IronPigs: Everything You Need To Know About Opening Day 2018

Welcome to the 11th season of professional baseball at Coca Cola Park.  Today we’ll look at the team, their chances for success, and what’s new in and around the park for 2018.

Photo: Cheryl Pursell

Who’s On The Team This Year?

This is the first thing folks ask me when we start talking about the ‘Pigs.  Prior to the team opening in P’tucket, I did player capsules for every player HERE.  Since then, there have been some transactions:

3/31 RHP Yacksel Rios recalled by Philadelphia.
RHP Tyler Viza added to Lehigh Valley roster.
4/5 INF Heiker Meneses promoted to Lehigh Valley from Reading (AA).
RHP Enyel De Los Santos assigned to Williamsport (SS-A).
4/9 RHP Enyel De Los Santos promoted to Lehigh Valley from Williamsport (SS-A).
INF Heiker Meneses assigned to Reading (AA).
4/11 RHP Drew Anderson placed on the DL (right forearm strain) retro to 4/8.
RHP Jake Thompson added to Lehigh Valley roster (optioned by PHI, 4/7).

If you want to get to know the players a little bit better, you can watch our 2018 Video Series, starting with THIS POST about Roman Quinn, and continue through with the other video interview posts, culminating with a little ping pong match.

Printable Roster:  2018 LHV Roster-4-11


How Is The Team Doing?

We all remember 2008:  That team was horrid and I remember people saying, “I’m not going until they can at least win a game.”  So folks care more about winning than the team might think.  It doesn’t always mean they’ll stay home–so you won’t see it in the attendance like you might with the big team.  It just means they’ll be unhappy and less energized about things.

The team started on the road in 2018, with the first three scheduled game in P’tucket, affiliate of the Red Sox.  The first game was called due to weather/unplayable field.  The online schedule doesn’t mention the makeup date, but I imagine they’ll try to get it in over Memorial Day weekend when the ‘Pigs return to Rhode Island.  The ‘Pigs and Paw Sox split the next two games.

The team stopped in Moosic on the way back, in order to play the first three games in the 2018 IronRail Series.  The Rail Monkeys took the first two games, while the IronPigs got one back last night.  This leaves us with a 1-2 deficit in the super-important intra-state series–against a formidable team which should be stocked with prospects throughout the year considering the Yankees currently rich farm system.

So we open the home schedule with a 2-3 record overall, fourth place in the IL North, 1.5 games back of Scranton.

“Yukon” Pullin is certain the 2018 IronPigs will be able to find ‘Silver and Gold’ Photo: Cheryl Pursell


So where does this go this season?  As always, it’s hard to tell.

Here’s How It Could All Go Well:

The veteran talent on this team–Anna, Amarista, Ortiz, McBride–can really hit.  Ortiz has some power, but the other guys have a long track record of really decent AAA batting averages and peripherals.  Add in a healthy Roman Quinn for as long as we have him, and some improvements from slugger Dylan Cozens and solid play from utility man Jesmuel Valentin and this team could score enough to be really tough given the talented rotation, where a prospect starts every single night.

Here’s How It Could All Go Wrong:

The Phillies take Quinn, Cozens never improves, and the veterans check out by July when they realize they’re not getting called up.  The Phillies take some of our starting pitchers, but the prospects coming from Reading aren’t ready yet and we end up with poor to middling pitching to go with a below-average lineup.

Here’s What Will Probably Happen:

Even if pitchers get called up or injured, we have enough depth, and the guys in Reading are really talented.  The pitching will probably always be there this season–it will just be a matter of winning games 3-1, 4-2 and not getting into 8-7 affairs.  The Yankees have a ton of prospects and if they keep stocking that Moosic team, then we’ll have difficulty keeping up with them and might need to battle for a wild card.  Maybe we get there and maybe we don’t.

Photo: Cheryl Pursell

What’s New At The Park This Year?

As always, the only constant is change.  Let me bring you up to date on a few important changes for 2018:

  1. New Ticketing System:  This is one of those “non-sexy” things you might not notice right away.  But, with new management software running the ticketing, there could be snafus tonight.  Be patient and remember that the gate staff didn’t pick the system.  I’m sure if there are any problems tonight they’ll get straightened out forthwith.  Arrive early, and take some time to set up your online ticketing account.  Eventually, I think this new system will work really well with mobile ticketing–but I don’t think they’re promoting that right now.
  2. New Travel Plans:  As you may have heard, the Tilghman Street bridge is closed and will remain so for the foreseeable future.  Even if you don’t normally arrive or depart that way, it may affect your travel as traffic moves to alternate routes.  The team has issued an advisory to help you (HERE).  My biggest concern isn’t getting there; we all arrive mostly at different times.  My concern is with egress.  Some of the bottlenecks could be formidable.  Hopefully they issue a similar advisory about egress once they see where the problems are.  
  3. New Food Options:  A host of new menu items, all about the park, have been announced.  Photos and descriptions, along with my own unique take, can be found HERE.  Also, remember to use your to locate the food and drink you need.  It might not be completely updated as I check it right now, but it still works.
  4. New Sunday Threads:  I got a whiff of it on Media Day, but kept my mouth (mostly) shut so that the team could make their big announcement.  It came yesterday.  The team will wear old-time Phillies Maroon on Sundays this season.  Hats and replica jerseys–and hoodies and T-Shirts are available in the Majestic Clubhouse Store right now.  
  5. Drones:  Last night we learned that Service Electric will be using drones to help them with their game broadcasts this season.  I’m all for advancement, and these buggers will probably be delivering my Amazon packages before too long–but they also freak me out.  I hope they don’t interfere with my enjoyment of the game from the club level seating area.
  6. New Game Rules:  Minor League Baseball, in their infinite wisdom, is trying to speed up the games.  There will be new rules about our pitch clock.  We’re in a “grace period” right now, so you won’t see the umpire call anything until April 20.  But, the bigger change is with extra innings.  Starting in the top of the 10th, each team will start their part of the inning with a “ghost” runner on second.  The final batter from the previous inning will take second as if he has reached via error.  It’s as silly as it sounds, and I’ll have more about this going forward.
  7. New Manager:  Gary Jones takes over as “Boss Hog” for the 2018 season, with Dusty Wathan moving on to Philadelphia.  Mr. Jones has been the third-base coach for the Chicago Cubs.  I think we might have the most-qualified third base coach in the International League!
  8. Special Salute Nights:  A salute to Hispanic Heritage in May will be a big deal as we’re part of a national campaign there.  The salute to LGBT night is also quite unique.
  9. New Pork Racer:  “Ribbie” joins the other pork racers tonight.  As far as I know, no one has actually seen him yet.  He should win, of course, but this should be interesting (for a while).
  10. A College Game:  Coca Cola Park will host a college baseball game this season, as well as the usual food-truck-type events.  I’m sure you’ll hear about them.

Photo: Cheryl Pursell

What You Need To Know If You’re Going Tonight

Here are some things to keep in mind if you’re headed out this evening for opening night:

  1. Amateur Hour:  I always say this about opening night.  First night on the job for a lot of folks, a crowded stadium where no one has had ballpark food for months.  Eat before you go.  And say hello to folks–some of whom you won’t see again until June!
  2. Early Gates:  Thursday Happy Hour with an opening night twist.  5PM East Gates.
  3. T-Shirt Giveaway:  With the early gates, you might need to arrive early to get the T-Shirt.  I haven’t seen it yet, but Opening Day giveaways are usually pretty nice, and it’s Service Electric as a sponsor and they usually put their name on the good stuff.
  4. Dogs and Drafts:  Dollar Hot Dogs and $2 Domestic Drafts from 5PM to 7PM today.  It beats standing in line for the other food and you’re not already sick of Hot Dogs, are you?
  5. Heros:  Since it’s not a party until the police arrive, they’ll be parking the cruisers on the warning track today.  Mind your manners.
  6. Other Beer Changes:  A source told me there may be some changes in the beer offerings, especially the taps.  I’m anxious to find out if this information is accurate.  But, we DID get Lager and Light Lager last season, so we’ll see.  The food finder suggests not, though.

See you at the park!


Categories: CherylPursellsPhotos, Coca Cola Park, Kram's Korner - From the Club Level, Lehigh Valley IronPigs

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