The new coaching staff for the 2007 season was announced Monday in a press conference at Fifth third Ballpark. Tom Brookens is entering his third year coaching for the Tiger's organization. He spent 2005-2006 managing short season A Oneonta Tigers, leading the Tigers to a 48-27 record and Stedler Division championship in 2005, and a 40-34 record and second place in the division in 2006. Brookens will be joined by pitching coach Ray Burris and hitting coach Benny Distefano who both entered the Tiger's organization in 2006.
Ray Burris has had a great deal of experience having had his own 15 season major league career before becoming a minor league pitching coach in 1988, and working as bullpen coach for 2 years (1990-1991) for the Milwaukee Brewers. He has played many roles for the Milwaukee, the Texas Rangers, and the St. Louis Cardinals including the front office, roving instructor, and special projects. Burris joined the Tigers' organization in 2006 as pitching coach in Oneonta under Tom Brookens.
Benny Distefano made his coaching debut in 2006 with the Gulf Coast League. Distefano(career .228 AVE in 240 games) spent 5 seasons as a major leaguer with the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Houston Astros.
Jay Pierson will return for his fourth season with the Tigers and second season at West Michigan as the Athletic trainer. The new strength and conditioning coach is yet to be named.
Tom Brookens has a couple advantages in coming to West Michigan. He has already met, and managed, most of the young players that will wear a Whitecaps uniform in 2007, and he spent some time here in 2006.
"Tom spent some time with us here last season, and got to understand the situation here and we got a chance to know him," commented Lew Chamberlin with a smile as he introduced the new skipper. "I think you are going to love having Tom Brookens as our Manager."
A little banter was shared between Chamberlin and Brookens showing the camaraderie between the two. Chamberlin eyed the four championship trophies (1996, 1998, 2004 and 2006) on display and commented "now we aren't ‘expecting' great things this year….." and, to an appreciative audience, Brookens playfully tugged at his collar and said with a twinkle in his eye "it is getting a little warm in here."
Brookens commented on coaching in general and on his philosophy as a coach.
On Managing in general:
"I don't think anyone steps into the role of a manager and is a great manager—or even a good manager. It's a learning experience. I was fortunate to be invited up here and fill in when Tony (Jaramillo) resigned as coach. I got to work with Wally. I've got some big shoes to fill because Wally (Matt Walbeck) was a tremendous manager. I personally learned quite a few things from him in the month or 5 weeks that I was here. I can't say enough about what he has accomplished as a manager in this state, and I hope to continue the winning tradition."
On his approach as a manager:
"I believe that, as a manager, when you take the field every day, you take the field to win that ball game. That's the number one goal. We are in the development of players. I believe that if you teach a player to win, you are teaching him to be a better ball player."
On the players he works with:
"They approach me the same way I approached one of my former managers, Sparky Anderson. He'd approach me and tell me what to do, and I would say, ‘Yes sir' and would go out and try to do it. My players will take the same approach with me."
As the West Michigan Whitecaps approach their 14th season, Tom Brookens will become the 7th manager. He is preceded by Jim Colborn (1994-1995), Mike Quade (1996), Bruce Fields (1997-2000), Brent Gates (2001), Phil Regan (2002-2003), and Matt Walbeck (2004-2006). Brookens, who wore #16 as a Detroit Tiger, will don the same #16 as manager of the Whitecaps. The Whitecaps organization and fans look forward to welcoming Manager Tom Brookens into the West Michigan family in 2007.