Oilers name Stevens head coach, Clark as GM
The Peninsula Oilers will have a new head coach and general manager for the 2012 season, the team announced Monday.
John Stevens, who was an Oilers assistant last season, takes over for Dennis Machado, who decided not to return to Kenai due to a new job and a new daughter.
James Clark takes over as general manager for Shawn Maltby, who announced at the conclusion of last season that he was taking over as general manager of the Anchorage Bucs.
Machado, who recently took an assistant coach job at California State University, Northridge, and welcomed daughter Tessa Noel Machado to the family, ends with a 69-34 record after two seasons with Peninsula.
Last season, Machado led the Oilers to an Alaska Baseball League title and a second-place finish at the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kan.
His .670 winning percentage puts him second in Oilers history behind Gary Adcock, who won at a .676 clip in 1999 and 2000.
Machado, a graduate of Kenai Central, grew up watching the Oilers and said Monday via cell phone that his time in the Alaska Baseball League was a dream come true.
Machado served as an Oilers pitching coach for two years before taking the head job with the Anchorage Glacier Pilots and leading that squad to a runner-up finish at the NBC World Series. He then came to the Oilers for two years as a head coach, finishing with a 103-60 mark as an ABL head coach.
"It was an unbelievable experience getting to go back to Kenai and coach the team that I grew up watching," Machado said. "Being able to go to Anchorage for my first head coaching job and being able to go back to Kenai to coach for two years is kind of unbelievable."
He said he still has family in the area, so he won't be a stranger to the Kenai Peninsula. In fact, he said his mother has made it known he's expected to make the long trip north for Christmas.
Machado said making Stevens the head coach was a no-brainer. Stevens, the head coach of Nipomo High School in California, said assistant coaches Kyle Richardson and John Kennedy also will return.
"He's a very, very intelligent baseball guy," Machado said of Stevens. "I would think that it's very obvious to everybody who watched us play last year that there was a difference between the Oilers last year and every other year.
"We played an American League-style of baseball. That's tough to do in that ballpark."
The traditional way of running an offense at Coral Seymour Memorial Park had been small ball. Machado made a decision to go away from small ball because that doesn't win at the NBC World Series.
Last season, with Stevens teaching the hitters, the Oilers finished second in the league in hitting at .250. The Oilers had three of the league's top 10 hitters for average. Mike Miller led the league in runs and hits, Troy Channing led in doubles and Patrick Wisdom led in RBIs.
"When it comes to knowledge of the swing and how to hit, he's one of the best out there," Machado said. "Big-league guys wouldn't continue to call him to work out in the offseason if he didn't know what he was doing."
Stevens, 48, said he was supposed to come up and play in the Alaska Baseball League during his playing days, but didn't get the chance due to injury. When Machado gave him a chance to be an assistant last year, he jumped at the chance.
Stevens said the ABL is a proving ground for players.
"In 30 years of coaching, I've watched players go up to Alaska and they either show they're good enough to play professionally or they just disappear," he said.
Stevens said that knowledge makes him nervous about assembling the roster. He said that just because a player has a great college resume does not mean that player will excel in Alaska.
The new head coach said he will build the roster to play a style exactly like last year's team. He will build an offense that drives the gaps and doesn't rely on bunting and stealing.
The offense will not be affected by Machado's absence.
"I think I called like three offensive plays all year," Machado said.
Stevens wants a pitching staff where the starters will go five or so innings, and after that numerous relievers will finish out the game.
Taking over for Machado as the leader of the pitching staff will be Dave Stevens, who is John's brother. Stevens pitched in the Major Leagues for seven seasons, pitching for the Twins, Cubs, Indians and Braves. He went 15-16 with a 6.02 ERA in his career.
John Stevens said his brother has done some individual work with pitchers but has never coached in a team setting.
"He's never been up there," John Stevens said. "He's looking forward to it. He's excited about coming to Alaska."
Machado said Dave Stevens watched some great managers handle bullpens in the big leagues. Machado said bullpens in the ABL are run like in the big leagues, so Dave Stevens should be fine.
John Stevens said despite the addition of his brother, Machado will be missed.
"He had a strong sense of purpose," Stevens said. "His favorite phrase was about pitchers going into fifth gear. He wanted them hammering in the direction they needed to go, not just coasting along.
"He was also like that. He had a clarity of purpose. He wanted to get to Wichita and win Wichita."
According to an Oilers press release, Clark brings a decade of experience working with nonprofits to the general manager job.
He has served as the president and chief executive officer for the Kenai Peninsula Boys and Girls Club. He will take over all aspects of baseball operations for the Peninsula Oilers.