Trying to manage spring training around Alaska's sometimes uncooperative weather is tough enough a task. Couple that with the fact that you can't get onto your home field until late June, and putting together a good American Legion baseball team becomes a next to impossible task.
"(Wednesday at Homer) was only the third and fourth times we've been on a field," said veteran Post 20 Twins manager Lance Coz, adding that the first two times on field were Sunday's games in Anchorage.
"That's been one of the real difficulties of our preseason, and it's been one of the most difficult preseasons I've had."
While Coral Seymour Memorial Park undergoes a significant face-lift, the Twins have been relegated to practicing on the "dust bowl," the city ball field next to Pizza Hut on the Kenai Spur Highway.
Coz said that everything that could be difficult has been this spring, from having to stay off the field at Coral Seymour Memorial Park to having the team bus break down in Homer this week.
Still the Twins do have one thing going for them -- experience. In addition to Coz's nearly three decades in the dugout with the Twins, John Butler and Jim Newby return as coaches, and John Kennedy, a Post 20 baseball alumni, is coaching the Twins' junior varsity squad.
On the field, the Twins have seven returning varsity-level players. Kenneth Butler played catcher last year and could see time at first base this season, Kyle Foster has been the team's everyday third baseman, Ely Evanson has plenty of experience behind the plate, David Newby and Cory Janson will be patrolling the outfield, Eric Newby has been stellar at shortstop and Nick Weigle fills out the infield at second base.
What the Twins did lose from last season is much of their pitching staff, and many of their returning players will be called on to take the mound this season.
Shane Dunn will be taking a turn in the rotation for the Twins, and Coz expects Kaleb Shields to give the team a boost as he recovers from a stint on the disabled list.
Derek Martin has put away his skates for the summer in favor of a pair of spikes and has worked his way into the Twins varsity lineup, and Coz sees Zack Hicks making a similar move during the course of the season.
Coz said that Corey Grimm has been versatile playing first and third as well as pitching, and brothers Garrett and Neil Gardner could make a speedy addition to the lineup.
Post 20 also will be adding Ken Baun, a player from Juneau. Juneau will not field a team this season, and players from Southeast have the option of playing for the Legion team closest to home. Coz said Kenai and Homer are equidistant from Juneau, and Baun has relatives on the central peninsula, helping him make that choice. Coz said that Homer's South Peninsula Storm will pick up some players from Ketchikan.
For now, the Oilers will be road warriors, playing away from home until June 22, when they host East for a doubleheader at Coral Seymour Memorial Park.
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