Walla Walla Sweets Round Out Coaching Staff for 2015 - NBC Right Now/KNDO/KNDU Tri-Cities, Yakima, WA |

Walla Walla Sweets Round Out Coaching Staff for 2015

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by Walla Walla Sweets Media Relations

WALLA WALLA, WA. – The Walla Walla Sweets are heading into uncharted territory. For the first time in franchise history, the team will take the field Opening Day (June 5 vs. Medford Rogues) with a new skipper. Manager Frank Mutz was hired, and introduced to the community in November, and team president Zachary Fraser and general manager Katie Biagi have been hard at work with Mutz to flesh out the staff that will help him lead from the dugout.

The club has hired a pitching coach, a hitting coach, and a pair of bench coaches for the 2015 season to assist Mutz. Veteran coaches Jim Ozella (pitching coach), James Milkovich (hitting and defense), and Justin Speer will help round out the staff (bench coach and strength & conditioning), with athletic trainer Nathan Fry the lone non-playing holdover from the 2014 clubhouse. For the first time in team history, the Sweets will employ a former player as a member of the coaching staff, as 2014 outfielder Parker Osborne will return to Walla Walla as a member of the coaching staff.

“We are excited to move forward with such a quality staff,” said Fraser. “The combination of experience at multiple levels of the game, both playing and coaching, is something that I feel provides Frank, Jim, James, Justin, and Parker the best opportunity to lead us to compete for a WCL title year in and year out.”

Ozella, from Hart High School in Newhall, CA, is embarking on his 16th season as the head coach of the Indians. Ozella's has years of experience at the collegiate level as well, serving as an assistant at the University of Illinois (Big 10), College of the Canyons and was an assistant for two seasons in the Alaska Baseball League under legendary coach Jim Dietz with the Alaska Goldpanners (who was the first commissioner of the West Coast League). In addition to his tenure with Hart High School, Ozella has been the head coach at Danville Schlarman High School (Illinois) and Alemany High School in Mission Hills, CA. At Hart, Ozella has enjoyed a winning tradition, with a record of 287-145, and has had numerous collegiate and professional players who have progressed from his rosters. Ozella and his wife Kate have been married for 32 years and have adult children.

“Jim has been one of the top high school baseball coaches in Sothern California over the last 30 years. Year after year Jim has put out a winning team and some of the top baseball players in the country. His players have experienced a tremendous amount of success at both the college and professional level due to their high school preparation under Jim,” said Mutz.  “To be able to have Jim Ozella on our coaching staff in Walla Walla this summer will be incredible. He brings so much baseball experience and knowledge with him. Coach Ozella love the game of baseball and does an incredible job bringing the best out of his players."

“Jim and I have been good friends over the years and he is not only a great baseball guy, he's an extraordinary man - we are truly blessed to have him on board for the 2015 summer.”

Coach Ozella currently has several players at the MLB level such as Jaime Shields (Kansas City Royals), Trevor Bauer (Cleveland Indians), and Chris Valaika (Chicago Cubs), as well as dozens who have played in the minor leagues or Division 1 collegiate level.

Milkovich, who is on Mutz' staff at Chaminade, played collegiately at University of San Francisco and Cal Lutheran University. Returning to Chaminade following his collegiate career, Milkovich has served in many roles, including head coach, and spent the 2013-14 season as the director of baseball operations for the Cal State University – Northridge. He has managerial experience, serving as the manager of the Southwest Future All-Star Game in California, where his South roster of the top 20 high school players in California won titles in 2013 and '14. All 20 players on the '13 squad are currently playing either NCAA Division 1 baseball or affiliated Minor League Baseball.

“Jimmy brings a lot of baseball experience to our coaching staff as both a Division 1 player and as a high school and college coach,” Mutz added. “Coach Milkovich does an excellent job preparing players for the next level – he does a fantastic job working with our hitters both mechanically and mentally. He understands the elements of a proper swing and does a remarkable job of communicating with his players.”

“What I appreciate about Coach Milkovich goes beyond his coaching ability. He a quality person who loves baseball deeply and is committed to helping young players learn the game the right way.

“I'm grateful Jimmy will be joining the coach staff this summer. He is knowledgeable, hardworking, and will be an important component to the Sweets offense.”

Speer is an assistant at Walla Walla Community College baseball program, having moved to Walla Walla the summer of 2014 as his wife Chelsie assumed the reins as the head coach of the Warrior Volleyball program. Prior to the family relocating to Walla Walla, Speer was the head coach of the Barlow High School (Oregon) Bruins baseball program. During his collegiate career, Speer played in the West Coast League for the Corvallis Knights (2007) while attending school at Western Oregon.

“Justin comes highly recommended from Dave (Meliah – head coach at WWCC and former Sweets hitting coach) and I like that he played in the circuit when he was in college,” said Fraser. “I am glad that we are able to continue to work with a great coach who is from Walla Walla. The hometown connection is an important one for me.”

Osborne, who is completing his senior season at Southern Illinois University, was part of the 2014 Walla Walla Sweets lineup. He hit .254 in 40 games, with 4 HR and 29 RBI. In addition to his play on the field, he was a fan favorite, never shying away to talk to a fan or sign an autograph.

“Part of our model is to create opportunities for our players in whatever field they choose to pursue,” said Fraser. “We are excited that Parker will be back in a Sweets uniform and now teaching the Sweets way to incoming players.”