The TinCaps played Monday night's game against West Michigan without an official hitting coach because it was announced earlier in the day that Lance Burkhart is getting a big opportunity elsewhere in the San Diego Padres' farm system.
Burkhart was named the manager at high-A Lake Elsinore, replacing Francisco Morales, who managed low-A Fort Wayne last year. The official word on Morales, 43, is that he resigned from Lake Elsinore. Tony Tarasco, San Diego's minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator, had been serving as the Storm's interim manager the past few games.
"He's a good leader," TinCaps manager Anthony Contreras said of Burkhart. "He cares so much about these guys, and that's the No. 1 thing about managing and coaching these kids is showing them that you care, that you invest your time and efforts all into them, and he did that 100 percent with these guys here in Fort Wayne."
In his lone season in the Summit City, Morales led the TinCaps to a 77-61 record and first-place finish in the Midwest League's Eastern Division. Burkhart, 41, was the hitting coach for that club.
Burkhart was a 15th-round pick in the 1997 draft by the Montreal Expos. He never played in the majors but prior to joining the Padres' organization was a hitting coach and manager in the independent Atlantic League.
Contreras got a call from a San Diego official who brought up Burkhart for the job in Lake Elsinore.
"I knew right away that was a good choice," Contreras said. "He was a manager in independent ball and did a good job there. Just his character and personality, he's going to fit in well with the staff and players at Lake Elsinore. He should do a good job."
For Fort Wayne, Vinny Lopez shifts from defensive coach to hitting coach, and Raul Padron joins the staff to work with the catchers and handle other various responsibilities.