For decades in baseball, the conventional wisdom was to only hire people for coaching positions who had a history of playing the game. After all, how could you possibly instruct someone to hit a big-league curveball if you’ve never successfully done it yourself? Of course, in our enlightened baseball era we now know this to be untrue—the great Ted Williams was, by all accounts, a pretty lousy manager, unable to tolerate those who came up short against his platinum-level standards—but as recently as 2002, Carlos Tosca was only the sixth person in baseball’s storied history to manage a team without ever playing professional baseball. Setting aside the question of whether those who can do can also teach, obviously limiting a talent pool to the relatively small number of people who make it in professional baseball is an unnecessarily limiting criteria (to say nothing of the women and others it automatically excludes from the job market, an omission that is just beginning to be rectified in pro ball today).
To their credit, Jerry Dipoto’s Mariners were one of the teams at the forefront of hiring people across all levels of their organization with “non-traditional” or less-illustrious baseball backgrounds. They’ve poured resources into the mental skills side long before every team had a mental skills coach, and elevated Andy McKay—a recherché hire at the time—from farm director to Assistant GM with the big-league club. They’ve plumbed international baseball for coaches like Alon Leichman (Israel) and Brad Marcelino (Team England), and hired on visionaries from outside baseball who started their own pitching development labs like former coach Rob Marcello Jr. and Brian DeLunas. They’ve also elevated young coaches, fresh off their playing careers in the minors, like Arkansas Travelers manager Colin Cowgill and were prepared to offer Mitch Canham a big-league coaching job before he departed for his dream position at Oregon State. They’ve also not been afraid to hire and promote Carson Vitale and his big bushy beard (RIP), a fact that inexplicably confounds Jon Heyman.
But the Mariners have also taken advantage of their own franchise stalwarts who still want to be involved with their former club. Alvin Davis watches over the youngsters on the farm with a grandfatherly eye. In the hallways at T-Mobile, Dan Wilson can often be seen deep in conversation with Cal Raleigh, who clearly soaks up every word from the veteran backstop. Edgar Martínez perches lightly behind the batting cage turtle, ready to dispense advice to anyone who asks. Ichiro flits through the outfield in full uniform.
Stephen Vogt never suited up for the Mariners, but he was in the park at the corner of Edgar and Dave enough times over the years that it might have felt like it. Vogt slugged .454 over his career at Safeco Field—highest among all AL West parks, and the second-highest of any park where he had more than 100 plate appearances (he slugged an impressive .479 at AT&T Park in San Francisco, an especially strong mark for a lefty). Vogt’s wife Alyssa is from the Olympia area, however, and the family has had a home in Tumwater for years—Alyssa previously coached basketball at Tumwater High—splitting their time between the PNW and wherever Vogt was playing that season. Now that Vogt is retired from playing professionally, his new gig with the Mariners offers the family a stability they haven’t been able to enjoy while living out of “tubs” during the season.
Vogt will take on the role of Bullpen and Quality Control Coach, a role previously held by Trent Blank, Director of Pitching Strategy. Blank maintains that title with the organization, but is elevated to the major-league staff. Joining Vogt in the bullpen will be Justin Novak as bullpen catcher. Excepting a one-year detour to the Padres last year to serve as a major-league coaching assistant, Novak has been with the Mariners since 2020, when they signed the UVA four-year player to a minor-league contract, but he never played a game with the club, instead serving as Yusei Kikuchi’s translator before moving into player development. Novak was a career infielder at UVA, spending 164 of his 182 college games on the dirt vs. just 12 behind the plate, so hopefully he can get some tips from Vogt on the whole “professional catcher” thing.
The rest of the major-league pitching staff is the same as last year. Here’s a wee refresher for those of you who forgot:
That kind of stability among the coaching staff is helpful for Seattle’s young core, who now get an additional MLB-seasoned voice in Stephen Vogt. Now that Seattle’s major-league group is finalized, the organization can work on finalizing the minor-league staffs, an area that often has significantly more turnover (for example, Triple-A pitching coach Alon Leichman has already departed for a major-league role with Cincinnati).