Hulett back for 7th year with Indians

Spokane Indians manager Tim Hulett fires batting practice. (FILE / The Spokesman-Review)
Spokane Indians manager Tim Hulett fires batting practice. (FILE / The Spokesman-Review)

Spokane manager ‘thrilled’ to return

Tim Hulett was 48 hours away from arriving in Spokane, but he was more than happy to talk about the impending Northwest League baseball season.

That stood to reason, since it gave Hulett a break from painting his son Jeff’s new townhouse amid the heat and humidity of Shreveport, La.

“Personally, I’m thrilled with it,” Hulett said Thursday regarding his upcoming seventh season as manager of the Spokane Indians. “I enjoy this level. I enjoy Spokane.

“I’m not sure what that says about me as a manager. Most guys would be trying to move on after two years, but I don’t aspire to be a big-league manager.”

Managing is a family affair for Hulett, who arrived in Spokane on Saturday in preparation for the Indians’ three-day minicamp starting Tuesday. For the third consecutive summer, wife Linda will join him in Spokane during the 76-game short-season Class A schedule.

Hulett just coached Evangel Christian Academy to the Class 2A state baseball championship in the Pelican State. His assistants were his sons, Joe and Jeff. Oldest son Tug, released by the Florida Marlins before the season started, works out in Shreveport while awaiting a call from another major league team.

Hulett spent a week in Arizona in late May checking out the Texas Rangers’ players at extended spring training. Some will be added to the Indians’ roster, which should begin to take shape today. Many players will also come from Texas’ selections during the Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft, which completed its three-day run Saturday.

“I don’t know who is and isn’t coming to Spokane, but I enjoyed that (trip),” Hulett said. “We have some pretty good players there.

“I think we’ll be solid up the middle. We have good Latin players at second base and shortstop at extended spring. They’re a little flashy, but I’ll try to make them look a little less flashy.”

Hulett said the Rangers concentrated on drafting high school players last season. Those youngsters typically aren’t assigned to the NWL, a league dominated by players with college experience.

“I didn’t get any of those (young) guys and they skipped right over us to (Class A) Hickory,” Hulett said.

The talent gap hurt the Indians, who had the worst record (28-48) in the NWL last season.

Hulett’s wish list this season includes a college catcher and two big bats in the lineup. The Rangers drafted catcher Joe Jackson of The Citadel in the fifth round, which should take care of that preference, but seven of Texas’ top 11 choices were right-handed pitchers. Two others were high school shortstops.

“You always wonder if you’ll get another Jurickson Profar or Mike Olt,” Hulett said about two of the Rangers’ top prospects, both of whom played for him in Spokane in 2010.

The Indians begin their 31st consecutive season in the NWL on Friday at Avista Stadium with the first of three games against the Everett AquaSox.

The league has realigned this season because the Yakima Bears have moved to Oregon to become the Hillsboro Hops. The NWL is now split into North and South divisions, instead of East and West. Spokane is in the North with Everett, Tri-City and Vancouver.

Spokane has won eight NWL championships, most recently in 2008 under Hulett.

“As far as I’m concerned, I would do this job as long as they would have me,” Hulett said. “There’s not been one time when I said, ‘I don’t want to do this anymore.’”

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