Medford WCL team lands head coach

Ex-North players Maurer, Sowers among the first players to commit to team

Still in the process of developing a team name, Medford's West Coast League franchise picked up a head coach, pitching coach and a handful of players to open their debut season in the summer of 2013.

Bringing experience not only in the WCL but with a startup franchise will be head coach Josh Hogan, who led the Klamath Falls Gems this past summer and currently serves as an assistant coach at Lane Community College. Hogan also played three years as an infielder with the WCL's Corvallis Knights and served as an assistant coach for the first two seasons of the WCL's Cowlitz Black Bears franchise.

"I'm just really excited about it," Hogan said of his new role in Medford. "This will be my seventh year in the league and my third different city I've played at or coached in, and I think Medford's going to be a good fit. It's a great baseball town."

Hogan led the Gems to a 30-28 overall record, overcoming a 3-18 start with a frantic 27-10 finish, missing the WCL playoffs by one game due to a second-place tiebreaker. It's worth noting that Hogan was unable to join Klamath Falls until it was already 13 games into the season due to work as first base coach with the University of Oregon's baseball team, for which he was a graduate assistant.

"With six years of direct WCL experience in winning situations as well as with an expansion team, Josh is the perfect coach for the culture we're creating in Medford," said general manager Chuck Heeman. "I've worked with Josh for a year now, we work together well and we know the kind of player we need to represent Medford in a positive way. Josh puts together a culture that brings out the best in players both on the field and off. We want to win and win now, and Josh is a winner."

Hogan will work with a familiar face in pitching coach Jeff Lyle, who served in the same position with the Gems in 2012 and guided a staff that set an all-time WCL record with 407 strikeouts while walking only 107.

"As with Josh Hogan, we're very lucky to have Jeff with us," Heeman said. "He's a great teacher of pitching, knows the game and how to get the most out of players. In the WCL, good pitching is the key to success and Jeff did a great job in molding a staff for us last summer. He'll do the same here, as it looks like Harry & David Field is a pitcher's park."

The team also announced the commitments of seven players for 2013, including former North Medford High standouts Matt Maurer (left-handed pitcher from Pepperdine) and Colin Sowers (catcher/outfielder from Portland).

Maurer was 6-1 with a 3.56 ERA in 17 games for the Waves last season, and experienced the WCL in 2011 with the Cowlitz Black Bears. He played for Hyannis of the Cape Cod League in 2012. Sowers played briefly for the Gems at the end of last season and wrapped up his career with the Medford Mustangs as one of its most accomplished players in 2011.

Joining the local duo will be 2012 WCL all-star Parker Miles (2B/OF, UC Santa Barbara), Josh Potter (1B, Campbellsville), Steven Schoonover (LHP, Nebraska-Omaha), Ryan Teel (C, Nevada-Reno) and Jeff Hardy (RHP, Nevada-Reno).

Miles set WCL records for walks in a season (45) and added two home runs, 26 RBIs and seven stolen bases from the leadoff spot for the Gems. Potter hit .363 with 38 RBIs and struck out only 15 times in 160 at-bats while leading Pierce (Wash.) College to the 2012 NWAACC Championship.

Schoonover pitched for the Klamath Falls Gems in 2011, going 2-2 with a 2.25 ERA and only two walks in 40 innings. Teel is scheduled to take over as the starting catcher for the Wolf Pack in 2013, while Hardy is an incoming freshman projected as a starting pitcher for Nevada-Reno.

"We're definitely trying to get some local guys and we've already committed quite a few local guys but most of all we're trying to go after top-echelon guys," Hogan said of the roster development. "We're not trying to pick anybody just because they're local or their name sounds good or come from a good school."

More roster commitments will become official in the coming months, but Hogan said his recruiting list is around 42 players. The final roster will be around 34 players and likely include about 15 pitchers, but Hogan said part of his work will be in gaining the services of the top 10-day contract players available.

With major colleges, like the Pac-12 Conference, still in play once the WCL season begins in June, Hogan said it's akin to recruiting players for two teams just so the squad can get through the opening two weeks and then build on that over the rest of the summer.

"The biggest thing I learned from the coaching side of it and recruiting side of it is the 10-day contract guys are huge," said Hogan, who expects to have eight Ducks on the roster. "You've really got to get the best talent that you can. Last year we tried to meet the needs too much of the local players and some of the guys we got weren't quite ready at that level. Those guys can turn into full contract guys but it doesn't necessarily mean that you're on there."

Prior to joining the Lane CC staff, Hogan served as a graduate assistant coach under George Horton at Oregon. He played for the Ducks in 2008-09, earning a team captain spot as well as being named the team's best defensive player, and he was named to the WCL all-conference team all three years he played for the Corvallis Knights.

"I've been very fortunate as a player and a coach to play for and coach with some great coaches," said Hogan, who turns 25 in December. "Obviously I think coach Horton is probably the best head coach in the nation."

While Hogan said he leans toward a small-ball style of putting pressure on teams with bunts, steals and other maneuvers to manufacture runs, he's comfortable with building an offensive attack around whatever talent the Medford team is able to bring to town.

"Every player has different skills and what they bring to a team," said Hogan. "I try to put all those things into the equation and run the offense that way instead of running one set way."

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry


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