Triad pro baseball teams hope new seasons look like 2019 | Sports

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BOB SUTTON special for news and record

There is no slack in the season for the off-field personnel who manage the operations of the Triad’s professional baseball teams.

They will be put to the test straight away with a slew of home games, but the excitement is clear around the start of another season which he hopes will be more like 2019.

“It’s great to get to this point and be ready for a season that should feel like something we’ve done before,” said Donald Moore, president and general manager of the Greensboro Grasshoppers.

The Grasshoppers open the season at 6:30 p.m. Friday at home against the Rome Braves. Half an hour later, the Winston-Salem Dash take on the Hickory Crawdads to start a nine-game homestand.

Not to be outdone in terms of their home schedule, the High Point Rockers, who will feature many former major leaguers on the independent Atlantic League roster, will kick off April 21 with a 13-game homestand.

Moore has been an integral part of Greensboro’s professional baseball scene, and even with the team’s offseason sale to Temerity Baseball, he said there should be some familiarity for fans.

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“My role is the same,” Moore said. “Our staff is intact. I think from a fan’s perspective, there shouldn’t be any noticeable significant changes. … Andy Sandler, our new owner, I think he realized he was buying something that wasn’t broken.

The Dash has a new look, with Brian DeAngelis taking over as President and General Manager after five years in various roles with the Lehigh Valley Triple-A IronPigs. Now the focus can be “to welcome as many people as possible through the gates of Truist Stadium,” said team spokesman Andrew Murphy.

The 2020 minor league season was canceled due to the pandemic, and the 2021 version began with capacity restrictions and protocols that eliminated or reduced interactions between players, staff and fans.

Greensboro’s front desk staff was reduced from 20 to 13 for last season due to pandemic-related cuts. A few of these positions have been reinstated. Additionally, the Grasshoppers have had more success hiring game-day staff after last season’s shortage.

“Last year it seemed like nobody wanted to work,” Moore said.

The Grasshoppers have won the 2021 Class A Freitas Award, which recognizes excellence on the business side of minor league operations.

On the field, most of Greensboro’s 2021 players have moved on, with Class AA Altoona being the destination for many of them, including the stocked pitching staff. The Grasshoppers might look a lot like the Low-A South Bradenton club of a season ago.

A blast from the past comes with the restoration of traditional names for the minor leagues. So the Grasshoppers and Dash are members of the South Atlantic League after last year’s High-A East designation — based on Major League Baseball taking over the minors and instituting massive restructuring. Greensboro was the runner-up on that tour, falling to the Bowling Green Hot Rods in the Championship Series.

Greensboro was a longtime member of the South Atlantic League.

“It gives us a bit more identity than last year,” Moore said.

Winston-Salem’s professional team spent about 75 years as a member of the Carolina League before realignment ahead of the 2021 season, so for the Dash it falls under a different tag in the South Atlantic League .

The Grasshoppers and Dash became field competitors last year. They will meet in series next week in Winston-Salem.

The Rockers were an expansion team in 2019, then the unaffiliated club didn’t play in 2020 due to the pandemic. This will be their third year on the field after the scrappy 2021 season, and it’s team president Pete Fisch’s second season.

“Now we’ve had a full offseason to plan and figure out what went well last year,” Rockers communications director Steve Shutt said. “We know what the future will be. We were successful last year, and now we are gaining momentum.

Comparing last April to the first week of April this year, “those are two different worlds,” Shutt said.

High Point was limited to selling about 300 tickets at the start of its season last May.

The Rockers, embarking on their version of spring training this weekend, play 66 games in each half of the season, so that’s a notable home game percentage early on.

“It gives our club a fantastic opportunity to get off to a really good start,” Shutt said.

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