Zephyrs Season Preview
A new name, a new colorful logo, a new stadium, a new fiery manager who has won a World Series and some new players - they all should add up to plenty of excitement for the New Orleans Zephyrs this season.
The only problem is that all of those things are in Miami, the home of the Zephyrs' major league affiliate, and not in New Orleans.
Still, that won't stop the triple-A New Orleans Zephyrs from trying to cash in on the excitement involving the major league Miami Marlins this season.
"There is a buzz around this major league organization this year that in our four years here with them we have not seen," Zephyrs General Manager Mike Schline said.
The Marlins, according to most baseball experts, should be one of the top teams this year either by contending for the National League Eastern Division title or one of the three wildcard spots.
Miami opens this season in the new Marlins Park, which seats 37,000 and has a new retractable roof. The team has added manager Ozzie Guillen (formerly of the Chicago White Sox) and brought in former Chicago Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano through trade and New York Mets shortstop Jose Reyes, former White Sox starting pitcher Mark Buehrle and former San Diego Padres closer Heath Bell through free agency to a team that finished 72-90, last place in the N.L. East last year.
"Hopefully what will happen is the buzz around the team through winning, Guillen as the new manager, and what should be more appearances on SportsCenter will translate to the triple-A level," Schline said.
The effect of the improved Marlins could have a two-fold impact on the Zephyrs this season.
For starters, if Miami plays as well as expected, then there won't be a need for a lot of call-ups during the season, which means New Orleans' roster should stay intact for most of the year.
Since Miami has a lot of depth on its roster, then there also is a chance that a former major leaguer like Chris Coghlin or Aaron Rowland or Austin Kerns, who may not get one of the reserve outfield spots in spring training, will decide to play with New Orleans this season.
Zephyrs will return outfielder Chris Aguila, third baseman Mike Cervenak and third baseman Matt Dominguez. Aguila batted .287 with 22 home runs and 72 RBIs. Cervenak batted .298 with 14 home runs and 68 RBIs. Dominguez batted .258 with 12 home runs and 58 RBIs.
New Orleans pitching staff will be led by right-hander Tom Koehler, who was 12-7 with a 4.97 earned run average.
Schline said Marlins outfielder Bryan Petersen, who played in the Pacific Coast League all-star game with the Zephyrs last season and played in 11 games with the Marlins last year, is a player who could go back and forth between Miami and New Orleans this season.
Fans should see improvements off the field with the Zephyrs as well. The team has renovated one of the concourses at the stadium. It also plans to continue its various promotions such as Social Media Night on Tuesdays with ticket offers given to people who follow the team on Facebook or Twitter, and Thirsty Thursdays with $1 sodas and drafts and $2 cans of beer and postgame fireworks.
"There are going to be a lot of things every day at the ballpark," Schline said.