Character key for Alpine Cowboys in 2013
By Karen Boehler
Pecos League writer
ALPINE, Texas — The Alpine Cowboys are one of the three original Pecos League teams remaining, and the only team to have the same manager since even before the league began.
Which means manager Ryan Stevens knows what he wants from his team, and while skill on the baseball field is obviously important — Alpine wouldn’t have won last year’s title without it — Stevens is also looking for something more ephemeral: character.
And he feels he’s got that with both the players he signed from the Spring League and those on his spring training roster.
“Character’s a big thing for me,” Stevens said, “and I think it takes good-quality people to make a good team.”
That character starts with the five players the Cowboys got from the Spring League. Two, Kyeong Min Kim and Yoshimune Tsuji, come from across the Pacific — specifically South Korea and Japan — and Stevens said he and the Alpine community are happy to see them on board.
“I really think they’ll be a good addition to the team,” he said. “They’ll play some hard-nosed, Cowboy-style baseball. Mr. Kim is quite a good little outfielder. He’s got a good swing to him. He’s a switch-hitting outfielder and I think if we get him in our system out here, we can see some good development on him. He’s a great kid. Great kid.”
Tsujii had some rough outings during the spring camp as a reliever — ending up with a 6.68 ERA — but the manager is confident he’ll see time on the mound.
“He’s a very nice young man, and I think it takes good-quality people to make a good team,” Stevens said. “Just like Sean Rocky (a shortstop for Mesa) and D.J. Johnson (a third baseman who hit .345 for Mesa). They’re just good quality human beings. Yes, sir. No, sir. Very kind. Hard working They were some of the first ones there, last ones to leave type attitude. And that’s the Cowboy way here.”
Add in Josh Cruces, a right handed pitcher for Gallup who had a 1.16 ERA with 26 strikeouts — “(He was the) hardest throwing one at camp,” Stevens said — and the manager is happy with who he drafted.
“I’m just super excited because I was able to get there for a week and a half and spend time with those guys,” he said. “These are quality people. There were a couple of other guys I was a little disappointed (I didn’t get), I would have liked to have, but you can’t ask for better young men than that. They’re going to be great additions to the team and community here.”
The rest of the Cowboy spring lineup — which Stevens said is pretty much complete except for a few college players — is a mix of league returners and newcomers.
“We’ve got a quality team. Quality group of guys. We base our team’s strength off of pitching, always, but we’re going to play good defense and we’ve added some key components as far as veterans and rookies.”
With the exception of Brett Kennedy, Stevens has his No. 2-6 starting pitchers back from last year.
“They’re good starters. We’ve got good pitching,” he said.
Those returners include Brad Orosey, Brian Smith, Bryce Weidman, Mike Castrignano and Scott Hartling.
The bullpen is a little iffier because most of those Cowboys moved up — Alfredo Cabellero is now closing for San Angelo — but Stevens is busy finding replacements.
He also has strength behind the plate, he said, calling Mike Dobre — who was with Big Bend in their 2010 championship year in the Continental League then with the Evansville Otters — “an unbelievable catcher. Probably best catcher I’ve ever coached.”
Joel Carranza is another Alpine returner behind the dish, with third baseman Chris Davis, second baseman Derrick Fox, center fielder Eric Herman and first baseman Kevin Hennessey also back from last year’s championship team.
Add in former Roswell Invaders Casanova Donaldson (outfield) and Bryce Bell (short), and Alpine should once again be in the mix for a championship, despite all the talk about the north being the strongest division this season.
“Those goofballs can run their mouths all they want, but at the end of the year, the results will speak for themselves,” Stevens said.
The Cowboys will open spring training May 4 with a week on a ranch in the rural Texas community before heading out to Kokernot FIeld then to White Sands for opening day May 14.
For more information visit Pecos League of Professional Baseball Clubs LLC. http://www.PecosLeague.com 575-680-2212