Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Play ball: Muckrakers prepare for season opener

CONCORD -- It seemed like the new season would never get here, but guess what, Muckrakers -- it's here.

The 2009 Summer League campaign, all wrapped up in a tidy package containing hope and promise, finally arrives on Thursday. The Muckrakers lift the curtain with an 8:25 p.m. tilt on Field 1 against Dianda Plaza. Good seats are still available for the contest at the Willow Pass Park complex. If you need tickets I can get you some. Two down the first base line? Done.

Matters of commerce aside, the 'Rakers are looking for a fast start, a consistent middle and a boffo ending, all hopefully leading to a spot in the postseason, where the Rakesters have been known to play their best ball.

It'll be a lively 'Raker bunch, but a new 'Raker bunch. Team chemistry will have to be built on the fly. There are holes to fill and questions to answer, such as how the team will respond to the departure of team stalwart Mike Gale. Mr. Gale might be out of the lineup, but his inspirational play will never be forgotten.

There are no shortage of challenges for manager Chris Wagnon's bunch, but this team doesn't back away from a scrap.

A new challenge confronts the Men of Muck straight away. The team is competing in a C/D league, as compared to its normal D league configuration. The 'Rakers figure to have the firepower to deal with the change. The team has returning weapons in abundance in the likes of, but certainly not limited to, Mat Petersen, Randy Striegel, Luke Abbott, Bob Brindley, Aris Garcia, Dave Alcorn, Mike Yurkus, Chace Bryson and Rick Hurd.

With several key additions added to the mix, the 'Rakers pose a formidible C/D league threat.

Of course, not all critics are sold. Longtime Muckraker observer and former pitcher/orange pants wearer Mike Wolcott does not impress easily.

"From what I’ve seen, they’re still the same scrappy, beer-chugging band of ne’er-do-wells that have terrorized the Concord softball scene for years," Wolcott, Account Executive with Rabbit Office Automation and BANG Newspapers relief sports paginator, said.

Mike Lefkow and Joe DeLoach were attending Tuesday night's A's-Red Sox slugfest and were unavailable for comment on this post.

Manager Wagnon has the utmost faith in his troops.

"I'm looking forward to the season," opined Wagnon. "As Mike Gale says, 'we have a good ballclub.' Obviously losing Gale in the outfield, the clubhouse and parking lot is going to hurt, but this will be one of the deepest Muckrakers rosters in recent years."

It all starts on the mound, as veteran Hurd well knows.

"I really feel like the battery has come together," said Hurd, who's been a standout behind the plate backstopping aging right-hander Dave Taxier. "There's a real chemistry between Taxier and Hurd. Hurd can tell when Tax has that real arc going. Tax knows when Hurd's too sore to give a good target. Starting strong up the middle starts there, so if you can't be excited about that, it's probably time to hang 'em up."

And if you don't like the Muckrakers and/or Opening Day, then you just might have problems with life its ownself.

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