Rivets coaching staff years in the making
When manager Brian Smith took the position with the Rockford Rivets, his first task was to hire his coaching staff for the summer. Fortunately for him, he had a pitching coach one phone call away in James Ferguson. “Coach Ferg,” as the players call him, pitched under Smith while with the independent Windy City ThunderBolts, and their time together made it an easy decision.
The mutual respect right away at Windy City really made it to where the truth wouldn’t hurt, no matter what it was,” Smith said. “We both knew it was for the betterment of each other and the team. He wasn’t just a teacher’s pet at Windy City, either. He had fun in much the same way I did during my playing career, and that’s why we got along so well, but he also knew when to turn it on, and he understood when to take it serious, and he was able to balance that out very well.”
Smith reminisced about the instant impression Ferguson left on him while trying to make the club out of spring training, “He worked very hard to make the team. During spring training, you bring in about 25 guys for just 12 spots, so the decision was tough, and he made it tougher because he’d walk a few, then strike out three, but his work ethic was there and you could tell that it was important to him.”
Smith said that he wanted someone he trusted to join him with the Rivets.
“When you go to a new team as a manager, if you hire a staff that you already don’t like one week into the season, then you have 70 more miserable days during the summer,” Smith said. “I knew I needed to bring in guys that would be on the same wavelength as myself, especially with college kids, because they can pick up on disagreements among coaches and once they do, they can sort of side with one or the other, which causes friction on the team. With James, I knew we would be on the same wavelength and really want to do one thing, and that is win.”
The Rockford Rivets 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, 160 former Northwoods League players have advanced to Major League Baseball, including Cy Young Award winner Max Scherzer (WAS) and MLB All-Stars Chris Sale (CWS), Jordan Zimmermann (DET), Curtis Granderson (NYM), Lucas Duda (NYM) and Ben Zobrist (CHC). All league games are viewable live via the Northwoods League portal. For more information, visit www.rockfordrivets.com or download the new Northwoods League Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play and set the Rivets as your favorite team.