When the Tulsa Drillers and the Colorado Rockies announced that 39-year-old Stu Cole would replace Tom Runnells as the Drillers manager for the 2006 Texas League season, the new skipper was ready for action.
Cole will take over for Runnells who has been promoted by the Rockies to manage the organization’s Triple A team in Colorado Springs.
Cole will become the 17th manager in the 30-year history of the Drillers franchise. The 2006 season will mark his sixth year as a manager in the Rockies minor league system. He has spent the past three seasons managing Colorado’s High Class A affiliate in the California League. Last season, Cole led the Modesto Nuts to a 72-67 record and a berth in the California League playoffs. Many of the players on that Modesto squad could see time on the Drillers roster in 2006.
“While we hate to lose Tom Runnells and thank him for the job that he has done, we are looking forward to working with Stu Cole and continuing the winning tradition Colorado has established here in Tulsa,” said Drillers Executive Vice President Chuck Lamson.
“I am excited about coming to Tulsa,” said Cole. “I have heard a lot of good things about it. I am very familiar with many of the players that will likely be with me next season. Many of the guys that I had last year, including a couple that came to Tulsa late in the season, should join me.”
Cole began his managerial career in 2001 with Tri-City in the Northwest League. He has suffered only one losing season in his five previous years as a manager, and he has secured postseason berths on two occasions. In 2003, he was named the California League Manager of the Year after leading Visalia to a league-best 79-61 record. Overall, he has amassed a 320-314 (.505) record.
Prior to becoming a manager, the Charlotte, N.C. native served six seasons as a coach in the Colorado system. He also enjoyed a 9-year professional playing career, reaching the major leagues as an infielder with the Kansas City Royals in 1987.
The Drillers and Rockies have also announced details for the coaching staff that will join Cole next season. Bo McLaughlin will return for his fourth season as Tulsa’s pitching coach. In 2004, McLaughlin’s pitching staff posted the lowest team ERA in the Texas League.
Hitting coach Darron Cox will not return to the Drillers but will instead manage the Tri-City Dust Devils. The Dust Devils are the Short-Season affiliate for the Rockies and play in the Northwest League. Cox, a former University of Oklahoma standout, spent three seasons as a coach for Tulsa. The Drillers will not likely name a replacement to fill the hitting coach role until later this year.
Heath Townsend will fill the final spot on the Tulsa staff. Townsend will return for his second season as the trainer for the Drillers.
NOTE: Runnells is replacing former Drillers manager Marv Foley in Colorado Springs. Foley will work with all affiliates in the Colorado system in 2006 as the roving catching instructor. The Drillers also announced that Josh Lovetere has joined the organization as a corporate sales associate. The native of Springfield, Mo. recently worked with the Tulsa 66ers, Tulsa’s new NBA D-League franchise.