Summer baseball is just getting started for the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs.
Grab your baseball cap and glove. Summertime is almost here — and that means another season of Winter Park Diamond Dawgs baseball.
The Dawgs are ready to start a new campaign in the Florida Collegiate Summer League, which also includes the DeLand Suns, the Leesburg Lightning, the Sanford River Rats, the Seminole County Scorpions and the Winter Garden Squeeze.
Each team will grind through a regular season from June through July leading up to the playoffs, culminating in a final championship game in St. Petersburg at Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Winter Park head coach Chuck Schall said the team looks like it has good depth in its pitching staff and a good balance of speed and power in its offense.
“I’m excited; we spent a lot of time recruiting these kids,” Schall said. “It’s always exciting in the beginning to see how they come together. We’ve been looking forward to this and we figure we have a good crop of kids coming in. We’re really looking forward to the beginning of the year.”
Returning to the Diamond Dawgs from last season is shortstop Cristian Rivera, who brings some strong defense play to the infield, Schall said.
“He basically comes to the ballpark the same every day — he’s ready to play, he’s excited to play and brings a lot of chemistry to the field,” Schall said. “I had him my first year when I was with Altamonte Springs, and we won the championship that year. He was a big part of it. He’s one of the best defensive players in the league.”
Joining the Dawgs this year are some promising players such as first basemen Jacob Teter and Christian Snow. Winthrop University catchers Bo Taylor and Ryan Watson also will be joining the group, along with Connor Andrews and Cale Jones behind the catcher’s mask.
“Behind the plate we should be pretty strong,” Schall said.
Winter Park will look to make another run at the title after falling short in the championship game last season against Sanford.
Schall said the league is all about developing players, but the excitement of competition helps push players to new limits.
“Of course, we want to win ball games and have a competitive atmosphere,” Schall said. “Our whole priority is helping these guys continue to get better in a really competitive environment. Winning isn’t the most important thing, but it’s still important if you want them to be competing at a high level. That’s one of my favorite things about the league is being able to help kids in anything they want to work on and seeing them get better.”
The Dawgs are looking forward to chasing the trophy once again, Schall said.
“It doesn’t matter if it’s summer ball, spring ball or winter ball — if you’re a competitor you want to compete and win,” he said.
The Dawgs season is off to a strong start with a 3-1 record so far. The team faced off against the Sanford River Rats on Wednesday, June 6, after press time.