LINCOLN — A World Series champion, former Minor League Manager of the Year, and two-time Caribbean Series champion skipper will be manning the helm in Haymarket Park’s third-base dugout next summer. After an extensive search, the Saltdogs named former New York Mets bench coach Ken Oberkfell their new manager Thursday.
Oberkfell helped the St. Louis Cardinals win the 1982 World Series as the starting third baseman, and played in the 1989 Fall Classic on the San Francisco Giants.
"I’m very excited to come to Lincoln and win," Oberkfell said. "I’m a Midwest guy, I grew up in St. Louis. This is an excellent league with some great franchises and it is just a perfect fit. Maybe I can even get some [Huskers] football tickets, too."
The Saltdogs new skipper played 16 years in the Major Leagues, and finished his impressive career with a .278 batting average (including a .292 mark in eight years with the Cards).
"I believe Ken will bring an exciting style of baseball to Lincoln," Saltdogs Chairman Jim Abel said. "He’s someone our fans will connect to quickly. He understands and is committed to independent baseball, and has been successful as a player and field manager."
The 56-year old from Highland, Ill. is currently managing Leones del Escogido of the Dominican Winter League, where he has had a wildly successful run since taking the reigns in the 2009-10 campaign. Oberkfell has led the Santo Domingo-based franchise to two league championships and two Caribbean World Series titles in three years.
The Leones have one of the richest histories in the Dominican Republic: Juan Marichal, Alex Rodriguez, David Ortiz and the Alou brothers have all played for the club. Former MLB slugger Moises Alou is the club’s current general manager.
"We’re going to build the Saltdogs around pitching and defense," Oberkfell said. "We’re going to put a lot of pressure on our opponents by being very aggressive on the base paths."
In his rookie season as a Triple-A skipper in 2005, Oberkfell led the Norfolk Tides (Mets affiliate) to a division title and was named by Baseball America as Minor League Manager of the Year.
Oberkfell concluded his playing career in 1992 after stints in St. Louis, Atlanta, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Houston and California. After taking two years off he began his managerial career in the independent Northeast League, where he guided the Mohawk Valley Landsharks to a 47-23 record in 1995.
"I really think we have someone special coming to Lincoln," Abel added.
"Obie’s" Managerial Records in Affiliated Ball:
1997: Piedmont Boll Weevils (Phillies; Class A, South Atlantic League); 70-72 record; Notable future MLBers on club: Jimmy Rollins, Adam Eaton
1998: Piedmont; 76-65 (made playoffs); Notable future MLBers: Johnny Estrada, Brandon Duckworth
1999: Piedmont; 69-71; Notable MLBers: Carlos Silva, Derrick Turnbow
2001: Capital City Bombers (Mets; Class A, South Atlantic League); 62-73 record; Notable MLBers: Jose Reyes, Angel Pagan, Enrique Cruz
2002: St. Lucie Mets (Mets; Class A Advanced; Florida State League); 71-69 (made playoffs); Notable MLBers: Reyes, Pagan, Jason Bay
2003: St. Lucie; 77-62 (Won Florida State League title); Notable MLBers: David Wright, Scott Kazmir, Pagan
2004: Binghamton Mets (Mets; Double-A; Eastern League); 76-66 (made playoffs); Notable MLBers: Wright, Reyes, Pagan, Heath Bell, Jeff Keppinger
2005: Norfolk Tides (Mets; Triple-A; International League); 79-65 (made playoffs, earned Baseball America’s Minor League Manager of Year Award)
2006: Norfolk; 59-84
2007: New Orleans Zephyrs (Mets; Triple-A; Pacific Coast League); 75-69 (reached PCL championship)
2008: New Orleans/New York Mets (began season as manager before being promoted to NY Mets bench coach)
2009: Buffalo Bisons (Mets; Triple-A; International League); 56-87
2010: Buffalo; 76-68
2011: New York Mets (bench coach); 77-85
Baseball Reference page for MLB stats as a player: http://www.baseball-