Lights and a party deck are the new attractions at Wildwood Park this season.
Last year, the new guy on the A’s baseball team was Sheboygan Falls’ native Ross Krist.
Krist returns this season – Opening Day is at home Saturday – after hitting .333 with 31 runs and 24 walks in 45 games.
He also plays at UW-Platteville and received honorable mention on the all-Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference team this season.
“He really played well for us last year,” A’s manager Derek Loomans said. “He hit at the top of the order for us, played a bunch of positions and he’s really come along great.”
What isn’t new this season is a core of veterans who are back, highlighted by the return of the team’s most valuable player, Harry Steldt. He’s back for his ninth season after smacking seven home runs last year to go with a .356 batting average.
Another returner is Eric Schmitz, a two-time most valuable pitcher for Sheboygan – including last season – who is 24-7 in his A’s career with 288 strikeouts in 258 innings. Last year he was 6-2 with a 2.31 earned run average.
Other notable players back are the A’s reigning defensive player of the year, Ryan Fields, and former Plymouth standout Zac Cain, who plays for Upper Iowa University. Last year, Cain played in only nine games but hit .483 in 2017 for Sheboygan.
Sheboygan Falls’ native and Ripon College infielder Kyle Peterson enters his third year. He not only batted .292 last year, but he also pitched a few innings in relief.
Jacksonville University outfielder and Grafton native TD Walker enters his third season with Sheboygan after hitting .254 with 29 runs batted in last year.
Infielder Jake Arens begins his third season with Sheboygan, and his batting average improved from .211 his rookie season to .345 a year ago.
Catcher Ben Gordon returns for his sixth season and centerfielder Cole Miklavcic has played the last four years.
Also back is pitcher Kyle Moyer, the grandson of A’s general manager Denny Moyer.
Although Loomans says about two-thirds of Sheboygan’s roster remains the same, many of them were rookies last year.
“They have a lot more experience and they’ll be more comfortable,” he said. “What happens with us is we get a lot of players for development and they start to grow. They get their reps here and they grow at school. So it’ll be nice to see a lot of our guys come back after one year at school.”
Headlining the list of new players this year is University of Illinois-Chicago infielder Alex Dee, a redshirt junior who was named a freshman All-American in 2016.
“We’re looking to develop our players and move them on,” Loomans said. “As much as we want to be competitive and win, which is an every night thing, we also want our players to go on and be successful in baseball later on.”
Last year: 34-26 (overall)
WSL: 13-17 (sixth place)
NWBL: 10-6 (second place)