The Northwest Arkansas Naturals had only three managers in their first 11 seasons, but Darryl Kennedy will be the third in the last three, as the Kansas City Royals announced minor league staff for 2019 on Monday.
Kennedy, 49, succeeds Mike Rojas, who spent only one season with the Naturals, the Royals' Double-A affiliate. He has managed in the minor leagues for 20 years, joining the Royals' organization in 2007. He guided Class A Advanced Wilmington to a 68-72 record last season, including 37-33 in the second half.
Kennedy could see some of his players he managed in Wilmington make the move with him up to Northwest Arkansas.
"The team had quite a few accomplishments, especially on the mound, that warrants those guys getting to Double-A," Kennedy said.
Kennedy returns to the Texas League after managing Frisco -- the Double-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers -- in 2005 and 2006. He is a Florida native and spent six seasons in the minor leagues as a catcher, after being selected in the 37th round of the 1991 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft by the Rangers, advancing to as high as Triple-A.
Kennedy said his history in the organization with many of the players on the Naturals roster should be a plus.
"The good thing is I've come up with these guys," Kennedy said. "They know how I work and I know them and I think that has to be an advantage. Most of these guys, if not all, have played for me somewhere along the line."
Kennedy heard good things about Northwest Arkansas and is looking forward to the season.
"Everything I've heard is awesome and I'm excited to take a look for myself," Kennedy said. "I'm excited to get back to Double-A and get ready for the season to start."
The Naturals did not make the playoffs last season and finished with a 70-70 record in the Texas League North Division. Rojas took the place of Vance Wilson, who was hired as the Royals' bullpen coach. Wilson was one of only two managers the Naturals had in their first 10 seasons.
The new skipper is scheduled to attend the Naturals Hot Stove Luncheon that will be held from noon to 1 p.m. on Jan. 21 at The Apollo on Emma in Springdale. The event is held in conjunction with the Springdale Rotary Club meeting.
Kennedy will be joined in Northwest Arkansas by hitting coach Abraham Nunez and pitching coach Doug Henry, who were both on his staff at Wilmington last season in those same positions. Nelson Liriano, who served as Naturals' hitting coach in 2013, will be Kennedy's bench coach.
Steve Luebber, who spent the last three seasons as the Naturals pitching coach is headed back to Wilmington in that same capacity. Leon Roberts has been the Naturals hitting coach the last two seasons and will now take the role of senior hitting adviser.
Sports on 01/08/2019