The Peninsula Oilers named a new head coach Saturday after a two-week search.
Kevin Griffin, currently a pitching coach for Texas A&M International University, will replace Kyle Richardson, who was the head coach for two years.
Due to financial challenges, the Oilers were late in the game searching for a head coach, but Mike Baxter, the chairman of baseball operations who led the group searching for the head coach, said finding a head coach for the squad’s 42nd season was not challenging.
Baxter spent 10 full seasons as an Oilers general manager, and has been the interim GM on other occasions. He’s also been on the board of directors since 1978, so he just had to reach into his deep pool of contacts to find the right man for the job.
Baxter said he heard about Griffin from Bobby Brown, an Oilers player on the 1994 National Baseball Congress World Series champions. Brown, who also played for the Oilers in 1995, had helped the Oilers get players in the past.
“He recommended him, and looking it over, I liked what Kevin had to offer,” Baxter said.
Griffin, 32, is a baseball lifer. He played in college for Ferrum College and Longwood University, both in Virginia. He also played collegiate summer baseball.
After spending time with the Pittsburgh Pirates in spring training, he played independent ball for seven years.
In the four years since, he has served in various coaching roles, including manager, at the high school, college and professional levels.
“It’s exciting,” Griffin said. “It’s a little late and we have some catching up to do. It’s a challenge, but I always like a challenge.”
Just as Baxter had no shortage of candidates for the coaching job, Griffin said the Oilers’ credentials will help in drawing players.
He said college coaches like to get their players placed in summer ball at the beginning of the school year, or at least by fall.
“The Alaska summer league is well known — the Alaska league and Cape Cod are the best two out there,” Griffin said. “The kids get to go up there and experience Alaska, which is probably someplace they’ve never been.”
Baxter also is confident the Oilers can still put together a solid team.
“We’ve done it late before,” he said. “It’s not the way you want to do it, but it’s doable.”
That is also the attitude Baxter is taking toward all the responsibilities the baseball operations committee has now that there is no full-time general manager.
“I’ve got a good, strong committee I can delegate a lot of duties to,” Baxter said. “It can work.
“Again, it’s not ideal for the situation, but until we can get our feet on the ground and get back to where we should be, it should work good.”
Baxter was the first full-time general manager, taking the job in 1995. He said the general manager does not only baseball duties, but sales, promotion and advertising in the winter as well.
“I don’t think for a minute the Oilers want to stay with volunteer staff,” Baxter said. “But for now, it’s a good thing. A lot of things just won’t get done as they should.”
Griffin said his main focus now is putting together a coaching staff. After that, he will assemble a roster.
He has never been to Alaska, and while he has heard great things about the scenery, that is not what has him excited.
“I’m going for baseball,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s all business once I get there and the season starts.”