The long-anticipated “new look” Boulders will take the field for the first time on Thursday, May 16, opening the 2019 campaign against the defending Can-Am Champion Sussex County Miners. Under new Manager Kevin Baez, Rockland will have 21 new players wearing the Red, White and Blue, with just two returning from last season.
Former New York Met Baez enjoyed a lengthy and successful stint with the Atlantic League’s Long Island Ducks but is looking forward to a fresh start in Pomona. “The team is coming along well; I’m getting to know them and they’re getting to know me,” the veteran manager said in advance of the Boulders’ ninth season opener. “I’ve heard there’s a lot of talent in this league and it’s refreshing to see young, hungry kids playing at a high level.”
Newcomers Grant Heyman, Mitch Piatnik, Ryne Birk, John Brontsema , Cito Culver, Matt Oberste, Blake Grant-Parks, and Collin Ferguson join some familiar Can-Am League veterans such as Adam Ehrlich (Quebec), Jordan Hinshaw (New Jersey) and Chase Harris (Ottawa) in filling out what is expected to be a powerful lineup.
A dozen hurlers will punctuate the roster for Opening Day, led by returnees Nick Kennedy and Frank Moscatiello. Also on the staff are Thursday’s starter Tommy Shirley, as well as JD Busfield, Landon Holifield, Robbie Gordon, Justin Valdespina, Jake Zohan, Tim Ponto, James Mulry, Pasquale Mazzoccoli, and Brett Schneider. With only a 23-man roster (increased from last season’s 22), Baez knows that pitching will be a key.
“We definitely have to be careful to keep everyone fresh, especially the relievers early in the season when starters are on a smaller pitch count,” stated Baez, who will look to seven-year Major Leaguer Les Lancaster to handle the pitching coach duties.
The first game of the Baez era will also feature an intriguing managerial match-up, as his Sussex County counterpart is former New York Met Bobby Jones. While the two narrowly missed being teammates in Flushing, they were colleagues in the Gulf Coast League in 2007 and the two fierce competitors have kept in touch.
“I’ve communicated with Bobby over the years, we’ve stayed in touch. I was very impressed with Sussex in the pre-season and I’m excited to compete against him and his team,” added Baez.
Fans are sure to be in for a treat off the field as well as on. New bat dog Pepper Jack will be making her official debut after drawing rave reviews in last Saturday’s exhibition contest against the NYPD, post-game fireworks will light the night sky, and even BoulderBird will have a new look – be sure to come out and see how the off-season training program has worked out.
All this and more add to the Million Reasons it’s an All-Star Summer at Palisades Credit Union Park. Tickets for all home games are available at the box office, online at Rocklandboulders.com, or by calling 845-364-0009.