YAKIMA — For just the second time in their six-plus seasons, the Yakima Valley Pippins have hired a manager.
As with their inaugural hire, the West Coast League-team didn’t have to look too far to find their man.
Wednesday, the Pippins announced that current Yakima Valley College baseball coach Kyle Krustangel will be their new manager.
“We’re excited to have Kyle join the Pippins and help continue to build strong, exciting baseball programs in Yakima,” Pippins general manager Jeff Garretson said in a release from the team. “His energy is infectious, and I believe that will rub off not only on our players but our fans as well.”
Reached later in the day, Garretson added, “One of the things that was very hard to look past is that he’s firmly committed to staying in the Yakima Valley.”
“I’m very excited to stay in town,” said Krustangel, who had been coaching WCL rival Wenatchee the past three seasons before stepping down last month, citing the grind of commuting between the two cities.
“I was blessed to get this job opportunity,” continued Krustangel, who along with his wife Katie just bought a house in Selah. “It just came down to staying close to home.
“It was an obvious no-brainer to stay in Yakima.”
Krustangel replaces Marcus McKimmy, who also coached YVC and was the Pippins manager for their first six seasons, compiling a 172-152 record with three playoff appearances.
“It wasn’t an easy decision and it wasn’t an easy conversation but sometimes, going in a different direction is better for everyone in the long run,” said Garretson before thanking McKimmy for his time, particularly in the team’s early years.
“Marcus was definitely the right guy at the right time at the right place,” he said. “We were the most successful (WCL) expansion team in its first two years (going 64-44) and Marcus had a lot to do with that. Those early years are critical and without Marcus, we may not have had that success.”
Now, it’s up to Krustangel to help turn around a team that endured its worst season this past summer, going 21-33.
The 31-year-old brings a winning pedigree.
In his three seasons in Wenatchee, the AppleSox went 84-78, with the team reaching the playoffs this season for the first time since 2013.
At YVC, his teams have won at least 30 games each of his first four years and 141 total in that span. In 2016, his first at the college, the Yaks won the NWAC championship.
“For me, I want to win a West Coast League championship,” Krustangel said. “I have a lot of other goals but I want to win. I’m competitive.”
To that end, he said it’s important to bring in the right type of players.
“You have to have really quality guys who are really stoked about winning. We want to bring in championship guys,” he said, adding that he’s confident he can do that given the connections he’s built with other coaches.
“Obviously the connections are there; the trust is there,” he said.
There seems to be a similar level of trust between the Pippins and their new manager.
“This is twice now that the Pippins have hired a coach from YVC,” Garretson said, “and there’s great synergy with all the ties that both Marcus brought and those Kyle will bring.
“It’s really a good win-win.”