Crosscutters impressed with Bowman Field improvements

KATELYN HIBBARD/Sun-Gazette Bowman Field’s playing surface and seats have been redone thanks to planned improvements and preparations for this summer’s MLB Little League Classic.

Leaning up against a padded wall near homeplate, Williamsport Cross­cut­ters manager Pat Bor­ders stared wide-eyed at Bowman Field taking in its new features.

The 90-year old ballpark looks nothing like what it did when he managed the Cutters for each of the past two seasons, and that’s a good thing. But Borders couldn’t help but think of one group of people who may not like the renovations.

“The umpires may not like it because they can hear us easier now, too,” Bor­ders said with a chuckle.

Borders and the rest of the Crosscutters had their first workout in Williams­port yesterday ahead of Monday’s season-opener at State College. The first home game is Tuesday night.

But for just this day, Borders took in the beauty of the $4 million worth of renovations to Bowman Field and heaped praise on the improvements.

BEN BRIGANDI/Sun-Gazette The new deck behind the right-field foul line looks out over Bowman Field.

“This is a Major League field. This is a super, super improvement,” said Borders, who played 17 seasons as a Major League catcher. “(Hitting coach Tyler) Henson said there’s not many Triple-A fields that can compare to this. The Major League fields, it’s on that level.”

Borders brought with him to Williamsport one of the more intriguing Crossc­utters teams in recent memory. And this is a Cutters team which has yet to receive any of the players the Phillies drafted during this week’s MLB draft.

There are 13 teenagers on the initial roster, including 17-year-old shortstop Jonathan Guzman. Out­fielder Jhailyn Ortiz is one of the most intriguing power-hitting prospects in the entire organization. And if the first day of batting practice showed anything, it’s that the Cutters may have to expand their budget for baseballs after the team deposited a couple dozen over the outfield fence.

This is a roster which also features five players who were included in various Phillies top prospect rankings during the offseason. Pitcher Kyle Young is a 7-foot tall left-hander who will get the start on Opening Day, according to pitching coach Hector Berrios, and Luis Carrasco has a fastball which has touched 97 mph.

The team arrived in Williamsport after two months in Clearwater, Flo­rida, for extended spring training. For Cole Stobbe, a third-round pick in the 2016 draft, getting out of Florida was as exciting as anything else.

BEN BRIGANDI/Sun-Gazette A view of Bowman Field from behind the far end of the third-base visitor’s dugout.

“It’s so hot and humid in Florida,” Stobbe said. “I walked out of the hotel room (Saturday) morning and I didn’t start sweating and I was like, wow, I love this place. This is awesome.”

The Cutters are coming off a 39-36 campaign a year ago in which they finished second in the Pinckney Division of the New York-Penn League. In his two years as manager, Borders has amassed a 85-66 record as a manager, including a 2015 Pinckney Division championship.

Of course, this incarnation of the Crosscutters’ roster could change drastically over the next couple weeks as players from this year’s draft are added to the various Phillies minor league clubs. But for now, it’s a roster full of intrigue.

“This is going to be fun to be playing in front of fans in a stadium in this setting,” Young said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun.”

“We spent a lot of time in Florida,” Stobbe said. “I went to spring training early, so I was there two or three weeks before that. Being in Florida and then coming here, it was fun and I’m just ready to start the season.”

KATELYN HIBBARD/Sun-Gazette The new deck behind the right-field foul line.