Traverse City Record-Eagle

Beach Bums

May 4, 2012

Bums open amid high expectations

TC just missed playoff spot last year

TRAVERSE CITY — Fewer introductions were necessary Thursday as the Traverse City Beach Bums began spring training.

The Beach Bums welcomed back 14 players from last year's team as they kicked off the 2012 season at Wuerfel Park with media day.

"I hate going against my teammates," reliever Scott Dunn said. "Facing Chase Burch and all those ginormous guys in the batter's box. You've got to do what you've got to do. You've got to go out there and compete and show what you've got."

The team will be in camp for the next two weeks before opening the season May 17 at Florence.

Traverse City has 17 players with either veteran or experienced status in the Frontier League

"We're a little over-budgeted right now with experienced players," manager Gregg Langbehn said. "We've never done that before. The biggest reason is last year we got burned a little bit out of the gate by some of our experienced guys. We just didn't get the production out of them like we felt we would. Jason (Wuerfel) and I, as the offseason went along, there were guys we wanted to bring back and there were other guys that became available. We find value in the returning players, you bring in some experienced players, and next thing you know you have a couple too many."

The team can only carry 13 experienced players when the season begins.

"The bottom line is that it creates a little more competition," Langbehn said. "We don't want players to be complacent and expect to make a team just by showing up. I think that's the driving force behind the decision Jason and I made to bring all these guys back."

Expect the two weeks of spring training to be intense — for all players at Wuerfel Park.

"We explained that to them yesterday," Langbehn said. "It's the same old story every year. There's 35 guys here, and unfortunately only 24 of them will still be standing at the end. Part of it is production. We want to find the best players, but we've also got to find the right players. That's always been our philosophy."

The Beach Bums are hoping an intense spring training will lead to a hot start. Or at the very least, a start better than 2011.

Last year, Traverse City struggled out of the gate with a 5-10 record. The Beach Bums were 8-13 in mid-June before winning 17 of the last 27 games to go into the All-Star break with a 25-23 record.

Traverse City was in the playoff hunt the entire second half, even up to the final game. The Beach Bums hosted Lake Erie in the season finale, with the winner grabbing the final Frontier League playoff spot. The Crushers posted a 3-1 win in the 10th inning, denying Traverse City its second straight appearance in the postseason.

"That last series we just had to win two out of three," Jose Vargas said. "We won the first one, and then I don't know what happened. But everyone's expecting to go to the playoffs and make a good run at the championship."

A playoff berth will once again be the goal as the Beach Bums enter their seventh season.

"This is my third year, and each year we've come in here with the same expectations," first baseman Chase Burch said. "We set the bar high to compete for the championship. Hopefully this year we'll finish what we started a few years ago. We have to replace Matt Brown and J.T. (Hall), which is going to be really tough, obviously. But everybody seems really excited about the guys we brought in and we have quite a few back. I think we're setting really well right there and have a really good shot, as usual.

"You always hate losing. You've got to have that fire. You shouldn't have to have the (revenge) motivation. You should just want to win and play hard. You want to kill your opponent, really. You want to hit them before they hit you."

"The goal is to win 50 games," Langbehn said. "If you win 50 games, you're at least in a position to make the playoffs, typically. That's the way it's always been in this league."

While plenty of Beach Bums were returning to Traverse City this week, others were just getting acclimated to their new team.

"I've waited to play professional baseball for a long time," pitcher Brent McNeil said. "I'm excited to get out there today and start spring training."

McNeil is excited to get back on the mound. After wrapping up his collegiate career at Eastern Illinois University last spring, McNeil didn't play baseball this spring while completing his degree in sports management.

"I actually sat out this last year," McNeil said. "I tried to (focus on school) and I just graduated last week. Now, I'm playing again."

James Cook contributed to this story.

1
Text Only

Facebook
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter
Associated Press Video