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Building Warriors

ALPB President, Rick White, makes time for ALPB Roundup to map out the process of building a baseball team in one offseason and preparing for the ultimate summer road trip.

With the New Britain Bees transitioning to the FCBL in 2020, there is a void left in the Atlantic League. A void the size of one team or 126 games in the schedule. Unlike the other three major US sports, a day off, because you have no team to match up with, is not an attractive option for baseball leagues that schedule series lasting several days at a time. Whatever is a good and respectable league to do? Why, you create a team, of course!

While making a team where there wasn’t one a season ago is no easy task, it is even more difficult to find this team a steady home for one season while the league works to secure a long-term ballclub. Thus, the Road Warriors have been called into existence for the fifth time in the ALPB’s existence. True to their name, the Road Warriors battle their way through a schedule comprised exclusively of 126 road games. In other words, this is not a team to join if you live for a walk-off win.

If you’re wondering how monochromatic a schedule becomes without colored-in home games, consider you curiosity satisfied.

What exactly goes into constructing a team, not of mere ballplayers, but Road Warriors? Atlantic League President, Rick White, was kind enough to give ALPB Roundup some insight into the logistics of building the 2020 edition of the Road Warriors.

Unsurprisingly, there is a long list of daunting and equally vital tasks that would make a lesser man’s head spin. If I was in Rick’s position, based on all that he mentioned goes into this undertaking, I would likely need this type of list posted on my desk, walls, refrigerator, steering wheel, pets, family portraits, and maybe even the back of my eyelids just to keep everything straight. Luckily, Rick has League Administrator Emily Merrill and Road Warriors’ manager Ellie Rodriguez to lean on throughout the entire process.

As you can see, Rick and his cohorts are dealing with quite a project!

Thankfully, this isn’t Rick White’s first rodeo and the Atlantic League has learned a thing or two during the past seven Road Warriors’ seasons. “Coordination is most important,” Rick begins, “all hands rely upon schedules and routine.” Rick cites the difficulty of the grind as the toughest lesson they’ve learned over the years. “It’s tougher than most think on players,” Rick noted, pointing out the importance of proper nutrition during a baseball season. Also important are the kindnesses that clubs extend to the team, ranging from throwing the Warriors a barbecue to allowing them to occasionally be the home team or even inviting them to a swim party on an off day! These courtesies go a long way, but when it comes to putting the players in a position to succeed both on and off the field, Rick emphasizes composure. “The biggest lesson of all is to remain calm; overly emotional leadership puts the players on a tough game-to-game roller coaster and leads to burnout and frustration.”

Manager, player-development veteran, and two-time MLB All-Star, Ellie Rodriguez, returns to the post he held during the 2018 Road Warriors campaign.

As far as that game-to-game challenge goes, Rick and Ellie are certainly aware of the uphill battle the Road Warriors face. Rick indicates that decision-makers for the team already have plans in place based on lessons learned over the years. “This year’s squad will be more diverse than in previous years,” Rick explained. His staff is on to something with this concept. A diverse mix of backgrounds, playing styles, and positional versatility tends to help teams who anticipate needing to find creative ways to win.

To sustain this unique roster, the team’s staff will be putting in plenty of scouting work. Rick explained, “The Mini-Camps will be important sources of players; plus, we will conduct an open tryout the day before the All-Star Game to find fresh players.” Team officials will be keeping an eye on players who become available during the season in the hopes of giving the team and its players plenty of opportunities to build a reputation for themselves in 2020.

Around the corner, ALPB Roundup will take a look at just how steep the uphill climb might be for the Road Warriors and how the club, as well as other eternally-traveling teams, have fared in various leagues.

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