There is no denying one thing when the Columbia Blowfish open its home schedule on Wednesday against the Gastonia Grizzlies in the Coastal Plain League: This is the absolutely the final season in historic Capital City Stadium.
President Bill Shanahan and general manager Kelly Evans promise an exciting season before the club departs for a proposed new home in Lexington County next season.
It starts tonight with “Pink Fireworks” during a breast cancer awareness project. The Blowfish players will wear pink sleeves and socks, and use a special pink bat.
There will be fireworks after every Friday and Saturday home games, an exhibition softball game between the Columbia firefighters and Columbia police, and the annual USC Alumni game against the Blowfish on July 3.
“We think this is the final, final season at Capital City Stadium,” Shanahan said. “We’re going to blow it out with great fireworks, great entertainment and great baseball.”
Second-year manager Jonathan Johnson will have a lot of experience back from a team that advanced to the Petit Cup Championship last season.
Alan Staton, a all-star last season, is back with regulars Erik Barber, Brandon Burris, Chase Shelton and Jake Welch. The pitching staff will have a nealry complete overhaul, but West Columbia native Stuart Pound returns.
“I’m excited to have so many players coming back,” Johnson said. “They got playoff experience and they know what to expect in the league from the travel, playing with the wood bats and, most importantly, knowing what to expect out of me as a manager.”
Johnson will have Matt Williams, a redshirt freshman from South Carolina, from the beginning of the season. USC pitchers Josh Reagan and Reed Scott, and infielder DC Arendas, will join the team once the Gamecocks postseason run concludes.
“They’re having great success at the highest level of collegiate baseball so we’re excited about getting them here,” Johnson said.
Johnson has several players in the postseason on the regular 30-man roster, so he’s been forced to sign several former local high school talents to round out his roster until he gets his full compliment of players.
Josh Sealey, Cody Smith, and Kyle Towes are among those with temporary deals.
“We tried to get a few local guys to sign conditional contracts to expand our roster a little bit,” Johnson said. “We’re only allowed 30 permanent spots so you will see several local guys fill some spots these first couple of weeks to give depth and a solid team from the beginning.”