For the last two years of Single-A Short Season, the Hillsboro Hops have been under the capable hands of Manager Shelley Duncan. An experienced MLB outfielder, designated hitter, and first baseman, Duncan was new to his management career when the Arizona Diamondbacks organization hired him for the farm team. In his debut season in 2015, Duncan led the Hops to a Northwest League championship. Duncan has been popular in Hillsboro, with his aggressive and youthful attitude sparking late-in-the-game rallies and his successful batting career serving as inspiration to young players.
But, as any minor league fan can attest, baseball is a game of perpetual professional motion. Duncan has earned a manager position with a higher profile team within the Diamondbacks system, the Visalia Rawhide in California’s Advanced-A league. Much in the way Single-A baseball is a farm system that develops player talent for the big show, it is also a farm for coaching staff.
The next man to lead the Hillsboro Hops when they kick off the 2017 season will be Shawn Roof, a former infielder who started his career in the Detroit Tigers system after being drafted in the 33rd round in 2007. Roof played as high as Triple-A for the Toledo Mudhens in his 2010 season, but decided to pursue a coaching position beginning in 2013. After two seasons with the Orioles organization and one season as an assistant coach at Indiana University, he joined the D-backs system and coached in the Midwest League. Just as Duncan before him, this switch to Hillsboro will be Roof’s debut as a Manager.
Roof, though young and fresh-faced, will have a fountain of experience from which to draw. He will likely have an easy time connecting to his players and keeping energy up. And his staff is grounded by decades of experience, with veteran pitching coach Mike Parrot returning for his second season with the Hops and new batting coach Franklin Stubbs stepping in. Stubbs is a World Series ringholder with over 20 years in the MLB, and joins the Hops after his first season as a coach in Missoula, Montana for the Pioneer League.
The Hops had an up-and-down season in 2016, sometimes allowing sedate performances at the mound and at bat until the game was on the line. It’s no stretch to assume the Diamondbacks executives and Hillsboro’s General Manager K.L. Wombacher purposefully entrust the team to younger men just starting their careers in management. Roof’s prime directive ought to be for the 2017 Hops to fire on all cylinders right from the start and keep a culture of fun and competitive stakes. A NWL season is a meaty experience all at once, with games virtually every day and unglamorous travel and accomodations. Hops fans have more than five months to wait for Roof’s performance.