The Loons' will be under the guidance of the organization's eighth different manager in its eleventh season in Midland when 27 year old Jeremy Rodriguez
takes over the team, replacing last years skipper Gil Velazquez.
Rodriguez, who was drafted as a catcher by the San Diego Padres and spent five years in the minor leagues before managing the Padres' Dominican summer league team
over the past two seasons, is happy to have 12 players returning from the 2016 MWL championship roster and is looking forward to leading this group.
“The biggest thing is trying to feed off of what we did last year,” Rodriguez said. “Luckily, I'm very thankful to have (I think it's) twelve returning players, which will help a lot. I'll get input from them and see how everything went last year, then we will start from the beginning and go from there.”
The Burbank, CA native who played his college baseball at California State University Bakersfield,
will focus on creating a positive environment for his players with the ultimate goal of developing their skills and advancing through the Dodgers' system.
“It's not about the wins and losses,” Rodriguez said. “For me it's about developing these young men and helping them move up to the next level and try to reach their dreams. I mean, that's really why we're here, that's why we do this and I think, to be honest, you just have to have that fun energetic environment so the kids are excited to come to the ball park everyday and give it everything they have.”
At 27, Rodriguez is only a few years older than most of his players. He can relate to a lot of what they're going through, not only in terms of baseball, but life in general.
Seven years ago, he was just starting out on his professional baseball journey; much like his players are doing now, and he's hoping those mutual experiences will translate into an upbeat, relaxed atmosphere in the clubhouse.
“Yeah, I think the other day I used the word 'hip' when describing how I understand the younger players,” Rodriguez laughingly said. “But I do though. I get the lingo and I get the music so I know what they like. For me, I just want to be the type of manager that really builds a relationship with my players, and make sure they can come into my office anytime. If they have something to tell me, they can feel comfortable enough to tell me. That's something that I feel is very special in the clubhouse, it's good to have the players relaxed and ready to play loose.”
With the new coaching staff set, everything is now in place and ready to go, despite the cancellation of the opening day parade, which was supposed to start down Main St. in Midland prior to Thursday's first pitch, however, bad weather forecasts forced the Great Lakes staff to cancel the parade.
The Loons' grounds crew (which always ranks as one of the best in the MWL) will have the field ready for the the first pitch, as long as mother nature decides to cooperate. Gates open at 5 pm and the first 1,000 fans will receive a commemorative championship banner.
If the game is postponed, the league could change Friday's already scheduled game against the Lugnuts into a double header at Dow Diamond, or possibly make up with a double header(s) when the Loons travel to Cooley Law Stadium to take on the Lugnuts for games 3 and 4 in Lansing on Saturday and Sunday.
We will keep you updated from Dow Diamond on social media with live tweets and facebook posts throughout the afternoon today.
UPDATE: Thursday's opening day game has been postponed and changed to a double-header (two 7-inning games) set to start at 4 pm (gates open at 3:30 pm) on Friday at Dow Diamond...