Traverse City Record-Eagle

Beach Bums

May 4, 2012

Bums' Masuda is a long way from home

Catcher is TC's first player from Hawaii

TRAVERSE CITY — You could say Kip Masuda came a long way to join the Traverse City Beach Bums.

Masuda, a 21-year-old catcher, is the first Beach Bum to hail from Hawaii.

"It was seven hours to Dallas, two hours to Chicago and another hour and a half here," Masuda said of his travels to northern Michigan.

It's certainly a new experience for the Kaneohe, Hawaii, native.

"This is the furthest (East) I've even been," Masuda said. "And it's six hours ahead of Hawaii time. Going to sleep at midnight here, it's only 6 p.m. there. It's a little rough."

Masuda played his college ball at Cal State University Long Beach, which allowed him to see snow — once.

"Last year, in the offseason, I went to a mountain in California," Masuda said. "But I'm sure it's better here. I'm not too much of a cold-weather guy."

He — and the rest of his Beach Bums teammates — are hoping not to see it again this spring in Traverse City.

CLOSER TO HOME: Brent McNeil thought he had a long trip to Traverse City from his home in Lafayette, Ind. But it turns out, he lives closer to northern Michigan than any other Beach Bum.

"It was about five hours," McNeil said. "That's news to me. It felt like (I was a long way from home). I was in the car for five hours, it felt long to me. But we've got guys from a lot further than that."

The right-handed pitcher may not have family and friends at Wuerfel Park every night, but he does expect to have support throughout the season. Especially on the road, since his hometown is close to several Frontier League cities.

"They already plan on coming to some of those closer ones if they can't make it to Traverse City," McNeil said. "It's pretty nice that I'm not too far away."

THIRD TIME'S A CHARM?: Chad Cooper is back for a third go-round as the Beach Bums' radio announcer.

He previously was with the team for the team's inaugural 2006 season and then again in 2010.

So what brought the veteran broadcaster back to Traverse City?

"It's a place with a regular paycheck," Cooper joked. "The last place I was at went under after the season. Plus, how can you complain about being (in Traverse City)?"

STABILITY: The Beach Bums will have essentially the same coaching staff for the third straight season — something that doesn't often happen in this league.

Aside from manager Gregg Langbehn, hitting coach Shannon Hunt and infield/catching coach Matt Pulley return to their spots.

"We like that stability," Langbehn said. "Shannon and Matt have done a great job. They're hard-working and will do anything for the players. Our comfort level with each other is great."

There is one addition to the staff, as Traverse City native and veteran minor-league manager Dan Rohn will be helping out.

"Dan Rohn will be helping us out a little bit this year, primarily with the home games," Langbehn said. "We welcome the addition to help us out. He has a great background."

Rohn will mainly help with the infielders and fill in where needed. He managed the Seattle Mariners' AAA team from 2001-05 before joining the Mariners big-league team as an assistant in 2006. He also managed the San Francisco Giants' and Toronto Blue Jays' AAA affiliates.

WINNING WAYS: Beach Bums closer Scott Mueller was excited to get back to baseball after what he called a busy offseason.

It was also a winning one.

Back home in Arizona, Mueller coached the Greenway Demons JV basketball team to an 18-0 record. He's hoping to carry that into this summer with the Beach Bums.

"I've already had a good season, followed by another one," Mueller said.

INFIELD SHUFFLE: The Beach Bums haven't had good luck at keeping shortstops around for long this season.

The Bums signed Jordan Kreke, but he was snapped up by the Houston Astros before he could even get to Traverse City. Then Michigan State's Jon Roof was brought on to man the position, and he was signed by the San Diego Padres.

"We definitely have options," Langbehn said. "(Sean) Gusrang is an option. (Tom) Zebroski, (Jose) Vargas. We signed two kids out of the Frontier League draft, Albert Gonzalez and Felix Marte, so there's plenty of options. It'll all play out."

Slugger Stephen Shults — who would likely have started at third base — retired just a few days before the start of camp, adding to the shuffle. That could see Jose Vargas — who played at second, third and short last year — end up starting at third or short if none of the other options steps up in spring training.

"During the off-season I was taking a lot of grounders at shirt and third, so I've prepared myself to play shortstop if they need me to," Vargas said. "If not, I'm comfortable at third."

EX-BUM LANDS COACHING GIG: Former Beach Bums pitcher Matt Dillard is the London Rippers' assistant general manager, and was also given the title of bench coach this week.

Dillard was a reliever in the 2007 and 2008 seasons, appearing in 19 games with a 3-1 record after a four-year career at Eastern Michigan.

SNEAK PEAK: For the first time, the Beach Bums will host an open exhibition prior to the Frontier League season.

The Beach Bums will take on London at noon on May 12 at Wuerfel Park. Cost of the game is $1 for fans with free parking.

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