New, old and different will be the look for the Arkansas Travelers as they open the season Thursday at Dickey-Stephens Park against the Frisco Roughriders.
The Travs are guided by new manager Tim Bogar, who recently spent five years in the Major Leagues with the last four with the Boston Red Sox. His most recent job with the Red Sox was as the bench coach. However, he is not new to the minors, and from 2004-2007, he had stints in the Houston and Cleveland organizations. The last minor team he coached was Cleveland’s Double A team, the Akron Aeros during the 2006 and 2007 seasons. In 2006, he was tabbed by Baseball America as the Eastern League’s top managerial prospect after being voted the Eastern League’s Manager of the Year. His record of 87-55 was the league’s best in 2006, and both seasons he was with the Aeros, he took them to the league championship series. Bogar’s first managerial position was with the Greeneville Astros where he won the Appalachian League title. His career record thus far is 289-200.
Additionally, pitching Coach Mike Hampton and hitting Coach Ernie Young are new. Of the 25 players on the Traveler’s roster, 15 are returning players and are highlighted by four first-round draftees. Back are rightfielder Randal Grichuk, first baseman C.J. Cron, third baseman Kaleb Cowert and second baseman Taylor Lindsey. During spring training, the players were able to play with one another except for Grichuk who played with the Big Leaguers.
As for the starting pitching rotation, two players return in Matt Oye and Jacob Grube. Michael Roth, a ninth-round pick from South Carolina, represents the Southeastern Conference on the mound. The lefthander won consecutive titles while at South Carolina. Manny Correa and Lay Batista begin their first seasons in Double A.
"I’m really excited," Bogar said. "We have guys returning with experience and some young kids here for the first time. We have a good mixture of offense with guys who can hit for power, speed and who can make contact and hit in the gap."
Bogar will use the first couple of weeks to experiment with the lineup. Who plays will also depend on who is pitching against them. He doesn’t look at strengths or weakness but how the guys come together as a team. He wants the guys to understand their roles and where they need to be.
What fans can expect to see is assertive play.
"I don’t know that we’ll be much different than in the past, but I like my guys to be aggressive," Bogar said. "If mistakes happen when they are aggressive, I have no problem with that. I hope they notice as we get more aggressive the mistakes will be minimal. Our regression won’t change, we’ll just figure out how not to make the mistakes, and the players will think and follow through."
On Monday, Bogar was waiting for the team to return so he could get their perspective on Frisco. The Travelers arrived Monday night and practiced two days before Thursday’s game. He had just received the Roughriders’ roster but didn’t recognize the players and understands they have several players returning.
Thursday’s game begins a six-game homestretch for the Travs. They’ll host Frisco on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and then Midland on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
"It’s always nice to start at home," Bogar said. "The guys can settle in and get used to the ballpark. It’s good to wake up in our own beds. It should be a fun season, and it’s a great facility. It will be nice to get to know the city and the community."