Sweet, LaRocque win Coolbaugh, Bender Awards
SAN DIEGO -- Minor League Baseball announced the selection of Milwaukee Brewers Minor League manager Rick Sweet as the recipient of the 14th annual Mike Coolbaugh Award, and St. Louis Cardinals assistant general manager and director of player development Gary LaRocque as the 14th winner of the Sheldon “Chief” Bender
SAN DIEGO -- Minor League Baseball announced the selection of Milwaukee Brewers Minor League manager Rick Sweet as the recipient of the 14th annual Mike Coolbaugh Award, and St. Louis Cardinals assistant general manager and director of player development Gary LaRocque as the 14th winner of the Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award.
The Mike Coolbaugh Award is presented annually to an individual who has shown outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game and skill in mentoring young players on the field. The award was created by Minor League Baseball in 2008 to honor the late Coolbaugh, a 17-year Minor League player who was in his first year as a coach at the time of his passing. Coolbaugh appeared in 44 Major League games with the Milwaukee Brewers (39 games in 2001) and St. Louis Cardinals (five games in 2002).
The Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award is presented to an individual with distinguished service who has been instrumental in player development. The award honors Bender as a longtime front office executive and consultant who spent 39 years with the Cincinnati Reds.
Rick Sweet -- Mike Coolbaugh Award
Rick Sweet, a veteran of 30 Minor League seasons as a manager and the fifth-winningest manager in Minor League Baseball history with 2,192 victories, has been in professional baseball since 1975, when he was drafted as a catcher by the San Diego Padres.
Following a nine-year playing career, Sweet embarked on a storied career as a manager and is a four-time Manager of the Year Award winner (1994 Pacific Coast League, 2008, 2009 and 2022 International League). He was also named Baseball America’s Triple-A Manager of the Year in 2010 with Louisville. Sweet has managed in the Triple-A All-Star Game three times (PCL in 1993 and 2003, and for the IL in 2009).
Sweet managed in the Minor Leagues with the Seattle Mariners (1987-88), Houston Astros (1989-95), New York Mets (1997), Montreal Expos (1998, 2000), San Diego Padres (2001-03), Detroit Tigers (2004) and Cincinnati Reds (2005-11). With the Brewers, Sweet has managed Triple-A Colorado Springs (2015-18), Double-A San Antonio (2019) and Triple-A Nashville (2021-22).
His 2,192 wins are the second-most among active minor league managers, behind only Myrtle Beach’s Buddy Bailey (2,282).
Sweet's playing career (1975-83) included time in the big leagues with San Diego (1978), New York-NL (1982) and Seattle (1982-83). He was first drafted by the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 31st round of the 1974 amateur Draft but did not sign. He was selected again the following year by the San Diego Padres in the third round out of Gonzaga University.
“I am incredibly honored and humbled to win the Mike Coolbaugh Award,” said Sweet. “It is a true blessing to be amongst such a distinguished group of baseball professionals and I can’t thank Minor League Baseball enough. There is no higher honor to receive an award based on work ethic, knowledge of the game and mentoring young players. I owe a great debt of gratitude to my family and the hundreds of players and staff that have worked tirelessly beside me throughout my career.”
Sweet and his wife, Kimberly, have a daughter, Mary, and a son, Seth.
|2008||Bobby Jones||Texas Rangers|
|2009||Charlie Montoyo||Tampa Bay Rays|
|2010||Woody Huyke||GCL Pirates|
|2011||Mike Jirschele||Omaha Storm Chasers|
|2012||Johnny Goryl||Cleveland Indians|
|2013||Mike Guerrero||Nashville Sounds|
|2014||Tom Wiedenbauer||Cleveland Indians|
|2015||John Shoemaker||Los Angeles Dodgers|
|2016||Donald “Spin” Williams||Washington Nationals|
|2017||Dennis Holmberg||Toronto Blue Jays|
|2018||Steve Turco||St. Louis Cardinals|
|2019||Glenn “Goose” Gregson||Boston Red Sox|
|2021||Roly de Armas||Philadelphia Phillies|
|2022||Rick Sweet||Milwaukee Brewers|
Gary LaRocque -- Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award
Gary LaRocque has 43 years of experience in professional baseball with an emphasis in player development and scouting. He just completed his 15th year in the Cardinals organization, where he started as a senior special assistant to the general manager in 2008 before ascending to his current position prior to the 2014 season.
LaRocque’s career in professional baseball began in 1975 as a Minor League infielder in the Milwaukee Brewers organization. He entered the field of player development in 1979 as a Minor League coach and began a 19-year career in the Los Angeles Dodgers organization. He began managing in 1981 and worked at the Rookie, Single-A and Double-A levels before moving into the scouting department in 1989. LaRocque served as an area scout and then was a regional scouting supervisor for the Dodgers from 1992-1997.
LaRocque then joined the New York Mets in 1998 as scouting director and assistant general manager before being appointed vice president of professional scouting in 2006.
LaRocque acquired his degree in Secondary Education (Mathematics) in 1975 from the University of Hartford in West Hartford, Connecticut, and was elected to the Athletic Hall of Fame at the University of Hartford in 1993.
“Admiring all the accomplishments of Chief Bender, with his early years spent in the Cardinals organization before his remarkable time in Cincinnati, it is humbling to join the list of previous recipients of the award,” said LaRocque. “Chief Bender was respected for setting the highest standards for player development systems and I’m honored to have been selected, and it’s a privilege to share with our player development staff and the Cardinals organization."
LaRocque and his wife, Lynn, have a son, Chris, and a daughter, Ashley.
“Both of these men are highly respected in the game and on behalf of Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball, it is my pleasure to present them with these awards,” said Peter Woodfork, Major League Baseball’s senior vice president of Minor League operations and development.
|2008||Jim Rantz||Minnesota Twins|
|2009||Keith Lieppman||Oakland Athletics|
|2010||Mark Newman||New York Yankees|
|2011||Bob Gebhard||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|2012||Mitch Lukevics||Tampa Bay Rays|
|2013||Brian Graham||Baltimore Orioles|
|2014||Lois Hudson||Cincinnati Reds|
|2015||Buddy Bell||Chicago White Sox|
|2016||Dan Lunetta||Detroit Tigers|
|2017||Grady Fuson||Oakland Athletics|
|2018||Steve Cobb||Arizona Fall League|
|2019||Junior Noboa||Arizona Diamondbacks|
|2021||Mike Bell||Minnesota Twins|
|2022||Gary LaRocque||St. Louis Cardinals|