Blue Crabs ready for opening day
10th anniversary season kicks off versus Long Island on Thursday
Baseball season is finally here and teams around the Atlantic League are prepping for opening day festivities.
One of them are the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.
Thursday, the Blue Crabs return to Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf for opening night of the season when they host the Long Island Ducks in the first of a four-game series scheduled for 6:35 p.m.
The special night will mark the 10th year anniversary of the baseball team as they will celebrate the memories of the last nine seasons on and off the field.
Since the franchise’s inaugural opening day game on April 25, 2008, the Blue Crabs have been a major stable to numerous fans in the Southern Maryland community.
“The guys have been working hard real hard in spring training and now we are excited to get things rolling on opening night,” said Blue Crabs manager John Harris, the team’s sixth manager in the team’s 10th season of existence. “This is a brand new year and Southern Maryland is a great environment. We have a good group of guys on this team that have great character and are ready to play.”
The Blue Crabs have won almost 51 percent of their 1,240 regular season games during their first nine years of existence, owning six playoff berths since 2009.
Despite not reaching the playoffs in 2016 with a 57-83 overall record — finishing in last place in the Freedom Division — the Blue Crabs have reached the league championship twice in 2009 and 2015, but have settled for a runner-up finish.
This year’s team features a strong lineup of pitching with the likes of Justin De Fratus and Pat Misch joining familiar franchise faces such as La Plata High School graduate Daryl Thompson, Brian Grening, and Cody Eppley. The offense and defense features the
return of Michael Snyder, Zach Wilson and Gary Brown with newcomers Zach Cone, Edwin Garcia, Cory Vaughn and Patrick Palmeiro.
“We have been playing preseason games and getting to know one another,” said Mike Blanke, a former catcher for Long Island. “Especially as a catcher it’s all about getting to the pitchers and their strengths and how they like to approach the opposing hitters. Offensive guys get to spend a lot of time in the cage together and talk about hitting and it’s been a great group to be part of so far.”
On facing his former team with the season’s first regular season game a day away, Blanke said: “It will be different, especially when I’ve played with a lot of those guys for the last couple of seasons and made some great friendships. There’s a lot of trades and changing of teams though in baseball. It’s all part of the game. I’m excited for the season to start and help Southern Maryland win games.”
Wilson, who will be entering his third season with the Blue Crabs is looking forward to opening night. The infielder led the team with RBIs (70) and doubles (34) in 2016.
“We have just been taking it day by day and getting our live at-bats in every chance we get and just getting to know each other on the field,” Wilson said. “From what I see so I far I think we are going to be very strong on both sides of the baseball. We have a strong group of guys and it’s going to be an exciting year.”
Thursday will begin the 10th anniversary season as fans can expect appearances from players of the team’s past and the unveiling of the Ten Year Team as voted on by the fans.
The Blue Crabs will also host a night themed after the popular movie “Field Of Dreams,” which was the showcase of one of the most popular theme nights in the team’s history on Sept. 23, 2012. The stadium will feature cornstalks throughout the concourse, reminiscent of the cornfields in the popular 1989 film. With the help of Port Tobacco Players, fans will be greeted by old-time baseball players to enjoy and interact with before and during the game.
Several Southern Maryland Blue Crabs players stretch before Monday’s spring training game versus the Lancaster Barnstormers at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf. The Blue Crabs open the season on Thursday night versus the Long Island Ducks at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
Pitchers David Russo, left, Cody Hebner and Pat Misch for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs sit on the field during a recent spring training session. The Blue Crabs open the season on Thursday night versus the Long Island Ducks at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.