Cardinals invest in new minors scout-coaches

As a player, Patrick Elkins was known as Packy

The St. Louis Cardinals have invested in new positions to build a pipeline of internal scouting and coaching candidates.

For years, the St. Louis Cardinals - like every other baseball organization - has employed three coaches at each level of the minor league system – a manager, hitting coach and pitching coach. Along with the ever-present trainer to keep the team healthy, the Cards have invested in strength and conditioning coaches to add to the mix in recent years.

They are augmented by a number of individuals who pass through each club multiple times during the season. They range from the farm director through system-wide field, pitching and hitting coordinators, special assistants and instructors and more. Each offers his assistance to the three primary coaches and often times head up into the stands to scout the Cards' own players as well as and their opponents during the games.

The Cardinals are taking this symbiotic relationship between player development and professional scouting to a new level in 2014, while also building a pipeline of in-house candidates for future scouting and coaching openings. The organization has invested in the creation of four new positions, one at each of the four full-season levels, and has hired individuals to fill them.

The newly-created job is simply called a fourth coaching position, or assistant coach and scout.

In coaching mode, these individuals will work with players in uniform on the field during practice time before games, hitting fungoes, throwing batting practice, etc. – just as any other coach.

Once the contests begin, they will move into scouting mode, watching the games from the seats, focusing on the opposing clubs. They will also travel with their teams on the road, making this a full-time in-season assignment.

"On the player development side, it is a continuation of the support that ownership continues to give us," said Cardinals director of player development Gary LaRocque. "This is one of the new systems we wanted to put in place."

The organization clearly sees this as an opportunity to build its replacement candidates from within.

"With this combination, by the end of the year, it allows them to get a very broad cross-section of what it is all about – both coaching and scouting," LaRocque notes.

In future years, these individuals could be ready to compete for traditional coaching or scouting assignments in the system. When deciding their next jobs, the organization will know a lot more about their candidates.

"We hope as openings are occurring, we have this in-house mentoring situation where we have trained the next wave of coaches slash scouts," the farm director said. "It allows us to see where their skill sets are really strongest."

The new employees and their assignments.

Memphis - Greg Byron
Springfield - Patrick Elkins
Palm Beach - Ricky Meinhold
Peoria - Steve Moritz

The four will be receiving a quick, but intense indoctrination upon their arrival in Jupiter on March 1. The highlight will be a week's worth of scout training, with classroom sessions taught by front office personnel held each afternoon following the morning workouts. The Jupiter games will serve as a live workshop for the new scouts to quickly apply and reinforce their classroom learning.

Let's meet each of the four.

Byron
Greg Byron spent the spring of 2013 as a volunteer assistant coach with the University of Iowa Baseball program. Following the 2013 season, he served as the pitching coach for the Thunder Bay Border Cats in the Northwoods Prospects League.

Prior to joining the Hawkeyes, the 28-year-old helped guide Central Arkansas to the NCAA Regionals as volunteer assistant/pitching coach. Byron also served as associate head coach/pitching coordinator for the Ontario Blue Jays from 2008-12, where he worked with Cardinals bullpen catcher Jamie Pogue, and was a graduate assistant at NAIA Bethany (Kan.) College in 2008-09.

Byron has a head start for his new assignment after attending Scout School sponsored by the Toronto Blue Jays in 2011, threw batting practice for the MLB Pre-Draft Camp at the Rogers Centre in 2010 and assisted in gathering information for the Blue Jays' draft eligibles in 2009-10.

After pitching in college for Kansas Wesleyan and Bethany, Byron played professional baseball with the Lake Erie Crushers (2009), Quebec Les Capitales and Washington Wild Things (2010) and New York Federals (2011).

Elkins
The name Patrick Elkins may not be familiar to Cardinals fans, but I bet Packy Elkins rings a bell.

Selected by the Cardinals in the 37th round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft from Belmont University in North Carolina, Elkins competed in the system for three seasons until his release in the fall of 2012. The 26-year-old progressed as far as A-Advanced Palm Beach.

In a way, Elkins' history to date parallels that of State College manager Oliver Marmol, like Elkins a former middle infielder. "As a player, he was a real student of the game – a coach on the field type," noted LaRocque. In his new role at Springfield, Elkins will be interning with his 2010 manager at Johnson City, Mike Shildt.

Meinhold
For the opening at A-Advanced Palm Beach, Coker College (South Carolina) pitching coach Ricky Meinhold is joining the organization. A native of St. Louis, the 27-year-old pitched for Georgia College and State University in Milledgeville, GA. As a professional, the left-hander pitched for the San Diego Padres and in the Australian Winter League. He then appeared in the independent Frontier League in 2009 and 2010, including briefly with the Gateway Grizzlies.

One of Meinhold's pupils during the second of his two seasons at Coker and previously at Lindenwood University in St. Louis was Zach Loraine, the Cards' 21st-round pick in the 2013 draft. The former catcher earned The Cardinal Nation's nod as the Rookie Reliever of the Year for his work at Johnson City last summer. Interestingly, the scout who signed Loraine told Meinhold of the opening.

At Coker, Meinhold also served as recruiting coordinator and assistant athletic director. He and Loraine helped the program reach the 2013 Division II World Series. Prior to joining Lindenwood, Meinhold opened his coaching career as pitching coach at his alma mater, Drury University, in 2010.

Loraine is not going to be ready for Palm Beach out of the gates in 2014, but there is no reason to believe he and Meinhold will not be united for a third time in the not-too-distant future.

Moritz
Steve Moritz spent last season with the Kansas City Royals as a part-timer - scouting, pitching batting practice and other duties. The Royals had no full-time positions available for 2014 but gave the Cardinals a strong recommendation on his behalf.

In 2011 and 2012, Moritz was an assistant at Georgia College and State University, coaching first base, assisting with recruiting and working with the catchers. In summer ball, he was hitting coach of the Edenton Steamers of the summer Coastal Plains League in 2011 and moved up to head coach in 2012.

Moritz was pitching coach and recruiting coordinator for Darton State (Ga.) for the 2009-2010 season. The Overland Park, Kansas native was hitting coach, strength and conditioning coach and assistant recruiting coordinator at Middle Georgia College from 2006-2009. He is a 2005 graduate of Kansas State University.



Brian Walton can be reached via email at brian@thecardinalnationblog.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.

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