Josh is the son of former Pittsburg Pirate GM Cam Bonifay. He played college ball at UNC-Wilmington where he hit .321/.441/.689 in his final season in 1999. He was then drafted in the 24th round by the Pirates. He climbed a level each year through 2003 when he reached AA. There his career stalled. He played four seasons at AA, the final one in 2006 when he played for Corpus Christi and appeared in 113 games and hit .261/.318/.480. During his minor league career, he played every defensive position except catcher and short stop. He even pitched an inning in one game. He also started a triple play for the Hooks during game four of the Texas League finals.
After the 2006 season, he returned to college to finish his degree at UNC-Wilmington. To give you an idea of how seriously Bonifay took his course work, one of his professors explained one interaction to the Star News when Bonfay found a course he needed to take was already closed.
"He did a great job of explaining his situation and why he was interested in the class,'' Rowe said. "He told me what he was looking to get out of it. He also mentioned his background in terms of coming back to UNCW. He was obviously very committed and interested in it. Normally I don't let students in after it is closed. In his case, we made an exception."..."When students are younger, they might talk a big game, but not always follow it up," Rowe continued. "In his case, he touched on a lot of the personal issues he has dealt with and his friends and everything and why he is coming back. He was confident he would do a good job in the class. He has exceeded that.''He officially retired for the 2007 season due to shoulder issues and returned to school full time where he graduated with his Business Management degree with honors.
He returned to minor league baseball in 2008 as a coach for the Hickory Crawdads. It is important to note that his father had been fired in 2001 from the Pirates yet it was a Pirates affiliate that gave him his first coaching job. He coached for the West Virginia Power in 2010 before joining the Astros organization in 2011. He spent 2011 in Greeneville and then 2012 in Lexington as the hitting coach.
Earlier during the off-season, Bonifay was slated to move up to Lancaster as the hitting coach but then when the front office looked at filling the Greeneville manager position, Bonifay was re-assigned after an interview process that Bonifay called a learning experience.
The Astros put him through a series of extensive interviews with three executives and a statistical analysis expert. Each interview lasted more than an hour. The conversations covered topics from game management, people skills, hypothetical game situations, running a clubhouse, even philosophy on bunts and hit and runs.
"It was a very good learning experience, even if I had not gotten the job,'' Bonifay said. "It was great to pick the brains of so many great and qualified men in baseball who possess so much knowledge of the game.''
Bonifay is making his managerial debut about an hour away from where he played high school baseball. He played for Robinson High School in Asheville, North Carolina. He says he will be trying to use his high school coach, Tom Smith, as one of his role models for this position.In return, Bonifay asked about pitch counts, relievers' roles and the ability of everyone in the lineup to sacrifice or bunt for a hit
“Coach Smith is one of those people I want to be in this new gig,” said Bonifay... “I want to be somebody players can look up to, somebody players can call, somebody players know has their back and somebody who always teaches them the right way to go about their business.”Coach Smith thinks highly of Bonifay as well.
“From his experiences, you could say he’s got a master’s degree or a doctorate in baseball,” ... Smith continued. “This is what he wants to do. I’d even thought he might get into the college ranks because he’s a really good teacher. He works with our kids from time to time. ... What a great opportunity this is for him.”Smith is currently the head coach of UNC-Asheville and has had more than 20 players drafted but Bonifay is the first of his former players to manage professionally.
The more I read about Bonifay, the more excited I am that we may have a real up and coming managerial prospect at Pioneer Park this summer. I am looking forward to watching him work.