May 30, 2015

Longtime Coach In the Mets Organization: Ken Oberkfell (2001-2011)

Kenneth Ray Oberkfell was born on May 4, 1956 in Highland, Illinois. The versatile infielder was signed by the St. Louis Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1975.

By 1979 he was playing at second base alongside that year’s NL co-MVP & future Met, Keith Hernandez. He led all NL second baseman in fielding % posting a .985 %. Oberkfell hit over .300 his first two seasons in St. Louis posting on base percentages over .375% both years as well. He spent seven seasons in St. Louis hitting over .290 two more times, gathering over 100 hits five straight seasons.

He was a solid hitter without much power or run production but got on base & could even steal a few bases. In 1981 he made the move over to third base replacing long time Cardinal Ken Reitz at the position. Oberkfell was a fine defensive infielder & made the move over to the hot corner very easily.He would twice lead all NL third baseman in fielding %.

For the 1982 World Champion Cardinals he led all N.L. third baseman in fielding percentages (.972%) turning 23 double plays & making just 11 errors in 393 chances.

He hit .289 during the regular season & .292 (7-24) the World Series against the Milwaukee Brewers. He scored four runs in the Series with two stolen bases & two RBIs. In 1983 he once again led the NL in fielding (.960 %) turning 27 double plays.

In June of 1984 he was sent to the Atlanta Braves for Ken Dayley & former Met Mike Jorgenson.

He was part of the “Bearded Braves” with his famous facial hair in the mid eighties along with Bruce Sutter & Glen Hubbard. He spent three seasons in Atlanta batting over .270 each season, with a best .280 in 1987. From there he went to the Pittsburgh Pirates (1988-1989) & the San Francisco Giants in May of 1989. With the Giants he hit .319 over a span of 83 games with two HRs 15 RBIs & a .367 on base % as a utility infielder and pinch hitter.

The Giants got all the way to the World Series that year, getting swept by the Oakland A’s in the Bay Area Earthquake Series. Oberkfell went 2-6 with three walks in the World Series good enough for a .33 batting average. He spent two seasons in Houston & played out his final season with the California Angels in 1992.

He finished his 16 year career with a .278 lifetime average with 1354 hits 29 HRs 446 RBIs 237 doubles 546 walks 68 intentional (233rd all time) & a .351 on base % playing in 1602 games. His .965 fielding % at third base puts him at #29 all time & his 1996 assists are #89 all time.

Managing & Coaching: After his playing days he has had a successful minor league managing career. He began managing in the Independent League for two years in 1995 & 1996. He went to the Philadelphia Phillies organization in 1997 remaining there through 2000.

He began in the New York Mets organization in 2001 with the Capitol City Bombers. He moved on to the A ball St. Lucie Mets the next year, winning the league championship there in 2003.

In 2005 he earned the Minor League Manager of the Year Award getting the AAA Norfolk Tides to the playoffs. He managed the Mets AAA New Orleans Zephyrs from 2007-June 2008 & then was called up to the New York Mets big league club as coach under Jerry Manuel after Willie Randolph was fired.

In 2009 & 2010 he served as manager of the Mets AAA Buffalo Bison’s. In 2011 he was named bench coach under Terry Collins but was not asked to return after the season.

In 2012 he  began coaching with the Independent League's Newark Bears but stepped down in August. In 2013 & 2014 Oberkfell was the manager of the Lincoln Saltdogs in the American Association of the Independent Pro Baseball league. He is returning for a 2015 season.

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