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.
their names roll off our tongues almost as easily as Pujols, Edmonds, Carpenter, and
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
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