[dropcap]E[/dropcap]ntering their third season, the Garden City Wind hope to build on last year’s first place finish in the Pecos League north division with perhaps a league championship.
“I’m excited. I’m very, very excited,” Manager David Peterson said Wednesday during the club’s media day. “This is a great group. It really is. Tons of versatility. Position players can play pretty much anywhere, and that’s gonna help a lot through 64 games in 70 days or however many it is.”
Last year, Garden City finished with a 38-26 record and fell just short of making the Pecos League finals after dropping the semifinal series to the Trinidad Triggers two games to one.
After a three game spring training stint last week, the club trimmed its 29 invites down to 21 players Tuesday. The regular season kicks off with a four-game series at home against the Triggers starting on Thursday night.
Peterson said he likes what he sees in this year’s roster.
“We have guys who put up very good numbers in this league last season. That should translate over and the numbers should be even better with some of them having a year or two under their belt now,” he said.
Peterson said Trent Carrier of Anaheim Hills, Calif., who will take the mound in the opener Thursday night, saw four innings of work in spring training and likes to attack the zone, keeps the ball down and gets a lot of ground balls.
Friday’s starter, lefty Troy Mannebach, who pitched very well down the stretch last season for Salina and threw a complete game shutout against Alpine, has good stuff, Peterson said.
Mannebach, of Appleton, Wisc., played ball for a couple of years at a Oakton Community College in Illinois, then played Division II baseball at Lynn University in Boca Raton, Fla. Last season he played for the Salina Stockade.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Mannebach said of the new season. “I feel like we can get some good wins and hopefully bring a title to Garden City. There’s no better feeling than having an opportunity to play baseball, competing and winning a spot. I want to compete, control what I can control, and things will fall into place.”
Peterson also noted that Jack Finnegan, formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers organization, will pitch on Saturday , and Dalton Bernardi, a Pecos League All Star last season with Salina, will pitch Sunday.
While hitting usually trails pitching at this time of year, Peterson said he was encouraged by the approach the Wind’s hitters took at the plate during spring training.
“We’re working counts, seeing more pitches, to where we can try and eat through a six-man bullpen in a series,” he said. “We’re going to compete and we’re going to play hard every single night.”
Mike Rachun, a first baseman from Long Island, N.Y., is entering his second year in the league after playing last year for Salina.
“I’m just ready to win. We’ve got a good ball club,” Rachun said.
Taylor Zeutenhorst, 25, an outfielder/first baseman from Sheldon, Iowa, said he is eager to get started.
“I think we’ve got a pretty solid team – a lot of good arms, a lot of good bats,” he said. Zeutenhorst, who attended the University of Iowa and came up through the Seattle Mariners organization, said he tries to be a “five-tool player” as much as he can, likes to run bases hard and hit for power and average.
Last year, he played in the American Association with the Sioux Falls Canaries most of the season so it’s his first time being in Garden City and has enjoyed it so far.
“I like what I’ve seen. It’s tucked in the middle of nowhere but it’s a nice little city,” Zeutenhorst said.
The Wind begin a four game home stand against Trinidad on Thursday. Game times are 6:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday at Clint Lightner Field.
For more information about the Garden City Wind, including ticket information and the season schedule, go to www.gardencitywind.com, and follow them on Facebook.