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Spikes bring back Leon, announce coaching staff

From staff reports

Jose Leon will return to the bench for a second-straight year as State College Spikes manager, the St. Louis Cardinals announced on Monday. Leon joins new pitching coach Dean Kiekhefer, new hitting coach Jason Broussard, and a pair of familiar faces in athletic trainer Joey Olsiewicz and strength and conditioning coach Don Trapp on the Spikes’ 2020 coaching staff.

Leon guided the Spikes to a 39-36 record in his first season at the helm in 2019, a mark that put the club just 1 1/2 games shy of the New York-Penn League Pinckney Division title. Under his guidance, State College led the NYPL with 353 runs scored in 76 games, and paced the league in both batting average (.247) and slugging percentage (.364).

The Cayey, Puerto Rico, native will be entering his third season in the Cardinals organization and his second as a manager. Leon played 88 games in the major leagues with the Baltimore Orioles from 2002 to 2004. A former 22nd-round draft choice of the Cardinals in 1994, Leon played in the St. Louis system until 2000 before joining the Orioles organization. Following his time in Baltimore, Leon played in the Pirates and Reds minor league systems, then traveled the world playing in the Mexican League, the Atlantic League and the Chinese Professional Baseball League.

“We are thrilled that Jose will be coming back to Happy Valley to help guide the Spikes as we celebrate our 15th season,” said Spikes General Manager Scott Walker. “We are also excited to welcome Joey and Don back to the fold, and look forward to bringing Dean and Jason into the Spikes family this summer.”

Kiekhefer is also a former major leaguer, having made 30 career appearances for the Cardinals and Athletics from 2016-18. A 36th-round draft choice of the Cardinals in 2010, the left-hander racked up 31 wins and 48 saves in 10 seasons of professional baseball, with a career strikeout-to-walk ratio of 374-to-84, or 4.45-to-1. Kiekhefer, a native of Buckner, Kentucky, is making his debut as a professional coach with the Spikes.

Broussard served as a coach for the Advanced-A Palm Beach Cardinals in 2019 and enters his second year of coaching in the professional ranks. The Melbourne, Florida, native was a catcher at Coker (Fla.) College from 2010-12 before taking a role as an assistant coach at Eastern Florida State College from 2013-17, then ascending to associate head coach at Eastern Florida State in 2018.

Olsiewicz and Trapp both enter the third season of their professional baseball careers. A native of Gobles, Michigan, Olsiewicz received his bachelor’s degree in Athletic Training from Central Michigan University, where he also played on the club baseball team for three years.

A native of Mars, Trapp once again returns to the Keystone State. Prior to his tenure with the Spikes, Trapp worked with Eastern Michigan University athletic teams through an NSCA Assistantship Award. Don also served as a Volunteer Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach at Shippensburg University after receiving his bachelor’s degree in Sports and Exercise Science at Gannon University in Erie in 2013. He earned his master’s degree in the same field through California University of Pennsylvania’s online program and also played two years of varsity baseball while at Gannon.

2019 pitching coach Adrian Martin and hitting coach Cody Gabella each received promotions to Single-A Peoria for the 2020 season. Former Spikes infielder Joe Hawkins, who played in Happy Valley in 2016, also received a promotion, rising from hitting coach to manager of the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Cardinals for the upcoming campaign.

The Spikes are entering their 15th season, beginning on Thursday, June 18, when they take on the Williamsport Crosscutters (Philadelphia Phillies).

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