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The New York Yankees have announced that Charleston RiverDogs skipper Torre Tyson will take over the reins of the High-A Tampa Yankees of the Florida State League and that RiverDogs hitting coach Greg Colbrunn has been promoted to manager.
Colbrunn takes over for Tyson, who spent five years with the RiverDogs – two as hitting coach from 2004-05 and the last three as manager – with an overall record of 232-186, making him the winningest manager in RiverDogs history.
“We’re very happy for both Torre and Greg,” said RiverDogs General Manager Dave Echols. “Torre leaves as the winningest manager in RiverDogs history, but then again, our fans will be very happy with Greg, too. He’s been with us for three seasons already and knows how we do things. While Tampa is getting a great manager, this should be a seamless transition for Charleston as well.”
“My time in Charleston has been outstanding, but I’m anxious for the opportunity to move up to Tampa,” said Tyson. “My wife and I are still planning to move to Charleston permanently, so we won’t be leaving completely.”
A Mt. Pleasant resident, Colbrunn enters his first managerial experience after three seasons as the RiverDogs hitting coach. The former infielder spent 13 seasons in the major leagues with stints with Montreal, Florida, Minnesota, Atlanta, Arizona, Colorado and Seattle. He won a World Series ring playing for the Diamondbacks in 2001 when the team upset the New York Yankees, who had won the previous three World Series titles from 1998-2000.
“I’m very grateful to have been given this opportunity by the Yankees,” said Colbrunn. “I’m looking forward to managing the RiverDogs and see how successful we can be.”
A lifetime .289 hitter in 992 major league games, Colbrunn made an immediate impact on the RiverDogs in his first season as a coach in 2007, helping guide third baseman Mitch Hilligoss to a league-record 38-game hitting streak that lasted from April 18 to June 1.
That track record continued to improve last season as the RiverDogs’ offense led the league in triples (46), finished second in hits (1,228) and tied for third in the league in average (.260).
Dominican Republic native Melky Mesa slugged 20 home runs in his first full season in Charleston to lead the squad and finish tied for fourth in the league. The 6-1 flycatcher also led the team in doubles (24), extra base hits (51), RBI (74) and runs scored (76), which was good for fifth in the circuit. Mesa was named SAL Hitter of the Week from June 22-29 and earned selection to the SAL’s Midseason and Postseason All-Star Teams, the third year in a row that event has happened for the RiverDogs (Jesus Montero, 2008; Mitch Hilligoss, 2007).
Second-year RiverDog Abraham Almonte flourished in the second half of the season, hitting .368 over his final 33 games to finish with a .280 average, highlighted by a league-best 26-game hitting streak from Aug. 6 through Sept. 4, the longest for Charleston since Hilligoss raked in 38 straight in 2007. The 5-9 fireplug ended the ’09 season tied for second in triples (10) and finished fifth in the league in stolen bases (36), the most for a RiverDog since Austin Jackson swiped 37 bags in ’06. Over his two-year stint, Almonte ranks 11th in RiverDogs history in both hits (224) and RBI (102).
Promotions gave the final two players a terrific opportunity for success, and Corban Joseph and Jose Pirela did not let chance go to waste. Joseph, the Yankees fourth round pick in 2008, joined the team in mid-May, hit safely in his first 12 games in a Charleston uniform, and raced to a .300 average in 100 games, tied for the fourth-best mark in the SAL. Joseph was named SAL Hitter of the Week from July 20-27 when he notched six-straight multi-hit games.
Pirela came onto the scene in late May and ended up hitting a robust .295 over 97 games to finish ninth in the league. The Venezuelan came in second on the squad in hits (119) and doubles (23) as the team’s leadoff hitter.
The 2010 South Atlantic League season begins Thursday, April 8 when the RiverDogs host the Lexington Legends for a 7:05 p.m. start. For information on ticket packages, contact the RiverDogs at (843) 577-DOGS (3647).