•The Journal Gazette will get you ready for the 2014 TinCaps season with a special preview section, featuring stories on former Norwell standout Josh VanMeter, the team’s infielders, opening day starter Walker Weickel and more
FORT WAYNE — TinCaps outfielder Mallex Smith says the team’s strength and weakness entering this season are the same thing – youth.
When the TinCaps open the season Thursday night at Parkview Field against Great Lakes, the average age of the players will be 20 1/2 .
“We’ve got a lot of young guys on the team,” Smith said. “Young guys, youth and excitement; and with excitement brings, you know, a lot of good plays and it also brings a lot of anxiety. When you get into the year, you try to do too much.”
Keeping players calm as they take the next step in their careers with desires to advance beyond the Single A level will be one of the main tasks for manager Michael Collins and his staff.
“They are going to have to go through some adjustments that everybody goes through as young players for the most part,” Collins said. “Those adjustments are going to come, hopefully, quick.
“At the end of the day you want to give them the information. You kind of overload players, especially young players. You try to give them as much good information as possible and put them in situations to have the most success possible. I think we learn from our success as well as our failure. Hopefully, there are more successes than failures.”
Each player will need to adjust to different things.
Second baseman Josh VanMeter will need to adjust to being back in front of a hometown crowd as the Norwell product becomes the first everyday position player from the area to play for either the TinCaps or Wizards.
The team’s Latin players will need to get used to living in a larger city and the theatrics that surround a minor league baseball game that include theme nights like “A Night at the Circus” and stadium acts like BirdZerk!
And the players who were not with the TinCaps last season will need to get used to the size of the crowds at games.
“That’s the adjustment for every level,” Collins said. “You go from Arizona last year where there is not too many people, if any, maybe a couple of parents in the stands to here where (the TinCaps) have sold out so much. You can kind of get lost in the hype and the atmosphere, and I’m sure as you get to the big leagues it’s the same way. You start playing in front of bigger crowds, more excitement, more things going on.
“I’m sure at some point we are going to have to remind these guys it’s still the same game. That’s kind of how we try to prepare. We go out to practice these days, and each day we are practicing we are preparing for the games, so when we get to the games it is just playing. That’s the fun part of the day.”