South Xtra: Upgrade in talent starting to surface for Wild Things
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It's been a learning experience for Chris Bando as he winds up his first season as the Washington Wild Things manager.
The team was 31-41 after defeating the Normal (Ill.) CornBelters, 5-3, on Tuesday night.
What surprised the former Major League catcher more than anything: the talent in the 14-team Frontier League.
"I think I underestimated the caliber of pitching that this league had," Bando said. "Because of that, we needed more polished, veteran hitters at the plate. Seeing how talented this league is and competitive on the mound, we needed to make some changes until we found the right guys who can compete. I think we've done that."
The education prompted Bando and the Wild Things to make numerous outright releases that factored in the 25 transactions a team is permitted to make in a season. Outright trades between league members do not count against the transaction limit.
A trade last month with the London Rippers in the franchise's dying moments in the Frontier League brought three starters to the Wild Things.
"We got three players who are everyday players for us," Bando said. "They are second baseman Brad Augustin, catcher Jim Vihalik and [designated hitter] Mark Samuelson. Those three guys -- offensively, defensively, their character and leadership -- has taken our club to another level."
Samuelson is the team's third-leading hitter with a .273 average after 13 games. Vihalik was batting .225, and Augustin was at .216.
Bando, who signed a five-year contract to manage the Wild Things, is confident that the revolving door of players in and out of Consol Energy Park has stopped.
"Going into next year, we're going to make hardly any changes," he said. "The only changes we're going to make is if someone gets hurt.
"It's going to be much simpler next year and easier with understanding what this league is about with a year under our belt and what the talent level is to compete. We're excited about what the future holds."
First Published August 9, 2012 7:43 am