One of the keys to the Grinders’ success this season lies with a man you’ve probably never heard of. Pittsburgh fans, meet your head trainer, Jason Dotson. The 39 year old Dotson will be tasked with keeping the aging Grinders team healthy and on the field. GM Mike Wolfe agrees with the assessment that if Pittsburgh stays healthy, they may well be hoisting a 6th Championship Trophy come October.
“There’s really no team in the league that can match us player for player in terms of raw power and slugging abilitiy. The key is keeping these guys healthy and on the field. I’m confident Jason can do that… there’s no guarantee because the (Virginia) Mariners had a hell of a team, but I really think the postseason could have been a whole different animal last year if we’d been able to trot Rowles out there and had had Trenk and Lidster in our lineups.”
Manager Glenn Sroka agrees that keeping the team healthy is important, but he balked at the idea that it cost them anything last year. “Excuses are like (expletive), everybody has one. I understand where Mike is coming from, but there are 25 men on this roster and all are going to have to do their part if we’re going to be playing late into October. With the state of the league these days, there’s so much talent out there… nothing is handed to you.”
Here’s a look at the opening day lineup and the 25 men Pittsburgh will trot out this year:
C Karson Buske- The 28 year old Buske had a down season (by his standards) last year, but remains among the best hitting catchers in the game. One season removed from a .267/.410/.469 season in San Francisco, Karson is a threat to get on base every at bat with his keen eye and sweet swing.
1B Xavier Harper- Harper looks to build on last season’s success, which saw him win the JC Best Hitter Award and Platinum Stick at First Base. At 27, Harper is in his prime and has stated that one of his goals this year (besides a championship) is to break the longstanding TBC Home Run Record of 33.
2B Robby Deming- Entering his second full season in the lineup, the Grinders hope Deming can continue to bring elite defense and power while improving significantly at the plate. Deming slugged 15 home runs in ’88, but had an abysmal .200 batting average and .274 OBP. Rumor has it that the Grinders reached out to Miami several times to inquire about 2B Wayne Huck in the offseason. While Huck was seemingly unavailable, look for the famously impatient Wolfe to make a move if Deming doesn’t improve.
3B Chris Seebach- Seebach missed a large chunk of the season recovering from a broken hand sustained playing for USA in the World Baseball Cup last season. When he did return, he struggled to regain his form and put up a disappointing .711 OPS. If Seebach can return to his ’87 Platinum Stick form, he will be dangerous.
SS Jim McFadden- While never quite living up to the expectations heaped on him when Oil City made him the 10th overall pick out of Whitehall High School (PA) in 1979, the 28 year old McFadden is an absolute wizard at shortstop and is the captain and vocal leader of the Grinders squad. McFadden had an offensive resurgence last year and the Grinders hope it’s here to stay.
LF Ryan Trenk- Simply put, Trenk is the elite of the elite when he’s healthy. The Grinders are certain he will be an MVP candidate and force to be reckoned with if he can avoid nagging injuries and stay on the field this season
CF Harry Lidster- Lidster was on his way to a breakout season at the plate in ’88 when a torn labrum sidelined him for the year. Easily one of the best defensive centerfielders in the game, Lidster worked hard in his rehab and at the plate and the Grinders expect him to be a household name by season’s end.
RF Aaron Kissane- While Grinders fans were disappointed to see outfielders Morgan Thornsberry and Bill Monson leave in free agency, they were ecstatic to sign a top notch free agent slugger in his prime. Kissane, boasting a career .942 OBPS, was thrilled at the opportunity to return to the everyday lineup after being stuck in a platoon in Oil City’s extremely deep outfield.
SP Arjen Bakker- Failed Dutch musician Arjen Bakker hopes to have better success on the field than his offseason album flop did. The Grinders will hand opening day duties to the young flamethrower, who was 11-6 with a 2.54 ERA in his debut TBC season last year
CL Rocky McGrath- Not much to say here. If a reliever were ever on a trajectory for a surefire hall of fame berth, its this guy. When opposing teams start to hear the chant of “Rocky Rocky” and the Sylvester Stallone training montage begin to play on the big screen, the game is as good as over.
C Kevin Britt
IF Mark Grau
1B Josh Klinger
IF Ricky Carrillo
LF Jeremy Roy
LF/RF Hector Cruz
OF Salvador Hernandez
SP Taira Mishima
SP Mike Hendren
SP Josh Light
RP Matt Owen
RP Antonio Rios
RP Mark Wolfe
RP Chris Rees
RP Justin Rowles
Pittsburgh’s quest for a 6th title begins 6/19 at 3 PM ET @Smokey Mountain… No word on whether Smokey will mail Ryan Trenk’s weekly check as they usually do or simply hand it to him when he arrives.
Owner/GM Pittsburgh Grinders