The Charleston Dirty Birds are an American professional baseball team based in Charleston, West Virginia. They are a member of the South Division of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, a partner league of Major League Baseball.
Jamie Keefe bio
When Elmer Reyes of the West Virginia Power lifted a fly ball to right field on September 14, 2021 and High Point Rockers outfielder Jay Gonzalez made the catch, the Rockers had secured another win. And maintained their lead in the race for the Atlantic League’s South Division second half title.
And Gonzalez’s catch secured the 900th win in the career of Rockers manager Jamie Keefe.
Keefe was ever humble in accepting the multitude of postgame congratulations on the milestone victory.
“It’s all about the players and they come out every game and ball out,” said Keefe. “Every single guy who’s played for me, I can’t thank them enough. The City of High Point and our front office staff, Coy Williard and the Board of Directors, I can’t thank them enough for giving me the opportunity to represent High Point each and every night.”
“Jamie is one-of-a-kind when it comes to managers,” said High Point general manager Christian Heimall who worked with Keefe with the Rockland Boulders. “Having been with him for almost half of those wins, the leadership and friendship he has with every player and coach stands out the most. He’s a tremendous person and leader of men and I couldn’t be prouder to have him here in High Point as our Skipper.”
“We are fortunate to have Jamie as the leader of our franchise,” said Rockers President Pete Fisch. “Not only has he proven himself as a winner, but he has a great track record in player development. We are thrilled that he reached his 900th win and we are hoping for many more during his years with the Rockers.”
Keefe’s journey began following an exemplary playing career. He was the Boston Globe’s All-New Hampshire Scholastic Player of the Year in 1992. He was a third round draft pick of the Pittsburgh Pirates and he signed with the organization just hours after finishing his prep career. He led Spaulding to the state semifinals by hitting .378 and succeeding in all 16 stolen base attempts. Keefe’s high school coach, Hugo Bolin, described him to the Bangor Daily News as having “great running speed, he’s tremendous in the hole and he has a real strong arm. Once he gets on base, he gives teams fits.”
There were as many as 14 scouts from nine major league organizations when Spaulding High would take the field behind their senior captain in Keefe.
“He’s got the ingredients of being a pro ballplayer,” continued Bolin. “He’s got the arm. He’s got the speed. He’s got the fielding ability.”
Bolin would describe Keefe to the Boston Globe as “I think he is definitely the best player I’ve had. I’ve had some good ones. I’ve had none better than him at shortstop.”
A shortstop his entire life, Jamie was forced to play first base as a junior following a shoulder injury suffered while playing hockey, a sport he had to abandon in order to further his baseball career.
A starter for Spaulding High since his freshman year, Keefe had signed to attend the University of Maine and play for head coach John Winkin at a time when the Black Bears were among the very best in college baseball nationally and the top team in all of New England.
“He’s the best infield prospect I’ve seen in five years, without question,” said Winkin who took the Black Bears to six College World Series appearances before passing away in 2014.
But the MLB Draft altered Keefe’s plans and he spent the summer of ’92 with the Bradenton Pirates of the Gulf Coast League. That was until he suffered a broken left wrist when he was covering second base on an attempted steal and the ball, his wrist, and the base runner’s helmet arrived simultaneously.
In 1993, the Pirates moved Jamie to second base and assigned him to Lethbridge after having spent the spring in extended spring training. He spent 1994 at Augusta, Ga. in the South Atlantic League where he hit .266 in 50 games, and in Welland, Ontario.
In 1995, Keefe was with the San Diego Padres and advanced through their system, reaching Class AAA Las Vegas in 1997. Shortly thereafter began his relationship with independent baseball.
Keefe signed with the Bend Bandits of the Western League in 1998 and also spent time with the Massachusetts Mad Dogs in the Northeast League. His independent journey brought him to Chillicothe, Ohio where he spent the 1999 and 2000 seasons. In August 2000, he transitioned from player to coach and then became the manager of the Paints for the 2001 season.
While in Chillicothe, Keefe played for Roger Hanners, one of the first people that he thanked following his 900th win. Hanners coached the Paints for eight seasons and worked with Jamie not only as a player but as an assistant coach.
“Roger Hanners was my mentor and he taught me the ropes, especially about independent baseball, when I first took over in Chillicothe. I know Roger’s gone now but my hat’s off to him,” said Keefe.
Keefe led Chillicothe to a 51-33 record that first season as the Paints won their division in the Frontier League and reached the championship series. Jamie led Chillicothe to 188 wins in his four seasons before moving to the Florence, Ky. Freedom. He spent part of the 2010 season managing in Kalamazoo before joining the Pittsfield Colonial as an assistant coach. He was named Pittsfield’s manager for 2011 and earned his first Manager of the Year award in taking the Colonials to the championship round.
In 2012, Keefe managed the Pittsfield Suns of the Futures Collegiate Baseball League before returning to pro baseball as the manager of the Rockland Boulders in the Can-Am League in 2013.
Keefe spent six seasons with the Boulders, leading them to 344 wins and two more Manager of the Year awards as well as a Can-Am League championship in 2014.
Boulders president Shawn Reilly told the White Plains, N.Y. Journal News in 2018 what is was that made Keefe successful in independent baseball.
“I’ve seen new managers come in this league and, if they have a player that has had a bad week, they overreact and release him or trade hie,” Reilly said. “Jamie doesn’t do that and that is why his players love playing for him. He knows when to be patient and when to move a player.”
The Rockers were able to entice Keefe to High Point to manage their inaugural season in 2019. Keefe promptly led the Rockers to a 74-66 record and a spot in the playoffs, marking the first time an Atlantic League expansion team had reached the postseason in its first year.
And Keefe worked his magic again in 2021, assembling a team that remained in contention for the playoffs throughout the season.
During his managerial career, Keefe has had more than 100 players signed by Major League Baseball affiliates. In 2016, his first former player, Stephen Cardullo, was called up to the Majors after playing under Keefe for three seasons. Keefe has had over a dozen former players reach the Major Leagues including Rockers pitchers Huascar Brazoban, Jake Petricka, David Robertson and Alberto Baldonado along with infielder Tyler Ladendorf. Matt Cervenak played for Keefe at Chillicothe and was a member of the 2008 Phillies World Championship team.
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The High Point Rockers are an American professional baseball team based at Truist Point ballpark in High Point, North Carolina, which is part of the Piedmont Triad region. They are members of the South Division of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, a “partner league” of Major League Baseball.