The first season of Mid-Missouri Mavericks baseball was a roller coaster.
Pat Daly, the Mavericks’ vice president and general manager, says they’re ready for another ride.
“There’s no question, we’ll be back next year,” Daly said. “Obviously there are some things we’d like to change, but there were also some things that happened this year that we never could have planned for. To have even one of those things happen would be out of the ordinary, but to experience everything we have this year is unreal.”
The Mavs’ first season saw one manager fired, another manager resign and several players decide that baseball wasn’t right for them anymore. All the while, the team continued to struggle, finishing in last place in the Frontier League West at 33-57 despite fielding more All-Star players, four, at the midseason break than any other team.
Off the field, the death of Christine Ewing, 22, who fell to her death while scaling a portable climbing wall at a Mavericks game in July, marred the season.
“Each time we faced a challenge throughout the season, we just tried to put our best foot forward and move on,” Daly said. “It was hard a lot of the time, but the public support really helped us out.”
The fan support in Mid-Missouri was a clear improvement from a year ago, when the Mavericks were the Canton Coyotes. In 2002, Canton averaged 737 fans per game, a far cry from the roughly 1,700 fans the Mavericks attracted to Taylor Stadium each night.
Despite the organization’s success with the fans, Daly said there are changes on the horizon.
“We’re going to take a step back and look at all our promotions and sponsors to make sure we can provide first-class entertainment between innings,” Daly said. “We only had seven months to get ready for this season, so we think we can do a lot more. We don’t want [the promotions] to get stale.”
Daly also said the Mavericks will make winning a priority next season.
“We want to win more games next season and really give all our fans something to rally around,” Daly said. “It will be a very different team next spring.”
Leaders such as second baseman Adam Rittenhouse and pitcher Justin Stine will be too old for the league’s 18-26 age limit, and some players will probably decide to retire after this year. Those who have followed the Mavericks closely will see some familiar faces next season.
“We’ve enjoyed being here in Columbia, but it just didn’t seem like we could catch any breaks this season,” first baseman Bill Greenwell said. “It’s a lot more fun when we’re winning, and I think you’ll see most of the core guys back here next year to help make that happen.”
Although Daly declined to comment on which players will not have their contracts picked up for next season, he has expressed interest in bringing back Greenwell and Columbia native Jake Whitesides.
“We’ll want [Greenwell and Whitesides] back for sure unless they get picked up by an affiliate team during the winter,” Daly said.
As for the coaching situation, which was uncertain throughout the inaugural season, Daly said nothing is set.
“That’s another thing we’re going to look at in the offseason.” Daly said. “Mark (Schlosser, the third manager) is certainly in the mix for next season, but nothing has been decided at this point.”
Looking back on a season that saw the team endure multiple six- and seven-game losing streaks and a nine-game slide, Whitesides said the team eventually remembered the essence of the game: fun.
“Early in the season, we put way too much pressure on ourselves, and it’s been downhill since then,” Whitesides said. “As the season wound down, we started having some fun out there and the results speak for themselves.”