Buzz abounds over start of Biscuits baseball

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Selma Times-Journal

“Take me out to the ball game” has become an increasingly sweet phrase for baseball fans in Montgomery and the surrounding region.

Although their parent club Tampa Bay has never enjoyed success, the Double-A Montgomery Biscuits have been consistent winners. The Biscuits finished their second straight season as Southern League champions and have turned out some of the game’s most highly regarded prospects.

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That, plus an exciting venue to watch baseball that is close to home, has local fans ready for more.

“It’s very good baseball in a very nice baseball park,” said Lt. David Evans of the Selma Police Department. Evans said he usually purchases 12-game ticket packs for himself and his family. “Last year, I liked (third baseman) Evan Longoria and his power. He’s impressive. My son likes John Jaso, their catcher, who came back to the team this year.”

Longoria led the team with 21 home runs last season, and the Rays had hopes he would begin the season as their everyday third baseman. Instead, he will start in Triple-A Durham.

Jaso led Montgomery’s regulars with a .316 batting average in 2007. His 12 home runs and 71 RBIs are behind only the 15 and 82 of outfielder Gaby Martinez, who also returns this year.

Starting pitcher Wade Davis posted a 7-3 record and 3.15 ERA splitting time between Vero Beach and Montgomery. James Houser struck out 90 batters in 103 2-3 innings and re-joins Davis in the starting rotation. The team will have to find a replacement in the back of the bullpen for Dale Thayer, who notched 21 saves.

Robert Massey said part of the excitement of going to games with his family is watching who will be the next potential major league star.

In recent years, it has been Longoria, Delmon Young, James Shields and Elijah Dukes. There’s no telling who will be deemed the next savior of a big league club that hasn’t had a winning season in 10 years of existence.

“I like Tampa Bay,” Massey said. “We’ve been down to Tampa a couple of times to watch them play. Of course, Tampa Bay is terrible, but we follow them because of their Montgomery minor league team, and we keep up with the players as they make the major leagues.”

The Biscuits begin their season at home Thursday against Chattanooga at 7 p.m.