· By Whitney Hunt


CHARLESTON, W.Va. (December 14, 2023) – While past, present and future Charleston Dirty Birds fans are preparing for the holiday season, Dirty Birds manager PJ Phillips is busy preparing for the 2024 baseball season. He’s assembling his coaching staff, which will include an award-winning pitching coach and a long-time confidante as bench coach.   

When the 2024 Atlantic League season begins in April, Phillips will be joined by former Major League pitcher and Frontier League Coach of the Year Rob Carson as the team’s pitching coach and bench coach Cip Garza, who has served in that role alongside Phillips since the summer of 2020 after three years as a player-manager in the Pecos League.

“Cip’s loyalty, connection to players and his passion for the game are undeniable and the reasons we have been successful working together,” Phillips explained. “Rob’s work ethic and his way of getting his message across to pitchers made it an easy decision to hire him to be our pitching coach. You don’t receive a Coach of the Year Award unless you know what you’re doing.”   

Carson pitched for the New York Mets in 2012 and 2013 as part of a 14-year professional playing career that concluded with an Atlantic League championship ring as a key part of the 2021 Lexington Legends’ pitching staff.  In 2022, he transitioned to serving as pitching coach for the Frontier League champion Quebec Capitales, whose pitching staff registered the most games won, the fewest runs given up and the best ERA. Colleagues throughout the league recognized Carson’s leadership and named him the Frontier League’s Coach of the Year. 

“I am beyond humbled to be coming to the city of Charleston to lead the avengers pitching staff for your Charleston Dirty Birds, and I’m bringing positive championship vibes only with me,” Carson said.  “You all are in for treat from our pitchers, attacking the strike zone with our best stuff, pitching to contact and not shying away from competing.”

Garza guided Pecos League teams as a player-manager from 2017 through 2019, when he led the Monterrey Amberjacks to a second-place finish and post-season action. He joined P.J. Phillips in Lexington in 2020’s Battle of the Bourbon Trail as other leagues had shut down because of Covid-19. Garza also worked as Phillips’ bench coach for the Lexington Legends during the team’s 2021 championship season plus 2022 before serving in that same role this year with the New Jersey Jackals. He was selected as a coach for the Frontier League All-Star Game this past summer, as the Jackals were building a 60-35 record, tied for the best in the league and the second-best record in franchise history. 

“I am excited and looking forward to working with PJ, Rob and the entire Dirty Birds organization this upcoming season. In the past, we’ve had a lot of success, and I know we will bring a lot of fun and excitement to Charleston,” Garza said.

“I won a ring with PJ, Rob, and Cip in 2021.  I have every reason to believe that can and will happen again,” said Dirty Birds owner and CEO Andy Shea, who owned and operated the Lexington Legends in 2021.

“Building a strong, championship team to bring new levels of excitement, fan engagement, and leadership is a top priority for the Dirty Birds,” said the team’s general manager Ben Blum. “We look forward to working with PJ, Cip, and Rob with their proven successes of developing and leading professional baseball teams.”

The Charleston Dirty Birds are a member of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball. Now in its 26th season, the Atlantic League is Major League Baseball’s first Professional Partner League, a player gateway to the major leagues, and a leader in baseball innovation. ALPB has sent over 1,200 players to MLB organizations while drawing over 46 million fans to its family-friendly ballparks throughout its 25-year history. Please visit www.AtlanticLeague.com