As the Florida Collegiate Summer League season approached, Andrew Mogg's preparation was interrupted by inquiring minds.
Whether they were neighbors or former classmates at West Orange, Mogg was willing to take time to let people know about the Winter Garden Squeeze.
A first-year team in the FCSL, the Squeeze will open their 45-game regular season Wednesday night against the College Park Freedom.
"It's been fun to see the community support around town," said Mogg, who will be a junior catcher at Virginia Tech. "I've seen tweets, I've seen posts around local restaurants like Chipotle, and I've had people come up and ask when the games start and when they can come out.
"It'll be fun to represent Winter Garden."
And it will be a first for the city in west Orange County. Since the FCSL's first season in 2003, no team has been placed in Winter Garden until now.
The Squeeze joined the six-team summer league, taking the place of the Orlando Monarchs.
"When you look at everything that's in Winter Garden, it has a small-town Americana feel,'' Winter Garden commissioner Bobby Olszewski said. "Nothing is more Americana than baseball."
Said Squeeze general manager Adam Bates: "We've always had them on the radar as a place to build a team. Once the Monarchs left, myself and other members of the league pushed to put the new team in Winter Garden."
The Squeeze will be coached by UCF assistant softball coach Ruben Felix and include three former West Orange players on their 26-man roster: Mogg and pitchers Shane Crouse and Brandon Murray. Crouse attends Lake-Sumter State College, and Murray will be a sophomore at USF.
Squeeze infielder Damon Haecker, who went to Lake Brantley, started all 56 games at Auburn and batted .259 with 24 runs scored.
"It's not so much weird [to be back] as it is exciting getting to play on the same field and same pitching mound again," Murray said.
The Squeeze will play their home games at West Orange.
"[I] never thought I'd be playing here again," Mogg said. "I was excited to come back [and] play with Shane [Crouse], who I played with for my last two years here."
The community apparently is excited, too.
More than 70 fans attended the Squeeze's first public appearance on May 28 at the Blue 42 Sports Grill in Winter Garden, and about 30 children took part in the team's little-league camp Sunday.
"We're about bringing baseball back here to Winter Garden," Bates said. "There are six schools within eight miles around here. It's like a mecca. So between the talent, the fans and the community, I think Winter Garden is going to embrace the team."
Said Olszewski: "I feel like there's a lot of excitement from members of the community in west Orange County, especially families with small children because it gives them something fun to do during the summer.''
And now that the Squeeze are in play, Winter Garden finally has a summer-league team to call its own.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun