BURLINGTON, N.C. -- As the spring collegiate season is well underway, the Sock Puppets are gearing up for another championship run in 2023. The club announced its on-field staff that features four returning members, and one highly-exciting new addition. Anthony Essien, who was announced in February he was returning for his first full-time year at the helm of the Pups, is poised for his third season with the club. Rob Selna (Hitting Coach), Carol Laube (Bench Coach) and Angela Talaganis (Athletic Trainer) are also returning for their second seasons in Burlington. Long-time professional pitcher Horacio Ramirez is set to debut as the pitching coach for the team.
The 2022 Sock Puppets saw their win-total more than double from the previous years, as they won the East Division and were runner-up for the Appalachian League Championship.
Manager - Anthony Essien
Anthony Essien begins his eighth year at Reedley College after spending 17 years as an assistant coach under legendary Valley coach James Patrick at Clovis High School. In his first season with the Tigers, Essien was instrumental in guiding the Tigers to the California State playoffs for the first time since 1963. Under Essien’s tutelage, Tiger catcher Alan Crowley was selected Central Valley Conference Player of the Year, All-State, Second Team All-American and was selected and signed by the Atlanta Braves in the 2016 Amateur player draft in the 26th round. In Essien’s second season, the Tigers advanced to the state playoffs again defeating Lassen before losing to eventual state runner-up Santa Rosa in Game 3 of the three-game series. In 2018, Essien took over the pitching coach duties and helped the Tigers to the State playoffs for the third consecutive season. The Tigers pitching staff finished sixth in the state with a 3.28 ERA. Cal State Fullerton commit Brady Barcellos was selected First-Team All-Central Valley Conference along with closer Sid Lacy, who finished tied for saves with eight in the State. In 2020, the Tigers were 15-6 at the mid-point of the season before the Pandemic shut down the rest of the season. The pitching staff at the time of the season stoppage was second in the State of California in ERA with a 2.40 under Essien. For the past two summers, Essien has been the pitching coach/manager for the Sock Puppets.
Essien was a three-year letterman at Narbonne High School in Harbor City, Calif., where he graduated in 1989. He moved on to Mendocino Junior College in 1990 where he was a pitcher for the Eagles. He graduated from Fresno State in 2001 where he received a degree in Kinesiology. He served as a pitching coach at Bishop Montgomery High School in 1992. He then moved to Clovis High School where he was instrumental in the success of one of the most storied baseball programs in the country. Essien was part of seven Valley championships, three State Championships and two National Championships in 1997 and 1998. During his tenure at Clovis, he coached over 50 players that moved on to College, over 20 players that played in the Minor leagues and one Major Leaguer (Ryan Cook).
Along with coaching the Pitchers, Essien will be an integral part of all recruiting aspects for the Tigers. He has been married to his wife Ali for four years and he has two daughters, Petra and Dottie, and three step-sons, Tanner, Koby and Kael.
Hitting Coach - Rob Selna
Selna is returning to the Sock Puppets after joining the club for their 2022 Season. Under Selna, the Sock Puppets jumped from a bottom-of-the-league offense in 2021, to a top four offense in 2022 (ranking second in runs scored, fourth in HRs, fourth in OPS).
With 27 years of playing and coaching experience, Rob brings back a plethora of expertise from all levels of the game, both professional and collegiate.
Rob resides in California with his wife and three children and is excited to make the coast-to-coast trip again this summer to help lead the Sock Puppets back to the Appalachian League Championship.
Pitching Coach - Horacio Ramirez
The newest addition to the Sock Puppets staff this summer is incoming pitching coach, Ramirez, who brings a wealth of knowledge from his professional playing days (playing from 1997-2022). Horacio played in the MLB for eight seasons, spending time with the Atlanta Braves, Seattle Mariners, Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Angels.
Ramirez was selected by Baseball Digest for the All-Star Rookie team, following his call-up with the Atlanta Braves in 2003 when he went 12-4 in 29 starts and logged more than 180 innings at just 23 years old. He spent a total of 14 seasons in the MLB system between MLB and MiLB. Horacio spent the other 11 years of his professional playing career playing in the Korean and Mexico Baseball Leagues where he had a sub 3.90 ERA.
Most recently, Ramirez spent the 2023 spring as the Team Mexico bullpen coach during the World Baseball Classic.
Bench Coach - Carol Laube
Carol has spent much of her professional career as a violinist. She has earned contracts as Associate-Concertmaster for the Reno Phil, Principal Second for the Reno Chamber orchestra and played with the Lawrence Welk Orchestra for six years in Branson, Mo. She earned a bachelor’s degree in violin performance from Rice University and two masters in violin performance from DePaul University in Chicago and University of Nevada, Reno.
In January 2017, Carol began coaching baseball at Galena High School in Reno under head coach Beau Walker while also embarking on a third master’s in athletic coaching from Ball State. During her time at Galena, Carol served as head JV coach and as assistant for the varsity squad. Carol now serves as an assistant coach at George Fox University under head coach Kevin Kopple where she is the outfield position coach and assists with hitting. Carol and her husband, Allan, reside in Reno, Nev., with their two dogs, Isla and Sierra. She is forever grateful for Allan’s selfless love and support!
Carol is excited to serve as bench coach for the Sock Puppets for a second consecutive summer!