Midland, MI – After a mildly-successful 2013 campaign, the Great Lakes Loons franchise is looking to build upon last season’s playoff run. If they are going to be successful, they will have to do so with an array of new faces, beginning with new manager, former Detroit Tiger Bill Haselman.
Coming into Dow Diamond as the new Single-A skipper for the Dodgers, after leading the California Angels’ affiliate, Inland Empire, to a 2013 championship, Haselman knows the effort and dedication involved in putting together a winning team. In his 2014 Loons, he sees an offense that can, and should, overcome a plethora of situations, on the way to becoming a successful, contending team.
“I think it’s going to be a mix of both [power hitting and small ball]. We’re definitely going to be aggressive and we’re going to take advantage of the things the other teams give us.”
Perhaps one of the most important factors of that offense is returning speedster, Malcolm Holland. After injuries kept him from having a truly outstanding 2013, he managed to become a frequent offender on the base paths, swiping extra bases, seemingly, at will. Haselman knows the value of a player of Holland’s caliber and was far from hesitant in voicing his opinion.
“If he does what he is able to do, he will be just fine. He’s already a pretty darn good base runner. For any level… he runs the bases exceptionally well. Other guys can learn from him… watch him… talk to him… learn from what he does. He’s aware of who’s around him, on the bases. He’s very good at reading pitchers and anticipating where to go from there.”
Knowing the importance that will be placed on speed, this season, Holland hasn’t taken the thoughts of his new manager for granted. He spent the majority of the offseason getting healthy and ready for just such a situation.
“I’ve been working hard. In the offseason, I have a track coach. I worked with him for about a month and a half. We ran about three days a week, worked on a lot of endurance weightlifting and speed and agility workouts. “
Holland’s importance to the team’s success is equaled by few, but pitching prospect Zach Bird is firmly planted in the conversation. After a 2013 season that saw plenty of ups and downs, pitching coach Bill Simas is impressed by the strides Bird has made in the offseason.
“He’s learned his body a little bit more and that, in turn, results in a more consistent release point. He’s learning to change his speeds, which is something he definitely needed to get better at. He had the stuff. It’s just a matter of maturity, learning his body and the way it’s supposed to work.”
Mechanics and speed aside, this season’s Great Lakes Loons’ squad has already become a close-knit group of young men. Holland went as far as calling them a “brotherhood” that has already bonded into a “family atmosphere.” That closeness is something Haselman directly pointed toward, as a catalyst for any team’s potential success. The results of which, we will begin to witness in just a few short days.
The Loons open the season on April 4, in Fort Wayne, before heading back to Midland, Michigan on April 8, for the home opener. The Loons are the Single-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Haselman, Bill. Personal Interview. April 1, 2014.
Holland, Malcolm. Personal Interview. April 1, 2014.
Simas, Bill. Personal Interview. April 1, 2014.