The game of baseball hasn’t changed, but a lot around it has – at least here in Sugar Land. The most noticeable will be the absence of Gary Gaetti as manager. After leading the team through its first six seasons, he has moved on and former Major Leaguer Pete Incaviglia has taken his place.
Incaviglia is an old school player who promises to bring young, athletic talent to the team and give fans some old fashioned hard-charging baseball to watch. Keeping only a handful of Gaetti’s players, Incaviglia has invited a lot of former Major League players to spring training this year. Among them are Dallas Beeler, Charles Brewer, Alejandro Chacin, Aaron Crow, Kyle Kubitza, Zach Lee, Jose Ortega, and Denis Phipps. Willy Taveras is a Major Leaguer who was with the Skeeters two years ago and is returning. In addition to the mix of former Major Leaguers and returning Skeeters, former Bridgeport Bluefish and 2015 Atlantic League Player of the Year Welington Dotel has been invited to spring training.
Speaking of the Bridgeport Bluefish, they are no more. The city of Bridgeport, Conn., reclaimed the stadium to turn it into a concert venue. One of the last original Atlantic League Teams, the franchise will take a season off and then relocate to High Point, N.C., in 2019. In the interim, the Road Warriors will return. Whenever the number of teams in the eight-team league becomes unbalanced, the league created a traveling team that plays all of its games on the road. A few former Skeeters have recently signed with the team, including Andrew Johnston and Chris Treibt.
Off the field, one of the biggest changes of the year will be the new raffle. With the Texas Legislature’s blessings and voter approval, foundations of minor league teams in the state can now conduct 50-50 raffles just like their big league counterparts. A raffle will be held each game, with the winner getting half the pot, the team getting 10 percent to manage the raffle, and the Sugar Land Skeeters Foundation getting the remaining 40 percent. The foundation gives grants in support of youth sports activities.
Team co-owner Marcie Zlotnik said she is excited about the raffle because it will not only raise money for the foundation, but also add an extra element of excitement to the game day experience.
I’m not a fan of gambling, but the foundation is a good cause and I will probably play on occasion, if for no other reason than to support the foundation and the young people in our community. The only winning I’m really interested in is on the field. The Skeeters look to have a very solid team lined up and I’m impressed with what I’ve seen so far from Incaviglia.
On the other hand, all of the teams in the Atlantic League appear to be loaded with talent. It’s a result of the youth movement in the Major Leagues. Many players with lots of experience and good playing years remaining didn’t make the cut and are filtering down to the minors and independent ball.
This should be a great season for the Skeeters. I hope you’ll join me out at Constellation Field for a lot of fun and fast action this year. Go Skeeters!