The Hickory Crawdads enter the 2013 season tonight under brand new management.
Corey Ragsdale takes over the reigns from former skipper Bill Richardson —the all-time winningest manager in team history.
Ragsdale, a former player for the New York Mets (2001-07) and Texas Rangers (2008-09) organizations, returns to the Hickory — the last ball club he ever suited up for.
This will be the second-ever managerial stint for Ragsdale, who spent last fall coaching the Arizona League Rangers.
Ragsdale is taking a casual approach as ‘Dads skipper.
“I just really want the guys to have fun and enjoy what they are doing,” he said. “There comes a time where you have to be able to let the guys know right and wrong. Also, I want the guys to have fun while they are out there playing.”
This year’s team features a few familiar faces, but many new ones.
Outfielder Jordan Akins and catchers Jorge Alfaro and Joe Maloney are the only three players back from last year’s squad.
The 21-year-old Akins, who batted .199 with 85 hits, 11 home runs and 39 RBIs last season, is anxious for this season to start.
“I'm ready,” he said. “I'm excited for this year. I know I didn't perform as well as I could have last year. I'm just coming out here this year with a new mindset and a couple of things I've been working on. We'll see how it goes. I'm going to make some adjustments this year.”
Among the many new faces with the ‘Dads this year are a pair of 2012 first round draft picks in outfielder Lewis Brinson and third baseman Joey Gallo.
Brinson, a South Florida native, is hoping he and Gallo can break through on the field this season.
“It's an honor to be selected by the Texas Rangers in the first round,” he said. “This season, me and Joey are looking at it with open eyes. We are just approaching it as we don't want to lose a game. Our goal is to be in the big leagues one day and be on a fast track to there, but right now, we are here in Hickory. We just want to win.”
The ‘Dads open their 21st season tonight at 7 p.m. at L.P. Frans Stadium against the Greensboro Grasshoppers.
“For me, the expectations are to expect the guys to come out, play hard and play the game the right way every day,” Ragsdale said. “With the talent, they will win ball games.”