North Adams, Massachusetts – The North Adams SteepleCats officially announced the completion on the coaching staff for the 2011 season. Clayton Kuklick will serve as the team’s manager for the 2011 season. Kuklick takes over as the ninth skipper in team history and arrives with several years of summer collegiate league coaching experience.
“I am extremely excited about the opportunity to be the manager of the SteepleCats,” said Kuklick. “There is a lot of tradition here, and I am excited to be a part of the North Adams community. I am looking forward to the challenge of continuing a winning tradition here.”
Kuklick is a 2005 graduate of Kutztown University in Pennsylvania where he was the starting catcher from 2002-2005. He earned Second Team All-Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference honors during his senior year and later played professionally in the Canadian-American League for three seasons, including a two-year stint with the New Jersey Jackals in 2006 and 2007. He has been to the Division II College World Series as a player and coach three times.
Kuklick is close to finishing his first season as the assistant and pitching coach for the Shepherd University (West Virginia) baseball program. “We struggled this year at Shepherd, however, I believe there are always positives that you can take from a situation,” he pointed out. “The most valuable thing that I took from this season would be the development of young players.” That mentality should serve the manager well as the SteepleCats search for the organization’s first NECBL championship since joining the league in 2002. “Leading the SteepleCats to their first NECBL championship will be very challenging and exciting,” said Kuklick. “However, the fact that the team’s never won a championship only motivates me to reach the ultimate goal for the organization and fans.”
He served as an assistant with Georgia College and State University for two seasons, where he received his Master’s Degree in 2010. During his time there, the Bobcats won the 2010 Peach Belt Conference Championship. Kuklick spent the 2008 season as an assistant coach at his alma mater Kutztown University, and had a brief stint with the University of North Carolina-Wilmington.
Kuklick has long-standing familiarity with summer collegiate baseball and what it takes to win in that realm. He spent last season as manager of the Fulton Railroaders of the KIT Collegiate Summer Baseball League, guiding the Railroaders to a second-place regular season finish while coaching 5 KIT All-Stars. He spent a season at the helm of the Quakertown Blazers of the Atlantic Collegiate Baseball League in 2009 and also served as an assistant coach with the Little Falls Minors of the New York Collegiate Baseball League. But Kuklick’s ultimate goal was always to wind up coaching summer ball in the NECBL, even if he took a circuitous route to get there.
“I met [general manager] Sean McGrath at the ABCA Convention a couple of years ago and stayed in touch ever since,” Kuklick explained. “I am grateful that I made that contact with Sean and I am excited that the organization has selected me to manage this season.”
The Shepherd University connection does not stop there for the
SteepleCats as Matt McCarty comes over with Clayton Kuklick to serve as the assistant coach this season. McCarty will work primarily with the position players as he begins his second year of coaching summer collegiate baseball. This past spring, he served as an assistant with Kuklick on Wayne Riser’s staff at Shepherd, helping first baseman/designated hitter Nathan Minnich lead the conference in batting average and home runs.
“I am looking forward to having Matt on board because I know he is energetic about the game and loves to work at helping others better their games,” said Kuklick. “Matt has a great attention to detail, a great knowledge of the game, and we both share a lot of the same philosophies. I know [he’ll] do a great job and with his work ethic will be able to help our players develop throughout the summer.”
Last summer, McCarty made a quick first impression at the summer collegiate level as an assistant coach with the Winchester Royals of the Valley League, helping pioneer the team to a 29-21 record. The Royals pitching staff closed out the season second in the league in wins and strikeouts. On the offensive end, Winchester finished in the top three in most major categories and played superb team defense with a league-leading .970 fielding percentage.
The Shepherd University graduate had a two-year standout career as a starting pitcher for the Rams from 2008-09. McCarty gained NCBWA All-America honors as a junior and helped the team to the West Virginia Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title and an NCAA regional appearance as a senior in 2009.
Cameron McMullen will return to the SteepleCats as a volunteer assistant coach in 2011 after receiving his Master’s Degree in Educatio
n from the University of Southern California in May. The former SteepleCats second baseman becomes just the second player in franchise history to return to North Adams as a coach, and he cannot wait to return to Joe Wolfe Field. “I could not be in a better position than in North Adams,” said McMullen. “It will be nice to have my first coaching job with a team that I already have such a strong connection with. [General Manager] Sean McGrath put together a great staff and I can't wait to learn from them. I am just going to do what I am asked and learn as much as I can this summer.”
McMullen was a SteepleCat during the 2009 season while he was attending and playing baseball at the University of Massachusetts. “Having played in the league adds a little perspective to the ins and outs of the experience and will for sure be something I can hopefully contribute to the coaching staff and players,” explained McMullen. In 28 games (26 starts), he finished second on the team with a .319 batting average and added 19 runs batted in. Fans will always remember him flashing the leather up the middle as he finished his lone season in North Adams with an extremely impressive .972 fielding percentage.
The Huntington Beach, California native has also played for Golden West College and the Regina Red Sox in Saskatchewan during the summer of 2008.
Rounding out the SteepleCats’ coaching staff in 2011 is pitching coach and New Jersey native Michael Vicaro, who almost didn’t make it to North Adams. “Clayton and I played together for the New Jersey Jackals in 2006 and 2007,” he said. “I was all set to play for the Jackals again this season when he got in touch with me and asked if I wanted to be his pitching coach this summer.” Vicaro assured us his playing days are now over. “I am one hundred percent done,” he laughed. “The player inside of me is still there and won't leave overnight. Of course I'll throw with the guys, condition, and work out, but you won’t ever see me toe the rubber.”
Vicaro is finishing his first season as the pitching coach at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Florham Park, New Jersey where he learned something quite valuable about coaching his players. “You have to teach them, never assume that a guy knows what to do in any given situation,” he said. “You have to make sure that they are well equipped to handle anything that may arise in a game situation.” As a by-product of this mantra, the Devils had one of the Middle Atlantic Conference’s best frontline trios in the starting rotation while reliever Chris Laudati was among the conference leaders in saves.
Vicaro also served as the assistant pitching coach at Montclair State University in 2009, helping the Red Hawks advance all the way to the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional, the team’s first post-season berth since 2006. He has also coached the “In The Zone Angels” 17-under showcase team since 2008, and said he’s been anticipating his first summer collegiate coaching gig. “The NECBL is a top-notch summer league. All of these guys are prospects and have the ability to play pro baseball. If I can teach a guy something that can ultimately help him get to the next level, there is nothing more rewarding that.” Fans can only hope Vicaro is able to handle the young arms in the rotation after last year’s staff was able to help carry the SteepleCats to the best regular-season record in the western division.
After his memorable collegiate career as a pitcher at Montclair State, Vicaro, in addition to his two seasons with the Jackals, also pitched for the Casper Ghosts of the Pioneer League and last year with the Sussex Skyhawks. He retired with a professional record of 22-16 in 68 games with a 4.79 ERA in 290 innings pitched.
The SteepleCats celebrate the start of their 10th Season with a fireworks extravaganza following their home opener on Friday, June 10 against division rival Vermont Mountaineers. Don’t miss first pitch at 6:30. On Sunday, June 12th, join us for a late afternoon game at 4:30 and $1 Hot Dog Night at the ballpark. For more information on the team and a complete schedule, please visit http://www.steeplecats.com.
Save money by purchasing your season ticket at Creations, Man’s World Styling Salon, Billmont’s Country Store in Stamford, Vt. and at Val’s Variety in Adams. A Family Season Pass is worth $399 and can be purchased for only $100. That’s a savings of 75%.