| December 9, 2020
December 12, 2020
By Hannah Yoshinaga, CCL Reporter
--Making improvements to a team that posted a 30-20 overall record in its most recent season isn't easy, but the San Luis Obispo Blues still found ways to retool this offseason and set themselves up for success. The Blues began preparing for their 75th season by bringing on former MLB pitcher Ted Lilly as president of baseball operations and adding Cuesta College head coach Bob Miller to their leadership group, alongside owner and general manager Adam Stowe. While Lilly and Miller bring years of experience to the team, they also offer a local touch with their extensive knowledge of baseball on the California coast, which they hope will allow the Blues to continue growing both on the college summer ball stage and within the San Luis Obispo community. — The Los Angeles Dodgers drafted Lilly in the 26th round of the MLB Draft, and he spent two years in the Dodgers' farm system before being traded to the Montreal Expos. Lilly made his major league debut with the Expos, eventually moving on to the New York Yankees and Oakland Athletics. Lilly subsequently broke out with the Toronto Blue Jays, posting career-best win totals, making his first all-star team and even throwing a complete-game shutout against the Boston Red Sox in 2004. Five years later, the starter made his second All-Star team with the Chicago Cubs and pitched in the World Baseball Classic. He finished off his career with stints in the Dodgers' and San Francisco Giants' organizations before retiring in 2013. Upon retiring, Lilly still wanted to spend the rest of his career working in baseball, prompting him to begin the player-to-coach transition. Lilly subsequently became one of Miller's assistant coaches at Cuesta, located only a short drive away from the Blues' home at Sinsheimer Stadium. Lilly spent four years leading the Cuesta baseball program with Miller before he was brought into the Blues' front office. Shortly after he was hired and tasked with choosing a new Blues head coach, Lilly knew exactly who his first choice for the role was. "I like the way that I've seen him deal with young players — honestly, firmly, and at the same time, he cares about their development and he takes the responsibility that it is part of his duties to do everything that he can to help them progress, in the classroom as well as on the field, and it takes a lot of time," Lilly said. "There's a ton of commitment, and I've been around enough to see that it doesn't always go that way. This was a unique individual with a very high level of passion for doing things the right way and being detail-oriented." Miller made his name as a coach within collegiate baseball circles, getting his first managerial experience as a coach in the Alaska Baseball League before becoming head coach at Cuesta for the last 18 years. At Cuesta, Miller has led the Cougars to over 400 wins, eight Western State Conference titles and 15 playoff berths. After working side-by-side with Lilly at Cuesta, Miller knew Lilly would be a good partner to work with in the Blues organization. "The rapport that we have, the friendship that we've built, his baseball experience is phenomenal," Miller said. "He obviously has the history in the pitching department but he's got a great eye for hitters and fielders and that type of thing. He keeps me in check, he keeps me making sure that I've got all my T's crossed and my I's dotted because he's gonna come through and ask the questions, so I love it." The new partnership between Lilly, Miller and Stowe allows Lilly to focus on baseball operations while Miller manages on-field tasks and Stowe runs the business end of the Blues organization. "We are thrilled with the addition of Ted Lilly and Bob Miller to the Blues family," the Blues said in a statement. "Ted's years of professional playing and scouting experience are invaluable assets to our organization. Bob Miller has consistently done an outstanding job at Cuesta and has ample experience in summer ball. We couldn't be happier to have such a leader and role model for our players to follow. We have complete faith that those two will help raise the baseball portion of our operation to the next level and allow us to compete annually for CCL titles." In addition to revamping the Blues' leadership structure, bringing on Lilly and Miller is part of the organization's mission to grow its presence in the San Luis Obispo area. The Blues' commitment to the local community further convinced Lilly that joining the Blues was the right decision. "I figured through Adam's vision and the work, the time commitment, that he's put in, [San Luis Obispo baseball] changed," Lilly said. "It changed significantly for the better, so that is one of the things that really ignited me, is kind of seeing that there was someone in place that was doing a very good job. I think that's a pretty difficult thing to find, someone that is capable and willing to do that; it's certainly not the most lucrative endeavor and it's benefited our community greatly." With Lilly, Stowe and Miller at the helm, the Blues will work to maintain their status as a West Coast and CCL powerhouse. In order to do so, Lilly said the trio will seek players who "are hungry to continue to play and exceed at the level they're at" and match the culture of the team. No matter who the team recruits or what previous experience players bring to the table, Miller hopes to ensure players get the most out of their summer with the Blues, improving on and off the field. "We're gonna recruit the best team we can and come prepared," Miller said. "The good thing about baseball is not so much playing against the opponent, but playing against the game and controlling what you do well and so we'll focus hard on doing what we do well." More than anything, Lilly and Miller believe the key to success for the Blues organization remains fostering a culture of improvement, prioritizing hard work and a development-oriented mindset instead of focusing purely on statistics and winning percentage. "One of the things that Bob and I actually discussed recently is focusing on trying to prepare them to send back better players than they were when they got here," Lilly said. "So with that, sometimes that may mean that we're spending time working on an area that's not a strength and that may impact wins and losses on the field for the Blues. Instead of just running them out there and letting it go, there's a concept of trying to improve."
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