HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WAFF) - 2021 couldn’t get here soon enough for Rocket City Trash Pandas Manager Jay Bell.
The first practice on Saturday, May 1st as a team at Toyota Field was truly special for a group of men who didn’t get to play Minor League Baseball in 2020.
“They were really excited to get spikes in dirt after such a long holdover,” Bell said during the Franchise’s first Media Day. “To be able to do that in Phoenix (Spring Training) was fantastic and to now get here to Rocket City is just glorious. So, these guys are excited about it, excited to get going.”
The Trash Pandas inaugural roster hasn’t been together since training camp in Arizona, and even then, most of the current roster wasn’t together with players on other teams or designated for another franchise. Still, outside of a stint in the Major Leagues last season for some players within the Anaheim Angles organization, many players were left waiting and trying to find creative ways to work out on their own.
“I think everyone’s excited in general because we didn’t get to play last year most of us you know?” Trash Pandas Infielder Dan MacKinnon added during Media Days. “So, just being back on a field and like people are gonna come and pay to watch again and play in front of people, that’s pretty fun you know? The majority of the stuff we did last year you’re at home. You’re hit off some of the local pro guys on your High School field. We were all staying ready, but it’s not the same when you actually have a batter’s eye, there are people watching, it’s a lot different.”
Trash Panda Outfield Torii Hunter Jr. agrees.
”Just to be able to come out here and play now and be with the guys,” Hunter Jr. said. “It feels really good to be back out here. It doesn’t feel real. But I’m sure once you step on that field and the crowd is yelling and chirping at you, I’ sure it’ll set in at that time.”
The Trash Pandas will send Reid Detmers to the mound as the Opening Day Starter against Chattanooga. Detmers is ranked as the 2nd best prospect within the Angles organization, and was drafted 10th overall in the 2020 Major League Baseball draft.
“I wouldn’t say there’s pressure,” Detmers said during Media Days. “I’m anxious, I can say that. But this is my job. I think anyone would say that. We’re out here to have fun. There’s no added pressure, we’re just ready to get going.”
As for the goals of the season, Bell said not to count them out just because they’re new.
“Do your best to figure out a way to win us a championship right here in Rocket City and we’ll enjoy that as much as a World Series,” Bell said. “Now we want them to go one and help the Angels win a world series too, but right now this is where they are at, this is where they are starting and hopefully we have a great deal of success.”
The Trash Pandas will play Chattanooga for six games, before returning to Madison to play their first-ever home game on May 11th against the Tennessee Smokies.