Connecticut Tigers open their season tonight at Dodd
Norwich — Carson Lance relishes his role as opening night starting pitcher for the Connecticut Tigers.
"That's just something you always like doing...," Lance said. "Everybody knows opening night being out there is always fun. Usually the best crowd until Fourth of July. I'm excited for Friday and I'm ready to go."
Lance, a 6-foot-5, 245-pound righthander from Katy, Texas, will begin his second season with the Tigers tonight, pitching against the Lowell Spinners, a Boston Red Sox affiliate, in a New York-Penn League opener at Dodd Stadium. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.
Pitching the opener sure beats his off-season job as a substitute teacher.
Lance's parents are both teachers, so it seemed like a natural choice for
a way to make money. He taught all different ages, ranging from elementary to high school students.
He also taught a wide variety of subjects, including French, elementary physical education and business classes for high school seniors.
"I don't know if I'll do elementary again," Lance said. "That was pretty brutal for a whole day. But it was fun. It was good money for what I needed to do."
Lance, 23, hopes to have better command of his fastball tonight than he did of his students on a bad day.
Norwich will always be where Lance, who attended Lamar University, began his professional baseball career.
After being selected in the 16th round of the 2017 major league draft, Lance started out with the Connecticut Tigers. He went 2-3 with a 2.45 earned run average in 10 games, allowing 20 hits in 29.1 innings while striking out 26 and walking eight.
"I was comfortable last summer," Lance said. "I just like competing out there. I'm just excited to get back in a game with an umpire and two teams that generally hate each other most of the time."
Lance's goal this season is to add an effective changeup to his repertoire that regularly features a fast ball and curveball.
"My consistency I get with the movement on my changeup is a little bit different most times, so I'm a little shaky on that pitch," Lance said. "Sometimes I'll get it to where it looks like (Max) Scherzer almost. Then other times, it will be like a flat rope."
Of course, Lance's ultimate goal is to reach the major leagues.
And if that doesn't work out, he could always fall back on teaching.
"My parents have always done it," Lance said. "Obviously, as teachers, they're always going to tell you not to do it because of the pay. But I don't see myself getting away from athletics. I love sports... and just the competitive atmosphere.
"I'm going to do everything I can to get to the big leagues. Hopefully, I won't have to worry about the money then. But (teaching) might be a career that I can definitely go into."
While Lance will be a familiar face to fans on opening night, a good number of Tigers are newcomers to the roster, including manager Gary Cathcart and his entire staff. Cathcart mentioned catcher Sam McMillan and right-handed pitcher Wilkel Hernandez, who was acquired in the Ian Kinsler trade, as two young players to watch. They're both 19 years old.
"I hope there's a lot of excitement by a lot of guys...," Cathcart said. "Kids at this level are going to make mistakes, but we're going to be aggressive. We're going to learn the value of preparation and understanding how important that is and being ready for the first pitch every night. How they perform is going to be up to them."
The Connecticut Tigers will play 38 home games this season. The threegame series with Lowell will continue on Saturday (6:05 p.m.) and Sunday (4:05 p.m.).