Kelly Nicholson – Field Manager
Orleans is indeed fortunate to welcome back Coach Nicholson for his 22nd summer and 18th as manager, the longest tenured Orleans skipper in the “modern era” (1963-present). Kelly (or “Coach K” as he’s known in the pitching fraternity) is a native of Corona, California where he won numerous scholar-athlete awards in both baseball and basketball while in high school. He was a four-year letter winner and two-time all-conference pick during his pitching career at Loyola Marymount University.
After earning his Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from LMU, he began his career teaching mathematics at Loyola High School of Los Angeles, while completing his master’s degree in Education from LMU. He was the head coach of the Loyola HS Cubs for 11 seasons, leading the team to seven playoff appearances and a league title. Kelly then spent three seasons as Loyola Marymount’s pitching coach; each year the Lions won the West Coast Conference title and went to the NCAA regionals. In the summer of 2000, Kelly worked with the Team USA pitching staff in its early preparation for international play. Kelly joined Orleans as the pitching coach in 2001. In 2002, Coach K’s staff had a 2.11 ERA (the best ever by Cardinals pitchers) and in 2004 it led the CCBL with a 2.37 ERA. His 2003 championship pitching staff was lights out, with a 2.36 ERA and a league-leading 397 strikeouts in 401 innings pitched. All told, Kelly’s pitching staffs have led the CCBL in ERA an astounding eight times.
Co-winner of the Hossfeld Spirit Award with Coach Steve DeBlasi in 2004, Kelly became the field manager in 2005. In his first season, Nicholson was the unanimous choice of his fellow managers for the CCBL Mike Curran Manager of the Year Award after leading the Cardinals to a record-setting 30-win season and the championship. Coach K was again named Manager of the Year in 2008 as his squad finished the regular season in first place overall (25-17-2). In 2015, Kelly led the Firebirds to a franchise record of 31-12-1 (.716) and again was named the CCBL Mike Curran Manager of the Year. In 2017, his Birds captured the President’s Trophy once more (29-15), and he received his fourth Mike Curran Award. In 2019, the Birds shared the regular season East title with Chatham. Under his leadership, Orleans has captured five Eastern Division titles and is a perennial playoff contender. In 2019, Kelly attained his 350th win in the CCBL. In 2021, the team commemorated his 20th anniversary with a surprise on-field celebration. Since his arrival in 2001, 30 former players have been selected in the first-round of the MLB draft and 116 former Orleans Cardinals/Firebirds have reached MLB.
It’s no surprise to anyone who knows him that Kelly enjoys the respect, affection and admiration of his players, fellow coaches and colleagues here and around the league, and in the wider baseball community. He’s a favorite around town, having made countless friends over the years. Orleans fans know they’ll see a first-class team on the field every summer with Kelly at the helm. Orleans welcomes a true gentleman and a terrific leader back for his 22nd summer.
Jay Banfield - Bench Coach and Mental Performance Coordinator
Hometown: San Francisco, CA
Jay Banfield joins the Firebirds for his fourth summer on the Cape as the team’s Bench Coach and Mental Performance Coordinator.
Jay graduated from Stanford University with a degree in Psychology. His research in self-efficacy, a concept which has led to the growth mindset framework, has appeared in the Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology.
Jay has had a wide-ranging career in the private, public and non-profit sectors. Prior to joining the Firebirds, he helped lead a national youth and workforce development organization, Year Up, that has trained and placed tens of thousands of low-income young adults, ages 18 to 24, into careers in the nation’s leading employers such as Google, JPMorgan Chase, Kaiser Permanente and Facebook. Applying the research-validated principles of Year Up, combined with his playing and coaching experience, Jay created a tailored program for the Firebirds. He has his Mental Performance Mastery Coaching Certification.
In the off-season, Jay works with professional and collegiate baseball players, as well as collegiate baseball programs, on mental performance and team dynamics. He also serves as the Chief Officer of Economic Mobility for All Home, an organization designed to disrupt homelessness and poverty in the San Francisco Bay Area. Jay played baseball at Foothill College (CA) and in Europe semi-professionally, and has coached at various levels since 2007.
Jim Lawler - Pitching Coach
Hometown: College Station, TX
With more than three decades of coaching experience, Coach Lawler brings an impeccable baseball pedigree to the Firebirds. His resume includes six years as the pitching coach for the Wareham Gatemen (2014-2019).
Originally from Carroll, Iowa, he graduated from Buena Vista College (IA) where he was a pitcher for the Beavers. Drafted in 1972 by the Yankees, he played one season for the Johnson City Yankees.
His coaching career has taken him from Gonzaga, where he was the head coach (1979-80), to Texas El Paso for four years (1981-84) as their head coach. He became an assistant coach at Texas A&M in 1985, and was the assistant head coach from 1989 through 2005. The Aggies boasted a record of 876-433-3 during his tenure, appeared in the NCAA Tournament 13 times and made it to the College World Series twice (1993, 1999). In 2003, Lawler was named the National Assistant Coach of the Year by the ABCA and Baseball America.
Lawler was the head coach at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock from 2005 to 2008, and an assistant with Team USA’s 18U team in 2011 and 2012. After his years at Wareham, he was an assistant at Pepperdine (2020-2021).
Coach Lawler will be joined on the Cape for his second Firebirds summer by his wife Trish.
Max Fecske - Assistant Coach
Hometown: North Hollywood, CA
Fecske grew up in Studio City, California and first played collegiate baseball with Glendale College (CA). As a freshman, Fecske was part of the Vaqueros’ third consecutive Western State Conference Championship, a CCCAA Regional win and a CCCAA Super Regional berth. He transferred to Webster University in St. Louis, where he was an All-St. Louis Intercollegiate Conference selection as a left fielder for the Gorloks. His team won their 10th consecutive SLIAC conference championship, an NCAA Division III Central Regional championship and a berth in the NCAA Division III National Championship.
After graduation, Fecske returned to coach at his high school alma mater, Notre Dame HS in Sherman Oaks. The team won the Mission League championship in 2018 and was nationally ranked #1 by Baseball America from February to April that year. He then became a graduate manager at Cal State Northridge in 2019, handling video coordination for the Matadors. During the summer of 2019, Fecske was an assistant coach with the Duluth Huskies of the summer collegiate Northwoods League. He holds a bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Webster, and master’s degree in American Studies from Pepperdine, where he served as their graduate assistant in 2020-21, and as the volunteer assistant in 2022. He returned to his college alma mater, Glendale, in 2023 as their pitching coach where they won the 2023 Western State Conference South Championship. This is Coach Fecske’s second summer in Orleans.
Cole Cook - Volunteer Assistant Coach
Hometown:Los Angeles, CA/Truro, MA
Born in New York City, Cole Cook grew up in Los Angeles and was drafted after his senior year at Palisades Charter HS by the Seattle Mariners in the 36th round of the 2007 draft; he opted to pitch for Pepperdine instead. Following his redshirt year in 2008, he was named to the WCC All-Freshman team in 2009.
That summer, he pitched for the Firebirds, and ended the season with a 1-2 record, with 8 appearances and 6 starts, 34.1 IP, a 4.72 ERA, 25K and 9BB. In 2010, he earned first team All-Conference honors with the Waves, and was the 5th round selection of the Cleveland Indians (150th overall). Cook spent four years in the Cleveland system (2010-2013), reaching Triple-A in 2012 and 2013.
Since retiring from professional baseball, Cook has spent several years as a private coach in Los Angeles, working with young pitchers who aspire to collegiate and professional careers. In December of 2021, he moved to Truro full time to pursue his work as an artist - his work can be found at the Outermost Gallery in Provincetown and on Instragram @CapeCodTrees. Back for his second season coaching with the Firebirds, Cole is excited for another wonderful summer!
Joey Cooper - Assistant Coach
Hometown: Bakersfield, CA
Joining the Firebirds for his first summer, Bakersfield, California native Joey Cooper began his collegiate baseball career at Palomar College (CA) in 2015. He was an All-American and is sixth all-time in BA (.434 in his sophomore year). He transferred to Cal State Northridge for the 2018 and 2019 seasons. Cooper played for the Portland Pickles of the West Coast League for three summers, and holds the team’s all-time records in total games, at bats and stolen bases.
Cooper began his coaching career as an assistant in summer 2020 with the Bismarck Bull Moose in the Northwoods League. He was an assistant coach with Montana State in 2021, and returned to the Northwoods that summer as an assistant coach with the Bismarck Larks. For the 2022 season, he was a Graduate Assistant Coach at Delta State (D2, MS), helping the team to a regional appearance with a 32-17 record. He returned to the Pickles that summer as an assistant coach. In 2023, Cooper joined the staff at New Mexico State as a Volunteer Assistant Coach.
Cooper earned a earned a bachelor’s degree in Liberal Studies with a focus in Kinesiology from Cal State Northridge in 2019, and a master’s degree in Sports Management from Delta State University (MS). Welcome to Orleans, Coach!