Craig Noto- Field Manager
The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters announced on October 6th that Craig Noto would return for his third season with the Rafters. Noto is currently an Assistant Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at Wagner College, in Staten Island, New York.
The Rafters finished the 2016 season with 49 regular season wins and went a perfect 4-0 during the playoffs. Noto guided the team to winning both the South Division First and Second Half, culminating with the Rafters first Northwoods League Championship. Under his leadership, he and his coaching staff led the Rafters to tie or break 21 club records during the regular season, including posting a scoring average of 5.7 runs per game. The pitching staff posted an ERA of 3.41 while allowing the fewest walks and hits per innings pitched in the entire Northwoods League (1.29 WHIP). The team also posted a collective batting average of .369 during postseason play. In his tenure as Rafters’ Manager, Noto has seen seven of his players become Northwoods League All-Stars, four Rawlings “Finest in the Field” Gold Glove winners, and has helped develop seven players that have gone on to play professional baseball. Including postseason play, Noto holds a career record of 86-58 (.597 winning percentage) in his first two seasons and will look to build upon that in 2017.
Noto will enter his 25th year of coaching at the Youth, High School and Division 1 Collegiate level. He spent the past nine seasons as the Head Assistant Coach/Recruiting Coordinator and Pitching Coach at LIU-Brooklyn. While at LIU Coach Noto recruited and coached five different players that have gone off to various levels of Professional Baseball, including the first Big League player in LIU history, James Jones of the Seattle Mariners. He has also coached 14 NEC All-Conference selections, two NEC Players of the Year and a Rawlings Gold Glove Winner.
Coach Noto is a skilled clinician in all facets of the game. His highly organized practices and attention to detail have been keys in the development of his players and assistant coaches over the years. As a 16 year Member of the American Baseball Coaches Association he has been a guest speaker at many clinics and organizational dinners across the country. His recruiting connections run across the entire country having signed players from California, to the Midwest, and East Coast to play at LIU. The charismatic Noto has developed relationships throughout the country over his career which uniquely position him for helping recruit the Rafters summer roster.
Prior to joining the staff at LIU Brooklyn, Noto was the Head Coach for the Bergen Beach Youth Organization National teams. During his time with Bergen Beach Coach Noto saw over 120 players drafted by MLB teams. Twenty one of those players have reached the Major League level. While at the Bergen Beach Youth Organization as an instructor and coach, he led his teams to nine CABA World Series championships. Most recently, he directed the Bergen Beach squad to the CABA National Championship with his 14-year old team in 2005.
Coach Noto was an All-City player at St. Peters Boys HS and then went on to play for legendary New York City coach Louie De Martino at John Jay College. He was an all CUNY and ECAC Selection as a middle infielder for the Bloodhounds. Noto, who resides in the Fort Greene section of Brooklyn, NY, is a member of the American Baseball Coaches’ Association (ABCA) and also a member of the NYC MLB Scouts Association. He recently served as the Vice President of the Brooklyn Baseball Association from 2014-2016 where he oversaw all baseball operations for over 300 youth baseball and softball players from Brooklyn & Queens.
John Halama – Pitching Coach
Halama will enter his third season as the Rafters pitching coach in 2017 and after being named Northwoods League Coach of the Year following the Rafters Championship season. Under his guidance the Rafters pitching staff posted a franchise-best 3.41 ERA in 2016, led by All-Star Chris Cooper, who posted the lowest single-season ERA in franchise hisotry (2.03 ERA) and All-Star closer Garrett Schilling, who saved a franshise-best 18 games. In two seasons with the Rafters, Halama has coached two seven game winners and four of his pitchers have been selected to participate in the Northwoods League All-Star Game, an event in which Halama also participated as pitching coach in 2016.
Halama was drafted by the Houston Astros in the 23rd round of the 1994 MLB Draft and made his major league debut with the Astros in 1998. During his major league career, the left-handed Halama spent time with the Astros (1998), Seattle Mariners (1999-2002), Oakland Athletics (2003), Tampa Bay Devil Rays (2004), Boston Red Sox (2005), Washington Nationals (2005), and Baltimore Orioles (2006). In his career he amassed 911 innings pitched, struck out 492 and posted a 56-48 record with a 4.65 ERA. Following his big league playing career he spent five seasons playing independent professional baseball.
In midseason 1998, Halama was sent to the Seattle Mariners along with Freddy Garcia and Carlos Guillen in the trade that brought Hall of Famer Randy Johnson to Houston. Halama won 41 games for the Mariners in a four-year span, including a career-high 14 victories during the 2000 season. Halama was also a member of the 2001 Mariners team that finished the season with a 116-46 record.
Prior to his big league career Halama attended St. Francis College and played at Bishop Ford High School in New York. He is a native of Brooklyn, New York.
Kirk Shrider – Assistant Coach
Shrider will return for his second season with the Rafters in 2017, after being a part of the coaching staff that led the franchise to its first Northwoods League Championship in 2016. Shrider is no stranger to summer collegiate baseball as he has also previously worked with the Southern California Outlaws of the Western Baseball Association and in the Gold Coast Collegiate League (Florida). Prior to entering the collegiate coaching ranks Shrider spent eight years as a high school baseball coach (Bellflower High School 2005-2008, and Mayfair High School 2001-2005). Shrider also spent a number of years working as a professional baseball scout, including three years for the Milwaukee Brewers (1993-1995). He is currently an assistant coach at Hope International University in Fullerton, California.
Matt Hill- Assistant Coach
Matt Hill will begin his first season as an assistant coach with the Rafters this summer. Coach is currently in his third season as an assistant coach at Dixie State University in Utah, where he coaches former Rafters Dylan File and Drew McLaughlin. During his time at Dixie State, he has been a part of a team that has had five straight regional appearances. He is currently in his second year specifically serving as the catching coordinator.
Hill graduated in 2009 from Pacifica High School in Garden Grove, California. He was named to the All-Empire League Team as a catcher his junior and senior year. He currently still holds two records at Pacifica High school for the most runners caught stealing in a single season (16) and career (30). After high school, he attended Southeastern Community College in West Burlington Iowa and from there spent three years at Dixie State University. During his career at Dixie State he spent time as both a catcher and relief pitcher. He graduated from Dixie State with a degree in Business Administration.