Baseball season is back in the Wine Country, as the Sonoma Stompers are getting ready to open the 2016 season on Tuesday, May 31, at Vallejo.
The Stompers invited 28 players to its spring training camp to fight for a spot on the active team roster. There will be seven players returning to camp from the 2015 campaign that resulted in a second place finish in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, where the team had a 44-33 overall record.
On the infield, the Stompers will return with star first baseman Daniel Baptista, and shortstop Eddie Mora-Loera. In the outfield, 2015 Pacific Association Rookie of the Year Mark Hurley will look to build upon the season he had a year ago. Hurley had an impressive .302 batting average to go along with nine home runs and 51 RBIs.
On the mound, the Stompers will welcome back three arms, including two of their top starting pitchers from last season in Gregory Paulino and Mike Jackson Jr. Sean Conroy also returns after his history-making 2015 season.
The Stompers have also bolstered the roster with new talent that should prove to make a difference in 2016.
At catcher, the Stompers will get some help from newcomers Marcus Blackmon and Max Ayoub.
Blackmon, an alumnus of Jamestown University, impressed scouts while playing for the Toronto Rush in California Winter League. Blackmon had 11 hits in 29 at bats while helping the Rush to a CWL Championship. He is also known as an extremely smart and savvy catcher who will look to take control of the pitching staff.
Ayoub accumulated a .314 batting average to go along with 16 homers and 77 RBIs during his collegiate career at the University of Nebraska-Keaney. He was also named to the All-MIAA Team.
On the infield, the Stompers hope that hot corner specialist Caleb Bryson can add some extra thump to the lineup. In 2015, Bryson batted .356 to go along with a staggering 30 home runs and 96 RBIs while playing for the Trinidad Triggers in the Pecos League.
For pitchers, three new names to keep an eye on will be Oliver Garcia, Jose Flores and Austin Delmotte. Garcia, a native of the Dominican Republic, spent time in the Seattle Mariners organization. Flores spent time with the Milwaukee Brewers organization in 2015 and will look to bolster the starting rotation. Flores excelled in his role as the ace Friday starter for the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma, with his best season coming in 2014 when he finished with a 1.67 earned run average in 43 innings pitched.
Delmotte impressed scouts in the California Winter League with his power fastball and will look to blow hitters away with his velocity this summer.
Takashi ‘Yoshi’ Miyoshi returns at the helm of the Stompers for 2016, entering his second season with the club, and his first full season as manager. Last year Miyoshi was promoted from bench coach and took over the managerial duties midseason.
Chris Mathews will begin his first season with the club in 2016 as a bench coach, and could also see some time behind the plate as a catcher.
The Stompers will begin the regular season on Tuesday, May 31 against the Vallejo Admirals on the road in the first game of a three-game series. Sonoma will kick off the home slate on Tuesday, June 7, when they host the Admirals at Arnold Field for another three-game series.