EASTLAKE -- Roster turnover is a part of any minor league affiliate from one year to the next. Some more than others, which is the case for the 2017 Lake County Captains who have only five players returning from last year's squad. Aside from the 20 players who are getting their first taste of full-season affiliated ball, there will be a new face at the helm as former hitting coach Larry Day gets his first crack at managing in 2017.
"I think we just need to be true to ourselves," said Day regarding being a first-time manager of a young roster, "There's reasons why these guys are here. They're obviously great players and getting to know them over the past five weeks in Goodyear, I can attest to their character. They're great kids. And as far as myself as a manager, I also need to be true to myself and the things I believe in."
Day, 32, will certainly have his work cut out for him in his first managerial season as eight of the players joining the Captains roster on opening day fresh out of amateur ball having been drafted less than a year prior. Players such as right-hander Aaron Civale, catcher Logan Ice and outfield Conner Capel are some of the more prominent names among that group, given their high draft slots in 2016.
As far as the roster as whole, this team appears the type to thrive on pitching as many of the Indians' top, lower level hurlers will be on the mound at Classic Park to start the year such as 2015 draft alumni Juan Hillman and Brady Aiken, who join the incumbent class of arms on the staff.
"Coming into the year and watching them during spring training, they're so diverse," Day said regarding his pitchers, "You have power arms, power stuff and pitch-ability. So the ability to blend the power arms with the really good stuff and also the guys who have the ability to command the strike zone comes along with the maturity of the pitching staff which we're lucky enough to have here."
While they may have exceptional talent on the pitching side, don't sell the Captains short on their position players, boasting names like Gabriel Mejia, Luke Wakamatsu and Todd Isaacs.
"It's very similar to the pitching front where we can do a few things well, hopefully," explained Day, "The combination of just sitting there and tally-whacking the ball with Logan Ice, [Emmanuel] Tapia, Alexis Pantoja, Luke Wakamatsu... They can all swing the bat. Even our fast guys can swing the bat with [Gabriel] Mejia, Todd Isaacs and Conner Capel, but like I just alluded to, they can run. So we'll have the ability to just sit back and hit the traditional way, but we'll also have the opportunity to put the pressure on the defense because of our speed."
Of course, while there's plenty to capture attentions on the field, the Captains have projects in the works off the field to improve fan experience and serve the community in 2017 and beyond. Team general manager Neil Stein outlined the most immediate and significant renovation for the season: their new digital, video scoreboard.
"We're super excited about the video board," said Stein, "We've been looking into it for, honestly, about 3-4 years and between cost and funding, it's a big, big project to undertake. We finally found a deal with Panasonic, who's putting in our board for us. It's going to be a phenomenal board. It's going to be 22 feet tall by 50 feet wide, so it's almost 1,100 square feet. Our old one was about 400 square feet, so we'll be doing a lot more in-game stuff with real-time updating stats pulled straight from the website, lineups and, hopefully somewhere down the road, replay."
The next undertaking for the Captains organization is still in the early stages of development, but will be ready to break ground, hopefully, during the season. In partnership with the local chapter of the Miracle League, the Captains have plans in the works to construct a specially-designed ball field and playground outside of Classic Park to be a safe haven for children with special needs.
"We're still working on the Miracle League field," the Captains GM explained, "We've got a fundraiser coming up towards the end of this month. We're basically trying to get funding for it right now. The city and the county got a grant for the handicap-accessible playground. That will probably start before the field happens. We've gotten a few big sponsors and donors for the field itself, but it's a pretty expensive project. So before we can do anything, we have to get funding. Our goal is to have it started at some point our season."
Lake County will kick off their 2017 campaign on the road in Dayton against the Dragons on Thursday with right-hander Micah Miniard slated to take the mound at 7:00 pm ET. The Captains will return to Classic Park for their home opener against the same Dragons on Saturday. First pitch will be at 6:30 pm ET.