It is just something the participants get used to, the nature of independent baseball marked by seasonal uncertainty, and fluidity of the roster from year to year.
For Manager Vince Moore, now in his sixth year with Edinburg, the fact that from summer to summer, he doesn’t exactly know who will be in camp, well, it’s just part of the game.
“It is always like that, we spend a lot of time in the offseason trying to arrange a roster,” he said last week, as the Roadrunners were in the midst of a 14-game homestand as the ULB season got rolling in earnest. “And that means chemistry is a must.”
Bringing together men from disparate backgrounds always presents challenge, and in indie ball, the situation is more acute, as all of the players look to move up to affiliated ball. Still, a handful of regulars tend to become entrenched as consistent roster names, and fan favorites.
Moore said that in 2010, the early returns on team chemistry are positive, helped in part by a group of veterans who have been in town for years. Though leader Eric Gonzalez, the last remaining original Roadrunner from 2001, is now with Harlingen, Moore can still call upon pitchers Aaron Guerra, Julio Castro, and Eric Montoya as long-time hands familiar with his system.
As the ‘Runners continue to get to know one another, these three are still in the thick of the plans for this summer.
Castro has been here since 2006 and is the club’s leader in saves over that span. Jovial and fun-loving, he has also become a team leader who knows what it takes to be successful at the professional level.
Guerra, in his fourth year with the club after growing up in Edinburg and hurling for The University of Texas-Pan American, has gotten off a slow start due to his duties as teacher and coach at Economedes HS. The Jags celebrated graduation Sunday meaning that Guerra will get the work in that he had to miss in May.
“It’s been tough so far, I haven’t hit my spots real well yet,” said the crafty righthander, who was among the league’s best in 2008 with nine wins. “But I now have the time to devote to the game, and I should be able to get it going.”
He travels to the mound minus the shaggy quasi-afro he wore for years, which calls into question whether he might need a new nickname to replace the former moniker. “The Mad Scientist.”
Montoya, meanwhile, has pitched pain-free this season for the first time in years. Though he was roughed up Thursday, allowing seven runs against Amarillo, the 31-year-old stalwart is excited about spending less time in the training room, after two seasons of constant problems.
“I was slow to test it out, really,” admitted Montoya, who is now the dean of the team with the departure of Gonzalez. “But I started throwing all my pitches and danged if there was no pain! It was really refreshing, because the past couple of years I have just not been able to get completely healthy.”
Moore likes his staff this season, with newcomers Mark DiBernardo and Wardell Starling joining last year’s star, Tim Haines, like Guerra a local product from Sharyland HS and UTPA. What he doesn’t particularly like is the home-game barrage so early.
“I prefer to end the season with the homestands,” he said, mentioning that when the team rallied from the second division into the ULB playoffs in 2009, it did so with a great stretch of late-season wins at Edinburg Baseball Stadium. “But we have to deal with the schedule we have, I guess.”