takes Explorers helmBy Steven Allspach Journal sports writerJay Kirkpatrick, named Thursday as the new field manager of the Sioux City Explorers, talks with the media. At right is George Stavrenos, the X's general manager. (Staff photo by Jerry Mennenga)
...Jay Kirkpatrick, named Thursday as the new field manager of the Sioux City Explorers, talks with the media.
Even so, for Jay Kirkpatrick
, something was missing.
Like managing a professional baseball team.
"Awesome, this is just awesome.I've been looking forward to this for a long, dang time," said Kirkpatrick
down-home way after being introduced as the new manager of the Sioux City Explorers
' independent Northern League franchise at a press conference Thursday.
, a veteran of 11 pro baseball seasons, parts of three of them at the Triple-A level, has been a resident of Siouxland since he
was signed by the Explorers in 1999.
The 33-year-old resident of rural Bronson played the last of three seasons with the Explorers in 2001, hitting eight homers and driving in 24 runs in 44 games before being traded to Winnipeg.He
finished the season at Duluth-Superior, where he
hit eight homers and drove in 31 runs in 43 games.
In mid-July of 1999, Kirkpatrick
signed with Sioux City
and bashed eight homers and drove in 43 runs in 40 games.
In 81 games in 2000, the native of Key West, Fla., slugged 19 homers and drove in 75 runs.
Chronic back problems forced the strapping 6-foot-4, 225-pound slugger to retire after the 2001 season.
final two seasons with the X's, though, he
served as the club's hitting coach for then-Manager Ed Nottle
"I plan to draw on all of my experiences as a player and coach in developing our team," said Kirkpatrick
, a fan favorite during his
Sioux City playing days."This opportunity just came right out of the blue, I had no idea.
"The club asked me if I'd be interested and my thought would be it's a no-brainer, but my wife (Leslie) wasn't home when I got the phone call and I told the Explorers I'd have to discuss it with her
"Well, Leslie's such a great baseball fan she
wondered why I didn't say yes immediately."
While out of baseball the past season, Kirkpatrick
was kept busy with his
baseball academy and one night a week, he
wife worked in her
brother's business in Remsen, Greg's Pizza 'N Grill.The former Leslie Gentz also teaches and coaches girls golf at Le Mars Gehlen Catholic High School
"This is an exciting time.I've always wanted to be a manager, to put in a system that I believe works and makes a winner," said Kirkpatrick
."It all depends on personnel , of course, but our team will be aggressive.I know I've heard some folks say the team hasn't been hitting enough home runs.
"Home runs are exciting, but I'd rather score seven or eight runs a game than see a couple of solo homers." During his playing days, Kirkpatrick played for several managers and coaches now in the big leagues, including Anaheim Manager Mike Scioscia and third base coach Ron Roenicke.
...Kirkpatrick graduated from Methodist College in Fayetteville, N.C., with a degree in physical education.He's
second year as dean of students at Gehlen
and still maintains his
baseball academy for youth on his
farm near Bronson.
A draft pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers
playing career as a rookie in 1991 at Great Falls, Mont., and has subsequently played at Vero Beach.Fla. (A), Bakersfield, Calf. (A), San Antonio (AA), Albuquerque (AAA), San Bernadino (A) and Sinon in the Chinese Professional Baseball League
in 1998 where he
won the batting (.387), home run (31) and RBI (101) crowns. He
tagged 18 homers and drove in 75 runs at San Antonio in 1994.
The left-handed swinger, who spent the majority of his
playing career as a catcher, first baseman and designated hitter, has 141 career homers, 623 RBIs, 200 doubles, 1,002 hits and .302 batting average.
"We really feel Jay Kirkpatrick
is a perfect fit for our organization.He
has all the qualities to be a successful manager.
will manage a Sioux City team in a Northern League
Central division next season comprised of the X's
, Fargo-Moorhead, Sioux Falls, Lincoln and the league's newest franchise in Kansas City.