When former major-league pitcher Mickey Storey joined the Houston Astros’ minor-league coaching staff last season, he was looking for more than an opportunity to become a pitching coach.
"That caught a few people by surprise, but I’ve always been interested in the whole game, just not pitching," Storey said. "When I first interviewed with the Astros, I talked with them about that, that my objectives as a coach were centered more on the entire game, and they’ve given me that opportunity."
Storey spent last season working as the development coach on former Quad-Cities manager Omar Lopez’s staff at high-A Buies Creek in the Carolina League and Friday, he was named as the new manager of the River Bandits.
His hiring is part of a complete staff makeover from the collection of coaches who guided the River Bandits to the 2017 Midwest League championship. Storey believes he is ready for the challenge.
"I learned as much as I could working with Omar last year, and he was a phenomenal mentor," Storey said. "He has been a part of the Astros organization for more than 20 years, and he taught me a great deal that will be the foundation of how I manage a club."
In his first professional managerial assignment, Storey’s staff will include pitching and hitting coaches and a development specialist who all spent 2017 at the collegiate level.
Graham Johnson, an Alexis, Illinois, native, will work as the River Bandits pitching coach after spending the past six years in the same role at Morehead State University.
Dillon Lawson, the hitting coach at short-season Tri-City in 2016, is the Quad-Cities hitting coach after filling that role at the University of Missouri last year.
The River Bandits’ development specialist will be Rafael Pena, who joins Houston after working as an assistant at the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma.
Storey, 31, is not a stranger to the Midwest League.
A 31st-round draft pick of the Athletics in 2008 out of Florida Atlantic, he pitched in 2009 for Kane County, where he did not allow a run in 13 appearances and earned nine saves in 10 opportunities.
He actually made his Midwest League debut at Davenport’s Modern Woodmen Park on May 16, 2009, working four innings of scoreless relief for the Cougars in a 6-5, 13-inning loss to the River Bandits in a game decided by a bases-loaded walk served up by a Kane County outfielder brought in to pitch the 13th inning.
"I remember the surroundings pretty well," Storey said. "I remember I needed to get some work in that night and that it ended up being four innings of work, a little more than I expected, but I was able to help my team."
Storey reached the major-league level in 2012, going 0-1 with a 3.85 ERA while making 26 relief appearances for the Astros.
He made three appearances for Toronto in 2013 and last pitched in affiliated baseball in the minors in the Dodgers farm system in 2015.
Growing up about 40 miles south of the Quad-Cities, Johnson is a graduate of Alexis High School, where he was a multi-sport standout. He played collegiately at Culver-Stockton, and his coaching resume includes stops at Lindenwood and Western Illinois before being hired as the pitching coach at Morehead State.
"While I enjoyed recruiting at the college level, I really liked the developmental aspect of working with pitchers and helping them work toward their goals," Johnson said. "That is something that really appealed to me about joining an organization like the Astros which places an importance on development."
Johnson is also familiar with his new workplace.
He recalls playing in youth tournaments at what was then John O’Donnell Stadium when he was about 12 years old, and he was a volunteer assistant at Western Illinois when it played Iowa at Modern Woodmen Park in 2011.
"It’s a homecoming of sorts," Johnson said. "I haven’t spent a lot of time in the Quad-Cities, but I am familiar with the area, and I’m looking forward to that aspect of it, too.’’
Storey replaces Russ Steinhorn, who left the Astros organization in September to become the director of player development for the baseball program at Clemson University.
Other members of a River Bandits staff that led Quad-Cities to 79-59 record last season and the franchise’s third league championship in seven years, have been assigned elsewhere in the Houston farm system for the upcoming season.
Pitching coach Drew French and hitting coach Ben Rosenthal will fill those same roles at high-A Buies Creek in the Carolina League while the team’s development specialist, Jason Bell, will manage the Astros’ short-season affiliate, Tri-City, this season.
Two other former River Bandits managers also have assignments within the Houston developmental staff this season.
Lopez, who managed Quad-Cities in 2013-14 and 2016, will manage the Astros’ AA club, Corpus Christi in the Texas League.
Josh Bonifay, the Midwest League manager of the year in 2015, will work as the Astros’ minor league field coordinator after working in that role at the major-league level last season with the Texas Rangers.