POSTED ON APRIL 13, 2011:
Small ball or gorilla game? How 'bout both?
Major League Baseball, in 1994, decided that cancelling games, alienating fans and losing traction would be a fantastic idea. The league has declined since.
The National Hockey League closed up shop in order to structure pay scales. Many fans have not warmed to the sport since.
Now the National Football League is tempting fate. Many colleagues are worried how the strike will affect their job status. So much that they think we want to hear about lawyers in courtrooms arguing over billions of dollars.
Here is how we, Tulsa sports fans, can fix the problem. In the words of former Drillers owner Chuck Lamson, "Think Baseball!"
The story of Lamson selling his majority ownership share to Went Hubbard's sons has been told. Dale and Jeff now run the organization in a more typical ownership fashion. And since none of this makes sense and no one is talking, we'll just move along to the season.
ONEOK Field was a bastion in downtown Tulsa last year. Attendance records were shattered in the new digs. Fans experienced baseball in 2010 like the rest of America. And we liked it!
Can the team maintain the momentum in year two? Absolutely. At least that is the plan.
"It's a challenge," said Drillers GM Mike Melega.
Melega realizes some of the new car smell might wear off. On the other hand, some Tulsans got a late taste of the Drillers dogs and will certainly come back more often this season.
The team's front office places staff at all five exit points when games conclude. They thank fans and field concerns.
"I always ask people how many games they've been too," Melega said. "It was amazing to me how many folks were coming for their first time in July and August and telling me, 'Boy I'm disappointed I waited, but I'm definitely coming to more games next year,' I said, 'Tell all your friends.'"
Fireworks nights, dog days, beer nights; you name it and the Drillers offer it up. The park's aesthetics speaks for itself so let's delve into the team. Yes, an actual breakdown of the roster and coaching staff.
Baseball teams normally take one of two forms: high on-base percentage guys with speed (small ball) or big bats slugging for the fences (gorilla ball).
This Drillers squad should buck the trend. They appear to be an even split between the two (winning ball).
The pitching rotation is loaded with live arms. The staff should rival any the Texas League has to offer.
Top-five prospect in the Colorado Rockies organization, Christian Friedrich, turned heads when he pitched six no-hit innings against the Rockies in an exhibition.
The good news is the Drillers can trot him out to the mound every fifth start. The bad news is the Rockies got a taste of his grit up close and a call-up might be expedited.
At Bat. Tulsans should be ready for a summer of fun at the ballpark. And if the action on the field does not excite your inner-baseball stat geek, then you still have the amenities to pass the time at the old national pastime.
Joining him at the top of the rotation is Juan Nicasio. "The Rockies are very high on him, comparisons to Ubaldo Jiménez," Melega said. Jiménez of course finished third in the National League Cy Young race a season ago. Lofty praise for the young fireballer.
Two more additions to the pitching staff are Rob Scahill and Josh Sullivan. Both throw in the mid-90s. Returning Driller Cory Riodan rounds out the opening day starting five-man rotation.
Behind the plate calling the game will be another returning Driller. Wilin Rosario is the other top Rockies prospect starting the season on the roster.
Rosario led the team in homeruns last season despite missing the final month of the year due to injury. He is a welcome re-addition to the squad.
The left side of the infield should be a strength. Third baseman Darin Holcomb returns to the Drillers after missing the entire 2010 season with injury.
Joining him is another highly-touted Rockies prospect at shortstop, Hector Gomez. Gomez opened the season with a base clearing, game winning, almost inside the park home run.
"We haven't really seen much of him yet," Melega said. "He's been injury riddled the last two seasons. We had him here last year. I don't think he got to 50 at-bats the whole season. Hopefully he can kick the injury bug. Because when he does play, he's unbelievable."
Across the diamond, manning first base is Ben Paulsen. He had a huge spring and turned a lot of heads at the big league level.
The outfield is a mix of youngsters and veterans. Bronson Sardinha made the MLB roster in the past and solidifies the unit.
Leading the squad is a new manager. Duane Espy has tons of experience. The lifer was a batting coach at the Big League level in previous seasons.
"He's got a lot of wisdom and a great attitude," Melega said. "A great change on the coaching staff. We're excited and rejuvenated by his energy."
Tulsans should be ready for a summer of fun at the ballpark. And if the action on the field does not excite your inner-baseball stat geek, then you still have the amenities to pass the time at the old national pastime.
Visit tulsadrillers.com for schedule and ticket information. Or just keep picking up the Urban Tulsa Weekly since we will not bow down to football lawyers.
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