Veteran staff to guide young players with 2013 Cutters

Since 2008, each manager for the Williamsport Crosscutters has had something in common. From Dusty Wathan and Chris Truby to Mickey Morandini and Andy Tracy, each manager was similar in one aspect.

But it wasn’t World Series rings that united the group or common positions during their playing days.

For the past five seasons, the common link between the managers was the fact that each one was experiencing professional baseball as a manger for the very first time. And with the 2013 season, that theme ends.

Unlike his players, who are in the infancy of their careers, Nelson Prada enters the 2013 season with nine years of managerial experience with the Minnesota Twins organization.

“The experience is important,” Prada said Saturday at media day as the Crosscutters have reported for their season that begins Monday at State College. The home opener is Tuesday vs. State College at Bowman Field.

“This is going to be my 10th year managing in the minor leagues and the experience is important because these guys can go and look and see the managing experience and they will think ‘OK, he knows what he’s talking about,'” said Prado.

The wealth of experience doesn’t begin and end with Prada, though. Pitching coach Les Lancaster previously spent 11 of his 12 seasons prior to joining the Phillies organization as a manger in the independent leagues.

“I think it will help us,” Lancaster said of his previous managerial experience. “With Nelson, we have a good background as far as managing and being on both sides of it. And I think I can relate to position players a lot easier than some pitching coaches because of managing.”

The duo of Prada and Lancaster, along with hitting coach Lino Connell, could end up being an incredible group to work with for a team that has 10 players that were drafted just this month.

“That’s awesome when you have 20 years of experience and they’ve been there and they know what we’re going through and that’s key for anyone trying to make this transition,” Andrew Knapp, a 2013 second-round draft pick, said. “I’m really fortunate to have them here to help me along my way.”

Whether it’s hitting or pitching, playing in the infield, outfield, or catching, the new Cutters staff seems to have it covered.

Prada spent four years in the minors as a catcher, while Lancaster spent seven seasons with three teams in the majors as a starter and a reliever. Connell added 14 minor-league seasons playing every position other than catcher at least once.

“Right now, when you start your career as a coach, you have to be able to be in every aspect of the game,” Connell said. “So we have to work and cover everything together.”

With experience at every position on the diamond, the Cutters’ new staff has the ability to touch on seemingly every situation imaginable.

And that’s something that Prada plans on using often, as he won’t let Lancaster and Connell’s voices go unheard-even if he has the final say.

“I like to talk to all my coaches, but of course at the end I have to make my decision,” Prada said. “We have been working together in extended spring training and we have been getting to know each other and I always tell them I’m open to what they tell me.

“I don’t want to take over everything and I like to delegate and I like to hear what they have to say.”