Since the club’s first pitch April 25, 2008, Southern Maryland Blue Crabs baseball has become a tradition in the community, particularly when this time of the year comes around.
The Blue Crabs have constructed a bit of history the past nine years. Five beloved managers — Butch Hobson, Patrick Osborn, Lance Burkhart, Stan Cliburn and Jeremy Owens — each brought a special ingredient in their skipper roles.
This April, the team begins its 10th anniversary season with a new manager: John Harris. Harris focused on getting acclimated to Southern Maryland and building the team roster for the offseason.
“I came to Southern Maryland early this year, showing up in January to prepare for this upcoming season,” said Harris, who was signed with the Blue Crabs in December. “We’ve done a lot of looking in to other leagues and transactions, deciding what players would be a good fit for our organization and making moves we believe will bring this team their [Atlantic League] first championship.”
Throughout it all, the franchise has been an overall success on the field for the last nine seasons, winning almost 51 percent of their 1,240 regular season games, owning six playoff berths since 2009.
Despite not reaching the playoffs in 2016 with a 57-83 overall record, finishing in last place in the Freedom Division, the Blue Crabs have reached the league championship series twice in 2009 and 2015 but have settled for a runner-up finish each time.
The Blue Crabs will host the Long Island Ducks to kick off the 2017 season with opening day April 20 at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf.
“Last season we struggled, but this year we have a brand new manager, new pitching coach [James Frisbie] and we want to bring some life to field,” Blue Crabs general manager Courtney Knichel said. “85 percent of our players are new this year and John Harris is an old school guy and will be great for our clubhouse he won’t take much complaining.”
With a mixture of new players and familiar faces, Harris is ecstatic and looking forward to seeing all the talent relay their skills on the field.
“I’m real excited to be able to bring back some of the key guys from the roster last year that already know how the organization and league works. Guys like [Brian] Grening and [Michael] Snyder are coming back off of career years and we are hoping they can build off of that and be leaders on the team this season,” Harris said. “I like what we brought in this year, having a good mix of Atlantic League veterans, like [Mike] Blanke, and some younger guys like [Kyano] Cummings coming in wanting to show us what they’ve got.”
Off the field, the team will be commemorating the decade of the franchise.
“We have narrowed down each position to three to five players and are hosting a vote on our [team] website (www.somdbluecrabs.com), where fans can choose what players they believe should represent the Blue Crabs on our 10th anniversary team,” Knichel said. “We are also publishing a yearbook recapping 10 years of Blue Crabs baseball with articles on players and reviewing favorite memories from the team’s history.”
On the goals and expectations are for the upcoming season, Knichel said: “We are hoping to continue to pack the ballpark with fans, providing them a family-friendly environment for an affordable price. We want fans to be able to enjoy a night at the ballpark with their whole family and watch what is shaping up to be a good product on the field. We are hoping this year can bring Southern Maryland its first Atlantic League Championship and provide the fans a memorable 10-year anniversary season.”
May 12 will kick off a 10th anniversary giveaway series. On five select nights throughout the season, the first 1,000 fans with receive a lapel pin highlighting the team’s first opening day on 2008 (May 12), the first division championship in 2009 (June 17), the 2013 All Star Game (July 29), the 2015 division championship (Aug. 18), and the team’s 10th anniversary season (Sept. 16). The giveaway on that day will also feature a special 10th anniversary pennant for the first 1,000 fans.