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Joe Szekely
2008 Princeton Rays Head Coach

1981 Alaska Goldpanners
Roster Statistics Results Schedule

 

Full Name Joseph Szekely
Out of Texas A&M
Full Name 6-1, 190 / R,R
Position Catcher
Hometow Marion, TX
Born June 28. 1961

PRESSBOX

 



New Skipper in town... Princeton Rays manager Joe Szekely speaks with P-Rays clubhouse manager Allen Fisher during a meet and greet session at the Mercer County Technical and Education Center in Princeton Saturday.

2/17/8: Szekely introduced to Princeton

By BRIAN WOODSON
Bluefield Daily Telegraph

PRINCETON — If first impressions are any indication, Joe Szekely is going to enjoy spending the summer in Mercer County.

What could be better than baseball season, and an infinite variety of food?

“You hear about Princeton and it being a town of 6.000 people and in your head you form what it’s going to look like and what the baseball field is going to look like, along with the facilities and the town,” said Szekely, who lives in Marion, Texas. “Then you come here and the first thing I said to Jim (Holland) is, ‘This town is bigger than 6,000 people.’

“The town I live in has got 1,100 people and this looks like it’s like 10 times as big as that. It’s amazing, you people eat very, very well. You’ve got enough restaurants here for a 100,000 people.”

Szekely was introduced Saturday as the new manager of the Princeton Rays, taking the place of Jamie Nelson, who served in the same capacity for five years, setting a mark for most wins by a Princeton manager in what will be the 21st year of the franchise since it was established in 1988.

During Nelson’s tenure, Princeton won the annual Mercer Cup competition with the Bluefield Orioles in four of those seasons, including the last three in a row. Szekely knows the task ahead won’t be easy.

“Jamie was a popular guy, he had been here a long time and he had taken care of the rivalry very well,” said Szekely, entering his 24th year in professional baseball. “Those are big shoes to follow, but hopefully we can continue the tradition on.”

Szekely arrived in Princeton for the first time on Friday, and attended Saturday’s 6th Annual Media Appreciation Luncheon sponsored by the P-Rays. Szekely, Rays’ General Manager Jim Holland and Appalachian League President Lee Landers met with the media and fans.

Holland can only hope that the 2008 season, which begins on June 17 with a visit from the league’s newest team — the Pulaski Mariners — is as successful as last year.

“I’m entering my 17th year here and 2007, as much as any year since I’ve been here, I’ve never seen a year where so much fell into place and went right,” Holland. “Those of you who came to the ball park know the attendance was up, the atmosphere at the park was up, and promotionally, everything that we tried to do went really well.

“It was a great feeling and it was a great year.”

Szekely hopes it can be even better on the field. Princeton last had a winning season in 2000 and won its lone league title in 1994. Szekely knows his primary role is to produce future Tampa Bay Rays, but he also wants to win games.

“You’re never going to let winning get in the way of development, but I think they go hand in hand,” Szekely said. “I think the kids need to have success and need to understand and know what it takes to win.

“Obviously it depends a lot on the players. There’s never been a nag that won the Kentucky Derby, but I think they need to understand what the commitment is and what it’s like and what you have to do to win.”

While Szekely won’t know who his players will be for a while, he does like what he see at Hunnicutt Field, which has undergone a much-needed facelift, from an invigorated playing surface and draining system to the creation of an indoor batting facility that can be used the Rays and the Princeton Tigers baseball team.

“It’s been very, very good trip so far, we toured the baseball field and I was surprised,” Szekely said. “I didn’t know what to think, small town, half-season team and I saw the field and it’s a lot better than some of the fields that I have had at the higher levels and much, much bigger cities.

“I was very surprised with not only the field, but the workout facilities and I’ve already mentioned the eating places. That’s unbelievable. Everything has been far more than I expected from the town of Princeton.”

A second round draft choice by the Kansas City Royals in 1982, Szekely spent 11 seasons playing in the minor leagues with the Royals, Dodgers and Blue Jays and Braves, batting .263 in 815 games.

Once his time on the field came to an end, he didn’t want to leave the game behind.

“I kind of grew up in it, my dad was a professional baseball player, and I was always around it and I just kind of gravitated towards it,” Szekely said. “I played it while I was growing up and I guess the fact that I was around it so much that it just kind of rubbed off on me.

“There’s nothing like it, it’s the one game I think that I would say everybody can relate to because it just seems like everybody you have talked to has played some kind of baseball somewhere.”

The 46-year-old Szekely is entering his fourth season in the Tampa Bay organization, managing Vero Beach to a 59-79 record last season.

His previous two clubs, the Visalia Oaks of the California League and the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays of the Midwest League each made the playoffs.

In seven minor league seasons with the Rays and Royals, he’s posted a 351-401 mark. He’s also been a hitting and catching instructor for both of those clubs, along with serving for four years in the Atlanta Braves system.

“It’s good people you meet at the ball park and I know it’s in my blood,” said Szekely, whose wife, Kim, and their two teenage daughters will stay in Princeton this summer. “I played for all those years, and I got through playing and I knew I wanted to stay in the game.

“I didn’t know anything else and it’s just been that my life has afforded me the opportunity to stay in the game and we’ve just had a lot of fun.”

One of the quickest lessons a prospect learns when they enter professional baseball is that it’s not just a game anymore. It’s also a job. The task ahead isn’t easy, but Szekely said the rewards are definitely worth the effort.

“A lot of these kids are not used to this, some of these kids are coming from high school and college programs where you don’t play every single day as well as work four or five hours a day so it’s quite a change,” Szekely said. “If you don’t absolutely love what you’re doing, it can be the worst job you’ve ever had.

“If you love what you’re doing, it’s hard work, but it’s very rewarding and very fun.”

The latter statement would describe Szekely. He leaves for spring training in Florida on Feb. 29. He’ll return to West Virginia in June accompanied by the 2008 edition of the Princeton Rays. Is he excited?

“Absolutely,” Szekely said. “I’ve got my juices flowing right now.”

—Contact Brian Woodson
 

 

Catcher Joe Szekely was drafted in the 2nd round of the 1982 amateur draft by the Kansas City Royals. He played 11 seasons in the minors in the Royals, Los Angeles Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, and Atlanta Braves organizations.

After his playing days ended, he remained in the Braves organization as a coach for several seasons before joining the staff of the Colorado Silver Bullets. After spending 1998 as a coach with the Somerset Patriots of the independent Atlantic League, he spent six years coaching and managing in the Royals farm system. He joined the Tampa Bay Devil Rays organization in 2005 and spent 2007 as skipper of the Vero Beach Devil Rays.

  • 1999 Coach Spokane Indians
  • 2004 Minor league catching coordinator Kansas City Royals

Year-by-Year Managerial Record

Year Team League Record Finish Organization Playoffs
2000 Charleston Alley Cats South Atlantic League 53-80 14th Kansas City Royals  
2001 Burlington Bees Midwest League 55-79 14th Kansas City Royals  
2002 Burlington Bees Midwest League 68-71 9th Kansas City Royals  
2003 Burlington Bees Midwest League 64-74 14th Kansas City Royals  
 
2005 Southwest Michigan Devil Rays Midwest League 72-67 4th (t) Tampa Bay Devil Rays Lost in 1st round
2006 Visalia Oaks California League 75-65 2nd Tampa Bay Devil Rays Lost League Finals
2007 Vero Beach Devil Rays Florida State League 59-79 10th Tampa Bay Devil Rays