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Jacks Staff Adds Former Yankee Prospect

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Billy Coleman, who played alongside Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, will join the Pump Jacks’ coaching staff this summer

Coaches, particularly those at the summer collegiate level, instruct players on more than just the game. They prepare players for the rigors of playing professionally, the burden of expectations and how to stare down and overcome adversity.

New Pump Jacks coach Billy Coleman is well-versed in all of the above.

An 18th round pick of the New York Yankees in 1991, Coleman climbed through the system with the likes of Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, Andy Pettitte and Jorge Posada. He reached Double-A before a devastating automobile accident all but ended his career in 1995.

After an incomprehensible six-year rehabilitation, Coleman returned to baseball in 2002 with the Fort Worth Cats. For many players, merely being able to put on a uniform again would have been enough. But Coleman battled from the bullpen to the rotation and was named the Cats’ 2002 Pitcher of the Year.

Currently, Coleman is the head baseball coach at Lake Country Christian School in Fort Worth. He previously coached in Shreveport at Evangel Christian Academy and Captain Shreve High School, where he worked with Pump Jacks head coach Ben Taylor.

A graduate of Bonham High School, Coleman starred at Northwood University (then Northwood Institute). He became just the third player drafted out of the Knights’ program when the Yankees called his name in 1991.

Coleman’s pro career followed the arc of fellow prospects Pettitte, Posada and Shane Spencer, who were all part of his first pro team in Oneonta, N.Y. in 1991. The trio moved to Class-A Greensboro in 1992, where they were joined at the end of the season by Jeter.

Jeter and Coleman remained in Greensboro in 1993, when they welcomed Rivera, who was still a starter at that time in his career. Coleman struck out 82 batters in 70 innings while compiling a 2.57 ERA in 59 relief appearances, putting him in the conversation with other Yankee pitching prospects.

Coleman opened the 1994 season in Tampa but a 1.62 ERA prompted a promotion to the Double-A Albany-Colonie Yankees. He spent the 1995 season in Double-A, this time with the Norwich Navigators, where a 6-4 record in 46 appearances had Coleman preparing for a trip to Triple-A.

That off-season, though, a severe car accident brought Coleman’s career came to a screeching halt. He spent one more season playing sporadically before the Yankees released him. He appeared in one game for the Tyler Wildcatters in 1997 and nine games with the Lafayette Bullfrogs in 1998, when his career appeared to be over.

But Coleman knew he had more left in the tank. He continued a grueling rehab and in 2002—more than six years after the accident—Coleman was signed by Fort Worth. He picked up a save in the opening homestand then quickly moved into the starting rotation. Coleman would go 5-5 with a 3.86 ERA and 96 strikeouts in 98 innings to earn Pitcher of the Year in Fort Worth’s second season. He led Cats’ starters in ERA and ranked among the top-three on the staff in wins, innings and strikeouts.

Coleman was traded to the Atlantic League’s Newark Bears to close out the 2002 season. He returned to the Central League the following year with the Springfield/Ozark Mountain Ducks, where he was also the team’s pitching coach.

Reunited with Taylor this summer for the first time in ten years, Coleman will handle the Pump Jacks’ pitching staff. He assumes the role previously held by Robbie McClellan, who is unable to return to East Texas because of commitments in Arizona.

Coleman already knows he’ll have several top arms to work with this season. 2011 All-TCL closer Jason Jester will return to the Pump Jacks this summer after his first year at Texas A&M. Mississippi State lefty Jacob Lindgren, a 12th-round draft choice of the Chicago Cubs in 2011, and Tennessee left-hander Brandon Zajac, picked by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 28th round last year, will help anchor the Jacks’ rotation. They’ll be joined by Texas A&M teammates Corey Ray and Ty Schlottmann on the Pump Jacks’ staff.

The five pitchers will be joined on the Pump Jacks fifth anniversary roster by 2011 TCL all-star Ty Marlow and his brother, Brooks Marlow, the starting second baseman for the Texas Longhorns; Kevin O’Leary from Tennessee; Mississippi State’s Phillip Casey; and Troy Stein, the starting catcher at Texas A&M.

The Pump Jacks’ fifth anniversary season kicks off on June 1 when they travel to McKinney to take on the Marshals. The home opener is Wednesday, June 6, at historic Driller Park against the very same McKinney squad. Click here for the complete 2012 schedule.

Season tickets for this summer are already on sale! Lower Box seats, which include in-your-seat wait service, are just $199 each, and Upper Box seats are $150. Grandstand season tickets are $105 for adults and $85 for children and seniors. Click here for more information on Pump Jacks season tickets.

To follow all the news about the roster, promotions for the coming season and new anniversary merchandise, visit the team’s official web site at www.pumpjacksbaseball.com. You can also interact with other members of Pump Jacks Nation by visiting the Jacks on Facebook and Twitter.

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