997 Mark O'Neal Memphis (AAA) Athletic Trainer
1996 Bo Milliken Minor League Pitching Instructor
1995 George Kissell Senior Field Coordinator

Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

© 2012 stlcardinals.scout.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Cardinal Nation Top Stories