The St. Louis Cardinals have completed their full season coaching staffs with the announcement of the four new “fourth coaches” who will join Memphis, Springfield, Palm Beach and Peoria in the second year of the program.
These individuals travel with their team, assisting with batting practice, drills and other pre-game work. For the contests, they change into street clothes and move into the stands, becoming a scout. The idea is to give them exposure to both functions – player development and scouting.
The four, Brian Pruitt, Donnie Ecker, David Compton and Vance Albitz, are currently going through an intensive training class in Jupiter, Florida under the tutelage of front office personnel with decades of experience in player evaluation. They include Director of Player Personnel Matt Slater, Assistant General Manager Mike Girsch, Scouting Director Chris Correa and Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque.
Two of the Cardinals new coach/scouts are successful prep head coaches taking on a new challenge, while the other two are still in the early stages of transitioning from playing to this next phase of their careers in baseball.
Pruitt, the ex-coach of DeLand High School in Florida, will join manager Joe Kruzel and his coaches at Class-A Peoria. Ecker, a former Los Altos, California high school baseball coach, will work with manager Oliver Marmol and the staff at A-Advanced Palm Beach. I first wrote about their backgrounds for members of The Cardinal Nation in early January.
Compton to SpringfieldCompton will become a part of the coaching crew under new manager Dann Bilardello at Double-A Springfield. The 25-year-old finished his three-school, four-year collegiate playing career at Cal State Los Angeles in 2011-12. There he played with his twin brother Brian and 2011 Cardinals draftee Jonathan Keener.
Compton signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a non-drafted free agent in April 2013. Shortly after the Arizona League got underway that season, the outfielder was released after having appeared in just four games. Compton returned to Cal State LA to complete his studies and received his BA in Business Administration in June 2014 while serving as an associate scout for the Minnesota Twins in Southern California.
Albitz returns to RedbirdsThe final fourth coach is a familiar name to Cardinals minor league watchers. Albitz is re-joining the Triple-A Memphis Redbirds as a part of the staff of new skipper Mike Shildt. As a utility infielder, Albitz appeared at four levels of the Cardinals system – from the New York-Penn League to the Pacific Coast League – from 2011-14.
Originally acquired from Lincoln of the independent American Association late in the 2011 season, Albitz reached Memphis for a total of 41 games in 2012 and 2013. Known as an intelligent player willing to do anything for his team, he even twice served as an emergency pitcher for Shildt’s Springfield club in 2013.
Albitz was released by the Cardinals during extended spring training camp last April, but quickly hooked on with the Los Angeles Angels. The 27-year-old again split his time between Double-A and Triple-A, including logging a career-best batting mark of .325 in 60 games with Salt Lake City.
The Californian became a free agent following the season and was looking to continue playing in 2015 – until the Cardinals made him an offer in December that he could not refuse – to realize a major step toward his dream of making a long-term career in baseball.
Albitz is looking forward to returning to Memphis next month, albeit in a new role.
“It is going to be very, very exciting, because number one, I love the city of Memphis, two, because I have a great relationship with Shildt and three, because I love baseball,” Albitz explained. “I am going to be around the game every day and contribute to the Cardinals organization in a way that I haven’t done in the past.”
Like his three peers, Albitz is anxious to get started.
“Whatever way I can help, I am definitely on board for, whether that is scouting, throwing BP, hitting ground balls – anything,” he concluded.
Gloves 4 Troops updateAlbitz is also known for his off-season charitable endeavor, Gloves 4 Troops. In 2012, Albitz learned that gloves and baseballs are needed for recreation purposes by our troops far away from home and decided to do something about it.
Since then, with the backing of hundreds of supporters, he has sent over 3,200 gloves along with tens of thousands of baseballs to service personnel around the world. I am among the proud financial supporters of Gloves 4 Troops.
You can donate to Gloves 4 Troops, as well. Just click here to learn how you can help. The efforts will resume in earnest when Albitz returns home in September.
Bonus for The Cardinal Nation members: In the following audio interview, Albitz goes into more details about his last year, including his release from the Cardinals, stint with the Angels, decision to retire and become a coach/scout, new training and of course, a Gloves 4 Troops update!
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