The San Rafael Pacifics held their first day of spring training yesterday at Albert Park. New and returning players assembled for a talk on the upcoming season by team General Manager Mike Shapiro before they hit the field for exercises and practice.
This is the third year for the independent professional baseball team who won the league championship in 2012 and last year won their division title but narrowly missed out winning the championship title to the Na Koa Ikaika of Maui. They were one of the two Hawaiian teams that folded at the end of the 2013 season and some of those players were absorbed by other teams in the league. Two players from the two Hawaii teams who are now on the Pacifics roster are pitchers Jesse Smith from Na Koa Ikaika and Chuck Lofgren from the Hawaii Stars from Hilo. Smith was a star pitcher for Maui and the league's Pitcher of the Year in 2012. He is coming to the Pacifics as their number one starter and pitching coach.
In addition to discussing their new players in a telephone interview, General Manager Mike Shapiro also talked about the Pacific's charismatic new manager Dan Di Pace who is a veteran of independent baseball for over 20 years. “He has this incredible wealth of experience, but in addition to that he has an incredible personality, he's a very open and gregarious kind of guy and the players just sort of love him. He's known as the Tommy Lasorda of independent baseball, so he has this larger than life personality. (He is) apparently also an incredible disco dancer,” Shapiro said.
For those who have been to Pacifics games in the last two seasons there are some new things for the 2014 season. “We have so many things going on this year, all of which I think are going to be incredibly engaging for our fans and encourage people to come out to the ballpark. Jose Canseco is coming out for our home run derby, we have Jerry Mathers the Beaver coming out to sign autographs, we have Eric Byrnes who played for the Oakland A's who is going to play for a couple of days for us. Plus a wide range of giveaways plus other fun promotional events going on that I think is going to be incredibly exciting and give fans a lot of good reasons to come to the ballpark,” Shapiro said.
On Friday, May 30 the Pacifics will have play an evening exhibition game and are offering free tickets to the public on a first-come, first-served basis. The first regular game of the season is on June 3rd against the Sonoma Stompers.