The Schaumburg Boomers look to defend their Frontier League Championship title in their third season, which begins Friday when the Boomers travel to take on the Lake Erie Crushers.
After a successful first season in 2012 and a Frontier League Championship title in 2013, the Boomers are eager to start their independent baseball season and earn another trip to the playoffs.
"We had a few guys picked up by organizations who were a big part of our club last year so we've worked hard this off season to try to fill those holes," team manager Jamie Bennett said. "We've got some young guys who have come in and impressed us in camp."
The Boomers will open on the road against Lake Erie, the East Division club they defeated for the 2013 title. In the West Division, the Boomers will play the Gateway Grizzlies, Windy City Thunderbolts, River City Rascals, Normal Cornbelters, Joliet Slammers and Rockford Aviators.
"They all seem like big games," Bennett said. "We have a couple teams in the area where there seems to have already almost started a little bit of rivalry over the last couple years, with Joliet and Windy City."
The Boomers will host their home opener on May 23 against the Florence Freedom, a team they defeated in the first round of the Frontier League playoffs last season.
With four players being picked up by MLB affiliate organizations since last season, the Boomers have filled their roster with new and returning players to help them defend their title.
"Brian McConkey, our first baseman, and Jordan Dean, our second baseman, will both be returning. They did a lot for us offensively last year," Bennett said. "Mike Valadez has been with us since we started two years ago. He's our catcher and plays a huge, huge role for us."
Other players to watch include returning outfielders Alexi Colon and Justin Vasquez. Also returning to the team will be closer Dexter Price and the only remaining starting pitcher from last season, Seth Webster.
"Our main thing is just to get ourselves to the playoffs, and once you get there anything can happen," Bennett said. "Basically the only goal is to win the championship and that's not easy to do every year. We take a lot of pride in playing the game hard and being very aggressive."
Fans can expect to see a different kind of team than they witnessed last season. Heavy on the offense, this year's team plans to be aggressive on base and put pressure on the defense in order to make it all the way.
"We take a lot of pride in the kind of clubhouse we build," Bennett said. "I've been very impressed with the maturity and the professionalism of the guys."
The Boomers take the field Friday against the Lake Erie Crushers at All Pro Freight Stadium in Avon, Ohio. First pitch is slated for 6:05 p.m.