The first pitch of the collegiate wood bat summer season is still three weeks away but that doesn't mean Southern Oregon RiverDawgs officials aren't scurrying around to make sure all the details are finalized for what will be the club's 10th summer in Medford.
From finalizing the roster to finding host families and setting up all the summer promotions, everything has ramped up in recent days for RiverDawgs general manager John Jackson and Greg Roberts, the team's sales and marketing director.
WHAT: Summer collegiate wood bat baseball team entering its 10th summer in Medford.
Want to host a player?
The Riverdawgs are seeking families to host players for the season, from June to early August. Players are responsible for their own transportation and have their own insurance. If interested, contact general manager John Jackson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Each were busy getting the word out on up-to-date dealings for the Medford-based program, which was formed in 2001 but took one summer off after the demolition of Miles Field.
"It's going to be exciting," Jackson said Friday on the Dawgs' 10th season. "We're going to put people in the seats and guys are going to be knocking the fire out of the balls, running around and diving ... we can't be more excited about what (players) we have coming in."
Southern Oregon expects to bring in seven players from NCAA programs — the most in the team's history — and boasts a handful of players with major league ties in pitchers Riley Welch and Sam Paterson, outfielder Anthony Renteria and catcher Clint Brill. That list could turn into a plus-one next month should left-handed pitcher Jordan Lewis, who currently is starring at the University of Houston, get selected in the MLB draft.
Lewis, a former Phoenix High ace, is slated to pitch in the RiverDawgs' home opener on June 6 against the Klamath Falls Gems.
"We're very excited about having Jordan back for his second year with the RiverDawgs," said Jackson. "Hopefully we can have him for a start or two before we possibly lose him to the major league draft June 6-8."
Welch is the son of former Cy Young award winner Bob Welch, who pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers and Oakland A's in a career that spanned from 1978-1994. Riley Welch currently is a junior relief pitcher in the University of Hawaii program, seeing his only game action in recent weeks with two innings pitched and a 4.50 ERA. In an effort to get the younger Welch more time on the mound, the Hawaii program contacted Jackson about finding a home for the right-hander.
"If he's even half the competitor that his dad was, I'm going to be thrilled to death that he's here and in our uniform," said Roberts.
Paterson is the younger brother of current Arizona Diamondbacks reliever and Oregon State alum Joe Paterson. The younger Paterson has been playing for Linn Benton Community College but recently signed to pitch for Montana State Billings next year.
Renteria is the son of San Diego Padres bench coach Richard Renteria and one of six players coming to town from the Cal State San Marcos program. Renteria is hitting .336 with 39 starts in 47 games this spring and will be joined by returning RiverDawg Greg Vrooman, infielder Trent Jemmett, outfielder Jeremy Baum, catcher Andrew Volk and relief pitcher Matt Bataska, whose brother Chris Bataska will joining him in Southern Oregon.
In recent years, Cal State San Marcos has sent players like shortstop/closer Johnny Omahen and outfielder Kyle Secciani to Medford for the summer.
Brill also played for the RiverDawgs last year and his father — and namesake — played in the Atlanta Braves system in the 1980s.
Other key returning Dawgs will be outfielder Chris Bradshaw, a former North Medford High standout, infielders Nick Rodda and Ryan Hayden and pitchers Austin Palmer and Tiger Sorenson.
Bradshaw led Southern Oregon in hits (59) and runs (27) and batted .376 with 19 RBIs, which tied for first on the team, during last summer's 17-22 season.
Jackson and Roberts also expect big things from, among others, Seattle University players Doug Kincaid (outfield), Marcelino Morales (outfield), Trent Oleszczuck (infield) and Jace Sloan (first base), as well as University of Oregon outfielder Mitch Huff, Riverside Community College catcher Jake Rogers and Green River Community College pitcher Luke Goodoin.
Local products Dylan Bedortha, Taylor Bars, Craig Kathol and Kory Locken from Oregon Tech will also be in the mix for a team that Jackson said is probably the deepest and most talented to don a RiverDawg uniform.
"I would expect for us to compete for the league championship," he said.
That league will be a blend of something old and something new for those who have followed Southern Oregon in recent years. The RiverDawgs will embark on the debut season of the 10-team Far West League but will face many familiar foes as a member of the league's North Division. Also on the RiverDawgs' side will be the Humboldt Crabs, Redding Colt .45s, Nevada Bullets from Reno, Calif., and the NorCal Pirates from Chico, Calif.
The Crabs defeated the Colt .45s in the championship game of the West Coast League Tri-State tournament, which also featured the RiverDawgs a year ago.
The FWL South Division includes the Atwater Aviators, California Glory, Fontanetti's Athletics, Fresno Cardinals and Neptune Beach Pearl.
The top three teams in each division will advance to the postseason tournament, which will be held Aug. 4-7 in Arcata, Calif.
"We're really excited about the new program and the new league," said Jackson. "It's going to increase the exposure for our players, our athletes and our coaches."
Another change for RiverDawgs will be the soon-to-be installed general admission bleachers that will flank the current box seats at Harry & David Field. The addition of the bleachers, which were being doused by primer on Friday by none other than RiverDawg founding member Jim McAbee, will increase the seating capacity from 210 to a little under 800.
The current box seats will be used for reserved seating, with the lower "Diamond Club" portion saved for season ticket holders in that section and sponsors, and the upper portion used for day-of-game purchases. Season tickets there will go for $150, with game-day reserved tickets at $7 apiece.
The additional bleachers will all be considered general admission, with season tickets for those set for $50 or game-day tickets available at $5 apiece.
Special promotions this season will also include family day opportunities on Sundays, with children receiving free admission by wearing their Little League jerseys from T-ball to majors, and other sponsored nights where free tickets may become available.
"We're doing a lot of things this year to make it easier for families to come to the ballpark," said Roberts.
"Our goal is for the average family to be able to come and take in a ballgame and do it for less than $20."
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, or email email@example.com. Follow him at twitter.com/Kris_Henry