Miracle name Naples Grad Jeff Smith as manager

FORT MYERS, Fla. – The Fort Myers Miracle, in conjunction with the Minnesota Twins, are pleased to announce the return of Jeff Smith as field manager for the 2015 season.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jeff back to the Miracle and Southwest Florida,” said Miracle Chief Operating Office Steve Gliner. “We are looking forward to having his energy and leadership both on and off the field.”

Smith, 40, spent the last five years at the helm of the New Britain Rock Cats, the Twins’ former Double-A affiliate in the Eastern League. With the Rock Cats, Smith tallied a 330-380 record from 2010-14.

“It’s an honor to come back here and manage this team and do it close to my house and close to my family, but also to do it with such great organizations as the Twins and the Miracle,” said Smith. “I’m very happy to be back.”

Smith will be the first Miracle manager to inhabit the completely renovated Hammond Stadium and the CenturyLink Sports Complex.

“That adds some more excitement,” said Smith. “In my mind, we are going to be playing in the best stadium in all of the minor leagues in 2015 with all of the advancements [to the CenturyLink Sports Complex].”

The 2015 season will mark Smith’s tenth in the Minnesota organization as a manager. After a pair of seasons with the Beloit Snappers in 2006 and 2007, Smith took the reigns in Fort Myers for a two-year stint. Guiding the Miracle to the playoffs in each of the 2008 and 2009 campaigns, Smith posted a 157-117 mark over 274 games.

“When I found out that I was going to be the manager in Fort Myers, there was a lot of excitement, not just for myself or my family, but also for me as a Minnesota Twin too,” said Smith. “When I managed with the Miracle five years ago, it was a pretty neat feeling going out to third base and seeing a lot of people that you know from Naples, Fort Myers and all of the surrounding areas [in the stands].”

A graduate of Naples High School in nearby Naples, Fla. and after attending Stetson University, Smith was selected in the 20th round of the MLB First-Year Player Draft in 1995. Primarily a catcher, Smith totaled nine years experience in the minor leagues as a player and appeared in 658 games, including 55 with the Miracle. Spending parts of the 1997 and 1998 season with the Miracle, Smith hit .292 with four home runs and 27 runs batted in.

“Being able to come back down here and work with our young players, realizing that they are not that far away, I’m looking to build off the success that Doug [Mientkiewicz] had the last few years and keep that going,” said Smith. “We’ve got a very good group and developmental staff, all the way through, we’re very excited about what we’ve got coming up.”

Jim Dwyer returns for his tenth season as hitting coach with the Miracle and 19th year in the Minnesota organization. Dwyer, 63, served as the Twins’ minor league roving hitting coordinator from 1997-2005 and is a resident of Cape Coral. Spending 18 years in the Major Leagues, Dwyer is 17th all-time in pinch hits with 103.

Ivan Arteaga returns to the Miracle staff as the pitching coach after spending 2014 with Cedar Rapids, the Twins Single-A affiliate in the Midwest League. Arteaga, 42, was the pitching coach for the Miracle in 2013 and his staff posted a 3.46 earned run average with the fewest walks, 374, in team history. Before his first stint with the Miracle, Arteaga served as the pitching coach for Minnesota’s Appalachian League affiliate, the Elizabethton Twins. A native of Puerto Cabello, Venezuela, Arteaga pitched in 121 games over six years in the minor leagues with the Montreal, Colorado and New York Mets organizations. Arteaga also pitched 28 games of independent league baseball.

Alan Rail, 36, returns for his third season as the athletic trainer on the Miracle staff. Previously, Rail worked eight seasons with the Beloit Snappers and began his athletic training career in 2004 with Elizabethton.