Derrick May Tops in Cards Player Development

Hitting coordinator Derrick May received the George Kissell Award for excellence in player development in the St. Louis Cardinals organization.

Every March, the St. Louis Cardinals make a series of special announcements and award presentations at the organization’s minor league spring training orientation meeting as camp opens in Jupiter, Florida.

One piece of very important recognition that remained secret until Thursday is the winner of the George Kissell Award for excellence in player development across the Cardinals organization.

That selection for 2014 is minor league hitting coordinator Derrick May.

May, the son of Major Leaguer Dave May, was bred to hit. The first-round draft pick and Major League outfielder for 10 seasons logged his best years with the Chicago Cubs in the early 1990s. May also played for Milwaukee, Houston, Philadelphia, Montreal and Baltimore before concluding his playing career with three seasons in Japan.

In 2014, May completed his fourth year as the minor league hitting coordinator for the Cardinals minor league system. Prior to taking on his organization-wide role, the 46-year-old worked as the hitting coach at Double-A Springfield for four seasons and at high-A Palm Beach the two seasons prior.

During the last decade, he has tutored virtually every young hitter to don the Cardinals uniform, from Colby Rasmus to Matt Adams to Oscar Taveras to Magneuris Sierra and hundreds in between.

Regarding his coaching technique, May said, "I can teach (the players) all the mechanical things, but there are certain things they have to do for themselves. The one thing they can control is their emotions and their approach to the game and each at bat.

"I want them to understand that the preparation for the game, and evaluating after the game, are the keys to success. Understand the moment and learn from it, and that'll make you a better player."

Just to demonstrate how consistent May’s approach has been, the above quote was not secured recently. In fact, just the opposite. It was published here at The Cardinal Nation early in his very first season in the system, in 2005.

The George Kissell Award

The Kissell Award is the top recognition any member of the player development organization could receive and remains an annual reminder of the importance of George Kissell to generations of Cardinals.

the late George Kissell

Though his teaching, Kissell essentially wrote the book that was later labeled “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 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 winner is chosen through voting by the Cardinals minor league field staff, with the peer recognition making it all the more meaningful.

Congratulations to the George Kissell Award winner for 2014, Derrick May.

More about George

Among Kissell’s many other honors is a plaque outside the Cardinals Jupiter clubhouse highlighting his numerous accomplishments as well as the naming of the team’s minor league quad in his honor.

The inscription on the plaque says it all.

“Every player in the Cardinal organization since 1940 has had contact with George Kissell and they all have been better for it. One of the most respected people in the game of baseball at any level, George has worked in all areas of the Cardinals’ baseball operations. He was a scout, minor league manager, major league coach, and, as senior field coordinator for player development, he has coordinated the team’s minor league affiliates.

“Well known for his emphasis on fundamentals, George taught several generations of Redbirds how to play baseball. In recognition of his teaching excellence and personal example, the George Kissell Award is presented annually to the Cardinals outstanding player development staff person.

“George Kissell is one of the true foundations of the Cardinals tradition.”

Though Kissell is not eligible in the fan voting for Modern Era players to the Cardinals Hall of Fame, he still could be chosen as the “owner’s selection.” You can, however, vote for a number of the hitters who were once among Kissell’s students at cardinals.com/hof

George Kissell Award winners

2014 Derrick May Minor league hitting coordinator
2013 Oliver Marmol State College (SS-A) manager
2012 Bryan Eversgerd Springfield (AA) pitching coach
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

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: In a two-part interview of over 30 minutes duration, May discussed the progress made by several dozen hitters last season.
Derrick May on Cardinals Young Hitting Prospects
Derrick May on Cardinals AAA/AA Hitting Prospects

Related free article: Cardinals Shuffle Minor League Staffs in 2015

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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.

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