By Michael Coppinger
The 2009 season is full of promise for the Vienna Senators. Coming off a season in which the team finished 42-12, tops in the Clark Griffith Collegiate Baseball League, Manager Chris Burr has good reason to have high expectations for his club.
“I expect to have a highly competitive team that emulates the past models of teams we’ve had that have been very successful,” Burr said, who is entering his 12th season as the team’s skipper. “I think we should pitch very well and play great defense. We should have some offensive assets that make teams have strategic problems defensively.”
The Senators are set to begin play on Friday, June 5 against the visiting Fairfax Nationals at Waters Field, but the game was called off due to inclement weather. So the Senators now look to Saturday, June 6 to open the season, hosting the Western HC Renegades at 7 p.m.
“We’re going to emphasize team aspects of baseball like we always do,” Burr said. “When they come to play with a wooden bat for the first time, or for some of them it’s the first time, they have to understand the nuances of the game become much more important then when you’re playing with an aluminum bat and everything’s a slugfest. These guys are going to be in a lot of 5-4, 4-3, 3-2 games early on, and it’s all going to be about situational hitting and bunting and taking an extra base when the opportunity presents itself and guys are going to have to buy into that.”
The Senators have a long history of producing quality major league and minor league players alike, namely All-Star closer Jonathan Papelbon of the Boston Red Sox. This year’s squad features many players with aspirations of one day reaching the level of Papelbon. Surely, the experience the young players gain over the next few months will prove vital to their big league prospects and hopes of one day getting a call up to “The Show”.
“We have several players to watch,” Burr said. “We have some really big arms with Ryan Doiron (Tulane), Greg Uzee (Louisiana College) and Eric Walters (South Alabama). “And then I think you got some guys like Jose Sanchez, a little lefty out of Montgomery, I think he’s going to be somebody to really watch, and Ryan Camp who’s the number one starter from Illinois State. He’s going to be great for us. And then of course Kyle Hald (ODU) who is a two-year guy for us who was one of the anchors of our staff last year, we’re going to use him as effectively as possible. Pitching-wise I think we’ve got a lot [of players to watch].”
“Offensively, we’ve got some guys [of note],” Burr said. “We’ve got Jamie Bruno (Tulane) at first base, he’s got tremendous power. Alfred Rodriguez (Maryland) at shortstop is going to be an exceptional defensive player for us. The outfield’s got two guys, Ty Wiesemeyer (Illinois State) and Nick Boullosa (Tulane) who are seriously catalysts that can play all three outfield positions and really get things going on the bases.”
If the Senators are to be successful, the players must quickly adjust to playing with wooden bats and an everyday schedule, something that will not come easy. Manager Burr is confident the team can meet the challenge though, through hard work, fundamentals and dedication.
“The rigors of playing every day is probably the biggest [adjustment],” Burr said. “In college they get two or three days off at a time between games, and we’ll be playing probably about 55 games in 60 days, so they’re going to be playing everyday, and they’re going to be asked to perform at their highest level every day, and it’s something that most of them have not yet come across, so that is always the greatest pitfall, getting your mindset prepared to play everyday, as opposed to one or two days a week.”