A local summer collegiate baseball team will feature new seats and earlier start times for its weekday games in Springfield this season.
The Champion City Kings, members of the wooden bat summer collegiate Prospect League, will open its fourth season at 7:05 p.m. Friday night against the Chillicothe Paints at Carleton Davidson Stadium, 1101 Mitchell Blvd.
The team recently spent $15,000 to add 670 new seat backs on the grandstand bleachers at the stadium to make seating more comfortable for spectators, said General Manager Rick White, a former Major League Baseball relief pitcher and Kenton Ridge High School graduate.
The team also will add more picnic tables down the first base line, he said. Next fall the Kings plan to add another picnic and shelter house area down the third base line, he said.
“We want to make little improvements each year to hopefully grow with the fan base,” White said.
The team will also move up its start times to 6:35 p.m. on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday games this year to accommodate work schedules, he said. A fan poll overwhelmingly chose the earlier start time, White said.
“We’re still trying to go everything for the fans to make it easier for everybody,” he said. “Anything the fans can give us to make it a better place for them, we’re trying to do.”
The Friday and Saturday games will start at 7:05 p.m., while the Sunday games will begin at 4:05 p.m.
More than 14,000 people attended games last season, including several sold-out games at more than 1,500 capacity, White said. The attendance has increased each year, he said.
It will be the first full season for the team’s new ownership group, who purchased the club in April 2016. Several promotions will continue this year, including $2 Tuesdays, dollar dog nights on Wednesdays and family day on Sundays. The Friday and Saturday games will also feature happy hour from 5:30 to 7 p.m. that will include beer specials while the team’s take batting practice.
The team will rent the stadium for $14,000 from the National Trail Parks and Recreation District to play its 30 home dates this season, NTPRD Executive Director Leann Castillo said.
Last year, White served as both field manager and GM. This year White will serve as pitching coach to allow for more time to serve as GM before home games, he said.
Mike Ruechel, an assistant coach at Indiana Wesleyan University, was recently named the team’s head coach.
The team opened the season with a two-game road trip to Butler, Pa., on Tuesday and Wednesday. They were scheduled to travel to Chillicothe for a game on Thursday before returning for the home opener on Friday.
The Kings will play the Springfield (Ill.) Sliders at 7:05 p.m. Saturday and 4:05 p.m. Sunday.
The Kings barely missed its first playoff spot last year.
The team was in a panic mode a few weeks ago as a majority of the players’ college teams were headed to the playoffs, White said. However, the team currently has 24 of its 27 players in uniform, while the remainder of the league will have a majority of temporary players, he said.
“We’re feeling good about that,” he said. “We think we’re going to be able to go in there right at about full strength to start the season off and hopefully get a little streak going and build a lead to where we can add our other guys in a few weeks and take this thing to the next level.”
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