Light's out?: Park baseball coach Kerry Ligtenberg hired by SaintsPark High School graduate and current head baseball coach Kerry Ligtenberg has been hired as the pitching coach for the St. Paul Saints, the Saints announced Wednesday, April 25.
By: Patrick Johnson, Sports Editor, South Washington County Bulletin
Park High School graduate and current head baseball coach Kerry Ligtenberg has been hired as the pitching coach for the St. Paul Saints, the Saints announced Wednesday, April 25.
The 40-year-old Ligtenberg last pitched professionally for the Saints in 2009 when he went 0-2 with a 3.00 ERA and 15 saves in 30 games before retiring on August 5.
Ligtenberg, who will continue as Park head coach through the end of the season, takes over as pitching coach for Jason Verdugo, who left the Saints to become Hamline University athletics director. Ligtenberg said the plan right now is to return to Park next spring, but after the Saints' season he'd "reassess" his plans.
Ligtenberg is a former Major League closer and 1989 Park graduate. He took over at Park for Reid Tschumperlin, who resigned as coach in the fall of 2010.
In the history of Park baseball, there have been only four head coaches — Granville “Granny” Smith, Bill Kroschel, Tschumperlin and Ligtenberg.
Tschumperlin spent nine years as Park head coach after 14 years as assistant coach under a Park coaching legend in Kroschel — who succeeded the original Park coaching legend Smith. Ligtenberg was a three-time letter-winner in baseball at Park under Kroschel.
After Park, Ligtenberg went on to be named an All-Big Ten performer at the University of Minnesota, and in 1998 he became the first baseball player from Park to reach the major leagues. He finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year voting as a relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves and also appeared in the World Series for Atlanta.
Ligtenberg had his best pro season in 1998, when he saved 30 games for the Braves, posting a 2.71 ERA and striking out 79 batters in 73 innings pitched, helping Atlanta reach the NLCS. That year he was fourth in Rookie of the Year voting and finished off games for the likes of Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz.
After his strong rookie season in ’98, Ligtenberg suffered an elbow injury the following spring training, which led to Tommy John surgery and some tough times on the mound. From 2000 to 2004, he registered a total of only 17 saves.In 2006, Ligtenberg was having success with the Iowa Cubs — the Chicago Cubs triple-A team — where he was 4-4 with 18 saves and a 3.57 ERA and 44 strikeouts in 58 innings pitched. However, after being granted free agency and signing with the Cincinnati Reds, Ligtenberg injured his knee, causing him to sit out the past two seasons and ponder retirement. Ligtenberg had microfracture surgery on the knee over 10 years ago. Then, in 2007, he had 15 pieces of loose cartilage removed from the same knee. Doctors told him he will likely require an artificial knee by the time he is 50.
In 2009 Ligtenberg was hoping to work his way back into the majors and was pitching for the Saint Paul Saints. However, due to a flair-up of his longtime knee injury, he shut it down for the last time.
In all, as a pro, Ligtenberg went 17-20 with a 3.82 ERA and 48 saves in 386 games over eight seasons with Atlanta, Baltimore, Toronto and Arizona.
With a 4-1 loss to Mounds View on Wednesday, Park is currently 1-8 and 1-7 in the Suburban East Conference. The Wolfpack next play Friday at Cretin-Derham Hall.
Editor's Note: An earlier version of this web story said Ligtenberg was leaving Park after the school year for the Saints job. However, Ligtenberg said he currently plans on staying at Park next season.