FAIRFIELD — You can never have too much depth.
So says Brad Hanson, manager of the Fairfield Expos American Legion baseball team, who believes he’s got a deep bench and a pitching staff to match.
“I like our depth this year,” Hanson said. “We’ve probably got as good of depth on the bench as we’ve ever had. We’ll see how the front nine matches up. As far as everybody else, we’re solid at least three-deep at every position with quality. The pitching staff is as deep as it’s ever been. You get down to seven or eight and they’re not much different than two or three.”
How that stacks up against what Hanson considers “probably the toughest schedule we’ve ever had” remains to be seen. The Expos open the season on the road with a doubleheader against the Chico Nuts. The first game is set for Sunday at 1 p.m.
At Hanson’s suggestion, American Legion baseball in Northern California is now divided into three conferences – Western, Eastern and Northern – instead of districts, with the top three finishers in each conference advancing to the Area 1 tournament, to be hosted by the Expos starting on July 23.
“The down side is we don’t get an automatic bid for hosting so we have to be in the top three to get a bid,” Hanson said.
On the flip side, the regular season is extended by approximately two weeks, a plus for teams that would’ve had to stop playing in early July because they’d been eliminated in their district tournament.
“What that does for us by not having a district tournament is we can play league games right up until area tournament,” Hanson said.
Regardless of who or when the Expos play, Hanson expects to have the pitching for the occasion.
“I think our pitching is the deepest it’s ever been – ever,” Hanson said. “We’ve got guys listed as seven and eight and before they’d be four and five. It’s that good. . . . . We’re going to be competitive every time we take the field. The down side is we don’t have an Anthony Arias.”
Arias helped pitch the Expos to the 2012 California state championship and to within one win of a spot in the American Legion World Series, though he was unable to pitch last summer because of an elbow injury.
With no true ace, Hanson is counting on Payton Tyler, who spent the spring with the Solano Community College baseball team, and Troy Nixon of Napa Valley College – both left-handers – to be the leaders of the staff.
Others to watch are Jake Brandt – “He’s probably our hardest thrower,” Hanson said – David Hostler, Rylan Haney, Will Baker, Matt Sherman, Chris Parodi, Paul Campise, Garlind Webster and Jack Gamba with lefty Justin Lee closing.
Parodi returns behind the plate where he’s joined by J.P. San Antonio and Carter Bins.
“We’ve got our three catchers which is what you want with a team like ours that plays so many games,” Hanson said.
As for first base, Hanson said he has “a bunch of guys” to play the position. They include Webster, Sherman, Baker and Matthew Lanza.
Gamba is back at second base with Bins, who played the position for the state title team in 2012, also in the mix.
The versatile Webster and Sherman are at third base, as is Nathan Minster.
Playing at shortstop are Jake Hedrick and Jason Brasile.
In the outfield, Baker and San Antonio are in left, Lee and Jo Jo Quintanilla in center and Cameron Mitchell and Anthony Kaleczyc in right.
Hanson prefers to have his starting pitchers not bat so the designated hitter spot in the lineup will figure prominently for the Expos.
The manager said his DH will be drawn from “the bats you want to keep in the lineup,” though he added, “everybody plays. I don’t believe in just nine guys. If you’re on the team you have a role.”
For the Expos to be successful in 2014, Hanson said it will take the team executing in every phase of the game.
“We don’t have that (ace) pitcher,” Hanson said. “The key to our success is to score runs. In big games against the ace pitcher from other teams, we’re not going to score runs so we’re going to have play good defense.”
Sounds like a job for a deep team.
Reach Paul Farmer at 425-4646, ext. 264, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/pfarmerdr.