COMSTOCK PARK, Mich. --
As is the case in most seasons, 2015 begins with a lot of new faces wearing the Whitecaps uniforms. The most familiar face in the dugout this year is that of manager Andrew Graham, who returns for his second season in West Michigan.
“It’s like anything else, the second time around is more comfortable, in your surroundings I know the coaching staff better and am ready to go but we’ve got a good team here this season and I’m ready to get the season going, I really am,” said Graham.
West Michigan had a very successful season in 2014 with Graham at the helm winning 82 games to making the Midwest League Playoffs for the first time since 2010. Last years team did it with pitching and defense, Graham thinks this team will be different.
“I think we are going to drive the ball a little more I don’t think our defense is as polished as it was last year," said Graham. "Our bullpen is probably a little better than last year but our starting pitching is probably not as good so there are some positives there and there is a little negative but they’re a great group of guys that love to play baseball and that is what we need.”
One of the guys who figures to provide some pop is first baseman Giancarlo Brugnoni, who is the all-time home run leader in GLIAC history while playing at Grand Valley State.
“I wasn’t that familiar with West Michigan until I got to Grand Valley and once I started coming to games it was a dream of mine to play here I thought maybe one day I could get there and do the things that those guys were doing," says Brugnoni. "So, to finally put on the uniform and get into the stadium and say this was my home ballpark it was just very humbling but very exciting feeling that kind of took over.”
Another big draw at Fifth-Third Ballpark this season will be outfielder Derek Hill, the Tigers first round draft pick last summer and a player many believe to be the organizations top prospect.
“I’d say speed and energy," Hill said when asked what he brings to the organization. "They want me to run as much as they can and in the outfield they want me to be the gold glove caliber outfielder that I know I can be.”
The season begins Thursday with the first pitch scheduled for 6:35 p.m. at Fifth-Third Ballpark against the Dayton Dragons.