Mikulik takes over as Roughriders new manager

by Dan M | Posted on Saturday, March 28th, 2015


By Alex Vispoli
Change is in the air at Dr Pepper Ballpark. The Frisco RoughRiders’ active offseason saw a new ownership group take over, significant stadium upgrades, an overhauled logo design and the arrival of new manager Joe Mikulik.
Mikulik (pronounced “MICK-uh-LICK”) is the definition of a baseball lifer. Drafted in the ninth round of the 1984 June Draft, Mikulik played 12 seasons in the Astros organization. His biggest hit came for Triple-A Tucson when he drove in the winning run in the bottom of the ninth, clinching the Pacific Coast League Championship. Mikulik, a late season addition to the roster, drove an 0-2 pitch into right field to score Trinidad Hubbard, and the city of Tucson went into a state of pandemonium.
A perennial losing pro baseball franchise had finally won a championship, from perhaps the most unlikely contributor. Immediately following the game Mikulik offered, “I don’t know what it’s like in the [major leagues], but if it’s better than this … wow.”
The closest Mikulik came to the big leagues was in 1995, the year following the work stoppage that curtailed the ’94 season. The league threatened to have replacement players fill rosters for the season. Mikulik was a prime candidate at age 31 with 3,634 minor league at-bats. In an article with Sports Illustrated in January of ’95, Mikulik tried to explain the dilemma should he get asked to play. On one hand here is a chance to fulfill his lifelong dream, donning a major league uniform. Trying to support a young family, Mikulik would more than quadruple his typical salary, saying he would be “living high on the hog.”
On the other hand, he would antagonize the MLB Players Association and players he hoped to call teammates one day.
The opportunity never arrived, as MLB and the MLBPA reached an agreement in late April.
Following his playing days, Mikulik immediately entered the coaching realm. He spent two years with the Class A Short Season Burlington Indians before joining the Colorado Rockies organization. He managed the Class-A Ashville Tourists for an impressive 13 seasons, amassing 938 wins. His wins are the most ever for the franchise and the South Atlantic League, which inducted him into its Hall of Fame in 2010.
Mikulik joined the Rangers as a roving instructor in 2013 before returning to the dugout in 2014 with Advanced Single-A Myrtle Beach, leading the Pelicans to an 82-56 season. Mikulik won his 1,000th game in the minor leagues last season with a 7-5 victory over the Potomac Nationals. The feat went largely unnoticed because of a statistical error dating back to his first managing gig in 1997 with Burlington. He only managed the final 16 games, but is wrongly credited in online databases with an additional 22 wins and 30 losses from that season.
Speaking to a South Carolina reporter, Mikulik found humor in the situation, “It (was) a silent victory,” he said with a laugh. “Nobody around knows about it. I guess I’ll have to celebrate by myself.
To the public outside of Tucson, Mikulik is best known for his extensive tirades with umpires. A quick Google or YouTube search provides an entertaining potential preview of what may come to Frisco this season.
Whether he’s (literally) stealing second base, undressing at home plate, bashing coolers or barricading the umpires’ dressing room, there is no shortage of energy.
Following a major blowup in 2006, Mikulik was quick to point out, “I don’t think I ever lost total control.”
Former major league outfielder Kenny Lofton played with Mikulik in the Houston organization. When the video of his tantrum(s) went viral, Lofton was unmoved,
“This was nothing new about him being intense,” Lofton said. “He loved the game. He wanted to play every day. He had the same intensity every day.  If he didn’t play, he was mad, because he wanted to play. That’s how he was. And he loved baseball, boy. He’d live and die for it.
“That’s just his nature.”
Mikulik brings an extensive legacy and well-known temper to the RoughRiders.
Most importantly, he brings a proven track record to help the next wave of future Rangers become great.


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