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Devil Rays Announce 2006 Coaching Staff

January 24, 2006 - Midwest League (MWL) Southwest Michigan Devil Rays

The Southwest Michigan Devil Rays today announce their coaching staff for the 2006 season.

The Devil Rays will be managed by Dave Howard, who moves up to Southwest Michigan after having served at the helm of the Hudson Valley Renegades (A-Short Season, New York-Penn League) for five years. The 47-year-old Howard owns a lifetime managerial record of 210-229 (.480). In 1998, Howard led the Princeton Devil Rays to a first-place finish in the Appalachian League. He left the Rays' organization after that campaign to become the coach of Tampa Prep High School in Tampa, Florida. Howard went on to coach for the Tampa Yankees (A-Advanced, Florida State League) from 1994-97. Prior to that, he was the hitting and third base coach at the University of Florida. Howard, a Northboro, Massachusetts native, earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees at Georgia Southern University, where he coached for six seasons (1981-86). He and his wife, Sherri, reside in Tampa with their two daughters, Samantha and Gracie Mae.

Pitching coach R.C. Lichtenstein returns for his second season with Southwest Michigan. Last year, Lichtenstein's staff tallied a 4.02 earned run average, which tied for 2nd-best in the Midwest League. The Devil Rays tied for the league lead in shutouts (nine) and were 5th-highest in strikeouts (978). Three of his pitchers were named to the Midwest League All-Star Team. The 37-year-old Lichtenstein previously served as the pitching coach for the Central League champion Edinburgh Roadrunners (2004) and as manager of the Alexandria Aces (2003). Lichtenstein spent five years as a pitching coach in the Milwaukee Brewers' organization. His teams made the playoffs in three of his first four seasons and his staff led the Pioneer League (Rookie) in earned run average in 1999. In 1995, the Chicago native appeared as a player/pitching coach for the Merrillville Mud Dogs of the Mid-American League, where he finished among league leaders in ERA and strikeouts while being selected to the All-Star team. Lichtenstein spent his next two ears (1996-97) as the manager and director of baseball operations for the DuBois County Dragons (Frontier). He is a graduate of the University of Illinois-Chicago, where he served as a coach from 1991-94. During the summers of 1993-94, Lichtenstein guided the USA Select Team during international tournaments in Belgium, Holland and Aruba.

Hitting coach William "Skeeter" Barnes will be back in Battle Creek, after having served in the same role in 2005. Last year, Barnes led the Devil Rays to the 2nd-highest batting average (.271) in the Midwest League. Three pf Barnes' position players were selected to the Midwest League All-Star Team. This will be Barnes' fourth season as a coach in the Rays' organization. He coached the Orlando Rays (Double A-Southern League) in 2003 and the Montgomery Biscuits (Double A-Southern League) in 2004. Previously, Barnes worked in the Milwaukee Brewers' system, serving as the hitting coach for Indianapolis (Triple A-International League) In 2000, he managed the Lakeland Tigers (A-Advanced, Florida State League) to a 52-88 record. Barnes also coached in the Detroit Tigers' organization with West Michigan (A-Midwest League) in 1997-98 and Toledo (Triple A-International League) in 1995, 1996 and 1999. Originally drafted by the Cincinnati Reds in 1978, Barnes played professionally for 17 years, including nine seasons in the major leagues. He started at all positions except pitcher and catcher in his 353-game career, owning a .253 batting average with four organizations: Cincinnati (1983-84, 1989), Montreal (1985), St. Louis (1987) and Detroit (1991-94). The 48-year-old Cincinnati native now resides in Indianapolis with his wife, Karen, and daughter, Chrissy.

Trainer Kris Russell is new to the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays in 2006. Russell spent last year as the trainer for the Princeton Devil Rays, after serving as an intern at the Raymond A. Naimoli Complex in St. Petersburg in 2004. A St. Petersburg native, Russell graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in athletic training in 1994. While at South Florida, he worked with the football, basketball, baseball and men's soccer teams. Russell resides in Tarpon Springs, Florida.

Two members of the 2005 Southwest Michigan staff have been assigned to other locations in the Tampa Bay organization. Manager Joe Szekely, who guided his Battle Creek club to the playoffs, takes the helm of the Visalia Oaks (A-Advanced, California League) this year. Trainer Chris Tomashoff will be the organization's Minor League Assistant Athletic Trainer, working out of the team's Florida offices.

The Devil Rays 2006 home opener takes place at C.O. Brown Stadium on April 8 at 2:05PM. Individual, group and season tickets are available by calling the Devil Rays office at (269) 660-2287.

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