By Brad Fauber
It's been nearly three years since Jake Weghorst was a member of the Front Royal Cardinals coaching staff, but the thought of one day returning to the dugout has always been in the back of his mind.
Weghorst, who served as the Cardinals' pitching coach under former manager Joe Scarano during the 2009 and 2010 seasons, had made it clear that he would be interested in returning to Front Royal, and he even kept in touch with Dale and Donna Settle -- the owners of the ball club -- over the past several years.
"I always told [Scarano] that if I had the chance, I would love to go back and be the head coach of the Front Royal Cardinals," Weghorst said in a phone interview.
Weghorst will now have that opportunity, as he has been named as the new manager of the Front Royal club. Weghorst replaces former manager Clayton Kucklick, who spent one year with the team.
Weghorst was an instrumental part of Front Royal's turnaround in his two seasons on the coaching staff, as the Cardinals reached the playoffs during both seasons under Weghorst and Scarano. Front Royal reached the Valley Baseball League championship series in 2010, where they lost to Luray in the best-of-3 series.
It was that initial experience with the Cardinals that made Weghorst know he wanted to someday return.
"It was a good two years ... we had a blast," Weghorst said. "We knew [Front Royal] had struggled and we wanted to put together a good team. That summer  was a lot of fun ... it can be a grind, but we were there until the end."
Weghorst, who pitched for two seasons at Baylor University until his graduation in 2007, has held several coaching jobs over the past six years. Weghorst got his first taste of coaching in the Texas Collegiate League before he moved on to an assistant coach position at the University of Tennessee-Martin.
Weghorst also coached a few seasons at West Virginia University and currently holds an assistant coach position at Fairmont State University (W.Va.).
That coaching experience, paired with the two seasons that he spent with the Cardinals, should help Weghorst as he transitions to the role of Front Royal's manager, which will officially begin when the Cardinals travel to face the Aldie Senators on May 31.
"It will work out to my advantange, just knowing the ballpark that we play in every day at the Bing," Weghorst said. "Some of it is going to be new, but some is the same. I'm excited. It's a good league with some good players."
Weghorst said he will be joined this season by assistant coach Mark Darlington, who was an assistant coach with the Winchester Royals last season.
Front Royal's roster is nearly complete, although Weghorst said the team will probably look to add a few more pitchers to the staff before the season begins. Weghorst said many of the Cardinals' players are coming from Texas -- his home state -- and he has gotten a good idea of the type of players he will have this summer through scouting reports he has received from coaches.
"We're similar to what we were in 2009 and 2010," Weghorst said. "We can't guarantee the wins, but we will put together a similar team."
The Strasburg Express will also have some new faces in the dugout this season, as two new assistant coaches have been named to the staff under manager Butch Barnes.
Noe Ruiz, who currently serves as director of baseball operations for Texas A&M International, will be Strasburg's hitting coach, while Greg Palanzo will join the staff as pitching coach, according to a news release. Palanzo has experience pitching both collegiately and professionally in Europe, and has coached at the high school and college levels.
Strasburg will begin its season on May 31 on the road against the Charles Town Cannons.
Contact sports writer Brad Fauber at 540-465-5137 ext. 184, or email@example.com