The Greeneville Flyboys are slated to open their inaugural season in the new wood bat summer collegiate Appalachian League at the Elizabethton River Riders at 7 p.m. Thursday, and Greeneville manager Alan Regier is preaching patience for the product on the field.
While the fan who attends games to socialize on Thirsty Thursday might not notice a difference in play from when the Appy League was affiliated with Major League Baseball, the discerning fan might be able to tell the game played by college freshmen and sophomores isn’t played with the same crispness of professionals.
Nonetheless, Regier insists baseball in the new Appy League will be a quality product.
“I come into this very respectful from the history of the Appalachian League and what it has meant to the people in the towns of the league,” said Regier, who has 28 years of MLB scouting and player development experience. “The people who have been involved with putting this new league together – USA Baseball per Major League Baseball and the various college coaches – have absolutely done the best job that could be done putting this together for the first year.
“The biggest difference for the above-average fan will be the skill level, the tools that most of these players will bring to the field. For the most part, players in the new Appalachian League are just not going to be comparable to a professional player who has signed for a million dollars. But the concept is going to work. I think the future is bright. I think the league will be a solid league going forward. But we all need to have patience until we can get this thing rocking and rolling the way we have plans to.”
With college baseball tournaments still being played around the country, some of the top talent slated for the Appy League will not report until their college teams have finished their seasons.
The Flyboys, for example, will open their season without top players Kyle Karros (UCLA), Tayler Aguilar (Grand Canyon) and Homer Bush Jr. (Grand Canyon) who are all still playing in the NCAA tournament.
Karros, a son of former Los Angeles Dodgers slugger Eric Karros, has started all 53 of UCLA’s games this spring and has helped the Bruins to a 35-18 record.
A 6-foot-5, 210-pound right-handed hitting freshman third baseman, Karros is batting .253 (49-for-194) with nine doubles, a triple, three home runs and 24 RBI. Defensively, he’s made just five errors in 167 chances for a .970 fielding percentage.
Aguilar, a 5-11, 205-pound left-handed hitting sophomore outfielder, is batting .341 (56-for-164) with 11 doubles, two triples, six home runs and 43 RBI in 48 games for Grand Canyon, which has a 39-19-1 record.
Homer Bush Jr.’s father, Homer Bush, played seven seasons in the major leagues with the New York Yankees, Toronto Blue Jays and Florida Marlins, winning the 1998 World Series with the Yankees.
Homer Bush Jr., a 6-2, 185-pound right-handed hitting freshman outfielder, has played in six games for Grand Canyon this spring and is 1-for-6 with an RBI.
Other UCLA players slated to join the Flyboys include catcher Darius Perry, infielder Daylen Reyes and outfielder Emanuel Dean.
“There’s going to be a lot of roster movement with all the teams in the league as college teams are eliminated from the NCAA tournament,” Regier said. “From the fourth or fifth of July to the end of August, we’ll really rock and roll this league with some very good players and very good games.”
Included among the players already in Greeneville are pitchers Ryan Franklin and Mason Turner from Lincoln Memorial University, and pitcher Drew Honeycutt and infielder Paul Moore from Walters State Community College.
The Flyboys held their first full-squad workout at East Tennessee State University’s Thomas Stadium on Wednesday.
“I was happy with the club during the workout,” Regier said. “The kids who are here want to be here. They’re here to put on a good show for the people.”
Bryce Mayer, a 6-3, 210-pound freshman right-hander, will start on the mound for the Flyboys on Thursday. Mayer pitched in 10 games with one start for St. Charles Community College in Missouri this spring and was 6-2 with a 3.78 earned run average. In 52 1/3 innings, he gave up 42 hits, walked 28 and struck out 81.
“All the pitchers we talked to today – all but one – said they were ready to pitch tomorrow,” said Flyboys pitching coach Mack Jenkins, who spent 23 years as a player and coach in the Cincinnati Reds organization and also served as a coach in the Washington Nationals system. “… We have a lot of guys who didn’t pitch many innings in college this spring. We’ll get these guys work. We’ll make them better.”
The Flyboys are also slated to play at Elizabethton on Friday and at Bluefield on Saturday and Sunday. They are off on Monday and will host the Johnson City Doughboys in their home opener at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Pioneer Park.
2021 FLYBOYS ROSTER
Brett Anderson (Hartford), John Day (Illinois Central), Ryan Day (Colorado Mesa), Ryan Franklin (Lincoln Memorial), Connor Harris (George Washington), Drew Honeycutt (Walters State), Cal Lambert (Grand Canyon), Bryce Mayer (St. Charles), Andrew Morris (Colorado Mesa), Braden Nett (St. Charles), Carter Nowak (Illinois Central), Sam Peddycord (William Peace), Logan Peterson (Illinois Central), Derrick Rabb (UMES), Zane Robbins (Hartford), Luke Russo (Eastern Michigan), Will Saxton (Florida International), Austin Troesser (Missouri), Mason Turner (Lincoln Memorial), Cameron Wagoner (Eastern Michigan).
Grant Lashure (Ivy Tech), Eddie Micheletti (George Washington), Darius Perry (UCLA).
Trevor Austin (Missouri), Jake Dacunto (William Peace), Christian Ficca (Georgetown), Kyle Karros (UCLA), Paul Moore (Walters State), Daylen Reyes (UCLA), Derek Tenney (Hartford), Chris Williams (St. Petersburg).
Tayler Aguilar (Grand Canyon), Zeddric Burham (South Florida State), Homer Bush Jr. (Grand Canyon), Emanuel Dean (UCLA), Jonathan Hogart (Wabash Valley).
The Appalachian League and USA Baseball have announced the addition of experimental and modified rules for the Appalachian League’s inaugural season as a part of the Prospect Development Pipeline.
Driven by Major League Baseball and USA Baseball’s commitment to long-term overall athlete and arm safety, the updates include the addition of a re-entry rule, as well as modifications to the extra-innings rule.
The re-entry rule is for the second half of the season (July 8 and later). Pitching: A pitcher who starts an inning and exceeds 25 pitches before recording three outs may be substituted for a relief pitcher to complete the inning. The pitcher who began the previous inning and was substituted out of the game will be allowed to re-enter to begin the subsequent inning. The pitcher who came on in relief will also be eligible to re-enter the game in the following inning. Any pitcher who re-enters a game may only do so in consecutive innings. Position Players: Position players may be allowed to re-enter a game as necessary due to injuries or if injury prevention is essential.
If the game is tied at the end of regulation the extra-inning rule will begin in the subsequent inning, placing runners on first and second with no outs. If the game remains tied after the first completed extra inning, the following inning will begin with the bases loaded and no outs. The game will end in a tie if a winner has not been determined after two full extra innings have been completed.