By the time the Red Deer Riggers have everyone in camp, they’ll have a deep lineup that can challenge for top spot in the Sunburst Baseball League this season.
But it may take a while before manager Curtis Bailey can field a complete roster.
“We have a number of players in school in the States, so we’ll have to wait for them,” said Bailey. “But that’s normal at this time of the season.”
The Riggers have as many as six players at Minot State University in first baseman Mike O’Dwyer, outfielder Mike Ronnie, second baseman Kerry Boon, pitcher-third baseman Denver Wik and pitchers Joel Peterman and Shayne Court.
Boon has been a regular with the Riggers the last several years while Ronnie played two years ago and played in the Western Major Baseball League last season. O’Dwyer, who also played two years ago, was with Innisfail last season while Wik, whose status is still up in the air, played with Innisfail.
Ronnie leds Minot in the majority of offensive categories with a .404 batting average, nine doubles, five home runs and 29 runs batted in.
O’Dwyer is second on the team with a .397 average while Boon is third at .366.
Both Peterman and Court, a left-handed pitcher, were with the Red Deer midget AAA Carstar Braves last season as was right-hander Colin Hodgson, who is at NAIT.
As well the Chatwood brothers — Jason and Jaret — played in the Western Major League last season and are returning. Jason is attending Gonzaga University in Spokane while Jaret is at Colby College in Kansas.
Both play the infield.
Newcomer Chad Northcott of Rocky Mountain House, a pitcher-infielder, is at Indian Hills Community College in Iowa.
As well, pitchers Tyler Dunsmore and Mac Girodat of Spruce Grove, who attended the University of Calgary, have committed.
“A lot of new players compared to last season,” said Bailey.
“But there’s nothing wrong with that. We lost two or three guys, plus a lot of the new players are pitchers, which is exactly what we need. It takes a lot of pressure off Laz (Brent Lazzarotto and Lenny (James Dykstra). They’re our two leaders on the mound. This way they won’t have to wear themselves out by pitching as much or as long.
“The bottom line is you can never have enough pitching. Pitching wins championships.”
The Riggers did lose first-baseman Jared Greenberg, pitcher Brad Hank and possibly outfielder Jeff Burlo.
“I haven’t heard from Jeff, so he may still be coming out, but we’ve had a couple of practises and he wasn’t out, so we’ll see,” said Bailey.
Team president Dwayne Lalor will return for his 29th season with Matt Fay, Jordan Weinkauf, Darren Sopkow, Delton Kruk and Aaron Graves also returning. Graves, who along with Court gives the Riggers two left-handed pitchers.
“I like our depth,” said Bailey. “We have several veterans, but we have several younger guys returning after a year off, plus some kids just out of midget, which is what we want. A lot of the new guys have college experience, so they’re not coming in as raw rookies.
“I like the younger guys as they add some excitement to the game. They have fun and that contagious.”
The Riggers are slated to open their season Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against the Edmonton Angels, although the game may have to be rescheduled.
“We’ll have to see if we have enough bodies to play,” said Bailey.
Contact Danny Rode at email@example.com