Black Bears, Local Sports, Sports

Jedd Gyorko ready for second season as Black Bears manager with teaching in mind

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia Black Bears manager Jedd Gyorko is back for his second season at the helm, seemingly putting his playing days behind him, at least for the time being.

When asked if he’d answer the call if MLB teams requested his services, he said, “I think I turned my phone off.”

Gyorko, a Morgantown native, spent eight years in the Majors with the Padres, Cardinals, Dodgers and Brewers from 2013-20, but spent last year moving from player to coach after taking over the Black Bears.

Now in their second season as a member of the MLB Draft League, the Black Bears and Gyorko look to build on their 30-19 campaign a year ago, although it will come with a much different looking roster. Only two of the 34-man roster were on the team last year.

“I’m just excited to get to work with them,” Gyorko said. “In high school and college, you usually have these kids for 3-4 years and get to groom them and mold them as players. Not so much here. We only practice two more three times and then we’re right into games.”

The team gathered for the first time Monday, just after many college seasons across the country came to an end. Several supplemental players are on the team to fill out rosters until college teams that made the postseason are eliminated.

Three days after gathering for the first time, the Black Bears will open their season Thursday on the road at Mahoning Valley. First pitch is set for 7 p.m.

The coaching staff is made up of Gyorko, hitting coach Jimmy Galusky, pitching coach Justin Thomas and bench coach Levi Maxwell.

Galusky, a Preston County native who played at WVU from 2015-18, is in his first season as the hitting coach but was on the coaching staff last year. Thomas is the head coach at Bethany College, while Maxwell is the head coach at Williamstown High.

Seven players from last year’s team ended up being drafted and all three coaches made it a point that this is what the league was designed for — helping players live out their dream of playing professional baseball.

“Our goal is to still get guys signed by MLB-affiliated teams, that’s still the ultimate goal,” Gyorko said. “No kid starts playing baseball and says, ‘Oh man, I really hope to get to the draft league and win a draft league championship.’ They want to get to the big leagues. Their goal is to get into affiliated ball and that’s still our main goal.”

While much of the roster will be new to those in Morgantown, four WVU players will be on the team — pitchers Chase Smith, Zach Ottinger, Zach Bravo and Trey Braithwaite.

The Black Bears’ home opener is at 7 p.m. Tuesday against Frederick with full capacity allowed for the first time since 2019 due to COVID-19.

“It’s been almost three year since we were able to plan for a full season of promotions and special events, and we’re excited to welcome our fans back to the ballpark,” first-year general manager Leighann Sainato said.