Fellow 1988 Trappers ask Bill Fellows, the only returnee from the fabled 1987 team, what it was like last year during The Streak and other important things, like how the paychecks come. Fellows, a catcher, can only relate his experiences from after The Streak, since he came to the team just after it ended, but he can tell teammates that in his first game he played before a sellout crowd and that the paychecks come with regularity.
"They were obviously treating the players first-class," Fellows remembers about his first impressions of the Trappers.Last year, Jeff Allison could only wonder what The Streak was like from a distance. The center fielder played in Idaho Falls. Now he's finding out that being a Trapper, even a year later, "is like having carte blanche." He's treated like royalty when people, especially businesspeople, find out he's a Trapper.
But new Manager Barry Moss wants the novelty to wear off quickly. His very first speech to the new Trappers was about how they're not the old Trappers. He doesn't want them to feel the pressure of being three-time defending Pioneer League champions when, of course, they're not - although the franchise is.
Moss stressed that the Trappers have a winning tradition to keep up, but he wants to separate that from having a legend to uphold.
"We've tried real hard to pick a team as good as last year's," says Moss, whose club opens the season Monday night for a three-game set in Butte, Mont., "but any pressure I want on my shoulders, not theirs.
"I do feel it," he admits.
The Trappers, after a Saturday-night meet-the-press/fans get-together and a quick workout today, are to leave by bus for Butte at 2 p.m. They'll play three games there against a Texas Rangers' farm team managed by Bump Wills, and then they'll return for their home opener Thursday at Derks Field against Idaho Falls.
"I've told them they're going to be receiving a lot of attention and questions about last year's club, but they're only expected to do their best," says Moss, who was a coach for Manager Jim Gilligan last year.
For now, too, the Trappers are a team without stars. "I'm sure a player or two will have exceptional years, like Frank Colston and Matt Huff did, but I'm not expecting anybody to be far above the level of the league - although any of the 12 position players could," said Moss.
The Trappers march into their fourth season with a roster that is purposely lean - 22 players. Twelve are position players, 10 are pitchers. There are a couple of spots open in case a glaring need arises, like for a left-handed power hitter, but Moss is so far satisfied with what he has, and several men can play two or three positions with equal ability.
Of the 12 position players, "No one, including the utility men, seems to be weak at the plate," Moss says. They're all line drive/contact hitters.
But it is what they'll do after they get on base and what they'll do in the field that will be exciting.
First, they'll steal. Since they're all good hitters, they won't sacrifice or hit and run. They'll just outright steal because of good speed.
That speed means a sharp-fielding team, too, although Moss stresses that steady rather spectacular plays should be the rule. "We'll be more solid than flashy. They'll make that play all the time," he says.
"In the outfield, we have three real strong throwing arms, and at every position, we have a solid player," Moss says. "We have a good double-play combination up the middle."
The Trappers are actually a little ahead of schedule as far as their preparation for the season, particularly the pitchers. Everybody came into camp in good physical shape, and pitchers who've had arm trouble that kept them from being drafted seem in pretty good shape now.
"The pitching is more solid than I expected," Moss says, "but the team is really designed around speed and defense."
His opening-day pitcher is right-hander Terence Glover, who played for Butte last season and joined the Trappers Wednesday. He's been pitching in Los Angeles-area scouting leagues and is in good shape, and Moss got the idea after seeing him there two weeks ago to start him in the opener if he signed.
When he arrived Wednesday, Moss asked Glover if he wanted to start Monday, and he liked the idea.
Obviously, Glover knows the Butte park better than other Trappers, and Moss assumes there'll be some carry-over incentive against his old team, even though Butte's gone from co-op to an organization team. Former Manager Ernie Rodriguez will be a Copper King coach in charge of Japanese players, just like his brother, Reuben Rodriguez of the Trappers.
Willie Ambose and Dean Tanner will start Tuesday and Wednesday, and lefty Fred Ricsen will start the home opener because Moss wants him to pitch in a big park for two reasons: to keep a sore shoulder loose and because he's used to big crowds, having pitched for Texas A&M against Texas before 7,500 and ESPN-TV.
Moss will platoon catchers Fellows and Mando Verdugo, a Pioneer League veteran who played for Helena two years ago. Fellows will catch against left-handed pitchers. Verdugo is one of the Trappers' few power hitters. Fellows is a good defensive catcher who can hit lefties.
Another power hitter, 6-foot-5 Greg Ehmig, will play first base, Kelly Zane of Arkansas will play second, Kerry Shaw will start at third, Tommy Boyce will play left and Rich Hurni right. Allison and Pat Waid will trade off at center, and Tim McKercher and Chris Sloniger will man the designated hitter spot.
Allison says that alternating at a position is all right with him, mostly because Moss tells everyone exactly what he wants. Last year with the Braves' organization, Allison said, he and others never knew what to expect. "It was hard to stay mentally prepared," Allison says. "Here, everyone knows what their role is, and everyone will get to contribute. We don't have any superstars, we just have 12 position players, and all will play."
Fellows says he'd like to play every game but noted that, when he came in last year, Colston and some of the others who'd played a lot during The Streak "seemed burned out. It takes its toll." So maybe sharing isn't such a bad idea.
You never know when another streak might come up, although Fellows says winning 50 games and the division title is a little more realistic.
Player Ht. Wt. Pos. College/pro team
William Ambos 6-2 230 RHP New York Tech
Tommy Boyce 6-0 185 1B New York Tech
Rich Hurni 6-2 180 OF Anderson (nd.) U.
Ray Karczewski 6-0 185 SS New York Tech
Kerry Shaw 6-1 185 3B S. Carolina-Aiken
Dean Tanner 6-4 195 RHP Cal-San Bernardino
Mando Verdugo 6-1 220 C East LA JC
Pat Waid 5-10 170 OF Arizona
Jeff Allison 5-11 160 OF Purdue
Myron Gardner 6-5 220 RHP Louisburg
Bill Fellows 6-0 175 C Lewis & Clark
Chris Sloniger 6-0 175 IF Pepperdine
Tim McKercher 5-10 180 3B UC-Santa Barbara
Fred Riscen 5-11 190 LHP Texas A&M
Masami Yamada 5-10 180 RHP Kintetsu Buffaloes
Akihiro Fukushima 5-11 170 RHP Kintetsu Buffaloes
Blaine Reber 6-3 205 LHP SUSC
Kelly Zane 5-11 165 2B Arkansas
Michael Gibbons 6-4 190 RHP Miami
Sean Johnson 6-4 190 LHP UNLV
Terence Glover 6-1 190 RHP Cal St.-Long Beach
Greg Ehmig 6-5 220 1B S. Carolina-Aiken
Field Manager - Barry Moss. Assistant coach - Reuben Rodriguez. Pitching coach - Darren Garrick. Trainer - Jeff McFarland.