SAUGET — After a long harsh and cold winter, spring has brought warmth and soon the sights and sounds of Frontier League baseball at its best are about to begin once again at GCS Ballpark.
Beginning their 14th season in the Frontier League, the Gateway Grizzlies open their brief preseason home schedule on Wednesday against the Southern Illinois Miners beginning at 11:35 a.m.
But first, the Grizzlies begin their exhibition schedule Tuesday morning when they take on the Southern Illinois Miners at Rent One Park beginning at 10:05 a.m.
Live stats can be viewed by visiting the schedule tab at www.gatewaygrizzlies.com. There will be no radio broadcast of the game. The only exhibition game on the air will be Saturday when the Grizzlies host the Wichita Wingnuts in the final home preseason game.
Led by veteran manager Phil Warren, the Grizzlies finished 53-43 a year ago, missing the playoffs by a single game. After racing out to a 32-19 first-half record, the Grizzlies stumbled down the stretch and missed out on a playoff bid after a sub-par August.
The first-half of the season was one of the best in team history. Gateway put together a nine-game win streak from June 6-16, which proved to be the second longest win streak during the year in the Frontier League. They sent a team-record nine players to the 2013 All-Star game, notched the best first-half record in the league and took a two and a half game West Division lead into the second half of the season. On July 27th, Gateway led Schaumburg by five and a half games for first place in the West.
In 2014, Gateway only returns starters all-star catcher Landon Hernandez, second baseman Jonathan Johnson and infielder Michael Wing.
Warren's team enters the preseason game schedule with 36 players on the roster. Only 11 of those players are returners. Warren's roster must be cut to 24 players by the regular season opener on May 16.
"And Michael (Wing) joined us late in the season. We've got a few more pitchers who were with us last year, but as far as position players, we've got three players back,'' Warren said. "If you've only got a few players back, Landon Hernandez and JJ (Johnson) are a nice place to start.
"I like what I see in training camp though. We've got 36 players here and the competition has been very good so far. The coaching staff has some tough decisions to make in the next week about who to keep and who to let go. That's never easy."
The Frontier Greys come in to GCS Ballpark on Friday at 7:05 p.m. and The American Association's Wichita Wingnuts conclude the Grizzlies preseason home schedule on Saturday at 7:05 p.m.
Gateway will also play the Frontier Greys on May 13 in Highland at 7:05 p.m.
Gateway opens its 2014 regular season on May 16 when it hosts the Traverse City Beach Bums beginning at 7:05 p.m.
Gateway notes: Warren, who begins his 8th season in 2014, is the all-time wins leader at Gateway with 356 career wins. ... fans entering GCS Ballpark will see a new concession area down the right field line. Also, a new video screen in right-centerfield will also be up and in use by the end of May, according to Grizzlies radio broadcaster and media relations director Adam Young. ... at the recent 2014 Frontier League Draft in Florence, Ky., the Grizzlies signed three players -- first baseman/outfielder Richard Seigel UC-San Diego, catcher Gabriel Molina from Keystone College and right-handed pitcher Oliver Van Zant, who began his pro career in 2013 with Trois-Rivieres of the Can-Am league. ... season and group tickets are on sale now. For more information call 618-337-3000.