One win is all that stood between the Schaumburg Boomers, who spent 50 days atop the West Division last year, and a shot at the postseason in the team's inaugural season.
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That's something second-year manager Jamie Bennett hopes to avoid as the Boomers prepare to open the 2013 Frontier League season Thursday night by hosting the Windy City ThunderBolts at Boomers Stadium.
"It's tough, but you learn from it, too," Bennett, 34, said of the 2012 season. "You look back and you start to think, 'Man, we should've won that game on June 20th' or whatever.
"But it was exciting. If you go up to the second to last day of the season still playing for something, you know it's something to be proud of. And just missing I think got the guys hungry for this year."
Bennett took some time to talk with the Daily Herald about the 2013 season and what's ahead for the independent pro baseball club.
Q. How do things look heading into the season?
A. It's going good. We just wrapped up one of the most competitive camps I've ever been a part of as far as young guys coming in and competing for spots.
We've got a lot of leadership guys coming back -- especially in the lineup and defensively.
There's been a little bit of turnover in our bullpen. It's kind of like last year in the pen starting out -- we've got some good arms, it's just going to take a little bit to figure out who's going to fit in what role the best.
We feel good about our rotation, and our lineup should stack up pretty well.
Q. So you feel like you have the roster this year to make the postseason, right?
A. Yeah, the guys are here, but how it looks on paper never means anything until you get on the field.
With so many guys coming back, the team chemistry and the clubhouse environment has gotten even stronger. I think they're hungrier.
Q. With one year at the helm under your belt, are you much more comfortable heading into this season?
A. I am. There were so many question marks coming into spring training last year -- not knowing players -- it was the first time I'd seen all of them.
With a lot of guys returning, it's a little more of a comfort zone for me.
Q. Is the strength of the team the everyday position players?
A. I think so. And we have some strong leadership in guys like Frank Pfister (3B) and Gerard Hall (SS).
Our infield, both defensively and offensively, should be one of the better infields in the league, top to bottom. They're all experienced players and they're going to hit in the middle of the lineup somewhere. They're going to see a lot of action.
Q. Any new acquisitions that have you pumped?
A. One of the bigger offensive additions for us is Brian McConkey. He's first baseman out of the Florida Marlins system who played high A ball last year in Florida.
He came highly recommended, not only as a player, but as a person. He's meshed really well with the guys who came back.
He'll be, more than likely, at first base every day. Steve McQuail, a big power guy, will probably DH a lot and those guys will platoon a little bit.
Q. Finish this sentence: the Boomers will make the playoffs this year if …
A. If we can do the little things right. That's a little cliché but with a lot of guys coming back in the middle of the lineup who we expect to put up some power numbers, we're going to run into some good pitching. It's inevitable. So we're still going to have to do the little things right.
You do those little things right with the lineup we have … we should have some success.