Cutters’ players ready to start the 2019 campaign
Life in extended spring training is a grind, according to Corbin Williams. Days in Florida are hot and humid with a deluge of rain which can pop up without warning. Next to no fans come to the back fields to watch games which mean absolutely nothing in terms of standings.
So Wednesday’s media day for the Williamsport Crosscutters represented a rebirth of a baseball season for the 31 players who posed for photos and answered questions from a bunch of people they’ve never met before.
The heat and humidity were replaced with a cool breeze, 70-degree temperatures, and a sun blanketing the field without also being abrasive. To say this group of players and coaches were excited to see the mountains of central Pennsylvania is probably a drastic understatement.
“Wooooo!” Williams said. “We’ve been grinding this whole time for this opportunity to present itself. Now it’s here and it’s up to you as a player to capture it. I know I’m ready.”
The Cutters open the season Friday night at Bowman Field against the State College Spikes. It’ll be the first time some of the players in Cutter uniforms will play under the lights. It’ll be the first time some of the players see more than a dozen fans in the stands.
“A lot of (extended spring training) is repetition and doing the same thing every day,” pitcher Tom Sutera said. “You eat your lunch, play your game and head home and do the same thing the next day. After a while you’re ready for a change and we were ready to get here.”
This first iteration of the Crosscutters’ roster for the summer featured just four players which appeared on top prospect lists in the offseason. It’s a smaller number than teams of recent years have had, but the coaching staff believes the sum of the parts may be more valuable than the individual pieces.
Especially in the pitching staff where not a single one of the 17 pitchers on the roster appeared on a prospect ranking list. That’s not to say it’s a roster void of talent, it’s just a roster pieces together differently than teams of recent years.
“We have a lot of good, young talent in the field,” said manager Pat Borders, who is back for his fifth season in Williamsport. “And the pitching, as a group, is probably as good as we’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Catcher Logan O’Hoppe appeared on the most prospect rankings lists in the offseason, being listed by four publications. Infielder Nicolas Torres was on three, as was infielder Logan Simmons. Catcher Juan Aparicio was on one list.
It’s an older roster than in years past, but one which still features eight teenagers. There are 15 players age 22 or older.
But it’s a team with a solid amount of speed — Williams is an 80-grade runner on the 20-80 scouting scale. It’s a team which can hit for average — O’Hoppe and Aparicio combined to hit .353 last year. And it’s one of the more effective pitching staffs Berrios has had in his four years in Williamsport.
“I assume they’re going to be a very aggressive team on the basepaths,” Borders said. “I’ve been preaching about stealing and taking the extra base and putting pressure on the opposing defense.”
“We’ve seen a lot of great pitching in extended spring. This year, we have maybe not the same talent, but we have better pitching,” Berrios said. “They’re better pitchers and they know how to efficiently get the ball over the plate and attack hitters and do it with the least amount of walks. It’s been fun to watch so far.”
Williamsport is looking for its first playoff appearance this summer since winning the Pinckney Division in 2015. The Crosscutters have qualified for the New York-Penn League playoffs only once in the last 13 seasons after qualifying four times from 2001 to 2005.
“We’ve got some kids who have never played under the lights and have never played in front of more than 10 fans,” Borders said. “So it’s going to be exciting for them to see how they react to the noise and the crowd here.”