Bowling Green, Kentucky– The Bowling Green Hot Rods, back-to-back South Atlantic League champions and proud High-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, are thrilled to announce the coaching staff for the team in 2023. The team will be managed by Rafael Valenzuela Jr. in his first year with the club.
Valenzuela (35) becomes the eighth manager in Hot Rods history. The Nogales, Arizona native earns his fourth managerial assignment after leading the 2019 Rays GCL and 2021 Rays FCL, which finished 42-15 and won the league championship. He was named FCL Manager of the Year for 2021 and returned to the FCL Rays in 2022, finishing with a league-best 39-16 record.
Among Valenzuela’s other coaching stops, he notably coached the GCL Rays in 2016 and 2017, while also serving as third base coach for the Durham Bulls in 2017. In 2018, he also coached the Princeton Rays. As a player, Rafael played left field and corner field positions for four seasons where he eventually reached AA with the Houston Astros. He was taken by the Kansas City Royals to the 25e round of the 2006 amateur draft, opting instead to play at Cochise College in 2007 before playing at the University of Arizona and signing with the Astros as a free agent. Fans can follow Rafael on Twitter at the handle: @RafyValenzuela.
Skeeter Barnes, 65, returns to the Hot Rods as bench coach for his third season. Bringing more than a decade of coaching experience as the Rays’ outfield and base running coordinator, Barnes also coached the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays (a former member of the Midwest League) in 2006 and the Lakeland Tigers (Florida State League) in 2000. Other practice stops include the Toledo Mud Hens, West Michigan Whitecaps, Indianapolis Indians, Orlando Rays and Montgomery Biscuits. Barnes enjoyed a successful playing career, recording over 350 MLB games with the Reds, Tigers, Expos and Cardinals. His number (00) was retired by the Nashville Sounds in the early 1990s.
RC Lichtenstein returns as the Hot Rods pitching coach after a decade-long absence from Bowling Green. Lichtenstein was the first pitching coach in Bowling Green history from 2009-2011 before making saves with the Montgomery Biscuits (2012-2019) and Charleston RiverDogs (2021-2022). Before coming to Bowling Green in 2009, Lichtenstein coached the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays (2005-06) and Vero Beach Devil Rays (2007-08). He has also coached in Australia and
the Arizona Fall League. The University of Illinois at Chicago product was also in the stands for the 2021 Hot Rods High-A East Championship victory.
Paul Rozzelle returns to the Hot Rods as batting coach for his second season. “Rozy” spent eight seasons in charge of the Catawba Valley Community College men’s baseball team, where he was the winningest coach in program history with 228 wins. While at CVCU, Rozzelle received the NJCAA Southeast District Coach of the Year Award, as well as the Diamond Baseball Coaches Association Southeast Coach of the Year. / American. Prior to Catawba Valley, Rozzelle worked with the Morgantown Militia, the Statesville Owls and the United States Baseball National Team Identification Series. Paul also played collegiate golf at Appalachian State University and is a native of Hickory, North Carolina.
The new Hot Rods athletic trainer in 2023 will be Ruben Santiago. Santiago is entering his eighth season as a sports coach with the Rays. He spent last season with the Charleston RiverDogs after 2021 where he worked for the FCL Rays. Ruben also spent three seasons with the Princeton Rays and two with the Gulf Coast League Rays to complete his time with Tampa Bay. In 2016, Santiago worked for Toros del Este, a member of the Dominican Winter League.
Garrett Hudson joins the Hot Rods team as the new fitness trainer. Hudson joined the Rays organization in 2022 and was with the FCL Rays after spending three years as a performance coach in New Hampshire for Wasserman Strength. He holds a Masters in Exercise Science from Merrimack College.