TERRE HAUTE —
With five returning players and a roster that manager Brian Dorsett says has more speed, a more well-rounded pitching staff and just more talent, the second season for the Terre Haute Rex could be better than the first.
An expansion member of the Prospect League in 2010, the Rex went 28-24 before losing two playoff games to Nashville.
“I really enjoyed the way we competed, especially in the second half. I felt like we made some strides as a ballclub,” Dorsett said. “You take some things away from those opportunities that we missed. We’re going to try to build on some of that this year. It’s going to be new, but you take from those experiences, you reflect back on it.”
General Manager Roland Shelton and the Rex management team have spent the offseason making new plans to improve the fan experience, which was a highlight from all accounts last summer.
Shelton said he hopes the team can fill Bob Warn Field’s seats with more fans than last year, when they averaged close to 900 per home game.
Playing in his hometown, ISU third baseman Koby Kraemer is back at the hot corner for the Rex in 2011.
“It was great to see that stadium packed like that on the nights where he had over 2,000 people. You don’t get that atmosphere every day,” Kraemer said.
Shelton looks forward to the challenge of improving the experience for the fans and growing attendance.
“Our expectation and our whole philosophy is built around the fan experience,” Shelton said. “The Wabash Valley community, the fan support is just tremendous. We want to continue to have the right price point, the kids zone area, we’re increasing that with some new exciting games for kids.”
Last summer, Kraemer hit .246 in his first baseball season since knee surgery. The Terre Haute South graduate hit .318 this spring for the Sycamores with four home runs and 39 RBIs in 57 games.
Another returnee, Joe Meggs, is batting a team-high .323 for the University of Washington, where his father Lindsay Meggs is head coach.
“Joe’s a gamer,” said Dorsett, while adding that Meggs can play the outfield, infield or behind the plate. Meggs will not arrive in Terre Haute until next week when the Huskies’ season concludes.
Other returning players include backup catcher Nick Paradossi, and Indiana State infielder Jordan Pearson, who batted .444 in three games with the Rex near the end of 2010.
An Indiana State recruit, 6-foot-3 right-hander Justin Hancock of Lincoln Trail College will join the Rex pitching staff this summer. Southpaw Christian Slazinik started 10 games for Eastern Illinois.
“We should have more team speed and better starting pitching,” Dorsett said.
Some players won’t join the Rex right away due to obligations to their college team. Wabash Valley products Jacob Hayes and Derek Hannahs, Ohio State freshmen, are two of those.
For young players who have yet to play full-time with a wooden bat, it’s an adjustment.
“Most college kids work out with wooden bats a lot. They’ve been so accustomed to using aluminum for the season. It’s still an adjustment,” Dorsett said.
Kraemer said he uses a wooden bat for practice.
“All spring, most of us all use the wood, to lock in your swing and focus on hitting the ball on the barrel every time,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a big challenge going from the metal bats to the wood. Metal’s got such a bigger sweet spot, you can get away with not being on time. With the wood, everything’s got to be going right in order to hit the ball hard.”
Dorsett hopes to help players make that transition, and he wants to continue to emphasize playing the game the right way to manufacture runs.
“You have to be able to be a good bunter, have to be able to hit and run, hit behind the runner, move runners along,” Dorsett said. “So we’re trying to get them to develop habits. We need to be more aggressive on the bases. You have to have people that can execute it.”
Dorsett simply wants to send his players back to college better players.
“It’s one of those things when they leave you want them to say, ‘that was a pretty special experience. I got something out of that, I know I’m going back as a better player,’ ” Dorsett said.
Terre Haute Rex Roster
Player Pos. College
Nick Cunningham RHP Arizona
Brandon Dorsett RHP Indiana State
Conner Fisk RHP Wabash Valley
Blake Fonfara LHP Lipscomb
Justin Hancock RHP Lincoln Trail
Derek Hannahs INF Ohio State
Jacob Hayes OF/INF Ohio State
Lucas Hileman OF Indiana State
Nick Johnson OF Southern Illinois
Matthew Kohorst RHP Kansas
Koby Kraemer INF Indiana State
Chris Manning LHP Valparaiso
Joe Meggs UTIL Washington
Chace Mitchell C Virginia
Ronnie Mitchell OF Seminole State
Chris Nunn RHP Lipscomb
Nick Paradossi C Murray State
Jordan Pearson 2B/SS Indiana State
Chris Roglen OF South Mountain
Christian Slaznik LHP Eastern Illinois
Brett Teschner C Lipscomb
Kevin Upp RHP Valparaiso
Darrin Vestring RHP Wabash Valley
(all times EDT)
Thursday Danville 7:05 p.m.
Friday Dubois Co. 7:05 p.m.
Saturday at Quincy 7:30 p.m.
June 5 at Hannibal 2:05 p.m.
June 6 Nashville 7:05 p.m.
June 8 Springfield 7:05 p.m.
June 9 at Danville 7:30 p.m.
June 10 at Springfield 7:35 p.m.
June 11 at Nashville 8:05 p.m.
June 12 at Nashville 8:05 p.m.
June 13 Danville 7:05 p.m.
June 14 Springfield 7:05 p.m.
June 15 Hannibal 7:05 p.m.
June 16 at Dubois Co. 7:05 p.m.
June 17 Dubois Co. 7:05 p.m.
June 18 Butler 7:05 p.m.
June 19 Butler 5:05 p.m.
June 20 Hannibal 7:05 p.m.
June 22 at Dubois Co. 7:05 p.m.
June 23 at Springfield 7:35 p.m.
June 24 at Dubois Co. 7:05 p.m.
June 25 at Richmond 7:05 p.m.
June 26 Quincy 5:05 p.m.
June 27 Quincy 7:05 p.m.
June 28 at Danville 7:30 p.m.
June 30 at Springfield 7:35 p.m.
July 1 Chillicothe 7:05 p.m.
July 2 at Dubois Co. 7:05 p.m.
July 3 at Dubois Co. 7:05 p.m.
July 4 at Quincy 7:30 p.m..
July 5 at Hannibal 7:35 p.m.
July 6 at Hannibal 7:35 p.m.
July 7 Richmond 7:05 p.m.
July 8 Lorain Co. 7:05 p.m.
July 9 DeKalb Co. 7:05 p.m.
July 10 Danville 5:05 p.m.
July 11 Dubois Co. 7:05 p.m.
July 15 at Lorain Co. 7:05 p.m.
July 16 at Lorain Co. 7:05 p.m.
July 17 at Butler 6:35 p.m.
July 19 DeKalb Co. 7:05 p.m.
July 20 at Quincy 7:30 p.m.
July 21 at Quincy 7:30 p.m.
July 22 Nashville 7:05 p.m.
July 23 at Danville 7:30 p.m.
July 24 Danville 5:05 p.m.
July 27 at Chillicothe 7:05 p.m.
July 28 at Chillcothe 7:05 p.m.
July 29 at Richmond 7:05 p.m.
July 30 Richmond 7:05 p.m.
July 31 Slippery Rock 5:05 p.m.
Aug. 2 at DeKalb Co. 8 p.m.
Aug. 3 at DeKalb Co. 8 p.m.
Aug. 4 Hannibal 7:05 p.m.
Aug. 5 Springfield 7:05 p.m.
Aug. 6 Danville 7:05 p.m.