TRAVERSE CITY — One season probably doesn't completely kill the opinion of Wuerfel Park.
But after last season's surge in power numbers, the Beach Bums are doing their best to change the notion that their home park isn't friendly to hitters.
Traverse City belted home runs at a level the franchise had never seen before, crushing 118 balls out of Frontier League parks in 2012. Those are power numbers that are going to be hard to duplicate, but at the very least they're helping to debunk the theory that it's difficult to hit the long ball in Traverse City.
"Before I signed (last year) people were saying it's a graveyard here. Balls don't go anywhere," said catcher Marcus Nidiffer, who had nine homers hitting out the eighth spot in the lineup. "I thought, 'great, at least our pitchers will do well.' I get here and balls are flying out. I think the winds helped us, but at the same time we had a lot of power and we got good pitches to hit. It would have been scary if that team had played at Gateway or some other park that was shorter in distance."
Traverse City raised the bar high in the home run department, but the roster remains stocked with players who have proven they can send pitches into the seats. Frontier League MVP Jose Vargas led the team with 29 homers in 2012 and he's back. Also returning are Chase Burch (17 homers), Sean Gusrang (15) and Nidiffer. The only major power loss is Jeff Flagg, who ripped 20 homers.
"Certainly a lot of the credit goes to Shannon Hunt, the hitting coach, and his ability to work with the players," said Beach Bums manager Greg Langbehn. "That's the bottom line. There's no secret as to what his philosophy is and that's to get the barrel of the bat to the baseball. Our motto is don't necessarily worry about situations and where to hit the baseball. Just hit the ball hard. That's all we try to preach to those guys and the numbers were pretty substantial."