There was a lot new when the Jamestown Jammers arrived at Diethrick Park on Thursday afternoon to begin preparing for the opening of the New York-Penn League season on Monday.
The Jammers are beginning a new major league affiliation with the Pittsburgh Pirates after 10 years with the Florida/Miami Marlins.
A majority of the players are new as they begin something new - a professional baseball career.
After arriving at Diethrick Park on Thursday afternoon, the Jamestown Jammers were busy with paperwork. Today they’ll be busy with work on the field as they prepare for the opening of the New York-Penn League season on Monday.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
Manager Dave Turgeon checks out his Jammers hat, the fourth team hat he has worn in the league as a player and manager.
P-J photo by Jim Riggs
And the manager is new, but the league isn't for Dave Turgeon.
The New London, Conn., native began his pro baseball career playing for the Oneonta Yankees of the NY-P League in 1987 after being draft in the 22nd round.
His second managing job was with the Mahoning Valley Scrappers in 2001 and last season he managed the State College Spikes, who were then a Pirates affiliate.
Now Turgeon is associated with is fourth team in the NY-P League.
''The team where I use to play, Oneonta, is no longer in the league,'' he said. ''I was sorry to not see them be in the league.''
Looking back, he added, ''It's fun to see the growth of the league. The league's a lot different than it was back in 1987. The facilities, the travel and in terms of how things are done. But they're all good changes, positive changes.''
There was another positive for Turgeon associated with the NY-P League.
''I actually met my wife managing in this league,'' Turgeon said about Theresa, who is a Warren, Ohio, native. ''We open up (the season) in my wife's hometown.''
That opener on Monday at Mahoning Valley is the first game in a three-game series. Then the Jammers have their home opener on Thursday at 7:05 p.m. against Williamsport, also the first game of a three-game series.
A majority of the players who arrived on Thursday will be in their first year of pro baseball, but there are five from last season's State College team.
''We got some guys that have been here,'' Turgeon said about infielder Yhonathan Barrios, infielder Jody Carvajal, outfielder-infielder Jesus Vasquez and pitcher Lance Breedlove. ''Those guys are huge and kind of setting the tone for what we want.''
They can help the newcomers adjust to the league and professional baseball.
''I think it's good for understanding what my expectations and standards are because they played for me,'' Turgeon said. ''So when guys look at me like I have three heads, those guys can do the translating.''
They can also help with the newcomers in learning the Pirates' system. He said the new players can think, ''If those guys are doing it this way, I guess I'll just do it this way. Sometimes without telling them what to do, they're just doing it.''
Among the new players are five recently drafted by the Pirates. They are fourth-round pick Cody Dickson, a left-handed pitcher from Sam Houston State; ninth-round pick Chad Kuhl, a right-hander from the University of Delaware; 12th-round pick Beau Wallace, an infielder from Hinds (Miss.) Community College; and 17th-round pick Justin Topa a right-hander from Long Island University. Also, 18th rounder Jeff Roy, an outfielder from the University of Rhode Island; 19th-round pick Brett McKinney, a right-handed pitcher from Ohio State; and 27th-round pick Michael Fransoso, an infielder from the University of Maine.
After playing college baseball three or four days a week, these players will now have to adjust to playing every day. The NY-P League has only four scheduled off days in the 76-game season.
''I think No. 1, that's the biggest adjustment they have to make,'' he said. ''It is a physical and mental adjustment and it becomes a grinder for them. They don't understand it going into it. Until you're in it and go through it, you do not understand that. That is the biggest thing, to teach them how to do that; to come to work everyday. That's a huge thing and to learn to do that is hard.''
Some of the drafted players' college seasons ended a month ago and some sooner, depending on if they had postseason play.
''The tricky thing is more than the positional guys, but the pitching guys and getting their reps back up again,'' Turgeon said. ''A lot of these guys say they worked and they haven't. The sticky situation for me is the arms and ramping them up at the proper rate.''
But for all the draftees, it has already been a long college season and now will come the almost-daily NY-P League season.
''Most of these guys have been at it since January, so they're probably going to hit a wall in July,'' Turgeon said. ''It's a huge whirlwind. They're excited about being a pro, new place, new bed, new area, new league. All these firsts that are going on right now; these three days (before the season opens) are going to be a whirlwind.''
He added, ''The novelty of signing and the new thing lasts for a few weeks, that energy from that. But once they settle into a grind of it, maybe experience a little failure on the field for the first time, most of these have never even experienced that, that's when you start hitting some walls mentally and physically.''
Hopefully, it pays off in the long run.
''They have their dream of playing in the big leagues and they'll know, they'll understand what it really entails in climbing that ladder and paying your dues,'' he said.
The non-drafted players have been with Turgeon at the Pirates' extended spring training in Bradenton, Fla.
''We were working every day, hard,'' Turgeon said. ''And long hot days.''
That's why when the players arrived in Jamestown on Thursday, they weren't upset with temperatures in the 60s.
''To some of these guys, it's refreshing, it's an energizer,'' he said ''You're body's not working hard to cool off.''
This will be Turgeon's third season managing in the NY-P League and it has always been different.
''I've been doing this for a few years now and every team has its own manual, so we'll see what this club brings,'' Turgeon said.
The Jammers will start writing that manual today and Saturday when they hit the field around 1:30 for workouts. They also have ''games'' scheduled around 4:30 p.m.
On Sunday they prepare for the NY-P League's mostly-night schedule by working out at 6:30 p.m.