Blue Crabs getting back into the swing of things
Team starts spring training, takes part in media day
There was a buzz among the players and coaches of the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs as it held media day at Waldorf’s Regency Furniture Stadium on Tuesday morning.
It wasn’t the sound of unloading equipment and luggage since arriving last Friday in preparation for spring training. Rather, it was generated by the excitement for upcoming 2017 baseball season.
With six days until the Blue Crabs 10th anniversary season kicks off at Regency versus the Long Island Ducks, final preparations are underway with hopes of improving from a tough season a year ago.
Southern Maryland finished with the worst record in the Atlantic League with a 57-83 overall record.
With some new and familiar faces on the preliminary roster, this year’s squad is looking to bring back a winning culture that saw the franchise advance to the league championship series and claim the Freedom Division title in 2015, also notching the best record in the division for the season’s first half at 42-28.
“This is an opportunity of a lifetime for all of us and this is such a nice place and a great league,” said Blue Crabs firstyear manager John Harris, the team’s sixth manager in 10 seasons. “And we are ecstatic to get the season going.”
The Blue Crabs currently have 15 pitchers and 11 position players mixed with solid veterans and skilled young talent at different positions.
The official roster will be finalized on April 19.
“What grabs me the most are the character of these guys. They are good guys,” Harris said. “No. 1, I hope we pitch and defense. We have some guys that can swing the bat. We have to do a little bit of everything to be successful.”
During media day, players got a chance to sign baseballs, take pictures, do videos, prepare for game promos and select their walk-up music when they come up to bat or in-between pitches. Many were just excited to have a chance in full uniform and on the field with their teammates.
Clean-up hitter Michael Snyder was eager to be returning to the Blue Crabs for his second season.
The first baseman had a strong season in 2016, batting .304 with 25 home runs, good for the third most in the Atlantic League.
“After the first day of spring training [on Monday] as you can see we have a really big team,” Snyder said. “Batting practice was a show. I don’t even know if we had any balls left. The chemistry is there all ready and John brought in a lot of good clubhouse guys and I think we are going to have a lot of fun this year. I think we will win a lot of games as long as we stay healthy.”
With a deep pitching staff, starter Brian Grening returns for another season after notching the third-lowest ERA (3.09) in the league last season to go with 10 wins.
“Everyone is excited and the beginning of the season anywhere brings different feelings that you only get once a year,” Grening said. “We have a lot of new faces here, so everyone is getting to know each other and seeing what everyone brings to the table. We are a lot more diversified this season and have lot of quality arms and veteran talent that will play a big role in our success.”
On the expectations of the season, Grening said: “Obviously we want to get back to the championship series where we were two years ago. It is definitely doable. We just have to grind it out and lock down the first half of the season. It would be special to win the league championship on our 10th anniversary [season]. Lancaster did it on there anniversary season [in 2014] and got hot at the right time.”
Daryl Thompson, a 2003 La Plata High School graduate who was drafted by the Montreal Expos out of high school and reached the majors twice in 2008 and 2011, is back for his sixth season with the Blue Crabs.
“The first few days of spring training have been good and I played over in Venezuela in the offseason,” Thompson said. “The Blue Crabs organization are looking to make a big turnaround from last season. I like the direction that things are going right now.”
Blue Crabs pitcher and 2003 La Plata High School graduate Daryl Thompson returns for his sixth season with the team and will play a key role in the starting rotation once again this upcoming season.
Blue Crabs manager John Harris starts his first season at the helm of the baseball team for the 2017 season.