Spring training begins for Skeeters

The Sugar Land Skeeters began spring training Monday at Constellation Field.

The 2016 Atlantic League Champions will play three spring training games in preparation for the upcoming season. The club will host San Jacinto College in the first spring training game on April 14 and will face Alvin Community College on April 15 and finish their spring schedule on Monday, April 17 against Wharton Community College. All three games will be played at Constellation Field at 7 p.m., except for the game against Alvin which will be at 6 p.m.

Season ticket holders will be allowed free admission to all three games and $5 general admission tickets will be available for purchase to fans for the Friday and Monday games online at SugarLandSkeeters.com. Saturday will be the annual Skeeters Fan Fest and admission to the game will be free of charge.

Fan Fest

The Skeeters will host their annual Fan Fest on Saturday, April 15, from noon to 5 p.m. at Constellation Field. The team will have a spring training game against Alvin Community College following Fan Fest at 6:05 p.m.

Fan Fest will feature the Kids Zone with three interactive inflatables, the Memorial Hermann Play Land and a splash pad and carousel that will be open to all young Skeeters fans. All concession stands will be open and food and drinks pricing will be on special. A garage sale for merchandise, an Easter egg scavenger hunt, and door prizes will be available throughout the event as well.

A self-guided walking tour will also be an option for new and returning fans that want a behind-the-scenes look into different areas of Constellation Field including the press box, clubhouse, and more.

Fan Fest will also feature a number of ticket specials for the upcoming season. Flex Books will be offered for the same price as the outside temperature when gates open at noon and may be redeemed online or at the TDECU Ticket Office the day of Fan Fest. Tickets for the first home stand of the season will also be offered at a discounted price, with $10 field box seats and $5 Grassland seats. These tickets may only be redeemed in person at the TDECU ticket office.

More signings

The Sugar Land Skeeters announced recently that the club has resigned 2016 Atlantic League All-Star pitcher Andrew Johnston and signed infielders Anthony Giansanti, Chris Nelson, and pitchers Bobby Blevins and Felipe Paulino for their first season with the Skeeters.

Johnston returns for his third full season (fourth overall) in Sugar Land after joining the team in 2014 from the Camden Riversharks. The 32-year-old right-hander last season was 5-2 with a 1.78 ERA in 61 relief outings. He was originally drafted in 2003 by the Cleveland Indians (26th round) out of Jefferson College (Hillsboro, Mo.), and again in 2005 by the Colorado Rockies (9th round) out of the University of Missouri Columbia (Columbia, Mo.). He advanced as high as Triple-A with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in 2010-11 and has three 20-plus save seasons, including a career-high 31 in 2009 with the Tulsa Drillers (COL).

Infielder Anthony Giansanti, 28, joins the Skeeters after spending the majority of last season with the Bridgeport Bluefish where he batted .245 with six home runs and 35 RBI in 91 games. He was drafted by the Chicago Cubs in 2009 (49th round) and spent six full seasons (2010-2016) with the organization, advancing as high as Triple-A with the Iowa Cubs.

Giansanti owns a career batting average of .254 with 25 home runs, 218 RBI and 78 doubles. In both his junior and senior years at Siena College (Loudonville, N.Y.), Giansanti hit over .355 and had over 10 home runs each season.

Nelson, 31, makes his debut with the Skeeters after spending last season in Triple-A with the Colorado Rockies organization. The infielder was drafted by the Rockies (1st round, 9th overall) in 2004 out of Redan High School (Stone Mountain, Ga.) and spent six full seasons with the organization, batting .277 with 87 home runs and 570 RBI in 282 minor league games.

Nelson made his major-league debut with Colorado in 2010 against the Milwaukee Brewers as a replacement for the injured Troy Tulowitzki. While with the Rockies in 2012, he batted .301 with nine home runs and 53 RBI over 111 games and won the National League Player of the Week on Sept. 16, 2012. Over the span of five years (2010-2014) Nelson also spent time in the majors with the New York Yankees, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the San Diego Padres. He has a major league career .265 batting average with 16 home runs and 100 RBI in 282 games.

Blevins, 32, spent the past six seasons in independent ball, five with the Long Island Ducks. He had his best season with the Ducks in 2014, going 9-5 with a 2.95 ERA (best among Ducks starters) in 27 starts, three complete games and was sixth in the Atlantic League with 119 strikeouts. Blevins helped the Ducks capture the Atlantic League championships in 2012 and 2013. With 10 years of professional baseball experience, Blevins has a minor league career 4.11 ERA in 247 games, 197 starts and 21 CG.

Paulino brings veteran leadership to the Skeeters pitching staff in 2017 with over 14 years of professional baseball experience. The 33-year-old right-hander is no stranger to the Houston area after originally being signed by the Houston Astros as an undrafted free agent in 2001 and made his major league debut in 2007 with the club against the Milwaukee Brewers. He spent parts of three seasons at the big league level with the Astros (2007, 2009, 2010) and six seasons total in major league baseball with the Colorado Rockies (2011), Kansas City Royals (2012) and Chicago White Sox (2014).

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