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story.lead_photo.caption Scott Thorman, (left) NWA Naturals new manager speaks with Alec Zumwalt from the Kansas City Royals front office Monday Jan. 20, 2020 at the hot stove luncheon at the Apollo Theater in Springdale. For more images visit (NWA Democrat-Gazette/J.T. Wampler)

SPRINGDALE -- Alec Zumwalt says new manager Scott Thorman will bring a culture Northwest Arkansas Naturals' fans will love.

Zumwalt, the Kansas City Royals director of hitting performance and player development, should know. He and Thorman were teammates in the minor leagues in the Atlanta Braves organization.

"The players love to play for him," said Zumwalt, who was speaking Monday at the Naturals Hot Stove Luncheon held at The Apollo on Emma.

"He gets the most out of his guys. It's so much fun watching him manage and how the players react to him. He gets players to maximize their ability on the field."

Thorman was recently announced as the fifth manager in Naturals' club history. He will be Northwest Arkansas' third manager in three seasons. The Naturals, the Royals' Double-A affiliate, have made the Texas League playoffs seven times in its 12-year history but have been shutout of postseason the last two seasons.

The 38-year-old Canadian brings a championship pedigree having guided Wilmington and Lexington to league titles in each of the last two seasons. He's looking forward to this year's Naturals team, which could include some good young pitching prospects he had a year ago in Wilmington.

"We're very excited," Thorman said. "We're looking forward to an extremely strong pitching staff, some good young hitters and some motivated ballplayers. We're really excited to get this group together. A lot of them have played together in the past."

It won't be his first trip to Northwest Arkansas either.

Thorman spent two weeks in Springdale watching former Naturals manager Vance Wilson in 2014 and learned plenty.

"I just stayed out of the way and watched," said Thorman, who became a manager in the Royals' organization the following season.

Seeing the way Wilson engaged with his players and staff is something that's helped Thorman in his managerial career. He also came away impressed with Wilson's professionalism and baseball knowledge.

Zumwalt said that culture is a reason Thorman's teams have been successful.

"I think that's why they've won the last two years," Zumwalt said. "He's been able to really connect with the younger players."

Thorman said his group in Wilmington, some of which will likely make the jump to Northwest Arkansas this season, developed a great chemistry.

"They're just first-class competitors, extremely talented and motivated," Thorman said. "The most important thing they had were chemistry and camaraderie. They can smell it. They're getting closer. Double-A is that step closer to the big leagues."

Thorman was also forced to deal with the revolving roster. The Blue Rocks sent 11 players throughout the season to Northwest Arkansas, but the players stayed the course, Thorman said.

"The new guys slid right in and picked up the slack," Thorman said.

Naturals general manager Justin Cole also announced the Naturals and Royals have extended their player development contract through 2022. Northwest Arkansas opens this season in Corpus Christi on April 9 and hosts the Hooks a week later in Arvest Ballpark in the home opener.

Preps Sports on 01/21/2020

Print Headline: Zumwalt: Thorman brings winning culture to Naturals


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