Con­necti­cut Tigers open their sea­son tonight at Dodd

The Day - - SPORTS - g.keefe@the­day.com By GAVIN KEEFE Day Sports Writer

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.).

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