Chukars tap trio of experienced coaches for 2021 staff
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IDAHO FALLS — The Idaho Falls Chukars announced their 2021 coaching staff Monday.
Billy Gardner Jr. will manage the club. This season is the Chukars’ first as a nonaffiliated, independent club since 1945.
Gardner has been a professional coach for nearly three decades, 23 of them as a manger and 22, and won two league championships. Prior to becoming a coach, he spent two seasons in the Kansas City Royals’ minor league system as a first and third baseman.
From 2004 to 2020, the Chukars were a minor league affiliate of the Royals.
“I know a lot of baseball people. I know a few people still with Kansas City,” Gardner said in a streamed press conference. “They give Idaho Falls, the ballpark, the community, the fanbase, A-pluses all the way around.”
Joining the staff as pitching coach is Bob Milacki, an eight-year big leaguer who has spent the last 19 seasons as a minor league pitching coach.
Billy Butler, an All-Star during his 10-year major league career, has been named the hitting coach.
Butler, who began his professional career with the Chukars after being the 14th overall selection in the 2004 MLB draft, retired after the 2016 season. He now lives in Idaho Falls, where he opened a baseball and softball gym late last year.
“This is kind of a unique situation because I get to live here. This is where I call home,” Butler said. “I’m kind of involved in the community here.”
While Butler lives in Idaho Falls, the other two coaches appeared at an announcement press conference Monday via video stream. Gardner and Milacki both said that they expect to arrive in town before the players in preparation for the 2021 Pioneer League season, which is scheduled to open in mid-May.
Correction: A previous version of this story named Billy Gardner as the manager of the Idaho Falls Chukars. It has been updated with the name of the actual manager, Billy Gardner Jr., his son.