Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Opening Day beckons for Muckrakers

CONCORD -- Like Punxsutawney Phil sticking his little runny rodent nose out from his dingy little gopher hole and sniffing the fresh spring air, the 2008 Muckrakers arise from an offseason of blissful and well-earned slumber and suddenly realize that, by Jove, there’s some ball to be played.

Opening Day, which for so long was but a blip on horizon, now stares the ’Rakers square in the gob. The Men of Muck again don the tools of softball ignorance and launch the ’08 summer league season against the Rooters on Thursday, starting at 8:25p.m. on Willow Pass Park’s Field 2.

Certainly, the Muckrakers take with them a heavy burden into the new year. This is the burden of expectations, but this is a good burden, a better burden than the “when the hell are we ever going to win a game” type.

If these ‘Rakers have shown anything, it is that they can win softball games. After all, Raker Nation played 30 of the little suckers in 2007, and won 20 of them, a two-thirds proposition that will earn you respect from anyone that really knows the score.

So these ‘Rakers have much to prove, and have the personnel to do the provin’.

Manager/GM Chris Wagnon knows this all too well.

“I’m pleased to have most of our roster back as a few veterans coming back as well as the (Jimmy) Durkin kid from San Jose State,” noted Wagnon. “He seems like a versatile infielder and he swings a decent bat.

“I think this team has what takes to continue dominating the parking lot and occasionally on the field. We have all of the right pieces back to make another strong run into the playoffs. I'm looking forward to getting out on the field and having the best Muckraker season ever.”

The hometown squad took a strong first step in that direction Sunday with a practice at Ygnacio Valley High School. An impressive turnout of nine ‘Rakers went through their paces.

All of which are grounds for Muckraker optimism.

“I expect lots of wins, and even more beer drinking,’’ said fleet-footed left fielder Mike Gale. “I hope we can push our attendance level past double-digits on occasion. For some reason, the ‘Rakers have become the best kept secret in Concord.”

That may not long be the case, considering the Mucksters go deep in every postseason they’re a part of. To do so again in ’08 means each individual ‘Raker must step up his game.

“Personally, my goals are to hit over .500, top my RBI and run production from last year, and avoid any need for a ‘slump-buster,’” Gale exclaimed. “Let me tell you, those Artie's slump-busters will scar you for life.

“Also, if for any reason I get tossed from a game, I will go on a tirade that would make Earl Weaver proud.”

The few, the proud -- they’re the Muckrakers. And they’re back at it on Thursday.

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