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 Friday is the winner of the George Kissell Award for excellence in player development across the Cardinals organization.
That selection for the 2015 year is Palm Beach Cardinals pitching coach Randy Niemann.
Niemann spent 2015 as the pitching coach with the A-Advanced Cardinals after serving his first two seasons with the organization as pitching coach for Double-A Springfield. Niemann’s 2013 staff led the Texas League in strikeouts.
“Randy Niemann was named the George Kissell Award winner for the Cardinals in the 2015 season,” said Cardinals Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque. “Randy is well respected for his work in player development and continues to make an impact with the pitchers he has mentored.”
In the Florida State League in 2015, Niemann guided a number of the Cardinals’ top pitching prospects including Alex Reyes, Luke Weaver, Corey Littrell, Trey Nielsen and Daniel Poncedeleon. The latter four, excepting the suspended Reyes, are currently non-roster invitees in Major League spring training camp.
In aggregate, Niemann’s Palm Beach staff posted the league-low 2.65 ERA last season, which included an FSL-best 21 shutouts. Not surprisingly, they also issued the second-fewest walks and gave up the fewest home runs in the league.
To help put that minuscule ERA into perspective, despite the Florida State League being the home of large ballparks and pitching-heavy teams, the 2015 Palm Beach mark is the lowest team ERA in the FSL since at least 2005 and likely much longer.
(In the photo above, Niemann is advising 2015 Minor League Gold Glove Award-winning catcher Carson Kelly.)
Prior to coaching with the Cardinals, Niemann was the bullpen coach for the 2012 Boston Red Sox before a late season promotion to pitching coach. The 59-year-old spent 24 years in the New York Mets organization before joining the Red Sox, most recently as the pitching rehabilitation coordinator in 2011.
Niemann’s Major League playing career spanned eight seasons from 1979-87, with the Astros, Pirates, White Sox, Twins and the 1986 World Champion New York Mets. He compiled a career 7-8 record and 4.64 ERA in 122 appearances totaling 200 innings.
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|
Through 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 2015, Randy Niemann.
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 was not eligible in the fan voting for Modern Era players to the Cardinals Hall of Fame, he was chosen as the “owner’s selection” and entered the Hall in 2015. For 2016, you can vote for a number of the hitters who were once among Kissell’s students at cardinals.com/hof
George Kissell Award winners
|2015||Randy Niemann||Palm Beach (A-Adv) pitching coach|
|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|
Bold = Currently in the organization
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