SEASON STARTS THURSDAY, NEW BALLPARKS OPEN

SEASON STARTS THURSDAY, NEW BALLPARKS OPEN

Two new ballparks will open their gates on Thursday night as the American Association begins its 2015 season. The league’s 13th and newest team, the Joplin Blasters, will christen Joe Becker Stadium in Joplin, Mo., while the St. Paul Saints open CHS Field in St. Paul, Minn.

The Blasters will play their inaugural game against the league’s defending champions, the Wichita Wingnuts. First pitch is set for 6:35 p.m. Central at Joe Becker Stadium. Carlos Lezcano, the Blasters’ manager, will send RHP Jorge Martinez to the mound against Wichita LHP Anthony Capra.

After playing their first 22 years at Midway Stadium, the St. Paul Saints will move into CHS Field (pictured) in Lowertown St. Paul. The Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks will provide the opposition for the park’s inaugural game, which starts at 7:05 p.m. LHP Pedro Hernandez toes the rubber for St. Paul, while Fargo-Moorhead counters with LHP Brandon Mann.

The 2014 North Division champion Winnipeg Goldeyes begin their quest to return to the playoffs with a road game at the Grand Prairie AirHogs. The game will be a 7:05 p.m. start from QuikTrip Park in Grand Prairie, Tex. Winnipeg will start the season with LHP Nick Hernandez on the hill, and he will face Grand Prairie RHP Danny Gutierrez.

For the second year in a row, the Siouxland matchup will be contested to start the season as the Sioux Falls Canaries visit the Sioux City Explorers. Also a 7:05 p.m. start, the game at Lewis & Clark Park will see the Explorers start RHP Nick Marquez against the Canaries’ RHP Brett Gerritse.

Two South Division foes will square off to start the season as the newly rebranded Amarillo Thunderheads head to Laredo, Tex. to face the Laredo Lemurs, the 2014 American Association Wild Card winner. The game at Uni-Trade Stadium will start at 7:30 p.m. with RHP Greg Holle pitching for the Lemurs. RHP Matt Larkins will become the first starting pitcher to wear a Thunderheads uniform.

Also returning in 2015 will be interleague play between the American Association and Can-Am League. 2015 will feature daily interleague play, returning to a practice last used in 2013. The Gary SouthShore RailCats will open the season with a home game against the Can-Am League’s Quebec Capitales. First pitch is set for 7:10 p.m. at the U.S. Steel Yard in Gary, Ind. The RailCats will start RHP Zac Treece, while the Capitales counter with RHP Karl Gelinas.

Two more teams, the Kansas City T-Bones and Lincoln Saltdogs, will open their season Friday with a 7:05 p.m. game in Kansas City, Kan. at Community America Ballpark. For the Saltdogs, the game represents the first step in trying to return to the American Association Championship Series. Kansas City sends RHP Fernando Hernandez to the bump against Lincoln RHP Jesse Smith.

Fans can watch select American Association games live and for free on www.americanassociationbaseball.tv from HyperTechnologie. Check the website for the latest game listings.