Chris Widger, a 10-year major-league veteran who led Kansas City’s Appalachian League affiliate to that league’s championship series in 2019, will manage the Quad Cities River Bandits in the upcoming season.
The Royals announced their minor-league coaching staffs on Friday and Widger was named to lead the River Bandits in their first season as an Advanced-A affiliate of Kansas City.
It’s the same role he was scheduled to fill a year ago with the Royals’ high-A affiliate Wilmington in the Carolina League before the 2020 minor-league season was canceled.
Widger guided the Burlington Royals to a 39-29 record in 2019 after spending three seasons as a coach with Wilmington, the Delaware city where the 49-year-old was born.
A catcher by trade, Widger played college baseball at George Mason before he was selected in the third round of baseball’s 1992 draft by Seattle.
He made his major-league debut with the Mariners three years later and also spent time with the Expos, Yankees, Cardinals, White Sox and Orioles during a 613-game major-league career.
Widger won a World Series ring with the White Sox in 2005, working as a back-up catcher but also playing first base, third base and one game in the outfield for Chicago.
With Quad Cities, Widger will lead a staff filled with veterans of the Royals organization.
Pitching coach Steve Luebber is beginning his 16th year with Kansas City, hitting coach Andy LaRoche is in his third season with the Royals organization and bench coach Mike Jirschele has worked in a number of roles within the organization since 1995.
Luebber, who pitched professionally for 17 years and spent parts of five seasons at the major-league level with the Twins, Blue Jays and Orioles between 1971-81, has been coaching at the minor-league level since 1984.
Joining Quad Cities from the Wilmington staff, Luebber spent time coaching in the Marlins, Orioles, Padres and Rangers organizations before joining the Royals.
LaRoche worked with Widger as the hitting coach in Burlington (N.C.) in 2019.
The son of 14-year major-leaguer Dave LaRoche, a pitcher and outfielder for the Quad-City Angels in 1967-68, LaRoche played six major-league seasons with the Dodgers, Pirates, Athletics and Blue Jays during a 12-year professional playing career.
Jirschele joins the River Bandits staff after spending the past year as a special assistant to Royals general manager Dayton Moore, a Moline native.
He previously served on Kansas City’s major-league coaching staff from 2014-19 and was the third-base coach during the Royals’ 2014 and 2015 World Series runs.
Jirschele played in the minor leagues in the Rangers and Royals farm systems, reaching the Triple-A level, and has 17 years of experience as a minor-league manager.
He began his managerial career with the Gulf Coast Royals in 1992 and managed Rockford in the Midwest League in 1993, Wilmington in the Carolina League in 1994 and Triple-A Omaha from 1995-97 and 2003-13.
Jirschele received the Mike Coolbaugh Award in 2011 as the national minor-league manager of the year.
The Royals also on Friday named Daniel Accola as the River Bandits athletic trainer, Tony Carney as the team’s strength and conditioning coach and Matt Resar as coordinator of clubhouse operations.
Accola joins Quad Cities from the staff in Wilmington, while Carney and Resar join the River Bandits after working with the Royals’ previous low-A affiliate, Lexington of the South Atlantic League.
Another former manager with the Quad Cities club, Eddie Rodriguez, is a member of the Royals' minor-league staff. Beginning his fifth season as Kansas City's minor-league infield coordinator, Rodriguez managed the Quad-City Angels from 1987-89.