MORGANTOWN — When moving to a new town, it’s always nice to have someone who has been around the block a few times under your wing.
That’s the case for new West Virginia Black Bears manager Kieran Mattison, who will have fourth-year hitting coach Jonathan Prieto and third-year pitching coach Tom Filer coaching alongside him.
“It’s all been positive things, JP and Filer have been here a while and they’ve pretty much given me all of the ins and outs,” of the New York-Penn League, Mattison said. “They also said it’s a great place to play here with good fans, good support staff and good facilities.
“I’m looking forward to it and excited about the opportunity.”
Mattison, after a flight delay from 87-degree Tampa where he was working with the Pirates extended spring training group, arrived in 37-degree Morgantown for the first time Monday, before heading back to Florida in a few days. He takes over for Brian Esposito, who was promoted to Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliated, in Indianapolis.
Mattison, 37, was a pitcher in the Royals, Indians and Dodgers organizations before cracking into the coaching ranks. He spent a season in France, in 2013, but joined the Pirates organization in 2016 with the Gulf Coast League as a hitting coach. Last season, Mattison managed the Pirates Dominican Summer League squad.
Always one to ask questions and teach, coaching and managing seemed like a natural fit for Mattison, something he’ll do with the Black Bears, the Pirates Single-A short-season affiliate.
“You have to approach the younger players a little different than you do the younger players, and a lot of it has to do with the player and his maturation,” he said. “The game is the game, and I think the way you teach it is to try and keep it as simple as possible.”
Mattison compared his role at this level to “pouring concrete,” laying a foundation for the Pirates future, but that doesn’t mean he isn’t here to win. The Black Bears won the NYPL championship in their inaugural season, in 2015.
However, a vast majority of Mattison’s roster isn’t even in the organization yet — many will be selected in the MLB draft, set for June 4-6. The scouting process is key to what pieces Mattison will have, but he doesn’t care who is picked — his job is to develop.
“We try to speculate how the roster will transform,” he said. “I was asking one of the scouting directors how they go about drafting guys. My mind set is whoever they draft, I’m going to get them better. That’s the mind set of me and my staff that’ll be here, and I look forward to teaching.”
There are a few players in extended camp in Florida that will likely be on the Black Bears, too, so Mattison will be familiar with some of his team. He expects those players to be “tone-setters,” being in the organization for a while.
After winning the NYPL title three years ago, the Black Bears missed the playoffs the last two seasons. They did finished five games over .500 last year, with a 40-35 mark.
They will open this season June 15, at Mahoning Valley. The home-opener is June 21, against State College.