There’s a slight shuffle at the top of the Red Deer Stags organization, but nothing drastic.
A trio of veterans — Nate Benke, Shaun Connor and Kevin Curran — will handle the managerial duties with the Sunburst Baseball League squad this season while Davin Gulbransen and Danny Zinger will concentrate on just playing.
“We were all involved some last year while this year we just took over a lot of things Davin and Danny used to do,” explained Benke.
“Davin and Danny are getting a little older and they’ve been doing it for several years and it’s good to get a break and just focus on playing,.”
The Stags will have a solid nucleus of veterans with 16 players back from last year’s squad that lost in the provincial semifinals to the Red Deer Riggers.
“It was a disappointing finish last year, but give the Riggers credit they played well,” said Benke.
“But that’s over and done with and we’re all looking forward to this year. We’re baseball players and when spring comes you get that fever to get going again.”
The Stags have close to the same roster as last year, although they did lose outfielder Drew Taddia, who’s playing in Germany.
“Other than that we look the same as last year,” said Benke, who feels the team’s pitching staff will once again be a strength.
Gulbransen, James Carr and Chad Marchand will anchor the staff with Nick Ryan and Aaron Tweet also working on the mound.
The Stags could also have left-hander Josh Edwards and right-hander Colin Amendt on the staff. Amendt, who is attending Vauxhall Academy, also plays the outfield.
Benke is the regular centre fielder with Jason Fraser in right field.
The infield will have depth with Connor, Curran, Zinger, Dan Chappel, Jamie Duncan, Byron Whitford, Brandon Mechefske and Travis Guynup, Richard Northcott is expected to catch along with Zinger.
“We have a veteran squad, yet we’re still fairly young with a lot of guys in the mid-20s,” said Benke. “We’re a team that’s quick on the bases and will be led by our pitching staff.”
The Stags were expected to open their season Thursday against the Riggers, but the game has been postponed to May. 20 at 7:30 p.m. at Great Chief Park.
“It’s still early in the season and I know we’ve only been outside a couple of times and the Riggers haven’t been out much either.
“We have one of the best rivalries in the league and we want the fans to see a good product when we face each other and if neither team is that ready it won’t be the best game,” explained Benke.