Although Jim Horner has been assigned to manage the Pittsburgh Pirates’ Low-A affiliate in the Florida State League this coming season, working from LECOM Park isn’t going to be new to him.
Horner’s bags aren’t packed just yet at his home in southern Idaho for spring training. But, heading into his fifth season in the Pirates’ organization, Horner is quite familiar with the 10-team FSL. Last season, as manager of Pittsburgh’s Florida Complex League club, Horner guided his players to a 32-23 win-loss record.
Even moving up a level in affiliates, Horner’s changing work locations from fields at Pirate City to LECOM Park has its advantages. A couple of years ago, it was during 2021 that Horner served as the Marauders’ bench coach. That season saw Bradenton clinch the Low-A Southeast championship, with a three-game sweep of Tampa.
Teaching baseball is what Horner excels at. He’s done this on the collegiate level at Washington State University and Texas Tech University. Throw in nine seasons at all levels in the minors as a professional player (in the Seattle Mariners organization) and four seasons coaching and managing in the Pirates’ minor league system, and you have a well-qualified tutor for the 2024 Marauders.
However, getting to southwest Florida for the start of spring training means Horner first must say goodbye to his family. But the Horner household has a plan on how to deal with the distances a baseball life often requires.
As the Marauders’ new manager prepares his messages to deliver to his players, spending as much time with his grandson as possible remains a priority for Horner. The former catcher also still has one child, Reagan, at home.
The plan for the Horners to maintain a balance of baseball life and family time is well thought out. Katie Horner, Jim’s wife, plans on visiting Bradenton two or three times during the 2024 season. One of the skipper’s daughters should be making the trip to Florida with her mother at least once. His oldest daughter, Madison, will visit. His two sons, Jackson and Tyler, are penciled in to be in Bradenton once their college baseball schedules are completed.
“Katie is unbelievable,” says Horner of his wife’s abilities to take care of their family during his absence.
Knowing how to navigate around Manatee County is another plus that has Horner smiling about his appointment to steer the Marauders.
“I’ve been down here (Bradenton) since 2021. I’m familiar enough with the area to know where to find a place to live. Last season, I lived at the complex. I’ve also stayed out on Anna Maria Island,” said Horner, who, while managing the Complex League club in 2023, had the Pirates’ top draft pick Paul Skene's pitch in a game for his squad.
Getting the kids to be better players is Horner’s goal. This never changes at whatever level he has been picked to teach. With all his experience on the field as a player and in the coach's box and dugout, Horner tells of starting out each season with a blank canvas.
As a leader, Horner has learned to quickly determine what works and what doesn’t. Much of his planning and strategizing comes from Horner's past experiences with mental skills performance coach Rafael Colon.
Helping players to maximize their unrealized potential is what Colon has built his professional reputation on. Horner’s exposure to Colon’s teaching while in the Mariners’ organization is one of many baseball aids in the skipper’s pocket that he more than likely utilizes often during the 2024 season.
In a month’s time, it’s game-on, for Jim Horner in Florida preparing potential pirates of the future.
Let the fun begin.
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