Winnipeg, MB, Canada
We don't know what the man is thinking. But we do know that he's Nate Brackburn, the General Manager of the Winnipeg Wolverines, a WBL D-League baseball franchise that debuted under unusual circumstances in the WBL's 13th season.
Up until the final 3rd of season 13, the Wolverines had been participating in Manitoba's provincial Independent League. Baseball in Manitoba lags far behind the development of their hockey programs, but the Wolverines were the cream of the independent league crop, for what that's worth. When the North Olmsted Devil Dawgs ran into surprising financial trouble and ultimately went bankrupt in the middle of the season, Brackburn seized an opportunity for his franchise and quickly managed a transition into the WBL's D-League. He had to hire staff, scout and recruit players, and oversee a significant renovation to Forks Field in order to hold a larger crowd. The on-field performance of the Wolverines was not particularly good, but the fact that they were playing at all was certainly commendable.
Nate Brackburn wrote:It happened incredibly quickly, that's for sure, but overall I'm incredibly happy with the results. I feel like our staff managed to sign some good, young players last season that I've re-signed for this coming year, and having a lot of cap room to work with allowed me to go out and sign some free agents that our staff was really keen on. A lot of people around the league will say we made some risky signings – and I can't deny that. But that's what this game is about. I'm taking a shot on some players I felt like didn't get used properly last season, and I'm excited to see what they can do here for the Wolverines.
Winnipeg native Benjamin Dover
Benjamin Dover wrote:I didn't pitch my best last season. There were some games where I was comfortable and really found my groove, but I feel like I didn't have the best chemistry with (Catcher, Tyron) Dakkar and there were games where our offence struggled as well. It's such an honour to pitch in front of my friends and family so often, and to represent my hometown. I sincerely think we will give our fans more to cheer about this year.
Graeme Streeg returns at first base for the Wolverines, an excellent hitter with solid fielding and leadership skills in the clubhouse. Ari Boosch is back with the team for their first full season, though primarily as the DH this year with the Wolverines' big free agent acquisition (more on that later). Duchess Archer, a promising young pitcher, returns to the bullpen along with Yimmiy Key, Mike Faradayand Joey Shabadoo, who were all signed late last season. Seven returnees from the final 25 players on the roster is a significant turnaround in personnel. Brackburn is gambling it's for the better.
Wolverines Centre Fielder Bobby Scherbatsky
Non-Pig alumni signed via free agency include Gary Texico, Max Planck, Calvin Jefferson, Michael Hunt, Michael Hawk, and Dougie Swaggs. Texico, who signed last season as the starting left fielder for the Japan Da Bears, found himself demoted to the bench for almost the entire second half of the season despite performing decently at the dish.
Gary Texico wrote:I didn't like how I was treated by Da Bears last season. They signed me to a deal, and I showed up and worked hard every single day only to have them bring in some other guy like 40 games into the season? Man, that ain't cool. I'm at a place where I'm trying to learn everything I can about the game, and you need to be playing to do that. I'm so glad to be here in Winnipeg with a fresh start and a lot of good buzz around the team
Planck, Jefferson and Swaggs all spent time last season with the Carnotaurs, a team that largely underachieved. They'll have another shot with a new club this season, and are hoping for some positive changes.
Dougie Swaggs wrote:Last season, I pitched the whole year out of the 'pen. It was the first time in my life I'd ever pitched out of a bullpen, and it was weird for me, man. I had trouble finding my flow. Couldn't get the rhythm. When Mr. Brackburn called and offered me a shot to pitch in a rotation this season, I couldn't say no.
New starter Dougie Swaggs
That's why Brackburn isn't at home with his family on this chilly spring evening in April. That's why he isn't with his scouts and he isn't on his BlackBerry. He knows that for now, he's done everything he can do. It's now up to the players on the field and his manager, Al Chudley, to do their part. The contracts are signed. The season tickets are bought. The buzz is loud. And, for the Winnipeg Wolverines, the time is now.