WALLA WALLA - The Walla Walla Sweets kick off the 2012 season this evening against the Corvallis Knights, the defending West Coast League champions, at 7.
The Sweets have only been practicing since May 26, and several players are still playing college ball or in classes, but Sweets manager J.C. Biagi is excited for the start of the season.
"These guys have all been playing baseball for the better part of the year," Biagi said. "So we obviously want to get them reps, we want to see them swing, but it's as much for us as it is for them - allowing us the opportunity to see what we have and what we're working with and where they might fit in the lineup or the rotation."
While the Sweets will be busy evaluating their players, they will also be hurrying to teach them team-specific signals and plays.
"There's also things that vary team to team - our defense, first and thirds, signs - and if you can get it all out of the way now, the first couple weeks are a little more smooth transition than if they just walked in on game day and we tried to get it all in in one fell swoop," Biagi said.
The Sweets recently confirmed a few late additions to the Walla Walla roster, signing Lewis-Clark State commit D.J. Smith to a full-season contract and several Walla Walla Community College players to 10-day contracts, presumably to fill in while the rest of the rost shows up.
With Biagi also serving as an assistant coach for WWCC, the Sweets have frequently pulled from the Warrior ranks, either signing current Warriors or those that have moved on to four-year schools.
"It's always good to see the familiar faces," Biagi said. "You know what they're capable of and you know what they can do and how they go about doing things."
The Sweets also have the honor of hosting the 2012 WCL All-Star Game on July 24th. The All-State Game will be preceded by the All-Star Block Party in downtown Walla Walla in front of the Sweets Shoppe, and by a Home Run Derby at Borleske.
Sweets General Manager Zachary Fraser said the Block Party was inspired by a trip he and other Sweets executives took to last year's All-Star game in Corvallis, which was surrounded by little fanfare.
"We got in at 8:30, 9:30 at night (the day before the game) and there wasn't anything to do," Fraser said. "There wasn't anywhere to eat and everything was closed down, so one of the things we talked about was, let's put something together for fans to do the night before.
"There's going to a dunk tank, there's going to be a bouncy house, there's going to be live music, there's going to be drinks - it's going to be a summer block party," Fraser said. "That's one I'm actually very excited about because that's another reason for people to get together and have a good time, and it's free."