APPLETON, Wis. (WFRV) – The Wisconsin Timber Rattlers will have a new manager in 2022 for the first time in over a decade.
After Appleton native Matt Erickson was promoted to the Brewers major league coaching staff in February, the Timber Rattlers named Joe Ayrault as the team’s new skipper. Ayrault’s a former MLB player who appeared in seven games as a catcher for the Atlanta Braves, including being placed on the postseason roster by Bobby Cox during the Braves postseason run in 1996.
Ayrault’s been with the Brewers organization since 2012 and he was most recently the manager for the Carolina Mudcats before being promoted as manager of the Timber Rattlers.
The legacy that Erickson left behind in the Appleton area was definitely felt and Ayrault was quick to acknowledge that when speaking to the media Wednesday afternoon.
“The first thing I said was ‘not one player in that clubhouse is wearing number eight’. He’s a legend around here. I got his jersey up there in my office. He left me a deer head in the office. It makes me feel at home, I’m a die-hard deer hunter”, Ayrault expressed. “We’re going to get after it and I’m happy to see him up there in the big leagues. He deserves it.”
The opportunity to take another step in the Brewers organization has been exciting for Ayrault, thus far, and he raved about the make-up of this year’s roster. Although the minor leagues are meant for player development, Ayrault has always been a competitor and he wants to implement his own winning culture with the Timber Rattlers.
“Win. That will be one of the things. These guys are going to play hard every day. They work hard in practice and it carries over to the game. We’ll have our theme days here in [batting practice] — one day we may be dressing up a little crazy or getting a little funky on the bus, whatever, but it’s going to be a fun group here. I promise you that”, Ayrault said.
Not only has Ayrault talked highly of his new opportunity, but players also expressed to the media on Wednesday just how excited they are to have him as their manager in Appleton.
“I played with him in Carolina. I love him. I had an amazing year with him in Carolina. He definitely knows how to relate to his players, but he also knows how to bring the hammer when he needs to just to get us to understand because at the end of the day — we’re still young”, Brewers #13 prospect Joe Gray Jr. said.
The Brewers’ top prospect, according to MLB.com, Sal Frelick will be starting the year in Appleton with the Timber Rattlers. Ayrault spoke highly of the type of player Frelick is and the talent in his game.
“He’s consistently good at everything. As far as his defense in the outfield, his baserunning, he can flat out hit, great guy in the clubhouse, and he’s actually one of the guys who’s giving tips about playing in cold weather. Just an all-around great guy and we’re glad to have him. It was a great pick by our scouting department”, said Ayrault.
Even though Ayrault’s accustomed to the Florida heat, the Timber Rattler’s new manager has embraced the Wisconsin weather.
“I love it. I’m a Florida boy, but I told our boys the cold is not going to get us. You will not hear me say one day, ‘I am cold'”, Ayrault told reporters on Wednesday. “I told our guys to mess with the opposing teams a little bit, ‘hey, it’s cold out here. So, we’re staying warm here in this dugout.”
The Timber Rattlers will begin their 2022 season at home on Friday, April 8 against the Peoria Chiefs. The first pitch is scheduled for 6:40 p.m.