FARGO -- Michael Schlact had the word “interim” removed from his job title Thursday afternoon at Newman Outdoor Field.
The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks named Schlact their new manager, days after the American Association baseball regular season ended. The 31-year-old Schlact was the team’s interim manager for the final 24 games.
“I’m looking forward to continuing the legacy that the RedHawks have in this town,” Schlact said.
Schlact took over for longtime manager Doug Simunic, who the team announced was “relieved of his duties” on Aug. 13 after 22 seasons. Simunic posted a 1,202-839 record with the RedHawks, including league championships in 1998, 2003, 2006, 2009 and 2010.
Simunic had managed the team since 1996, the franchise’s inaugural season.
“Doug is a legend,” Schlact said. “I have nothing but respect for Doug because he hired me. I had no resume in professional baseball from a coaching standpoint and he gave me an opportunity to be the pitching coach.”
The RedHawks finished the season with a 57-43 record and tied for the lead in the wild card, along with Gary SouthShore and Kansas City. Gary earned a spot in the postseason due to the tiebreaker.
“I talked to a bunch of players after the season was over and there was not one bad word to say about Michael,” said Brad Thom, the president and chief executive officer for the RedHawks. “Everyone of them said he did a bang-up job.”
Thom said one “defining moment” in the decision to make Schlact the manager came during the final home series against the Lincoln Saltdogs at Newman Outdoor Field.
“I had a veteran player come in and he requested that we remove the interim tag on our manager,” Thom said.
That happened Thursday. Schlact was named the RedHawks’ pitching coach prior to the 2015 season. He remained pitching coach after he was tabbed as the interim manager. Moving forward, Schlact could continue to do both.
“Michael has shown interest in being the pitching coach and our manager,” Thom said. “I believe he can do that.”
Jeff Bittiger remains the player personnel consultant for the RedHawks. If Schlact takes on the dual role of manager and pitching coach, Thom said the team would look to have two additional coaches on staff instead of three. Thom said the RedHawks agreed to a multi-year deal with Schlact, but wouldn’t specify the exact length.
Schlact said leading the RedHawks for the final 24 games, during that wild-card race that came down to the last day of the regular season, was exhilarating.
“The passion for the game was really ignited in these last 24 games for me,” Schlact said.
The RedHawks have not qualified for the playoffs since 2013. They have finished the past two seasons with winning records.
“We’re excited about what’s to come,” Schlact said. “We’re wanting to get back to playoff baseball and ultimately championship baseball here in Fargo.”