When the independent baseball Roadrunners hit the field this week, they will display some new faces along with familiar veterans, as the Edinburg franchise rekindles the nickname that claimed two league titles before the Coyotes took over in 2006.
The Roadrunners started a three-game series at Edinburg Baseball Stadium Thursday against Laredo, and then will head onto the road for two weeks, returning to the Valley for home games from June 24 to July 5.
Fans at the Stadium will be pleased to see some old favorites in uniform, including veterans Eric Gonzalez and Eric Montoya. Those two have long roots in town with both the original Roadrunners and Coyotes, and are back for another go along with popular manager Vince Moore, in his fifth season. La Feria native Gonzalez hit .263 last year with 57 RBI, and can always be counted on for 110-percent effort; he’s the only player to have been around for all eight Edinburg pro baseball campaigns.
In fact, the entire outfield should be a familiar sight, with Gonzalez out there with Amado German and Nick Aranda at some point. German has been a consistent hitter in three seasons with the club, while the speedy Aranda hopes to fulfill his considerable potential while staying injury-free, a feat that has eluded him since 2006.
On the mound crew with the crafty battler Montoya will be another handful of Coyote vets, led by Kelly Casares and Bryan Heaston. Casares, one of three Texas-Pan American exes on the 2009 roster, spent two seasons with Sioux Falls after enjoying a stellar debut in pro ball with the ’06 Coyotes. Heaston engineered a 3.80 ERA with 60 strikeouts last year, while the lanky Casares compiled a gaudy 2.23 ERA in 2007.
Other Broncs playing for the hometowners include Sharyland grad Tim Haines, who set a UTPA record for career saves with 16 before signing a minor league contract three seasons back, and infielder Osiel Flores, who played at McAllen High, UTPA and in the Cleveland Indians organization.
Locals might recall another of the arms in the rotation, lefty Pedro Flores, who won two titles with the original ‘Runners and was an All-Star in 2004.
Two more hands that have Edinburg experience include Robert Matlock, the sweet-swinging lefty who batted well last year for the Coyotes, and catcher Cameron McGuire, an indy regular who appeared briefly for the team in ‘08.
As the Roadrunner moniker returns, the franchise hopes that its winning ways will be present as well. From 2001 to 2005, the club won 61 percent of its games with championships in 2001 and 2004. The Coyotes posted a 136-133 record in three years, with two playoff trips and all told, Edinburg ball teams have captured 57.5 percent of games the past eight years, earning seven postseason journeys in that time span.
The ULB field looks much the same as it did in 2008, with Laredo, San Angelo, Amarillo and the Harlingen WhiteWings still kicking. The new unit is the Coastal Bend Thunder from the Corpus Christi area, replacing the champion Alexandria Aces, who moved to the Continental League.