SAN DIEGO, Dec. 6, 2022 — Minor League Baseball announced the selection of Milwaukee Brewers Minor League manager Rick Sweet as the recipient of the 14th annual Mike Coolbaugh Award and St. Louis Cardinals Assistant General Manager and Director of Player Development Gary LaRocque as the 14th winner of the Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award.
The Mike Coolbaugh Award is presented annually to an individual who has shown outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game and skill in mentoring young players on the field. The award was created by Minor League Baseball in 2008 to honor the late Coolbaugh, a 17-year Minor League player who was in his first year as a coach at the time of his passing. Coolbaugh appeared in 44 Major League games with the Milwaukee Brewers (39 games in 2001) and St. Louis Cardinals (five games in 2002).
The Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award is presented to an individual with distinguished service who has been instrumental in player development. The award honors Bender as a longtime front office executive and consultant who spent 39 years with the Cincinnati Reds.
RICK SWEET – Mike Coolbaugh Award
Rick Sweet, a veteran of 30 Minor League seasons as a manager and the fifth-winningest manager in Minor League Baseball history with 2,192 wins, has been in professional baseball since 1975 when he was drafted as a catcher by the San Diego Padres.
Following a nine-year playing career, Sweet embarked on a storied career as a manager and is a four-time Manager of the Year Award winner (1994 Pacific Coast League, 2008, 2009 and 2022 International League). He was Baseball America’s Triple-A Manager of the Year in 2010 with Louisville. Sweet has managed in the Triple-A All-Star Game three times (PCL in 1993 and 2003, and for the IL in 2009).
Sweet managed in the Minor Leagues with the Seattle Mariners (1987-88), Houston Astros (1989-95), New York Mets (1997), Montreal Expos (1998, 2000), San Diego Padres (2001-03), Detroit Tigers (2004) and Cincinnati (2005-11). With the Brewers, Sweet has managed Triple-A Colorado Springs (2015-18), Double-A San Antonio (2019) and Nashville (2021-22).
His 2,192 wins are the second-most among active minor league managers, behind only Myrtle Beach’s Buddy Bailey (2,282).
Sweet’s playing career (1975-83) included time in the big leagues with the San Diego Padres (1978), New York Mets (1982) and Seattle Mariners (1982-83). He was first drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 31st round of the 1974 amateur Draft but did not sign. He was selected again the following year by the San Diego Padres in the third round out of Gonzaga University.
“I am incredibly honored and humbled to win the Mike Coolbaugh Award,” said Sweet. “It is a true blessing to be amongst such a distinguished group of baseball professionals and I can’t thank Minor League Baseball enough. There is no higher honor to receive an award based on work ethic, knowledge of the game and mentoring young players. I owe a great debt of gratitude to my family and the hundreds of players and staff that have worked tirelessly beside me throughout my career.”
Sweet and his wife, Kimberly, have a daughter, Mary, and a son, Seth.
GARY LaROCQUE – Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award
Gary LaRocque has 43 years of experience in professional baseball with an emphasis in player development and scouting. He just completed his 15th year in the Cardinals organization, where he started as a Senior Special Assistant to the General Manager in 2008 before ascending to his current position prior to the 2014 season.
LaRocque’s career in professional baseball began in 1975 as a Minor League infielder in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. He entered the field of player development in 1979 as a minor league coach and began a 19-year career in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. He began managing in 1981 and worked at the Rookie level, the Single-A level and Double-A level before moving into the scouting department in 1989. LaRocque served as an area scout and then from 1992-1997 was a regional scouting supervisor for the Dodgers.
LaRocque then joined the New York Mets in 1998 as Scouting Director and Assistant General Manager before being appointed Vice President of Professional Scouting in 2006.
LaRocque acquired his degree in Secondary Education (Mathematics) in 1975 from the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Conn., and was elected to the Athletic Hall of Fame at the University of Hartford in 1993.
“Admiring all the accomplishments of Chief Bender, with his early years spent in the Cardinals organization before his remarkable time in Cincinnati, it is humbling to join the list of previous recipients of the award,” said LaRocque. “Chief Bender was respected for setting the highest standards for Player Development systems and I’m honored to have been selected, and it’s a privilege to share with our Player Development staff and the Cardinals organization.’
LaRocque and his wife, Lynn, have a son, Chris, and a daughter, Ashley.
“Both Rick Sweet and Gary LaRocque are highly respected in the game and on behalf of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball, it is my pleasure to present them with these awards,” said Peter Woodfork, Major League Baseball’s Senior Vice President of Minor League Operations and Development.
PREVIOUS MIKE COOLBAUGH AWARD WINNERS
2008: Bobby Jones, Texas Rangers
2009: Charlie Montoyo, Tampa Bay Rays
2010: Woody Huyke, GCL Pirates
2011: Mike Jirschele, Omaha Storm Chasers
2012: Johnny Goryl, Cleveland Indians
2013: Mike Guerrero, Nashville Sounds
2014: Tom Wiedenbauer, Cleveland Indians
2015: John Shoemaker, Los Angeles Dodgers
2016: Donald “Spin” Williams, Washington Nationals
2017: Dennis Holmberg, Toronto Blue Jays
2018: Steve Turco, St. Louis Cardinals
2019: Glenn “Goose” Gregson, Boston Red Sox
2021: Roly de Armas, Philadelphia Phillies
PREVIOUS SHELDON “CHIEF” BENDER AWARD WINNERS
2008: Jim Rantz, Minnesota Twins
2009: Keith Lieppman, Oakland Athletics
2010: Mark Newman, New York Yankees
2011: Bob Gebhard, Arizona Diamondbacks
2012: Mitch Lukevics, Tampa Bay Rays
2013: Brian Graham, Baltimore Orioles
2014: Lois Hudson, Cincinnati Reds
2015: Buddy Bell, Chicago White Sox
2016: Dan Lunetta, Detroit Tigers
2017: Grady Fuson, Oakland Athletics
2018: Steve Cobb, Arizona Fall League
2019: Junior Noboa, Arizona Diamondbacks
2021: Mike Bell, Minnesota Twins
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