GRANVILLE, W.Va. — The Pittsburgh Pirates announced Wednesday the West Virginia Black Bears coaching staff for the 2020 season. The team will be led by manager Jonathan Johnston in his first year with the Pirates organization and as a professional baseball coach. Johnston is joined by pitching coach Bryan Hickerson and hitting coach Jim Horner.
Johnston is the fifth manager in Black Bears history, which dates back to 2015. A former minor league catcher, Johnston made his name as a coach at the University of California, San Diego, where he operated primarily as a hitting/catchers coach and coordinator. From there, he took an assistant coaching position at UNC Ashville for four years before returning to UC San Diego in 2018.
A graduate of the Naval Academy, Johnston played four years of college baseball for Navy and was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the 42nd round of the 2007 MLB Draft. However, before his professional career could take off, Johnston was called up to active duty in 2008. He served in the Navy for more than four years on multiple tours of duty in the Middle East before he returned to play one season of baseball for the Stockton Ports, the Class-A Advanced affiliate of the Oakland As.
“We are excited to have Johnston and his staff in Morgantown this season,” Black Bears General Manager Matthew Drayer said. “With his military background and his drive to compete, he has a lot to offer these young players. We are all looking forward to working with our new manager and the rest of the coaching staff.”
Joining Johnston are pitching coach Bryan Hickerson and hitting coach Jim Horner. In his fourth season with the Pirates, Hickerson spent last year with the Indianapolis Indians, Pittsburgh’s Triple-A affiliate. Hickerson was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in the seventh round of the 1986 MLB Draft before beginning his coaching career with the San Francisco Giants.
Newcomer Jim Horner joins the Pirates organization as a hitting coach after a decorated career coaching collegiate and professional baseball, most recently with Washington State University. Horner, a former catcher, was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1996 and played professional baseball for nine years.
In addition to Hickerson and Horner, assistant coaches Sean West and Dee Brown join the Black Bears staff, along with athletic trainer Victor Silva and strength and conditioning coach Mark Dixon – the only returning staff member.
The 2020 season begins June 18 at Monongalia County Ballpark, hosting the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m.