Miller Express set for season opener
The Moose Jaw Miller Express are officially back in town.
Austin Russell makes a catch in Western Major Baseball League action in 2012. Russell will return to the Moose Jaw Miller Express this season. Times-Herald file photo
The players took over YaraCentre on Thursday to prepare one last time before their season opener today (7 p.m., Ross Wells Park).
“So far, I am pretty happy,” said Michael Hunt, head coach of the Express. “I think we’ve got the right guys in place to make good things happen.”
The majority of the players have arrived in the Friendly City, including Austin Russell, who will play his final season with the Express.
“It is nice to finish up my baseball career here in Moose Jaw,” he said. “I had two good summers with them and I’m sure there is going to be a third one.”
Russell did not play with the Express last summer, as he stayed at home in British Columbia and played in the West Coast League.
“I am not eligible for the West Coast League, so I couldn’t play at home,” Russell said. “Obviously with the two good summers here, it was a pretty simple decision to come back.”
Russell played his senior year with McPherson College in Kansas, where he had a decent season.
“Our team wasn’t as strong, but I had a good year individually,” he said. “That isn’t the point, but hopefully the summer here turns out better than the school year.”
This is a much different team for Russell than the last time he played for the Express. Mainly, power hitter Michael Corso is gone, as are aces Marshall Dean and Dustin Caplette. However, he has a positive outlook on what this team could be capable of this summer.
“From what I’ve seen, we look real good and strong. The last few years, we have just been limping into the playoffs. I don’t think that will be the case this year. I think we can put together a good season and hopefully do better than the last couple of years,” he stated. “It seems like we got a bunch of good guys and we all seem to like each other, so it should be a fun summer.”
After a long off-season of recruiting and preparing, Hunt is excited to get this team on the field at Ross Wells Park and see what they all can do as a group.
“We certainly have some jump, but Michael Corso is a hard guy to replace. We have a little bit of power everywhere, a little bit of speed everywhere and solid defence. We have the quality arms that I believe are going to tie it all together,” Hunt said.
Pitching has been the Achilles Heel of the Express in the last couple of seasons and forced them to use a number of different arms. This year, he is hoping to keep a solid starting rotation together and closers in the bullpen.
“The struggle was not having everyone here at the beginning and then having to fill things in with the bullpen,” said Hunt. “This year, everyone is here. We are at full staff from the get-go and that makes it look differently from years past.”
With the team opening the season at home, they are hoping to get off to a decent start and set the tone for the summer.
“We talked a lot about the first two weeks and treating these first two weeks like the last two weeks,” said Hunt. “If we can make the first two weeks look solid and not waste a game, it makes the last two weeks a lot easier.”
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