Hustle and Flow

Baseball season in the Alamo City officially kicked off last week when the San Antonio Missions hosted the Tulsa Drillers in their home opener. The Missions’ smooth 2-0 win served as a grand re-opening of sorts for the newly renovated Wolff Stadium, and for the Missions themselves, who are now the minor-league affiliates of the San Diego Padres. When the Missions took control of the stadium from the city last November, they quickly began working on upgrades, ranging from fresh paint, to improved lighting and sound systems, and a new scoreboard with video capabilities, none of which were lost on Missions manager Randy Ready.

“I think we start with the improvements to the ballpark, with the new lighting and of course, the scoreboard. That’s fabulous,” Ready says. “That’s big league for where we’re at. I think overall with the home opener, we’ve gotta be pretty pleased.  The club was excited to get home and get that going and play well that night, which we did.  We pitched real well and had a couple timely hits and just played a pretty solid game.”

A spring storm dampened the festivities on Friday, April 13, when the game was called in the bottom of the seventh. On Saturday night it was back to business as the Missions overcame a disappointing 6-3 rain-delay loss, to take the three-game series from Tulsa in a thrilling 10-3 victory highlighted by second baseman Sean Kazmer’s second-inning grand slam.  The series with Tulsa also gave fans a preview of the National League brand of baseball that will be on display when the Missions face off against other NL affiliates, including the Corpus Christi Hooks and Springfield Cardinals.

“Well, you’re gonna see pitchers hitting and hopefully there’s gonna be situations where they’re gonna have to fundamentally be sound in their bunting techniques, and move runners up and get them in scoring position to help themselves,” Ready says. “Of course, in the National League there’s a lot more strategy involved and it’s exciting cause you can involve all 24 players. Everybody’s gonna get an opportunity with pinch-hitting and double-switching, and day-in, day-out it’s nice ’cause players all know they’re gonna be involved in the game.”

Ready comes to San Antonio fresh off a successful three-year-stint with the Fort Wayne Wizards. In his five-year managerial career, the former major-leaguer has never failed to guide his team into the playoffs, a feat he plans on repeating with the Missions. “I think that we establish a routine, a consistent routine and preparation in our early work, in our skill work, to do the best job that we possibly can,” says Ready, describing his keys to success. “Not only from the players’ standpoint but also from our staff, including our pitching coach, hitting coach, trainers, strength and conditioning coach, everyone is involved in the day-to-day operations. I would say probably the biggest thing is creating a positive environment and making sure that we establish our routine, and our preparation is ready to begin play when the game starts.”

The new skipper’s reputation as a winner, coupled with the warm reception the players have received in San Antonio, has many of them eyeing the post-season. “We feel that we’re going to have a good season,” says left-handed hurler Arturo Lopez, who hails from Culiacan, Mexico. “The team is really motivated. We are all very good players and very united. We think it’s going to be a good season and I have confidence, as we all do, that we will make the playoffs.”

The refreshing new movement at Wolff Stadium is far from completion. The team is already working on adding a patio deck along left field and implementing a new ticket system, similar to that of the Spurs, where you can print out your own tickets, to alleviate long lines.

“San Antonio is a big-league city,” Ready says. “You’ve got the Spurs, and other than the Spurs, the San Antonio Missions has gotta be the best thing going in town. I think as we get going, the word will get out. They do a nice job here, the Missions staff, of providing for a family atmosphere. Good times to be had by all.” 


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