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Leechburg grad Morandini climbing MLB managerial ladder

Mickey Morandini is movin' on up — in the Philadelphia Phillies organization, that is.

The 1984 Leechburg graduate has been promoted as manager for the team's Lakewood, N.J., BlueClaws farm club in the Class A South Atlantic League.

Last season, Morandini made his managerial debut with the Williamsport Crosscutters, Philadelphia's short-season Class A affiliate.

"The opening at Lakewood came when last year's manager took a job with the White Sox," Morandini said. "I thoroughly enjoyed managing at Williamsport, and I hope I can do this for a long time."

Lakewood is about an hour and 15 minute drive from Philadelphia and New York City and about 30 minutes from the New Jersey shoreline.

Williamsport was 43-33 under Morandini's tutelage and was in the New York-Penn League playoff hunt until the final weekend of the 2011 regular season.

At Lakewood, the BlueClaws will play a full-season schedule.

Morandini, 45, will report to Clearwater, Fla. on Feb. 28, and full workouts begin March 1 in preparation for the season's opener April 5 at Greenville, S.C. The BlueClaws' home opener will be April 12 against Hagerstown.

"I had a real good group of kids last year, and I hope some of them will be moving up to this level," Morandini said.

It's too early to tell if the next Ryan Howard or Chase Utley will be part of the Lakewood team this year, though Morandini is able to concentrate on player development.

"There's not much in-game maneuvering," said Morandini. "We have the designated hitter,, and the pitching rotation is pretty much set. You do have to pinch hit a little bit."

One big difference between this year and last is roster size. Williamsport had a 30-man roster, but the South Atlantic League has a more conventional 25-man roster.

The Phillies mandate pitch counts on starters, so that enables every pitcher get some time on the mound.

"A lot of the things I'll be working on is having these players mature as both a ball player and as people," Morandini said. "This is more about getting kids their work in and keeping them healthy, especially the pitchers."

Like most minor league managers, Morandini will coach at third base while his team bats. His two coaches will be Greg Legg (batting) and Les Lancaster (pitching).

Prior to managing at Williamsport last year, Morandini was a high school coach in Valparaiso, Ind., where he makes his home.

In 1988, Morandini was part of the U.S. Olympic gold medal-winning baseball team at the Seoul Games. He played 11 seasons in major league baseball, appearing in 1,298 games and was a 1995 National League All-Star.

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