Railroaders lay out plans for 2024 season

Feb. 13—The Cleburne Railroaders' new ownership team is already establishing a place for themselves in the community. They have made several big moves with players and management, as well as creating several new community initiatives before the 2024 season has even begun.

Opening day is May 9 at La Moderna Field, but plans are already in the works for an exciting season.

Railroaders Baseball Partners LLC assumed majority ownership of the Cleburne Railroaders in June, marking the team's third ownership group since it's revival in 2017.

In November they named new coaches all around. Former Texas Ranger Pete Incaviglia was named club manager, while Rudy Jaramillo will serve as hitting coach and Brooks Carey as pitching coach.

"The Railroaders are excited to welcome Pete Incaviglia, Rudy Jaramillo, and Brooks Carey to the team's coaching staff," said Tom Vander Veen, managing member of Railroaders Baseball Partners LLC. "This group carries an immense amount of experience that we know will be a huge benefit to our players as they move forward in their careers. We can't wait to see them on the field in 2024 as they usher in a new era of Railroaders baseball."

Coaching team

Incaviglia has more than 35 years of experience in professional baseball, including a 12-year Major League career that began with the Texas Rangers (1986-90). He had a successful tenure with the Rangers to start his career, hitting 20-plus home runs in each of his five seasons with the club. He finished with 206 career home runs in his MLB tenure from 1986-98.

"I am incredibly grateful to be named the next manager of the Cleburne Railroaders," Incaviglia said. "I could not be more excited to return to the state of Texas, which has played an important role in my baseball career. I look forward to connecting with the Cleburne community and can't wait to build on the success that the team has had in recent seasons."

The 59-year-old joins the Railroaders after spending the last three seasons with the Tri-City ValleyCats of the Frontier League. The ValleyCats posted a 159-127 record under Incaviglia, the most wins by any manager in the team's 21-year history. The ValleyCats posted a franchise-record 55 wins in 2023.

Under Incaviglia's guidance, the ValleyCats saw 15 players return to Major League organizations through contract purchases or the draft. That includes pitcher Kumar Rocker, who pitched for Tri-City in 2022 before being selected by the Texas Rangers with the third overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft.

Incaviglia has held many coaching and managing positions at the professional level, including winning championships as a manager with the Sugar Land Skeeters (2018, Atlantic League) and Laredo Lemurs (2015, American Association). He has previously managed in the DFW area, as he was named manager of the Grand Prairie AirHogs for their inaugural season in 2007. Incaviglia was named NCAA Player of the Century after a standout career at Oklahoma State University. The slugger owns the college baseball record for home runs in a career (100) and single season (48).

The Times-Review had the opportunity to sit down with Incaviglia in January when the Texas Rangers' World Series Trophy was at La Modera Field and asked him about what his plans are for the season.

"Most teams take on the identity of the person running it," he said. "I guess you can say that I was passionate about the game of baseball and believed it should be played the right way, which is really important to me. You give the fans their money worth. You run hard to first base. You get dirty for a baseball on defense. You're a good teammate and you care about the emblem on your chest. It's important to you.

"I would say probably that I'm a little bit of old school. I believe that when you show up to play the people in this organization expect you to be giving them 100 percent. That's pretty much the way I played. I didn't leave anything on the field. Regardless of what I was doing I was going to try to do something to help the baseball team I was playing for to win a baseball game."

Incaviglia said he plans to impress that same passion on his players.

"You're going to see guys hustle, guys care about each other, care about the emblem on their hat and on their chest and play for a championship every day," he said.

Incaviglia said he's lived in the DFW Metroplex since the Texas Rangers traded for him in 1986. When he heard about the possibility of change on the field for the Railroaders, he made a couple of phone calls.

"They called me back, made a few interviews and all of the sudden I'm the manager of the Cleburne Railroaders," he said jokingly. "Something of that nature."

He said he was impressed with the new front office people, that sold him on the job.

"Front office and the people that work here and the people at REV Entertainment are just top notch," he said. "That makes a big difference. They know what they're doing. They're professional. They've been doing it. They support me with players and housing and I support them. It's been a good marriage so far."

Jaramillo is a longtime hitting instructor that spent more than two decades as a Major League hitting coach with the Houston Astros (1990-93), Texas Rangers (1995-2009), and Chicago Cubs (2010-12). He presided over some of the Rangers' top offensive teams in franchise history during that period. Jaramillo was inducted into the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame in 2003.

Carey joins the Railroaders after spending the 2023 season on Incaviglia's staff as pitching coach for the Tri-City ValleyCats. He spent the previous four seasons as manager of the New Jersey Jackals, winning the 2019 Can-Am League championship.


They are lining up a stellar roster to take the field in May.

"There's a dozen guys coming back this year, mixed in with some new players," Incaviglia said. "We've signed some younger guys out of the Pioneer League as well. We're going to have a very athletic team. I like having an athletic team and guys that can play multiple positions because of roster limits. My teams are guys that can help you win a game in more ways than one. They can run, they can hit, they can defend ... they can do it all."

The recent signings include standouts Cory Wills and Dusty Stroup, bolstering the Railroaders' lineup with a blend of talent and proven success. Cory Wills, recognized for leading in saves, and Dusty Stroup, an all around leader with his bats, symbolize the team's commitment to excellence.

Joining them are Cito Culver and Trey Hair, adding versatility and depth from the Tri-City ValleyCats to amplify the Railroaders' performance on the field.

Jaylen Hubbard, Ron Washington Jr. and Justin Kleinsorge from the Grand Junction Jacks, Austin Bernard from the Missoula Paddleheads and Payton Robertson from the NoCo Owlz, further reinforce the Railroaders' formidable lineup. Their diverse skill sets and accolades on the field strengthen the team's foundation for a successful season ahead.

The re-signing of Hill Alexander, Blaze Brothers, Jonathan Tripp, Michael Krauza and Ryan Hernandez brings back valuable experience and talent to the Cleburne Railroaders. Their return is poised to further enhance the team's cohesion and performance on the field.

Several more players were signed this week. Right-handed pitchers Nate Griep and Tyler Driver were both signed. A Kansas State University graduate, Griep spent 2019-22 with Triple-A ball clubs the Albuquerque Isotopes and San Antonio Missions.

Driver was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 2019. He spent the past two seasons playing for the Tacoma Rainiers (Triple-A affiliate).

Community Initiatives

The team also has several new community initiatives planned.

"The Cleburne Railroaders are excited to announce a series of new community initiatives for the 2024 season aimed at enhancing engagement and making a positive impact in Johnson County and surrounding areas," General Manager Chris Jones said. "These initiatives reinforce the Railroaders' commitment to being an active and supportive member of the community."

Spike's Reading Railroad Program presented by Whataburger: A unique program aimed at promoting literacy among young fans in the community. In partnership with Whataburger, children will be encouraged to read by rewarding them with incentives, such as Railroaders tickets. Schools and classrooms have the opportunity to schedule Spike to come read to students and pass out the bookmark to track their reading.

Kid's Club presented by Chick-fil-A Cleburne TX: In collaboration with Chick-fil-A Cleburne TX, the Railroaders are launching a free Kid's Club designed to provide young fans — 12 and under — with tickets to Sunday home games. Kid's Club members will enjoy additional perks such as post-game base running on Sundays, unlimited access to the new Fun Zone and more.

#RailroadersInTheCommunity: As part of the Railroaders' ongoing commitment to community involvement, the team will be using the hashtag #RailroadersInTheCommunity to highlight and share their various outreach efforts, events and partnerships on social media platforms. Staff and players will work with local organizations on service projects each month as part of giving back.

Nonprofit Spotlight of the Game: At each home game, the Railroaders will shine a spotlight on a local nonprofit organization, providing them with exposure and opportunities to engage with fans and raise awareness for their cause. Nonprofits can apply for their own day at the ballpark online at

STEM Day: The Railroaders will host a special STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) Day at the ballpark on May 14, offering educational activities and demonstrations to inspire young minds and foster interest in these critical fields. Discounted tickets are available to all local schools and homeschool institutions to attend.

Fundraising and donation programs: Throughout the season, the Railroaders provide fundraising opportunities and donation programs to support local charities, schools, and community organizations, furthering their commitment to making a positive impact.

In addition to these new initiatives, the Railroaders will continue their existing programs, including the Future Roaders Little League Program, Hometown Heroes recognition and the Home Plate Project, which provide ongoing support and recognition to deserving individuals and groups within the community.

"We are thrilled to announce these exciting new initiatives for the 2024 season," said Kay Goodell, Assistant GM of the Cleburne Railroaders. "Community engagement is at the heart of everything we do, and we're grateful to our partners and fans for their support as we strive to make a difference in our local community."

The Cleburne Railroaders have advanced to the postseason in each of the last three seasons while competing in the independent American Association, an official partner league of MLB. The Railroaders joined the American Association as an expansion franchise in 2017 and play their home games at La Moderna Field.

The Railroaders kick off their season at 7:06 p.m. May 9 at home against the Winnipeg Goldeyes.

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