Manager Barry Moss would really rather the Salt Lake Trappers could have opened the season somewhere other than Butte, Mont.
After all, it's a nine-hour bus trip - one the Trappers will have to make on the run again on Wednesday night after their third game here to get home in time for their Thursday home opener. Besides, the weather can get a little nasty with the Continental Divide not so far away. "It's a tough place to play," says Moss. "It can get cold and windy, and the field is not up to standards."Moss expects the Texas Rangers, who annexed the Copper Kings this season after Butte was a co-op club last year, have demanded some improvements in the field, but it probably still won't be the best.
On top of that, Trapper player personnel manager Van Schley says the Copper Kings could be the team to beat this season because of the way the Rangers expanded their minor-legue system and divided their rookie-league talent. They sent the kids just out of high school to their Florida Gulf Coast League affiliate and sent their college grads to Butte.
That means older, more experienced players in the Trappers' category.
"We need the experienced players so we can compete with Salt Lake City," says Copper Kings' general manager Chris Kemple.
Kemple, whose organization hooked on with the Rangers last October after finishing dead last as a co-op in 1987, said he expects a good Butte crowd of about 1,500-2,000 for tonight's season opener.
New Butte Manager Bump Wills, son of Maury, will have the Rangers' No. 1 draft pick in his lineup. That's former Oklahoma State shortstop Monty Farris, a 22-year-old who went sixth overall. "He's a real smooth fielder," says Kemple. "At first, they weren't going to send him here."
Farris' Oklahoma State teammate, Travis Law, is a good defensive center fielder on whom the Rangers are high, Kemple says. He adds the Rangers have sent some pitchers who reportedly throw 90 mph, and they've sent pitcher Robb Nen down from the Gastonia farm club in the South Atlantic League, a long-season Class A loop.
Moss, noting that the Trappers of 1987 had a 1-1, 2-2, 3-3 start before starting The Streak, said he "would like to play better than .500 in the beginning. We want to be very competitive early in the season."
Opening nervousness "should pass after the home opener. After the fourth game, we should be through with first-of-the-season jitters," Moss says.
Hoping that familiarity and indignation will overcome jitters, Moss will start right-hander Terence Glover on the mound tonight. Glover pitched for Butte last year but wasn't brought back, so when the Trappers signed him, Moss wanted to give him the ball. "There's an added something," Moss says, about returning to a former home. "We're not going to push him to go nine innings," he added.
Willie Ambose is slated to start Tuesday's game, and Dean Tanner to start Wednesday. The home opener goes to Fred Riscen.
The quality apparently doesn't decline as the Trapper starters take their turns.
"With the pitching staff," says co-catcher Bill Fellows, the only holdover from last season on the rookie-league team that is limited to six veterans, "there's not a big difference in anybody.
"What we're seeing in practice," says Fellows, "is as tough as I saw last year in the league. I know they're going to be tough."
The staff will be a little light for the first week as the two Japanese imports from the Kintetsu Buffaloes won't arrive until Saturday. Moss looks at them as relievers until he sees what everybody has in game situations.
TRAPPER NOTES - Game time is 7 p.m. KISN-AM 570 will carry all games live with Kurt Wilson doing play-by-play.