Vicksburg native Koestler lands job at Texas Rangers’ baseball academy in Dominican Republic
Published 4:00 am Sunday, January 21, 2024
Like a lot of young baseball coaches, Carlisle Koestler was shopping his services around during the offseason while trying to move up the career ladder.
He has no idea, however, how he landed his new job.
“I didn’t apply or anything,” Koestler said. “They just called me out of the blue in December. I’m really not sure how it came about.”
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A few weeks later, the Vicksburg native and Warren Central graduate was embarking on a new adventure as a minor league pitching coach for the defending World Series champion Texas Rangers.
Koestler will work at the team’s baseball academy in the Dominican Republic, trying to get recently-signed international prospects from the Caribbean ready to move to the next level.
“I think it’s a great opportunity,” Koestler said. “Any time you can get around other people who know and share your same goal and try to learn from other people, especially at this level, it’s a blessing.”
Koestler has already had a remarkable baseball journey. Thanks to a medical redshirt, a couple of transfers, and the extra year of eligibility granted to players during the 2020 COVID season, he played for three college teams in seven years. The last was Mississippi State, which he helped win the 2021 College World Series championship.
After his playing career was finally over, Koestler went into coaching. He was hired to Samford University’s staff, and then as the pitching coach at Hinds Community College. He worked at Hinds for one season when the door to the majors opened.
Or, rather, one door closed and another opened.
“I was in the process of interviewing for a similar position with the Brewers but I didn’t get that job. They told me, and then the next day the Rangers called,” Koestler said. “Maybe it was word of mouth. But it was for sure awesome.”
A round of interviews followed that call and he got the job.
Last Monday, Koestler flew out of Mississippi and arrived at the Rangers’ baseball academy in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, in the southern part of the island nation. He’ll begin work right away with a fresh class of recently-signed players who range in age from 16-20 and hail from several countries in the Caribbean and South America.
The Dominican Summer League is Major League Baseball’s rookie league for players from Latin America. Most MLB teams field two teams who play a 72-game season from June through August. Spring training, a fall league and other instructional activities continue during other parts of the year.
“Every team has an academy down here and they might have a roster compiled of 40 pitchers and 40 position players,” Koestler said. “Then you play all of the other affiliates down here and you have the same type of stuff you have in the States like spring training, extended spring training, winter ball, all that kind of stuff.”
Koestler will work with the organization’s young pitchers. His job is to get them ready to move on to a similar league in Arizona that is a step up the minor league ladder.
“You’re just trying to get them to the States. That’s your whole goal is to develop them enough to where they can go to the Arizona League and start their minor league career,” Koestler said.
Koestler knows his stuff when it comes to baseball, but said learning the local culture and especially the language will be his biggest challenge. Most of the players he’ll be working with do not speak English. Koestler’s knowledge of Spanish is limited to two years of high school classes, which aren’t much help when dealing with the nuances of dozens of regional dialects from a half-dozen countries.
“Nobody speaks the same language as me, so trying to figure out how to teach pitchers in a different way — not just verbal — I’m going to try to learn Spanish the best I can. Maybe some broken Spanish,” he said. “Just trying to figure out how to teach them in a different avenue than you would use in America or at a junior college, it’s completely different.”
His whole job, suddenly, is very different as well. College coaches have a host of duties besides teaching baseball. At the pro level, Koestler said he should be able to focus on teaching pitchers how to sharpen their skills.
“I think it’s just a little more specialized at this level. When you’re in college you’ve got to do a little of everything. You’ve got to do field work, you’ve got to coach pitchers, do the weights, you’ve got to do a little of everything and be good at everything,” he said. “Here, you’re just trying to get the pitchers better. You’re trying to develop arms.”
Koestler will work in the Dominican Republic for the rest of 2024, with occasional trips back to the U.S. during breaks in the schedule. Beyond that, the 28-year-old is not sure what the future holds. He might get promoted to a higher level in the Rangers’ organization, or perhaps find another job in a different part of the baseball ecosphere.
Whatever opportunity comes next, he said he didn’t want to regret letting this one slip past him.
“I just looked at it with the attitude of, if I looked back three years from now and I didn’t take it would I regret it?” Koestler said. “It’s the same attitude as when you’re playing. You’re betting on yourself. You’ve just got to go out there, and when the opportunity presents itself do the best you can.”