Casey Candaele is linking back up with the big leagues, and that means San Luis Obispo High has a new head baseball coach.
Candaele, a Lompoc native who spent parts of nine seasons as a Major League Baseball player, said he will begin work as a roving minor league instructor with the Texas Rangers beginning next season.
“I’m excited,” said Candaele, 49, who retired in 2000 after stints as a utility player with the Montreal Expos, Houston Astros and Cleveland Indians. “I was thinking about getting back into pro ball. There are just a lot of guys that are still in the game that I played with, and I missed seeing that family.”
Tigers assistant Bobby Ryan, who has been a member of Candaele’s staff since the two started their first high school coaching gigs together at Mission Prep in 2006, will take over at San Luis Obispo, paving the way for a seamless transition.
Ryan, a former left-handed pitcher who helped deliver a Division II national championship to Cal Poly in 1989, and Candaele are business partners in a local plumbing company and said they have worked essentially as co-head coaches since joining the Tigers after their only season with the Royals.
“Our philosophy was when any one of the coaches was speaking, we all listened and everybody took something from whoever was talking,” Ryan said. “We allowed each other all that freedom, and it was good because I don’t think any of the players were uncomfortable with any one guy.”
Ryan also played on an NAIA national championship team at Lewis and Clark State before transferring to Cal Poly and spent parts of two seasons in the minor leagues with the Cleveland Indians, where he roomed with a young Jim Thome in an instructional league.
Along with assistant and former Cuesta College standout infielder Aaron Levin, who joined the crew when they left Mission Prep and who Ryan said plans to remain with San Luis Obispo, Candaele led the Tigers to a 70-39-1 record and one PAC 7 championship in four seasons.
San Luis Obispo made it to the quarterfinals of the CIF-Southern Section Division II playoffs in 2008, the farthest the program has advanced since winning the Division IV title in 2000.
Candaele and Ryan guided the Royals to an 11-10 record and advanced to the second round of the Central Section Division V playoffs in 2006, and the duo also coached together on the 2001 San Luis Obispo Blues team that Candaele managed to its first National Baseball Congress World Series appearance in the eight years following the franchise’s rebirth in 1994.
“I had great time. The kids are awesome,” Candaele said. “At Mission, they responded really well, and the kids at San Luis were unbelievable. They took what all the coaches said and taught and put it in effect. It was a pleasure to work with them. I’m going to miss them.”
Said Ryan: “Sometimes he’ll just go out and field ground balls, and I think that helps kids to see a Major Leaguer doing that. Aaron will be able to do that as well, but Casey, sometimes, I thought his strengths were just going out there and showing people, so they could watch him.”
Candaele will still be working as a developmental coach as the Rangers’ special assignment instructor, a job that will have him visiting all the clubs in Texas’ minor-league system.
Candaele said he was offered a few jobs after putting feelers out this fall but chose to work for Rangers director of player personnel Scott Servais, whom he played with in Houston, because the position will still allow him to spend chunks of time back home in San Luis Obispo during the summer.
“I want to go and just kind of do whatever I can and see what my capabilities are,” Candaele said. “If I do a good job, I’m sure I’ll be offered another job. I have no set goal like I want to be in the big leagues on this or that. It’s basically getting back into the professional game and doing something I want to do and being back in the game of baseball.”