Popular Assistants, Former Pips Return to Coach

YAKIMA, Washington — Four previous coaches or former players are returning to the Yakima Valley Pippins to coach this summer.

Johnny Graham, a popular assistant coach with both players and fans, returns for his third summer in Yakima to assist manager Kyle Krustangel. Again this year, his focus will be working with infielders.

“I couldn’t be more excited to bring J5, head coach by trade, back to Yakima for another summer,” Krustangel said. “One of the best in the business. Love his passion for the game, his work ethic. He’s here to make players better, to develop them, and he’s here to win.”

Also returning to the coaching staff is Kelly Fitzpatrick, who pitched for the Pippins in 2014 and 2015 and was pitching coach in 2021 when the Pippins advanced to the West Coast League championship series for the first time in team history.

“Kelly is as good as they come,” Krustangel said. “In terms of a pitching coach, he has a unique ability to relate to players but also teach. He’s extremely talented when it comes to the biomechanics of pitching. A huge resource and a big asset for us.”

Joining Fitzpatrick in coaching pitchers is former Pippin starter Tyler Frieders, who pitched for the squad in 2021, 2022 and 2023. His dominant year was 2022, when he was 7-1 during the regular season with a 3.09 ERA in 67 innings pitched.

“Super excited about Frito, bringing a new, young person in who wants to get into coaching,” the manager said. “He brings a competitive mindset to the staff that will definitely be felt. He also knows what it takes to win, and he knows the expectations.”

Connor Coballes, who played for the Pippins in 2021 and 2022 and was a volunteer bench coach in 2023, also will return.

“Conner is going to be an all-star in the coaching world,” Krustangel said. “He’s still getting his feet wet. He’s one of the best defenders I’ve ever coached and can flat out teach the infield. He’s another guy who’s really into development and wants to get to work.”

In addition to their on-field coaching duties, the staff, along with Pippins players, provide primary instruction at all Pippins Skills Camps in the summer.

The Pippins open their 10th anniversary season on Friday, May 31, hosting the Springfield Drifters in the first game of a three-game series. Single-game tickets for Opening Night and four other fireworks nights this summer are now available for purchase at PippinsTickets.com.


By Yakima Valley Pippins

March 18, 2024