Clintonville native ready for challenge
By Erik Buchinger
After two years of coaching experience, Clintonville native Justin Jirschele has been put in charge of the team he used to play for.
Jirschele was hired to be the new manager of the Kannapolis Intimidators in North Carolina. Kannapolis is a Class A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox in the South Atlantic League.
“I was fortunate enough to grow up around professional baseball with my dad and always knew I had love for the game,” Jirschele said. “If I was fortunate enough for the opportunity to make coaching or managing into a career, it was always definitely something I’d be interested in.”
After graduating from Clintonville High School, Jirschele played baseball at UW Oshkosh for one season and transferred to UW-Stevens Point.
Jirschele signed as an undrafted free agent by the White Sox in June 2012. He played in 184 career games and hit .277 with 70 RBI and 77 runs scored as an infielder in four minor league seasons.
Jirschele reached as high as AAA in 2014 and 2015 before getting into coaching.
“It got to the point in my career where I was getting older in the minor leagues, and my chances to make big leagues were getting slimmer and slimmer,” Jirschele said. “Fortunately, the White Sox offered me a coaching job.”
Jirschele began his coaching career in 2015 as a hitting coach of Advanced Rookie Great Falls and was the hitting coach for Kannapolis for the 2016 season.
In November, Jirschele was announced as the 12th manager of the Intimidators and the first manager to also play for the team.
In addition, Jirschele will likely be the youngest manager in affiliated Minor League Baseball at just 26 years old when the season starts on April 6.
“I don’t think about my age being factor all that much,” Jirschele said. “What I’m focused on is helping these guys and guide their paths to the big leagues. First and foremost, it’s about them.”
Jirschele said the transition will not be too difficult since he has become more familiar with the organization.
“It helps playing there a while, and I was the hitting coach, so I got to know more of the staff, which makes for an easier transition,” Jirschele said. “They’re good people in Kannapolis, and I’m excited for opportunity.”
Jirschele has been living in Madison in the offseason giving hitting lessons to kids and seeks advice from his father Mike, who is the third base coach for the Kansas City Royals. He said his dad has helped him out quite a bit in his new fast-paced career.
“He helps a lot, and we talk a lot during the season up until I moved to Madison,” Jirschele said. “We lived together, so we’d talk a lot of baseball. Any question I might have, he’s the first guy I go to. You’ve got to be a sponge, always learning. He’s a great start to my path of learning about the game each and every day.”
Jirschele said no matter where his career takes him, he will never forget growing up in the small town of Clintonville.
“It’s nice to say I came from such a small town, a great sports town, and have the support that Clintonville gives to everybody,” Jirschele said. “It’s special. It’s a special town, and Clintonville will always have a place in my heart. Everybody says don’t forget where you came from, and I’ll never forget Clintonville. It’s one of the big reasons I’m where I am in my life.”
Jirschele said he is not sure what the future holds for his managerial career.
“I don’t think about down the line too much,” Jirschele said. “I tend to stay in moment, not worrying about where my career is going to take me as coach. I go out every day and put the uniform on and know I have a job to do.”