Blue Crabs ready for open­ing day

10th an­niver­sary sea­son kicks off ver­sus Long Is­land on Thurs­day

Maryland Independent - - Front Page - By AJ MA­SON aj­ma­son@somd­news.com

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.

PHOTO BY BERT HINDMAN

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.

PHOTO BY BERT HINDMAN

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.

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