The Garden City Wind returns for its second season of professional baseball in Garden City on Thursday, with the season-opening game set for a 6:30 p.m. first pitch against the Trinidad Triggers at Clint Lightner Stadium.
The Wind competes in the Pecos League, a professional organization of teams from the central plains of Kansas, Texas and from Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona. They are part of the new North Division, while there also is a South Division for the league this season.
Same name. Same logo. Same home ball park.
But that’s about all the similarities one will find with the 2016 edition of the Wind.
New manager, in veteran Bill Moore.
New general manager, in local baseball organizer Marcus Sabata.
Almost an entirely new roster of 23 players, with only three players returning from the inaugural season, when the Wind struggled mightily with a 21-43 record.
The Wind’s opening opponent for four games, Thursday through Sunday with all games starting at 6:30 p.m., won the North Division in 2015 while the Alpine (Texas) Cowboys won the South Division, before claiming the overall league title.
Moore, who has been in professional baseball for more than 30 years, said that this edition of the Wind would not resemble the 2015 squad in any fashion.
“We weren’t here then,” he said when asked about the differences of this roster vs. the 2015 squad. “This group works hard and they battled for positions at our tryouts with others.”
Moore said this group has quickly developed team chemistry, a rarity perhaps in today’s professional leagues.
“They haven’t complained about anything,” Moore said. “They get along. They just want to play baseball. We’re emphasizing fundamental baseball where you play hard, you run hard.”
The 23-man roster is comprised of 11 pitchers and 12 position players.
“You never have enough pitching,” Moore insisted.
Cal-Poly Pomona right-hander Austin Boyd from Orange, Calif., has drawn the opening-day pitching assignment for the Wind. He will be followed on Friday night by returner Craig Jacquez of Wharton, Texas, and then the weekend starters will be Ryan Riordan of Bowdoin, Maine on Saturday and Marty Anderson of Bainbridge, Ga., on Sunday to wrap up the four-game set with the Triggers.
Moore had not settled on his position player starting lineup during Tuesday’s Media Day at Clint Lightner, but said it would be a lineup that had good hitting, good fielding and speed.
Catcher Brandon Nelson is one of the three returners from 2015 and the Elk City, Okla., native said there was nothing remotely the same about this edition and the team of a year ago.
“There’s way more talent out here and everybody’s capable of starting, including our backups,” Nelson said. “The team chemistry has been good, and during the tryouts no one was guaranteed a position, so everybody pushed everybody else. We got the best 23 players possible.”
Nelson said he felt this team had the capability of getting good pitching, playing great defense and perhaps is the best hitting team on which he has played.
“We certainly have the capability of winning every night we go out,” Nelson said.
The Wind’s 2016 schedule includes 41 home games and 27 road contests. The newest team on the schedule this season will be the Great Bend Boom, and the Wind will play them 31 times.
The Pecos League’s other newest addition, the Salina Stockade, was a late addition to the league and as a result will compete in the South Division this summer and won’t be on the Wind’s schedule until 2017.
2016 Garden City Wind Roster
Eric Esquilin, OF, Decatur, Ga.; Matt Consigli, OF, Whitinsville, Mass.; Kenny Olszewski, OF, Canterbury, Conn.; Willie Ethington, 3B, Mesa, Ariz.; Beau Welborn, IF, Alpharetta, Ga.; Eli Roundtree, OF, Milwaukee, Wis.; Joey Cerere, IF, Neworth, Ga.; Nick Francis, IF, Cave Creek, Ariz.; Clay Ardeeser, IF, Loganville, Ga.; Jonathan Ovalles, P/IF, Bronx, N.Y.; Matt Marino (Inactive), P, Peoria, Ariz.; Austin Boyd, P, Orange, Calif.; Marty Anderson, P, Bainbridge, Ga.; Ryan Stapp, P, Bakersfield, Calif.; Guillermo Amezquita, P, Oxnard, Calif.; Pedro Bacame, P, Tucson, Ariz.; Scott Torrey, P, Bakersfield, Calif.; Kohl Nixon, P, Williams, Ariz.; Craig Jacquez, P, Wharton, Texas; Brandon Nelson, C, Elk City, Okla.; Manny Colon, C, Buena, N.J.; Julio Rodriguez, IF, Clewiston, Fla. Manager: Bill Moore, Tempe, Ariz.