GARY, IN. 2-23-2011 – For the first time in six years, Jamie Bennett will not be a member of the Gary SouthShore RailCats, as the longtime RailCats Pitching Coach and winning pitcher in the deciding game of the 2005 Northern League Championship Series is leaving to pursue other opportunities.
The RailCats Pitching Coach for the past five seasons, Bennett has led a RailCats staff that has twice posted an ERA under 4.00 and seen three pitchers win the league’s Pitcher of the Year Award (2007-08, 2010). Since 2006, six different RailCats pitchers have earned a spot on the Northern League’s Post-Season All-Star Team and three hurlers have been named to Baseball America’s All-Independent Teams. In addition, five players under Bennett’s tutelage – Willie Glen, Chad Blackwell, Brad Furnish, Kris Regas and Edwin Walker – have been signed by Major League organizations.
“There is not a person who has made a bigger impact and significant contributions to our ballclub over the last six years than Jamie,” RailCats Manager Greg Tagert said. “It’s rare when an individual can make the transition from successful player to a highly successful coach, which Jamie accomplished beautifully.”
The 2007 RailCats led the Northern League in ERA at 3.84 in Bennett’s first full season as pitching coach. After retiring following the 2005 season, Bennett took over with the RailCats 35 games into the 2006 season with the club sporting a 5.63 ERA. Over the final 62 games of the season – after Bennett’s arrival – RailCats pitchers boasted a 3.45 ERA and helped carry the ‘Cats in the postseason.
“The winning pitcher in Game 5 in 2005 against all odds and then to be in the dugout helping lead this club in 2007 as our pitching coach is a tremendous feat,” Tagert added. “Jamie has been with me since 2002, he’s become a huge part of my life and I will miss having him here.”
Originally selected in the 22nd round of the 2000 major league entry draft by the Philadelphia Phillies, Bennett first pitched for Tagert in 2002 in the Frontier League with the Dubois County Dragons and would remain with the same manager throughout his playing and coaching career. A veteran of 104 minor league games including 78 starts, Bennett has a career record of 37-18 and a career ERA of 3.89. The southpaw also racked up 379 strikeouts to just 138 walks in 513.2 innings as a professional. In his lone season pitching for the RailCats, Bennett earned a 10-5 record in 150 innings over 24 starts while striking out 68 and walking only 27.
“I’d like to thank the entire organization, top to bottom,” said Bennett. “I have never had a bad experience in my six years with the RailCats. All the players, coaches and fans over the years, have made my experience with the RailCats one I’ll never forget. I’d like to thank the Salvi family for their support and in making the RailCats a first class organization.
“I’d like to especially thank Tagert for the opportunity to become a coach at the professional level. I couldn’t think of a more perfect scenario for anyone to begin a coaching career than with Greg Tagert. I couldn’t think more highly of a coach or a friend. My nine years with Tags have undoubtedly made me a better player, coach, and person. Again, I’d like to thank everyone who’s been a part of the RailCat family and made my experience so wonderful.”
Bennett and his wife Julie are expecting their first child in August.
The RailCats also announced Third Base Coach Dallas Williams will not be returning to the ‘Cats in 2011 as he will pursue other opportunities in baseball. “We’d like the Dallas for his work and contributions to the RailCats in 2010,” Tagert said. “It was a pleasure to have someone with such an accomplished background as part of the RailCat team. We wish him the best.” A national search has already begun to fill the coaching vacancies.
The RailCats first game in Northwest Indiana in 2011 will feature the archrival Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks on Friday, May 20 for a 7:10 p.m. contest. For the complete 100-game schedule and ticket information call the RailCats at 219.882.2255 or visit www.railcatsbaseball.com.