LAKEWOOD — When all is said and done, the Boulder Collegians are an organization excited about making the game day experience special for fans and players alike.
But recent playoff disappointments have them striving for big things this 2017 season. An overhaul of the roster — just one player returns from last year — but a hint of consistency in their coaching staff for the first time has general manager Matt Jensen excited about the trek to return to the National Baseball Congress World Series at the end of the season.
"We want to get there every year, and a lot of getting there is in the offseason and what type of guys we recruit as well as getting good coaches," Jensen said as the Collegians took to the road for their season opener against the Denver Pirates on Wednesday, a convincing 12-2, six-inning win. "Last year we were one of the best teams in the league and we dropped off a bit at the end of the season. We want to emphasize grinding it out, getting through that end of the summer season when you might start thinking about other things.
"We have fewer position players this year so we hope to keep them engaged with reps. We have a bigger coaching staff that I think is going to help keep guys' heads in it. Our expectations are a league championship."
As has been the case the past four seasons, the Collegians boast an array of talent, from local high school graduates to small college and major college athletes as they compete in the Rocky Mountain Baseball League once again. The level of experience varies, but for the second season in a row head coach Haas Pratt will try and hone in on everybody's skills and give the team the best chance for winning.
Pratt is the first head coach to return to the club. With the RMBL expanding rosters from 25 to 28 players, there will be a few more available pitching arms which should help toward the end of the season. Pratt, well-known in the area, added that the overall freshness of the roster is promising.
That roster includes locals Wyatt Linde (Boulder grad now at Wooster College), Zach Berohn (Monarch grad now at Cuesta Junior College), Skyler Messinger (Niwot grad headed to Kansas) and Matt Erickson (Fairview grad headed to Yale).
"I'm just meeting a lot of these guys myself, but even in practice (Tuesday) we talked about staying strong this season and get better as players so that when you get to fall ball, you're ready to compete for spots," Pratt said. "I'm excited to learn these guys, get to know them as baseball players. Everybody seems like they are ready to put in the work get better and that's something I'm excited about."
Fans will get the chance to see the Collegians much more often at Scott Carpenter Park, beginning with the home opener Thursday against the Colorado Sox (6 p.m.). Most of their 14 home dates will be on Wednesdays and Thursdays, but the Collegians will also host a July 4 doubleheader that will be followed by the Boulder fireworks over Folsom Field as well as the RMBL All-Star Game on June 28.
Single game tickets are $4 for adults, $2 for students with a student ID and free for veterans and children age 4 and under. More information can be found at www.bouldercollegians.com.
Last year's introduction of the beer garden will be expanded to include several breweries rotating through the season.
"As hard as we've worked to build the team, there's been just as much work connecting with local businesses and the city of Boulder to prove to them we are worthy of additional home dates," Jensen said. "I'm very excited to offer what we are, and I think it's good family entertainment and a good community event."