Crushers are ready, excited to kick off the season
AVON - Manager Jeff Isom and his 24 players will drive up to All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon Friday, just like they have for the past two weeks.
They will loosen their arms, stretch and listen to music. Just like they have for the past two weeks.
But unlike the past two weeks, the team will take the field at 7:05 in front of a packed house on fireworks night to welcome baseball back to the community.
"You think back two weeks, it's not a whole lot of time, but it seems like it has been forever," Isom said. "We've got our opening day roster all set and guys are ready to go, that's for sure."
Thursday was the team's final warmup in preparation for the season opener and had a lot of players looking loose and ready for action. Veteran infielder Andrew Davis led all of the position players in a team break which he called a "one-time" deal.
On Friday, the batting cages and nets will be carted off the field and the team's first meaningful game will be played. Having the advantage of playing at home where players have spent a majority of their time so far is a crucial start in Isom's eyes.
"I like starting off the season at home," Isom said. "We had the ability to continue our workouts, continue our batting practice, stay in rhythm, get our timing at the plate down, so definitely an advantage for us to start off at home.
"You've got your opening day with hometown fans and there's going to be a lot of excitement from our end and we're ready to roll."
The Crushers' opponent, the Gateway Grizzles, start the season with the disadvantage of spending most of their last day of spring training traveling. Heading into town from just outside St. Louis, the Grizzles won't even get a batting practice session until Friday morning.
Time missed will be a factor for the Grizzles as Isom sends veteran righty Trevor Longfellow to the mound to get the season off right.
As Isom has maintained all year, the Crushers' starting pitching will feature off-speed pitchers while the bullpen offers a heavy dose of speed and over powering pitches. At this point, the only spot that is still open is the closer's role.
"We're still up in the air with [the closer] at this point; it might be a closer by committee to start off the season," Isom said. "I know that's a big question, but we'll go with the guy who has the hot hand and we'll see what happens as the season goes on."
As a lot of baseball players will tell you, they are a curious bunch driven by their routine or different superstitions. To the best of my knowledge, no one is sacrificing chickens in the clubhouse or using Jobu's bat magic, but force of habits do come up in one way or anther.
For Isom, Chinese food has fueled his opening day ritual since becoming a manager.
"My opening day consists of going out and getting Chinese food for lunch and I have done that since probably 2000 and it has been successful for me," Isom said. "I always go out and get the Chinese food, so if we keep winning, I'll keep eating the Chinese food.
"You try to go with some routine that'll work for you. This is my 20th year professionally, and yeah there're routines that go about that go with your daily work and all that so yes, there are quite a few that we end up having."