With just about 48 hours until the Aberdeen IronBirds open their 17th season, the current roster of 26 players worked out at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium Wednesday evening in front of a few hundred fans.
The ‘Birds will open the season Friday against the Hudson Valley Renegades in New York-Penn League play. First pitch is set for 7:05 p.m.
Leading Aberdeen into battle is manager Kyle Moore, a 32-year-old former Baltimore Orioles minor leaguer, who just a couple of weeks ago, was the hitting coach at Frederick.
“Super excited, I didn’t think I was going to be here a week and half ago, so when I got asked to take this position, I was just really extremely excited for many different reasons,” Moore said. “It’s kind of a dream come true for me, I’ve always wanted to manage and you just never know when something like that, an opportunity like that, is going to present itself. I was fully invested in being a hitting coach and I loved being a hitting coach, but I’m really pumped for this opportunity to be here in Aberdeen.”
The 26-player roster shows 13 pitchers, three catchers, seven infielders and three outfielders.
Seven players played and ended the 2017 season as an IronBird and two players were drafted the Orioles earlier this month.
Brandon Bonilla, son of former major leaguer Bobby Bonilla, is excited to be back. “It’s great to be back at Aberdeen, we have a great facility. Its just it’s fun, we’re familiar with the area, familiar with the travel,” Bonilla said. “We’re excited to get after it this year and just try and win the division, which would be big for us.”
Bonilla, a 6-3, 220-pound lefty was used in relief roles last season.
Luke Ringhofer, a 6-1, 210-pound catcher, was a 2017 Orioles draft pick. “The fans are always good here, some of the best in the organization, so it’s always fun to have that aspect, I guess, when you’re playing at home in front of good crowds,” Ringhofer said. “Opening Days are always awesome. We were down in extended and you don’t play in front of crowds or people. The game, they’re really no scoreboards, Be nice to play some meaningful games and especially in front of a good home crowd.”
Having been here and having that experience is big for Bonilla as he passes experiences on. “The biggest thing is routine, that’s the biggest thing, having a routine,” Bonilla said. “Getting a feel for your body and how you feel day-to-day because it’s going to be longer days.”
Other players who were with Aberdeen last year are pitchers Nick Gruener, Josh Keaton, Jimmy Murphy and Victor Romero; and infielder Carlos Baez.
Robert Neustrom (6-2, 208, L/L) is a fifth round pick this year and an outfielder from the University of Iowa. “it’s a new chapter, I’m looking forward to putting in work for this organization. Thanks to the Orioles for drafting me first off,” Neustrom said. “I’m looking forward to it and something I’ve been working for my whole life and I’m excited to get going.”
Doran Turchin (6-2, 195, R/R) is also a 2018 draft pick, coming to the Orioles in the 14th round from the University of Illinois. Turchin is an outfielder.
The only other outfielder on the roster is Robbie Thorburn (5-11, 190, L/R), a 2017 draft pick from UNC-Wilmington.
Other pitchers on the roster are Jose Diaz, Javier Echevarria, Ruben Garcia, Hector Guance, Zach Matson, Luis Perez, Willie Rios and Nick Vichio.
Additional catchers are Bryndan Arredondo and Alfredo Gonzalez. Infielders are Tyler Coolbaugh, JC Escarra, Adam Hall, Milton Ramos, Willie Yahn and Guiyuan Xu, signed as a non drafted free agent in 2015 from Puning, China.
Fans who made their way to the stadium also had the pleasure of testing some of the new food, one of the biggest changes made to the experience this year
One such partaker was Jim Wheelock of Bel Air, who along with his family, were making their first trip to the stadium. “I just had the Frito Chili-Cheese Dog and it was delicious,” he said. “First time here, just moved out here from New Jersey three months ago.”
Wheelock liked what he saw as well. “It’s nice, it reminds me of back home, I lived near the Lakewood Blue Claws, which I think is single A,” Wheelock said. “Very similar stadium, it’s nice, family friendly. We’ll definitely be back for sure.”
Manager Moore, though on an Aberdeen roster for one game in 2011, never played at Ripken Stadium. “I’ve been all over, I’ve been all over in college, all over in pro ball. This stadium’s phenomenal, this whole facility is unbelievable. I have a hard time believing that this is short-season A,” Moore said. “Having been in high A and low A and double A, this the best facility we have, bar none.”
Reach Randy McRoberts on Twitter @aegissports.