Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rascals, Grizzlies Open Frontier League Play This Week

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Rascals, Grizzlies Open Frontier League Play This Week

Article excerpt

River City Rascals manager Steve Brook received an unexpected call from Oakland A's farmhand Ben Bracewell earlier this week.

A righthander with Class AA Midland of the Texas League, Bracewell, a former Rascal, pitched eight shutout innings Monday, improving to 2-3 and lowering his ERA to 2.94. In 33 2/3 innings, he has 27 strikeouts and four walks.

"Ben was with us in 2014 and, to be honest, he wasn't very good," Brook recalled. "But he has his career on a great path now. To me, he's a reminder of what independent league baseball is all about. Our job isn't about wins and losses, it's about giving these players a chance, an opportunity to compete and to chase the dream."

Phil Warren, manager of the Gateway Grizzlies, agrees.

"You want to win -- that's what being an athlete and a competitor is all about -- but I can live with a tough season if it means I helped get four or five or six guys a chance to be sign and move on to big league organizations," he said. "We've struggled lately, but at least some of that feeling is eased when Trevor Richards, who pitched here in 2015, made a start earlier this year for Miami against the Red Sox."

Richards, a Mater Dei High product, is back in Class AAA after making five April starts for the Marlins, going 0-2 with a 4.94 ERA.

The Rascals, who will host the 2018 Frontier League All-Star Game on July 11, open the season at 7:05 p.m. Thursday in suburban Chicago against the Windy City ThunderBolts. River City will open its home schedule Tuesday at CarShield Field in O'Fallon, Mo.

On Friday at 7:05 p.m., the Grizzlies host the defending league champion Schaumburg Bombers at GCS Credit Union Ballpark in Sauget.

RASCALS CELEBRATE 20th SEASON

River City, which began Frontier League play in 1999, finished 50-46 a year ago and missed the playoffs for the first time in four years. The Rascals won the title in 2010 and were league runner-up in 2009, 2011, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

"We had a decent season but struggled late," said Brook, a former standout pitcher who's in his ninth year as manager and his 14th with the organization. "It came down to a late-season road trip where things just didn't fall our way."

Last year, the Rascals played at home on artificial turf for the first time.

"It's not good or bad, just different," Brook said. "This turf is the slowest I've seen and before, because of the short grass and rock-hard dirt, the ball just shot through the infield. Our team batting average dropped 30 points, but our ERA dropped by about a run.

"It's forced us to adjust, changed the way I do my job. …

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