STATE COLLEGE - As the old saying goes, the more things change, the more they stay the same. That couldn't be more true than it is this year for the State College Spikes.
For the changes, there are many of them, mostly in the players who will make up the Spikes. Only five of the current rostered players have seen any action in Happy Valley.
As for the same, the most obvious is the return of manager Oliver Marmol for a second season.
After leading the Spikes to a playoff spot in his second season as a manager and his first with the Spikes, Marmol is excited about making his return to Happy Valley.
"It really feels good to call this place home again," Marmol said. "It was very exciting last year to have those guys come here and compete and we are definitely looking forward to this year."
With only two seasons under his belt as a manager, Marmol said he, like his players, goes through a learning process.
"I like to feel that I am able to relate to these young players well," Marmol said. "Every year you learn something and I feel that I learned a lot last year. I was able to see a lot of these guys play because many of them have come here from extended spring (training)."
Marmol thinks that his time spent with many of the players he will begin the season with should be a big asset to him in managing the team.
"This group of players works really hard," he said. "They have been down there (spring training) since late February, grinding it out every day. We have some good looking guys up the middle and we also have some good arms who can run it up there pretty good, so I look for it to be a very exciting group."
Two of those good arms will be on display right out of the chute when Dewin Perez (6-0, 175, LHP) gets the call for the season opener Friday night against Williamsport at Bowman field, while 24 hours later, the ball will be handed to Luis Perdomo (6-2, 159, RHP) for the home opener at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.
"I couldn't be more excited than I am to have this opportunity," Perdomo said. "I am just excited to be out here and get the chance to pitch. It has been a great couple of days here after the great instruction from the Cardinals staff in spring training."
Having done most of his pitching in Florida where all games are played in the daylight and with few, if any, fans watching, Perdomo says when the lights come on, he will be ready to go.
"You just have to adapt to whatever the situation is that you are pitching in, Perdomo said. "Whether it is 7 p.m. here or 12 noon in Florida, you just can't let those things bother you. You just have to go out there and be consistent no matter what the conditions are."
One year ago, Marmol led the Spikes to within one out of a New York-Penn League championship. When asked if that puts any extra pressure on him this year, he was emphatic with his answer.
"Not at all," he said. "Every year we come here with the same mindset and that is to do whatever is necessary to develop these guys. My job here is to help develop them as best as I can. Later in the season, we'll take another good look at what we have and go from there."
Starting his sixth year in the front office as the GM and senior vice president of the organization, Jason Dambach is chomping at the bit to get things going in 2014.
"It has been a very good off-season for us, both on and off the field," Dambach said. "Ticket sales have been terrific and sponsorship sales are up, so obviously from the revenue standpoint, folks are continuing to support the product we are bringing to the table. On the field, the fans have responded very well to us making the playoff run last year. It has been a great conversation starter for us."
It is no Fort Knox secret that St. Louis has one of the top farm systems in professional baseball. After starting with the Cardinals and then to return to them last year, Dambach said it has been just a win-win situation.
"Our first-year relationship with the Cardinals couldn't have been any better," he said. "We are really excited about year number two with the Cardinals, year number nine of opening the gates here at Medlar Field. Ollie (Marmol) is just a pleasure to work with. We were really excited when we heard that we was coming back to work with us here again this year. Obviously he has aspirations of moving up in the Cardinal organization as an instructor and I have no doubts at all that he is going to be able to do that."