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Leechburg's Morandini continues rise through Phillies coaching ranks

| Sunday, Jan. 19, 2014, 12:26 a.m.
Leechburg native Mickey Morandini.
Leechburg native Mickey Morandini.

Mickey Morandini continues to climb the Philadelphia Phillies' organizational ladder.

The Leechburg native has been named to the coaching staff of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs, the Phillies' Triple-A affiliate in the International League.

Morandini had been manager of the Lakewood (N.J.) Single-A team the past two seasons.

The move had been rumored for several weeks, but the Phillies made it official earlier this month with a system-wide announcement of coaching staffs.

“I'm not completely sure what I'll be doing,” Morandini said. “I could be coaching third base and working with baserunning and offering input in game situations.”

One thing is certain: Morandini, 47, is one step away from coaching in the major leagues. He will report to the Phillies training camp in Clearwater, Fla., on Feb. 9.

Coaching in Triple-A is different than the lower levels of professional baseball. It includes working with players who have had a taste of the major leagues.

“At the younger levels, you have to have a lot of patience and there's lots of repetition,” Morandini said. “But here, you have players challenging to get back to the majors and you have to get those players better in certain areas.”

Morandini got the coaching bug almost 10 years ago when he took over the Valparaiso High School team in western Indiana.

He was reluctant to get into pro coaching, what with raising three boys.

But in 2010, the Phillies invited Morandini to Clearwater as a guest instructor during spring training for a couple of weeks, much like the Pirates have done with Mike LaValliere and Bill Mazeroski.

Morandini loved the assignment — however brief — and took the manager's job the following year at Williamsport, the Phillies' Single-A short-season affiliate.

At Allentown, he will be working with Iron Pigs manager Dave Brundage, pitching coach Ray Burris and hitting coach Sal Rende.

Triple-A baseball has become a big hit in Allentown, Pennsylvania's third-largest city.

The city and its surrounding area, known as the Lehigh Valley, supported the Iron Pigs well at Coca-Cola Park. The team is the only minor league team to draw more than 600,000 fans in each of the past three seasons.

“It's a good atmosphere there, the fans have really come out,” Morandini said.

The former Leechburg High School baseball and basketball standout recently moved his family from Chesterton, Ind., to Glen Mills, outside of Philadelphia.

He and his wife, Peg, have three sons: one in college, another in high school and another in middle school.

“The move was hardest for the kids, but they're adjusting very well,” Morandini said.

After graduating from Leechburg, Morandini earned a scholarship to the University of Indiana and played on the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic team in 1988 in Seoul, South Korea.

He was drafted by the Phillies in 1988 and made the major league squad in 1990, starting an 11-year major league career.

Morandini is probably best known for pulling off an unassisted triple play while playing second base for the Phillies on Sept. 20, 1992, at Three Rivers Stadium. The Pirates had Andy Van Slyke at second base and Barry Bonds at first. With both runners breaking, Jeff King hit at liner to Morandini's right. He caught the ball, stepped on second to retire Van Slyke and tagged out a sliding Bonds at second.

George Guido is a freelance writer.

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