Pittsburgh coaches Searage, Prince return to Bowman Field

PITTSBURGH — Ray Searage’s favorite part about being the pitching coach for the Crosscutters was having the opportunity to watch young and raw pitchers make their way through the farm system and develop into polished big leaguers. Searage had his share of pitchers that fizzled out in the then-rookie league. But it was the handful of solid prospects that received the call all the way up to the majors that made it worth it.

Searage helped mold some great throwers in his time with the Crosscutters during the 2003 and 2004 seasons like future successful big leaguers Paul Maholm, Tom Gorzelanny and Matt Capps. Now the Pirates pitching coach, Searage will have another opportunity to share his knowledge with a bunch of young throwers when he makes his return to Williamsport for the MLB Little League Classic Sunday when the Pirates take on the Chicago Cubs at Bowman Field.

Searage won’t be alone in the homecoming as Pirates bench coach Tom Prince served as the Crosscutters manager from 2005-06 and was in his first season when the Pirates played the Cardinals in the inaugural MLB Little League Classic.

Both Searage and Prince have fond memories of their time in Williamsport, not just on the field, either. Searage helped the Cutters win their second league title in 2003 and each enjoyed their time interacting with the fans and the community.

“It was a lot of fun. I remember (Vice President Marketing and Public Relations) Gabe (Sinicropi) and (General Manager) Doug Estes and the families,” Prince said. “It was one of my first years in coaching. They made it very enjoyable for me, plus we had some pretty good teams in Williamsport.”

“I remember winning the championship and having a lot of fun there,” Searage said. “There was so many good people throughout the city and the fans made it a very, very enjoyable time.”

Though Searage was a longtime minor league coach with the Marlins and Cardinals, the Crosscutters was Prince’s first professional coaching job. After a 17-year MLB playing career that started with the Pirates and ended with stops with the Dodgers, Phillies, Twins and Royals, Prince was named the Cutters manager just two years after retirement and led the club to a 78-72 mark. He quickly made his way through the Pirates’ coaching ranks, eventually making it to the parent club in 2016. In his 36 years in professional baseball, Prince has spent 26 years with the Pirates’ organization as a player and coach.

“They’ve been great to me. When I was a player and I got into coaching, I really enjoyed my time,” Prince, a native of Illinois, said. “I grew up as a Pirates player. That was always a good time and being able to coach, I’m just really appreciative for it.”

Prince had some talented players in his brief time with the Crosscutters. He coached Steve Pearce the entire 2005 season and had Andrew McCutchen the final two weeks of that season.

Like Searage, Prince likes to watch his former Cutters’ players and see them perform in the MLB and when Pearce won the World Series MVP with the Red Sox in 2018, it was a neat experience for the Pirates bench coach.

“They do a great job. The players do it amongst themselves. The one guy that had some of the most success was Steve Pearce. He was one of the first guys I had there,” Prince said. “He just won the MVP of the World Series. How cool is that? I got a chance to talk to him after. It’s really fun to see what he’s done with his life and I see some of these other players that are in society today, they’re successful. It’s just about helping people and making a difference in their lives some way, some how.”

In his two years in Williamsport, Searage headed one of the best pitching staffs in Crosscutters history. His 2003 staff posted a 2.64 ERA, the lowest in history and the eight team shutouts were second most. That 2003 squad won 46 games, the third most in the history of minor league baseball in Williamsport.

“It’s fulfilling that you had some kind of impact. At every level and every coach that they get to are able to get the recipe to make them big league players,” Searage said. “Most don’t make it but the few that did make it, they had a special mindset and the ability to and were able to limit their injuries in order to perform but it’s gratifying and when you see them in the big leagues, it puts the cherry on top.”