Former major league manager Essian set to lead Cats into new season

Posted Wednesday, May. 22, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Name Position Bats Throws College Pro Team Eric Sheridan RHP R R Saddleback Oakland, Houston Alex Foltz OF R R James Madison Evansville Otters Kori Melo IF S R Tabor College Aaron Wilkerson RHP R R Cumberland Jorge Rodriguez LHP L L Northwood Kyle Pearson* 1B R R LSU-Shreveport Brian White C R R Texas Wesleyan Hector Contin RHP S R SWOSU TJ Bozeman RHP R R Angelo State Returning member of Cats Stephen Nikonchik RHP R R Houston Baptist Colts/Pupfish D’Monte Grissom MIF R R Middle Georgia Cole Stephens RHP R R Midland JC Whitewings Jeff Sakowski RHP R R Richland JC Colts/Thunder Cody Brooks C S R Colorado Christian Chad Robinson RHP R R Southern Nevada Freedom/Thunder Boomer Potts LHP L L Central Missouri Toronto Blue Jays Greg Bachman 3B/2B R R Austin Peay Windy City Thunderbolts Cameron Monger OF R R Howard College San Diego/Kansas City Daniel Meeley OF L L Connors State San Diego Padres James Giulietti LHP L L Birmingham Univ. Cats/Roadrunners Shelby Ford SS S R TCU/OSU Pirates/Colts Chris Ellison OF L R Oklahoma Diamondbacks Rob Perrin* MIF R R Howard College David Bergin 1B R R Tennessee Wesleyan St. Louis Cardinals Tim Maitland* OF/2B L R University of Texas Nolan Barbee RHP R R Texas Wesleyan * -- on disabled list

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The Fort Worth Cats prepare to start the 2013 season with plenty of new faces and a familiar name.

The baseball team, which was resurrected at historic LaGrave Field in 2002, opens play in the United Baseball League Thursday night with former major leaguer Jim Essian in his first season as manager.

Adding to the opening-week spectacle is the presence of Jose Canseco, the former superstar who played three seasons with the Texas Rangers. Canseco will serve as a player-coach and help develop the young players during the opening seven-game homestand, which begins with a four-game series against Edinburg, coached by Canseco’s twin brother, Ozzie.

Essian, whose major league career spanned 12 seasons with seven teams, also managed the Chicago Cubs during the 1981 season. Most recently, he managed the Greek national team.

“I’m happy to be back out there,” said Essian, whose son lives in North Texas. “It’s all coming back to me.”

Single-game ticket prices range from $7 to $14, with promotions scheduled throughout the season, including $5 ticket Sundays.

Among the veterans that Essian will rely on is Cameron Monger, a former Weatherford High School star who is expected to be among the leaders of the pitching staff. Monger, a San Diego Padres draft pick, pitched for the Cats in 2011.

Another pitcher expected to carry a heavy load is Waco native Aaron Wilkerson, who closed his career at NAIA Cumberland College in Tennessee by winning 26 consecutive decisions. Boomer Potts, a former Toronto farmhand, provides Essian with “a late-inning closer type.”

On offense, Essian describes his team as balanced.

“We don’t have a lot of speedsters, but we’re not clogging up the base paths either,” he said.

The Cats are expected to use that speed to manufacture runs, a small-ball style that Essian favors.

“I always like to do a bit of that — small ball. It keeps pressure on the defense,” he said.

Infielder Greg Backman joins the team after batting .351 with 67 RBIs and 16 home runs at Austin Peay in Tennessee.

Former TCU player Shelby Ford, a Pittsburgh Pirates draftee, also will see time in the infield.

The team’s young catchers will get extra attention from Essian, who spent most of his career as a backstop. But he’s eager to see all of his players in action.

“We’ll know more about them through the first homestand,” he said.

The new season greets the Cats after an off-season in which the team’s ownership group, led by John Bryant and Byron Pierce, bought LaGrave Field in a foreclosure auction last fall and faced financial tangles through the winter as a result.

Now it’s time to put players on the field and how those players perform in Fort Worth can lead to other opportunities in baseball.

“We don’t want players to make a career out of playing in this league,” Essian said. “Our goal is to move them on to affiliated teams that can use their help.”

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