OGDEN — Damon Berryhill faces that ages-old challenge that comes the year after someone has achieved great success: So, whadda ya do for an encore? Berryhill, who begins his third season as the Ogden Raptors' manager tonight with a road game against Idaho Falls, realizes that he and his ballclub can't rest their laurels on past performances — especially in the Pioneer League, where rosters and lineups change quicker than a 98 mph fastball.
"You don't look back at last year," the former major league catcher said. "We've got a whole new group of kids this year, and basically I will tell them we're in this thing to win a championship. I'll tell them that I know they will get better as players, but we're here to win a championship. That's our goal every year.
"We've only got one returnee from last year, and I think he was here for two weeks. So we've got a whole new group of kids, and that's what you expect at this level.
"We've definitely got some talent on the ballclub this year, though," Berryhill continued. "We're definitely a younger team this year than we were a year ago, but pitching-wise we're solid and defensively we should be very solid. We'll scuff a little bit in the beginning and get our legs under us, but we've got a good corps of young players."
Ogden team president Dave Baggott agreed.
"We've been with the Dodgers since 2003, and they've never not given us a competitive ballclub," Baggott said.
A pair of pitchers to keep an eye on this season are Chris Handke, a towering 6-foot-11, 240-pound right-hander, and Rick Anton, an all-conference southpaw from the University of Utah who's actually pitched before at Lindquist Field during his collegiate career.
"It'll be nice to have a little local flavor on the ballclub," said Baggott.
Of course, between call-ups to other minor league teams further up the ladder and inevitable injuries, Berryhill realizes that his roster is always going to be fluctuating throughout the season.
"Guys get hurt and guys get called up, and at this level, that happens all the time and you come to expect it," he said. "I enjoy Ogden, and I enjoy working with the young kids. I've had the opportunity to move elsewhere, but I'm happy here."
At this level, managers must walk a fine line between developing the talent of their promising players while also trying to win ballgames. It's not an easy balancing act, but Berryhill feels like he's found a way to do just that.
"I think they're both equally important," he said. "You're always continuing to develop players and getting them ready for the next step; you want to help them develop their tools. "But you also want to develop winners. You want to develop the attitude that that's what the games about is winning ballgames. The (parent club Los Angeles) Dodgers always want winning ballplayers, and it starts at the bottom. "We certainly want these kids to develop and get better, but we want to win ballgames, too," Berryhill said. "Those two things go hand in hand."
Home park: Lindquist Field (capacity 7,000)
Manager: Damon Berryhill (3rd season)
Pioneer League championships: None
Last year: Won both first and second half of Southern Division and defeated Orem in first-round of playoffs before losing to Helena in league championship series
2011 season-opener: Tonight at Idaho Falls
2011 home-opener: Wednesday vs. Idaho Falls