SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — The Kansas City Royals announced the 2022 field staffs for their minor league affiliates on January 14 and the big-league club has tabbed Chris Widger to be the field manager of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. Widger, who led the High-A Quad Cities River Bandits to the High-A Central Championship in 2021, will become the sixth manager in franchise history.
Widger, 50, is entering his fourth managerial season within the Kansas City Royals organization. He guided Kansas City’s High-A affiliate to a 77-41 record in 2021. He was recognized as the High-A Central Manager of the Year and Baseball America’s 2021 Minor League Manager of the Year, the second Royals’ minor league manager to receive the Baseball America Honor.
The former catcher began his managerial career with Rookie-level Burlington in 2019 and led the B-Royals to a deciding Game 3 in the Appalachian League Championship Series after serving as bench coach for the Wilmington Blue Rocks from 2016 to 2018. Before joining the Royals’ organization, Widger managed the independent league Camden Riversharks (Atlantic League) in 2015 and was their pitching coach from 2012 to 2014.
Prior to managing, he played in the Major Leagues for parts of 12 seasons and won the 2005 World Series as a member of the Chicago White Sox. Widger was drafted in the third round of the 1992 Major League Draft by the Seattle Mariners and played for the Mariners (1995-1996, 2000), Montreal Expos (1997-2000), New York Yankees (2002), St. Louis Cardinals (2003), White Sox (2005-2006) and Baltimore Orioles (2006).
Joining Widger in Northwest Arkansas are pitching coach Derrick Lewis, hitting coach Abraham Núñez, assistant hitting coach Christian Colón and bench coach Mike Jirschele, while certified athletic trainer Danny Accola and strength and conditioning coach CJ Mikkelsen will round out the Naturals’ field staff. Danny Helmer will once again serve as the coordinator of clubhouse operations.