By TOM BONE
Bluefield Daily Telegraph
The field manager of the Bluefield Orioles has some predictions already for the Appalachian League season that starts Tuesday night — but not about wins or losses.
Einar Diaz said on Saturday evening, as the Orioles were settling in at Bowen Field, “We can run. We’re going to play hard. We like the kids; they want to learn. They hustle. They will hustle in the game.
“And that’s one of the important things — if you hustle, you will have a chance to win a game.”
Pitching coach Larry McCall said, “We did pretty well down in extended spring training. We had several who played really well.”
The roster makeup was still fluid last weekend. Five players were expected to arrive on Sunday to join the 28 who were present for the annual fans’ picnic on Saturday.
Diaz said that the turnout at that picnic, estimated at about 200 people, “makes you feel good. A lot of people come. The players are happy when they see the people.
“It’s different from the extended spring (training). Nobody goes to the games there. Now the fans come, over here. It makes you feel better. It makes you want to have fun at the games.”
He advised the players to “enjoy the fans” and appreciate the efforts of the Orioles Booster Club and other fans to make them feel at home.
“The fans over here, they will treat them good, really good,” he said. “They’re going to help them in any situation over here, whatever they need. It’s fun for (the players, but) they’ve got to work hard, too.”
For the newcomers to the Appalachian League, Diaz had some advice.
“I told them it’s a good league, a very good league for them,” he said. “When they come here, they’ll have to work hard.”
With one season of managerial experience behind him, Diaz said that 2010 “is going to be different. Last year, my first year as a manager, you have to learn a lot of different stuff. This year it’s going to be more easy for me ... the umpires, the lineup cards and everything. I will enjoy that.”
He was guarded about the expansion of the Appalachian League playoffs from two to four teams, two from each division. He said he liked the concept, but added a qualifier.
“It’s going to be something different. But you never know. In baseball, sometimes it’s good, sometimes it’s bad,” he said.
The overwhelming favorites to finish first in the East and West divisions are league champions Danville, and Elizabethton. Diaz remembered those squads, and offered his opinion that they are again formidable.
“Last year, we played good versus Danville, a couple of games,” he said. “I’m thinking Danville will play really hard, and Elizabethton will have a good team, too.”
He said in the late season this year, his players allowed themselves to “get tired.” He predicted that this summer, “We’ll need those games, to fight for third place.”
“The new guys,” he said, have an adjustment to make to the grind of pro baseball.
“For them, it’s a long season. For them, two months, playing every day, is tough. ... When they’re in school, they might play three or four games a week, or two.
“Here you have to play every day, throw the ball every day, run every day. It’s a little bit different. After a month or two months, you get a little bit tired — and we know that.
“But you’ve got to prepare for that. Every year, when you go to a different level, you’ve got to prepare for all that. Get your arms ready, and your legs ready. That’s baseball.”
The Orioles’ last pre-season practice, open to the public, is scheduled to begin today at 7 p.m. at Bowen Field.
Game 1 of the 68-game schedule is set for Tuesday at Pulaski. First pitch is at 7 p.m.
After a three-day series with the Mariners at Calfee Park, Bluefield starts its home season on Friday, hosting league champion Danville for a three-day series. Magnet schedules will be given away at Friday’s game.
— Contact Tom Bone at