WENATCHEE, Wash. – The Wenatchee AppleSox Baseball Club and Owner, Jim Corcoran, announced Thursday that former AppleSox Pitching Coach AJ Proszek will be the AppleSox franchise’s third head coach, effective immediately.
“We’re happy to be able to hire someone with the skill, background and the experience with the AppleSox, like AJ has,” said AppleSox Owner Jim Corcoran.
With the announced departure of long-time AppleSox head coach, Ed Knaggs, Tuesday, it was evident that a new AppleSox coach needed to be hired as soon as possible to allow a seamless transition into recruiting for the 2015 squad. While a decision needed to be made quickly, Corcoran and the AppleSox organization had a short list drafted and were in communication with former AppleSox Coach, Ed Knaggs, to ensure the best selection was made.
Proszek was informed on Thursday morning of the decision that he would take over as the next head coach of the AppleSox. He promptly accepted.
“I’m excited for the opportunity to work with the AppleSox and work with a group of new players and a new team to try and compete for a championship,” said Proszek.
Currently the pitching coach at Spokane Falls Community College, Proszek has coached with the AppleSox since 2013. As a player, he spent two years at Spokane Falls before transferring to Gonzaga University.
He played in the West Coast League as a member of the Spokane RiverHawks from 2006-2008 and was selected in the 38th round of the 2009 MLB Draft by the San Francisco Giants.
Proszek pitched in the minor leagues for the Giants from 2009-2012 before beginning his coaching career in August of 2012 at Spokane Falls.
He was born and raised in Chewelah, Wash. and attended Jenkins High School.
In 2013, he was recommended to then Head Coach, Ed Knaggs, for a position on the AppleSox staff as a pitching coach.
Alongside his two seasons as an assistant coach, he had a chance to serve as an interim coach of the AppleSox for two games in 2014, while Knaggs attended to business with his other employer, Kimmel Athletic.
As Knaggs had a chance to watch Proszek develop as a coach over two summers, his passion and expertise for the game became evident.
“Certainly, I think my decision to be done with the AppleSox was easier knowing that AJ would have a good shot at becoming the head coach,” said Knaggs. “He’s proven to me in a very short time that he’s more than ready to be a head coach. He has the baseball skills, as well as the management skills and the ability to lead people, which will help keep the AppleSox going in the direction that we’d like them to go.”
Knaggs’ sentiment was echoed by Corcoran and the entire AppleSox organization.
“It was obvious to me and our last head coach Ed Knaggs, that he was qualified to step into the position,” said Corcoran. “He came to us with a great resume a few years ago and you can tell that the players look up to him. It was a pleasure to watch him take on more and more responsibility the last couple years and develop a terrific leadership style.”
Another head-turning trait for Proszek (and there are many of them), was his dedication to the finite details of day-to-day player development. He has been known to regularly give his pitchers a clear evaluation of where he believes they are, developmentally, and what they need to do to grow their game.
He conferenced with each member of his pitching staff at the end of each season in one-on-one fashion, with the most recent crop of reviews ending last Sunday.
“All that work that he did to send guys away with something to think about is very valuable to those players,” said Knaggs. “He’s a great teacher and a really positive guy. He’s not a yeller, screamer, get in your face kind of guy, but he’s really good at being honest and fair. If a guy isn’t doing something right, he will let them know.”
Proszek’s philosophy on player conduct and vision for the franchise was also a major factor in the hiring decision.
“His second year in Wenatchee, I really got to know him and learn more about his expectations for a team,” said Corcoran. “I admired his leadership, integrity and he shared many of the same qualities that Coach Knaggs had in terms of player conduct and making sure that the AppleSox conduct themselves in a professional matter on the field and in between games.”
Some of Proszek’s philosophy was adapted from Ed Knaggs and his baseball influence came from a former legion coach, Chris Springs.
“I always think Coach Knaggs has taught me a lot the last couple years about this job. Specifically, how to communicate with the players and get things in the right direction,” said Proszek. “Coach Springs taught me how to work hard on the field and play baseball the right way, so I will always take that mentality with me.”
Proszek will immediately begin working on completing his 2015 coaching staff and has been given the reigns to make hiring decisions to complete his three-man coaching team.
“I am also taking coach Knaggs’ input into consideration and trusting his judgment,” said Proszek. “He has given a few people some glowing recommendations as individuals that could fit well with my personality and the AppleSox mentality of greatness on and off the field.”
The recommendations flow well with Proszek’s vision.
“It’s funny; the baseball community is so close anyways, that some of the guys he’s recommended are some of the people that I’ve already thought about,” he said.
Proszek’s staff will have a different look than Knaggs’ previous coaching units, specifically in terms of game day and position expertise.
“I will hire an assistant coach that knows the offense and I will ask him to be the third base coach and give the signs, knowing that sometimes I will want to initiate some situational tactics,” said Proszek. “For the most part, I’m going to trust him to do what he knows best.
As for a third assistant, offense will continue to be in the forefront of Proszek’s mind.
“The third guy will also be an offensive guy and take over some of the field work (as it’s been in the past),” said Proszek. “I expect my coaches to be able to lead the group of hitters to runs and I’ll lead the pitchers to keep from giving up runs.”
The players’ that will make up the run-scoring and run-stifling bushel of AppleSox will be assembled by Proszek with some help from Knaggs.
“Over the next couple days I’ll be talking to the coaches who have been influential in the past, to build a solid roster, while also expanding to some other programs which can help us be successful,” said Proszek.
Knaggs is confident that Proszek already has a great foundation in place to continue the AppleSox recruiting success.
“He and I have already been working in contacting those coaches that we typically get AppleSox from and it’s been helping him create his relationships with those coaches, which in an indirect way he has already done by coaching many of their pitchers the last couple years,” said Knaggs. “He also has strong ties with Gonzaga as an alumnus, alongside living in Spokane. That’s been a very important relationship for the AppleSox.”
Proszek has stated that his immediate family and fiancé are excited about his new opportunity and he continues to receive tremendous support from his friends, family and the baseball community.
When it comes down to it, that “itch” to start another season of AppleSox baseball is quite prevalent for Proszek, who has earned his first taste of head coaching.
“I enjoy the teaching side of baseball and I enjoy the competitiveness of the guys we get in the summer. I also enjoy showing up to the field every day,” said Proszek. “It’s not just one thing you look forward to. I enjoy the comradery between the coaches and the players and our coaches and other coaches. It’s nice to share the summer with those guys.”