Black Bears Hold Annual Media Day

Mattison excited about his roster

Photo by Rick Thorp West Virginia Black Bears manager Kieran Mattison talks to the media during the team’s annual Media Day at Monongalia County Ballpark on Wednesday.

GRANVILLE — Kieran Mattison is ready to get to work.

As the first-year skipper of the West Virginia Black Bears exited the team’s Monongalia County Ballpark clubhouse Wednesday for the squad’s annual Media Day, Mattison flashed a robust smile as he bragged about his roster.

“I’m excited to work with everyone and help them achieve their dreams to get to the big leagues,” he said.

Since taking the field for the first time three years ago, the Black Bears have been a successful conduit for prospects in the Pittsburgh Pirates organization hoping to make “the show.”

West Virginia claimed the New York-Penn League championship in its inaugural season of 2015 and, last year, finished tied for second in the league’s Pinckney Division.

When the Black Bears open the season Friday night at Cleveland Indians affiliate Mahoning Valley to start a six-game road trip, four members of the 2017 squad will be wearing the blue “WV” logo on their hats again — Nicholas Economos, Robbie Glendinning, Raul Siri and Michael de la Cruz.

Glendinning, a 6-foot-2, 196-pound shortstop, was selected in the 21st round of the 2017 draft following a fine career at the University of Missouri.

“We had a good team,” the Australia native said about last year’s club. “(Brian Esposito) was a good leader. I’m happy to be back.”

Glendinning batted .198 with three doubles and six RBI in 29 games.

That’s not good enough for him. And that’s music to Mattison’s ears.

“As a coach and a manager, that’s all you want,” Mattison said. “These guys love to work. They want to get better.

“You want guys that want to get better and come to play the game the right way. I’m excited.”

Mattison replaced Esposito, who was tabbed to lead Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate in Indianapolis. A former hurler in the Indians, Dodgers and Royals organizations, Mattison spent the last two years with the Pirates, working with the team’s Golf Coast League and rookie-level squads.

“The main thing I’m doing is I’m allowing the guys who’ve been with us the last few months to lead and introduce these new guys to our culture and the way we do things,” Mattison, wearing his familiar No. 22, said.

“It makes makes my job a little easier because we planted the seeds with the guys who’ve been with us a little while.”

Mattison said having returning players is very important in building success — on and off the diamond.

“It’s an opportunity for them to lead,” Mattison said. “Siri is doing a good job with certain players on the team and Glendinning’s game has improved a lot over the year. So it’s big having those two guys around.”

Siri, a second baseman out of the Dominican, batted .241 last season with three homers and 19 RBI.

“I’m trying to be more consistent,” said the 23-year-old. “Last year was a nice experience. I can’t wait to do it again. The fans are great.”

In addition to the four returnees, the Black Bears roster, which will take the field at home for the first time a week from tonight against State College (Cardinals), features nine players selected in the recent MLB draft. They include — pitchers Aaron Shortridge (4th round), Michael Flynn (6th round) and Zachary Spears (8th round), right fielder Brett Kinneman (7th round) and catcher Zac Susi (12th round).

Mattison is looking forward to working with the eclectic mix of talent.

“If you’re at Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, Low-A … our motto is just get better every day because somebody is always coming behind you and you always want to move forward,” Mattison said. “Just be the best version of yourself every day and do whatever it takes to get better.

“That’s the mentality that Glendinning and Siri have taken and you can see the growth.”

Mattison will be working to achieve his goals with returning coaching staff members Tom Filer (pitching) and Jonathan Prieto. New to the staff is Jason Stanford, who’s taken the role as assistant pitching coach.

Stanford pitched for the Indians during the 2000s, the same period when current Pirates general manager Neal Huntington served in a variety of front office roles for the Tribe.

“It’s been one of those journeys where I’ve been trying to find a way back into the game,” Stanford, a former Indians TV studio analyst, said. “Fortunately, the Pirates had an opening.

“It’s going to be awesome. We have some really good arms. The approach is to just help them to learn how to be professional baseball players.”

And Stanford said he’ll be following the teachings of Pirates pitching coach, and West Liberty alum, Ray Searage.

“One-hundred percent,” he said. “For us, the approach is to attack them with the stuff they have.”

Mattison is eager to build not just great players, but great citizens, and a culture in his locker room that will translate into success at the big-league level.

“You have to start over and learn how to play at the professional level,” he explained. “They’re excited and they’re in the right organization.

“We do things the right way of getting the guys to become pros and become a Pirate. That’s a very important goal for us.”