MARK PARKER’s record sports correspondent
The Hickory Crawdads’ first season as a Class High-A team will see familiar faces in the undergrowth for the 2021 season.
On Wednesday, Texas Rangers, the parent club of the Crawdads in Major League Baseball, announced that the team’s player development staff will be back after the game resumes this season.
This season Josh (JJ) Johnson will be running the club. He is assisted by pitching coach Steve Mintz, coach Chad Comer and assistant coach Hiram Bocachica. Everyone except Bocachica has been with Hickory for the past few seasons.
Johnson returns to the Crawdads two years after serving the team as assistant to the South Atlantic League runner-up under former manager Matt Hagen. The Tampa, Florida, 35-year-old was the 2004 Kansas City Royals’ fourth-round election. He played in the Royals organization until 2009 and then in the Washington Nationals system before ending his career in 2015.
Johnson ran the Nationals’ Gulf Coast League rookie branch from 2016-17 and had a record 64-45. He was an infield coach for the San Diego Padres Major League in 2018 before moving to the Rangers system in 2019 . He was named High-A Down East in 2020 before the minor league season closed due to COVID-19.
Mintz was the Crawdads’ skipper in 2016 when he led the team to a 74-66 record. The 42-year-old from Leland spent parts of two seasons in the major leagues, each part of a season with the San Francisco Giants and the Anaheim (now Los Angeles) Angels. This is his ninth season with the Rangers Organization, his fifth straight as a high-A pitching coach.