Sky Sox pitching coach resigns

December 11, 2009 | 8:01 pm | 2  

Triple-A Colorado Springs pitching coach Chuck Kniffin has resigned in order to attend to his elderly father, who has health issues. Kniffin, a highly respected member of the Rockies minor league staff, spent the past four seasons as the Sky Sox’s pitching coach and said he wrestled with the decision to leave the Rockies organization and professional baseball.

“It’s probably the hardest decision I’ve had to make in my life,” Kniffin said from his home in Florissant, Co. “I played for 10 years. I’ve coached for 21 years. I’m 59 years old and that’s maybe not the greatest time to make a decision like this. But I just felt I needed to take a break. I’d like to spend some more time with my father.”

The Rockies are likely to replace Kniffin internally. Double-A Tulsa pitching coach Bryan Harvey rejoined the organization for the 2009 season after a one-year hiatus. He made his coaching debut in the Rockies organization at low Class A Asheville in 2007. High Class A Modesto pitching coach Doug Linton has been in the Rockies organization four years and moved up to Modesto last season from Asheville. Finally, Asheville pitching coach Dave Schuler, who has been in the Rockies organization two years, has been a pitching coach at the Triple-A level.

The job in Colorado Springs was ideal for Kniffin, given that Florissant is a little over an hour away. Kniffin said his 89-year-old father lives in Larkspur, Co. But going off to big league spring training in February to begin a season that has extended through September _ the Rockies have invited Kniffin to be with them that month after the Sky Sox concluded their season _ has meant Kniffin was seeing his father about once every six months.

Kniffin said player development director Marc Gustafson asked whether Kniffin was closing the door on his coaching career. “I said, ‘No, I’m not closing the door. I just need to take a break,’ ” Kniffin said. “He was kind enough to say, ‘We’ll keep the door open.’ Everybody said they’re going to miss me, and I’m going to miss everybody as well.”

Kniffin worked part of last season with Jhoulys Chacin and Esmil Rogers, two of the Rockies better pitching prospects. They’re both expected to start the 2010 season with the Sky Sox, along with Samuel Deduno, who pitched at Tulsa in 2009. Kniffin said he checks the Internet daily to see how they and other Rockies minor leaguers are doing in winter ball and when the 2010 season rolls around, he plans on making the drive from Florissant to Colorado Springs to see some Sky Sox games.

“I got to come down and see the kids,” Kniffin said. “I’m not going to be a stranger. I may even pop in at spring training for four or five days to say hi. I wouldn’t be surprised if I just hopped in the car in the spring and head on down there for a couple days and see all the coaching staff and see all the players. I know I’ll get stir crazy up here.”

2 Comments »

  • Mark Cohen | December 26, 2009 | 9:22 am

    Too bad. I was hoping Kniffin would soon be promoted to MLB Pitching Coach for the Rockies. He knows the pitchers well and did a terrific job with the Sky Sox. For example, look at the bulldog attitudes of pitchers returning from the Springs this year – ex. Matt Belisle and Randy Flores in 2009 (there have been others). They seemed like completely different players after returning and we need that kind of change in the players, especially pitchers. I hope the Rockies will consider taking Kniffen back as soon as he wants to return.

  • Brett | January 5, 2010 | 7:55 pm

    Any word on who the Sky Sox pitching coach will be?