The Lancaster Barnstormers cut ties with Tom Herr, the former major league All-Star and Lancaster native who led the Barnstormers to their only league championship in 2006. To replace Herr, team ownership –Opening Day Partners — announced former big league manager Butch Hobson has accepted the Barnstormers job after serving the last three seasons as Southern Maryland’s manager.
ODP owns both the Blue Crabs and Barnstormers.
Former Blue Crabs infielder Patrick Osborn, 29, has been named Southern Maryland’s manager for the 2011 season.
The Barnstormers have been one of the most successful draws in the Atlantic League, but the franchise has not posted a winning record since it won the league championship four years ago. The Barnstormers finished 13 games under .500 this season. And winning was one of the main reasons ODP decided to buy out Herr’s contract earlier this month, ODP President Jon Danos said.
“We just think we can achieve more success under the leadership of Butch,” Danos said.
Hobson has led all but two of his nine Atlantic League teams into the postseason. Under his watch the Nashua Pride won the league title in 2000, and he led three other teams to the league championship series. He ranks third in the Atlantic League in career victories and fifth in winning percentage.
“I think he’s one of the finest managers … in the country even,” Danos said.
Always a solid manager, Hobson has also proven himself in the business of player procurement in the independent ranks. He has been in charge of finding his own players since accepting the managing job in Southern Maryland before the 2008 season. Hobson’s Southern Maryland teams compiled a 235-184 mark. The Blue Crabs reached the postseason in each of the past two seasons, and they even posted a winning mark in their inaugural season — going 74-66. Hobson’s teams have compiled a 653-549 career mark in the league.
“This is a good move for me and my family,” Hobson said in a released statement. “I will do my best to get the Lancaster team back to the playoffs.”
The Freedom Division could be loaded this season, with five-time league champion Somerset, defending league champion York and Lancaster shuffling for playoff spots. The division’s fourth team has not yet been officially announced — since the Newark Bears moved to the Can-Am League — but the all-travel Road Warriors are expected to return.
“I think it’s going to be a very competitive division,” York manager Andy Etchebarren said during a phone interview. “The only thing I don’t like about it is Butch and I can’t play each other in the final. That was our goal this year. If we do reach the playoffs, it will have to be in the first round.”
Hobson served in an advising role with ODP in 2010, helping teams like the York Revolution sign players when it needed help. Of the 23 players on York’s final league championship roster, at least five players had direct ties to Hobson — having played for him in Southern Maryland.
“Butch’s job is in Lancaster and his focus will be in Lancaster,” Danos said.
Etchebarren remains a good friend of Hobson’s after serving as bench coach for Hobson in 2008 and parts of 2009 — before being named Revolution manager in August. But Etchebarren noted that fans should not expect anything to change in the franchise’s player procurement decisions. He wants to win.
“I’m not saying we won’t trade with Lancaster, but if we do it would have to be a deal that would help both clubs,” Etchebarren said. “If it’s a trade that makes us weaker, I won’t make a deal.”
The Barnstormers’ split with Herr is odd because of his local ties. A graduate of nearby Hempfield High School, Herr became the first manager of the Barnstormers in 2005. His sons, Aaron and Jordan Herr, played for the Barnstormers. And Aaron Herr shared Player of the Year honors with York’s Scott Grimes this season.
After a trying first season, Herr and the Barnstormers thundered through the Atlantic League in 2006, posting a 75-51 record in winning the South Division first- and second-half titles. Lancaster swept both of its postseason series, winning the title in front of a sold-out crowd.
Herr, 54, left the Barnstormers after 2006 to manage in the Washington Nationals farm system, but he returned to the club as a coach under manager Von Hayes in 2009. When Hayes quit in midseason 2009, Herr regained control of the club. In his first full season as manager since his championship run, Herr and the Barnstormers went 63-76 this summer. He ranks eighth all-time in managerial victories in the Atlantic League, but his teams have a .489 winning percentage (225-235). With three-and-a-half seasons as manager, he’s the longest tenured manager in Barnstormers history.
Lancaster’s coaching staff will include hitting coach Lance Burkhart and pitching coach Marty Janzen. Osborn’s coaching staff in Southern Maryland has yet to be named, but Danos said ODP will attempt to hire men who have experience in signing players. Etchebarren expects Osborn will succeed.
“He has a passion for the game,” Etchebarren said about Osborn. “He was always asking me or Butch questions. These moves were a good deal for everybody.”