Memphis Coaches are Unsung Cardinal Heroes

Kudos to Danny Sheaffer, Dyar Miller and Tommy Gregg


As the Memphis Express continues to shuttle players up to St. Louis in this topsy-turvy season, we've learned some names that weren't on our radar this spring.  Rodriguez, Seabol, Mahoney, Gall, Schumaker, and Anthony Reyes were well known to Memphis Redbirds fans, but not so much in St. Louis.  Now their names roll off our tongues almost as easily as Pujols, Edmonds, Carpenter, and Rolen.


Now try these names on for size – Danny Sheaffer, Dyar Miller, and Tommy Gregg.  Know em?  I didn't think so, but you should darn grateful to them for their contributions to the success of the 2005 Cardinals.  These three gentlemen comprise the coaching staff of the Memphis Redbirds.  Sheaffer is the head coach, Miller the pitching coach, and Gregg the hitting coach.  Because of their focus on instruction and skill refinement, and because they are such darn good teachers, they have provided some top-notch players to fill in as front-line Cardinals have fallen prey to the disabled list.


Cardinal fans will remember Sheaffer from his days as a back-up catcher to Tom Pagnozzi back in 1996-1997.  He was generally regarded as a fairly light hitting, yet defensively capable catcher who handled his pitchers well.  He batted .220 and .250 respectively in his two years in red, appearing in 155 games.  Sheaffer began his coaching career in the Cubs organization through their Eugene, Oregon affiliate in the Northwest League.  In 2001, he coached the New Haven Ravens, the Cardinals AA affiliate then with the Eastern League.  In 2002 he helmed the Peoria Chiefs and has been with Memphis since 2003.


Miller is the pitching coach, the wizened veteran of the three.  At age 59, he has, as they say, been around the horn a few times.  With a bachelor's degree from Utah State University, Miller was originally signed as a catcher but soon was converted to a pitcher.  In seven seasons among the Orioles, the Angels, the Blue Jays, and the Mets, Miller was used primarily as a relief pitcher.  He pitched 465 innings over 251 games and finished with a respectable ERA of 3.23 and 22 saves.  He is in his fourth year at Memphis after spending four years as a roving pitching coordinator for the Cardinals minor league system.  He has also coached in the White Sox, Tigers, and Indians systems.


Tommy Gregg is the hitting coach.  A product of Wake Forest University, he spent nine seasons between 1987 and 1997 in major league baseball as an outfielder and first baseman.  Over his career, he hit .243 with his best year coming with limited plate appearances in 1988 when he hit .295.  Among his accomplishments is his development of the "Gregg Flat Bat", a hitting instructional device that is essentially a bat with a 9-10 inch notch cut about 2 inches deep into the head of the bat.  The Gregg Flat Bat is used to teach hitting on the proverbial sweet spot. 


That someone has taught the AAA Redbirds well is clear.  It must be frustrating yet strangely satisfying to be a Memphis fan and to suffer through this season interrupted.  The Redbirds began the season leading the Pacific Coast League until St. Louis players began dropping like flies.  Since that time they have struggled to hover around .500. 


As competitive as the coaching staff must be, their priority must remain one of teaching first and foremost.  That and the realization that at any moment a phone call can pluck their most promising talent off the team and up to St. Louis must be a double burden.  Just when it seems that the Redbirds are ready to vie for a PCL title, the phone rings and it's that Jocketty guy again.  The will to win must be diluted with the need to teach and play second fiddle to the Cardinals.  That is a certain recipe for some sleepless nights.


One would be remiss not to honor Sheaffer, Miller, and Gregg, but we should also consider the contributions of all the coaches in the Cardinal organization who have had a hand in successfully teaching the Baby Birds the ropes, then shoving them out of their minor league nests and up to the next level.  Based on the results on display in St. Louis in 2005, they have all done a superb job.  To paraphrase Mike Shannon and the Budweiser commercials, here's a cold frosty one for some real men of genius.


Rex Duncan





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