Thursday, April 18, 2024

The Residence Stretch – richmondmagazine.com



For the second 12 months in a row, playoffs baseball is on the desk for the Richmond Flying Squirrels.

Final 12 months, the San Francisco Giants’ Double-A affiliate secured its first postseason look since 2014 by successful the Japanese League’s first-half championship. In 2023, heading into their closing homestand at The Diamond, the Squirrels are within the thick of a razor-thin playoff battle as they duel with the Bowie Baysox, Erie SeaWolves and the remainder of the Southwest Division for a postseason berth.

“Any time you get to the final homestand of the 12 months, and also you’re enjoying significant video games in August and September, it places a pep in everyone’s step once they come to the ballpark,” says Flying Squirrels CEO Todd “Parney” Parnell. “As a lot as we’re in regards to the general expertise of the ballpark and never as a lot in regards to the wins and losses, it nonetheless helps presently of 12 months for there to be a playoff carrot dangling out in entrance of our noses.”

That final homestand of the season spans Sept. 5-10 as Richmond hosts the Akron RubberDucks, chasing the prospect to play for the league championship. The 2022 first-half title got here below the management of first-year supervisor Dennis “Pelf” Pelfrey. He previously managed the Eugene Emeralds, guiding the San Francisco Giants’ Excessive-A affiliate to what was then referred to as the Excessive-A West Championship in 2021.

Pelfrey hung out in impartial baseball from 1999 to 2004, finally returning to the game as supervisor of the Florence Freedom, now the Florence Y’alls, within the Frontier League. Upon his relocation to Richmond, he assisted in main the Squirrels to their half-season championship and computerized playoff berth, although they fell to the SeaWolves within the postseason.

“It’s been probably the most thrilling time of my life so far as a participant or coach,” Pelfrey says of his time in Richmond. “It’s actually superb to see how a lot Parney and the entrance workplace have reached out to town of Richmond and actually promoted what we’re bringing to the desk. … I’ve tried to explain it, and I can’t put it into phrases till [new players] truly get to really feel being within the stadium on a Wednesday evening, when we have now 7,000 followers and we stroll off and the place simply erupts. I believe that it’s one thing that may’t be re-created anyplace — it’s very pure, it’s not compelled, it’s simply real, and I believe that’s what makes us actually particular.”

That fan base seems in droves for each house sport all through the season. Main into the ultimate homestand, Richmond ranks first within the Japanese League and Double-A in each common and general attendance.

“It’s probably the most superb place I’ve ever been,” Pelfrey says. “From a baseball standpoint, as a participant, coach … that’s what separates Richmond from most locations. [The fans] know what’s happening, they take note of the sport, they’re loud and tell us we’re not enjoying effectively, too, which is de facto good.”

Pelfrey additionally cites the first-half championship win in 2022 as the very best celebration he’s had the prospect to be part of.

“Richmond is as soon as once more proving that they’re a tremendous minor-league market,” Parnell provides. “The Squirrels are a part of the neighborhood three hundred and sixty five days a 12 months, and we work together with the neighborhood in a means that makes them coming to the video games a part of their every-year lives, their on a regular basis lives. It’s a really, very particular relationship. It’s not one thing that occurs, in my view, anyplace [else] within the nation.”

This 12 months’s half-season championship chase comes on the reverse finish of the Squirrels’ marketing campaign.

“I favor enjoying on the finish of the common season,” Pelfrey says. “It’s going to be a battle each evening. … I believe the one factor that I would need [would] occur otherwise is that if we may by some means clinch the playoff spot whereas we’re in Richmond towards Akron, which might be actually particular and actually cool for the followers, however I’m fairly positive it’s in all probability going to return right down to the final couple days of the season.”

Pelfrey has guided the Squirrels via highs and lows this season, a 12 months that has included a four-game successful streak to start out the schedule in April, two separate six-win streaks and a number of gamers being referred to as as much as Triple-A Sacramento and to the most important leagues.

“He’s among the finest leaders I’ve ever been round,” Parnell says of Pelfrey. “He is aware of the way to get the very best out of every particular person, and I’m not simply speaking in regards to the gamers. I’m speaking in regards to the help employees, I’m speaking in regards to the teaching employees, I’m even speaking in regards to the entrance workplace. … He actually, actually cares, and anytime any person actually, actually cares, I believe they turn out to be a magnet to others. I can’t say sufficient good issues about him. I really like him as an individual, I really like him as a supervisor for our crew, and so long as Dennis Pelfrey is in cost, I be ok with what’s going to occur on the sector.”

As of the tip of August, eight former Flying Squirrels have made their major-league debuts, together with pitcher Tristan Beck, catcher Patrick Bailey, infielder Casey Schmitt and outfielders Luis Matos and Wade Meckler. Given the close-knit ambiance and rabid Squirrels fandom, it’s concurrently unhappy and gratifying when gamers transfer on, particularly contemplating the attachments fashioned amongst teammates and employees.

“I believe the message to all of them is: We love having you right here, I really like you as a man and a participant, however we don’t need to see you again right here,” Pelfrey says. “It’s actually, actually superior to see. … Although they know that they’re two steps away, I principally say they’re a step away from the large leagues once they’re in Richmond. I believe [the Eastern League is] the hardest league in Minor League Baseball to play in.”

That rigor is evidenced by the expertise on every roster within the Japanese League, together with the Squirrels’ third-to-last house opponent of the 12 months, the Bowie Baysox. Bowie’s gamers have included the likes of main leaguers Cedric Mullins and John Means, each outstanding Baltimore Orioles on rehab assignments, in addition to MLB’s No. 1 prospect in Jackson Holliday. Holliday is the son of longtime major-league star Matt Holliday and was the primary decide within the 2022 draft.

By means of all of it, Pelfrey’s management has stored the Richmond ship balanced within the waters of a aggressive league with consistently altering rosters. Because the Squirrels enter the run for the playoffs, he says the crew is simply making an attempt to present themselves the very best likelihood to win throughout every sport.

“So long as the video games are aggressive each evening, I believe that’s actually all we are able to ask for,” he says. “If we give ourselves these possibilities each single evening, we’re gonna have put ourselves in a very great place to be within the postseason to do one thing actually nice for town of Richmond.”

When the Flying Squirrels return to The Diamond subsequent week, they’ll have performed practically 130 video games and can hit nearly 140 by the conclusion of the common season. Infielders Carter Aldrete and Shane Matheny have ranked among the many standouts within the area and on the plate for Richmond in 2023, with the latter smacking 10 homers this season as of the tip of August.

On the mound, right-hander Wil Jensen has put up spectacular numbers via greater than 75 innings, hanging out north of 80 batters to the tune of a 7-0 file whereas showing in 29 video games. Although Jensen primarily enters in aid, he’s additionally made three begins this season. Lefty Carson Whisenhunt ranks among the many Giants’ high prospects and has performed in Single-A, Excessive-A and Double-A in 2023. Since becoming a member of the Squirrels, he’s began six video games and posted 27 strikeouts throughout 19 and two-thirds innings. Fellow starter Carson Seymour has logged practically 100 frames on the mound, limiting opponents to a .238 common whereas recording 95 punch outs.

The Squirrels kick off their closing homestand of the season with Bingo Evening on Tuesday, Sept. 5, that includes a T-shirt giveaway. RVA Group Evening follows on Wednesday, Sept. 6, and the remainder of the week consists of “In-Your-Face Fireworks” on Thursday, Sept. 7, and Saturday, Sept. 9, in addition to ASK Childhood Most cancers Basis Evening for the latter. The ultimate Friday sport of the season sees the crew as soon as once more undertake its Ardillas Voladoras (Flying Squirrels in Spanish) moniker as a part of the Copa de la Diversión (or Enjoyable Cup) initiative, and Sunday’s closing house sport on Sept. 10 celebrates Squirrels supporters throughout Fan Appreciation Day. The Squirrels then hit the street for one closing away sequence and bid for the playoffs towards Erie, which is able to stretch via Sept. 17.

“Each single day, in and of itself, is a special occasion,” Parnell says. “I’d simply urge our followers to be a part of this pennant race [and] catch pennant fever, come on out with [their] household one or two and even three extra instances and simply take pleasure in being a part of an important minor-league metropolis. And that’s precisely what Richmond, Virginia, is.”


All house video games Sept. 5-9 start with the primary pitch at 6:05 p.m., whereas the Sunday, Sept. 10, sport will get underway at 1:35 p.m. Tickets are $10 to $25. For extra data, go to squirrelsbaseball.com.



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