Minor League Baseball announced two more award winners: the Minnesota Twins’ Jim Rantz and Oklahoma City RedHawks manager Bobby Jones.
The inaugural recipients of Minor League Baseball’s annual Sheldon “Chief” Bender and Mike Coolbaugh Awards are Minnesota Twins Director of Minor League Operations Jim Rantz and Oklahoma City RedHawks manager Bobby Jones. The duo will be honored, along with Minor League Baseball’s four other major award winners, during the Baseball Winter Meetings™ to be held December 8-11 at the Las Vegas Hilton.
Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award
Jim Rantz, Minnesota Twins Director of Minor League Operations
The Bender Award is presented to someone with distinguished service who has been instrumental in player development. Jim has been in his current position overseeing Minnesota’s farm system, annually considered among the best in baseball, since 1986. Under his watch, the Twins’ Minor League affiliates have finished with a combined winning percentage over .500 in 19 of 23 seasons. Jim’s tenure with the Twins dates back to the club’s inception in 1961, when he was a player in their farm system.
"Jim Rantz epitomizes the spirit of the Chief Bender Award by his dedicated career with the Twins,” stated Minor League Baseball President Pat O’Conner. “Jim has led the Twins’ efforts to build from within and partner with Minor League Baseball affiliates to develop talent in positive settings. We congratulate Jim on winning the inaugural Sheldon “Chief” Bender Award.”
Rantz is in charge of developing talent for the Twins and personnel moves and contract negotiations with Minor League players. He is also responsible for the working relationships with Minnesota affiliates Rochester, New Britain, Fort Myers, Beloit, Elizabethton and the Twins’ entry in the Gulf Coast League.
“I’m very honored to receive the Chief Bender Award,” said Rantz. “He was such a role model. Chief was not only a solid baseball man, but a true gentleman of the game.”
Jim was a pitcher in the Twins’ system for four years. He then managed their St. Cloud affiliate for one season, leading it to a league title in 1965. After that season, Rantz left the field and joined the Twins’ front office. He worked in public relations for four years, before getting involved in player development.
Mike Coolbaugh Award
Bobby Jones, Oklahoma City RedHawks Manager
The Coolbaugh Award is presented to an individual who has shown an outstanding baseball work ethic, knowledge of the game and skill in mentoring young players on the field. Oklahoma City RedHawks manager Bobby Jones has been teaching the game and imparting his wisdom on players for the past 19 seasons, all in the Texas Rangers organization.
“I am so proud and honored to be the first recipient of the Mike Coolbaugh Award,” expressed Jones. “This is very special to me. Mike was a great guy, devoted to baseball and his family. I feel very lucky to have known him and had him play for me on one of my clubs. I am extremely proud to accept this prestigious award named in his honor.”
Jones ranks seventh among active Minor League managers with 1,285 wins. He has led two clubs to league championships; the 1989 Charlotte Rangers (Florida State) and the 1998 Tulsa Drillers (Texas). Four of his last six Oklahoma clubs have won division championships.
Bobby became a Minor League manager in 1988 after playing professionally for 21 years, including parts of nine seasons from 1974-86 in the Major Leagues. His playing career was put on hold when he served 14 months in Vietnam from December 1969 to February 1971.
He has spent all, or parts, of another three seasons as a Major League coach with the Rangers. Texas registered the most outfield assists (41) in the Major Leagues in 2006 when Jones was the outfield instructor.
“Bobby Jones is a career baseball man who exemplifies what is good about our sport,” said O’Conner. “As a successful player, a dedicated manager and coach, a military veteran and loyal member of the Texas Rangers organization, Bobby’s career to date is worthy of receiving recognition through the Mike Coolbaugh Award. We congratulate Bobby on this much deserved recognition.”