The late George Kissell defined The Cardinal Way as a player, manager and teaching leader of the St. Louis Cardinals organization from 1940 until he passed away last fall due to injuries suffered in an automobile accident.
In the 1990's, the Cardinals first established the George Kissell Award to recognize a member of the organizational staff for excellence in player development.
This year’s recipient is actually a two-time winner. Batavia manager Mark DeJohn is the newest Kissell Award honoree after also having won in 2003.
Making the honor even more special was the fact that this year marked a change in how the award winner was decided. DeJohn was selected through voting by the Cardinals player development staff.
The well-deserved recognition was announced at the Cardinals annual minor league spring training orientation meeting held Thursday evening in Jupiter, Florida.
At least 14 of the Cardinals’ June 2008 draftees began their professional careers under DeJohn at Batavia this past summer, and his squad included at least seven teenagers.
DeJohn and his staff took on the task of helping the young men adapt and become better ballplayers in the process with the goal of preparing them for promotions to the next levels and eventually for some perhaps, the final step to the major leagues.
In 2008, six Muckdogs were named New York-Penn League All-Stars – Jermaine Curtis, Arquimedes Nieto, Frederick Parejo, Shane Peterson, Adam Reifer and Colt Sedbrook.
Among his NY-P leaders were Sedbrook, tied for third in hits and eighth in batting average; Peterson, third in walks and on-base percentage; Reifer, first in appearances and game finishes and second in saves; and Jose Garcia, second in stolen bases and tied for fourth in runs scored.
One measure of the level of team play that DeJohn instilled was that his club was shut out just once all season long, but they turned the tables on their opponents seven different times.
In November, when DeJohn was named our Scout.com Cardinals Minor League Manager of the Year, Vice President of Scouting and Player Development Jeff Luhnow commented the contributions of the man known as “DJ”.
“Mark does a terrific job with all the players at this important level. Most of the top draft picks start here so it is their introduction to pro ball, but there are also Latin players and younger high school or Junior College players who have played at lower levels. It takes a special talent to manage this diverse group and DJ is among the best in the industry,” Luhnow said.
DeJohn has managed in the Cardinals system for 13 seasons, from 1986 through 1991 and again starting in 2002. He also served as a coach on Tony La Russa’s staff in St. Louis from 1996 through 2001.
DJ’s five playoff appearances are the most of any active Cardinals minor league skipper as are his two championships. That includes the New York-Penn League title won by Batavia in 2008, the first pennant at any level of the Cardinals system since 2005.
Recent George Kissell Award winners
||Minor League Hitting
||Springfield (AA) Manager|
||Ron "Pop" Warner
||Palm Beach (A-Adv) Manager|
||Tennessee (AA) Pitching Coach|
||Tennessee (AA) Manager|
Brian Walton can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Catch his Cardinals commentary daily at his blog, The Cardinal Nation.
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