Lake County at Hot Rods

Hot Rods catcher Chris Betts hits an RBI double during their game against Lake County on Saturday, July 27, 2019, at Bowling Green Ballpark. (Austin Anthony/photo@bgdailynews.com)

The Bowling Green Hot Rods, in conjunction with the Tampa Bay Rays, announced its 2021 coaching staff Monday with Jeff Smith named the franchise’s new manager.

Jim Paduch will serve as pitching coach. The staff also includes Brady North and Skeeter Barnes. Brian Newman returns as the club’s athletic trainer, while Jordan Brown will be the club’s strength and conditioning coach.

Smith, 46, becomes the seventh manager in Hot Rods history and third in three seasons (Reinaldo Ruiz, 2019, and Craig Albernaz, 2018). He led the Charlotte Stone Crabs (the Rays’ former High-A affiliate in the Florida State League) to the league’s best record while earning Baseball America’s title of Best Managerial Prospect in the FSL for the 2019 season, the second time in his career he won the award. Before joining Tampa Bay, Smith spent two seasons as the Minnesota Twins first base coach and managed at three levels for the Twins, including four years for the AA New Britain Rock Cats. The Akron, Ohio, native has a career managerial record of 868-806 (.519) over 12 years and owns a 686-385 (.561) record over five seasons at High-A. Smith was drafted by the Twins in 1995 and played in the minors until 2002, finishing out his playing career with the Red Sox (2003) and Texas Rangers (2004) before starting his coaching career.

“We are excited to welcome Jeff and the rest of the staff to Bowling Green and show them how special a place this is. It is very special to see our schedule and staff coming together as we get to welcome professional baseball back to Bowling Green Ballpark,” Hot Rods Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Eric Leach said in a statement.

Paduch, 38, joins Smith as the Hot Rods’ new pitching coach for the 2021 season. Paduch spent 2018 and 2019 on the Princeton Rays’ coaching staff after 11 years playing in the professional ranks.

North, 29, joins Bowling Green after spending the 2019 season with the GCL Rays, his first time coaching at the professional level. Born in Nashville, North played parts of two seasons as a professional in the Frontier League. Brady served as the assistant national hitting coordinator for Factory Athletics and previously coached at his alma mater, Cumberland University, where he earned a Master’s degree in Sport and Exercise Science while playing for the baseball team.

Barnes, 63, joins the Hot Rods after spending over a decade as the Rays’ outfield and baserunning coordinator. Barnes managed the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays (a former member of the Midwest League) in 2006 and the Lakeland Tigers (Florida State League) in 2000. Other coaching stops include the Toledo Mud Hens, West Michigan Whitecaps, Indianapolis Indians, Orlando Rays and Montgomery Biscuits.

Brown enters his second season with Tampa Bay and takes over as the Hot Rods’ conditioning coach, while Newman returns for his third season as the Hot Rods’ athletic trainer.

The Hot Rods begin the 2021 season on the road with a six-game series in Greenville, N.C., against the Greenville Drive on May 4, with the home opener on May 11 against the Asheville Tourists.