Blue Crabs get­ting back into the swing of things

Team starts spring train­ing, takes part in media day

Maryland Independent - - Sports - By AJ MA­SON aj­ma­son@somd­news.com Twit­ter: @aj­ma­son301

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.

PHO­TOS BY BERT HINDMAN

Blue Crabs man­ager John Har­ris starts his first sea­son at the helm of the base­ball team for the 2017 sea­son.

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