Former Major Leaguer John Halama Returning For 3rd Season As Pitching Coach
Wisconsin Rapids, Wis. – Following a season in which the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters won their first Summer Collegiate World Series Championship, general manager John Fanta is excited to announce the coaching staff that will join returning Field Manager Craig Noto in the dugout for the 2017 season. Pitching Coach John Halama will be returning for his 3rd season and will be joined in the dugout by 2nd year hitting coach Kirk Shrider and newcomer Matt Hill.
“We’re elated to have a couple familiar faces leading the way for our players and I’m very pleased with the entire staff that we’ve assembled for 2017,” said Fanta. “John Halama brings a big-league resume to impart knowledge to our pitchers, Kirk Shrider comes from scouting and player development background that is a useful resource for all of our players, and Matt Hill is one of the most respected young coaches in the country. All will be invaluable for the development of our players as they embark on the upcoming Northwoods League season.”
Halama will enter his third season as the Rafters pitching coach in the summer of 2017 and after being named Northwoods League Coach of the Year following the Rafters 2016 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 history (2.03 ERA) and All-Star closer Garrett Schilling who saved a franchise-best 18 games. In his first two season with the Rafters, Halama has coached two seven game winners and four pitchers have been selected to participate in the Northwoods League All-Star Game, an event in which Halama also participated in as pitching coach last summer .
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.
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). While with the Brewers, Shrider was the scout responsible for signing former Brewers All-Star outfielder Geoff Jenkins. He is currently an assistant coach at Hope International University in Fullerton, California.
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.
The Wisconsin Rapids Rafters are a member of the finest developmental league for elite college baseball players, the Northwoods League. The 23-year-old summer collegiate league is the largest organized baseball league in the world with 20 teams, drawing significantly more fans, in a friendly ballpark experience, than any league of its kind. A valuable training ground for coaches, umpires and front office staff, more than 160 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including two-time Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS), two-time World Series Champion Ben Zobrist (CHC) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (BOS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM) and Lucas Duda (NYM). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.raftersbaseball.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Rafters as your favorite team.