The St. Joseph Mustangs went through one of the baseball club’s biggest transitions in 2018.
After cruising through the MINK League in 2017 on the way to a fifth championship in nine seasons, manager Matt Johnson decided to step down. The club handed the reins to Johnny Coy, who had to replace a majority of the senior-laden Mustangs from the previous season.
The Mustangs struggled in 2018, finishing the summer with a 24-24 record.
Coy learned a lot from his first season in charge and is taking those lessons into the new season. With the club’s 11th season beginning on Wednesday, the excitement is beginning to build at Phil Welch Stadium.
“I did a lot more scrambling around last minute last year,” Coy said. “We had a lot of players drop off five days before the first game, which was a lot more stressful. All the guys are on the way here. It’s been a lot more relaxing and a lot more enjoyable.”
The team will have more camaraderie going into the season with more returners than this time a year ago.
“We have 12 or 13 guys coming back from last year’s team and they know what to expect,” Coy said. “They are even more excited than last year knowing what’s going to happen this summer.”
Among the returners include the K-State duo of catcher Jordan Maxson and infielder Terrence Spurlin to go along with third-year infielder Joshua Lincoln.
“I think last year we just stressed out a little bit too much,” Lincoln said. “My first year I was here it was a lot more fun. This year we just have to come out and have fun.”
Coy also stressed the importance of the team enjoying itself this summer.
“They are here because they love it,” Coy said. “You just have to keep remembering that you enjoy it, you love it and everything else will take care of itself.”
The newcomers for the Mustangs include infielder Jackson Wagner from Kansas, Jackson Dierenfeldt from Drury and Karl Koerper from Washington
“This might be the most complete team that we’ve had in awhile,” Coy said. “We pitch really well, we’ve got a lot of speed both in the infield and the outfield. We’ve got some young guys but they got to play a lot last year. We have more Division I players than we’ve probably ever had, especially offensively.”
Local members of the team include Central’s Dawson Smith, Mid-Buchanan’s Brady Holden and Chillicothe’s Derek Hussey.
The season gets underway Wednesday when the Mustangs host the Midwest A’s. The squad’s first league game will come on Friday against Clarinda.