SPRINGDALE (KFSM)--Heading into the Naturals season, 18 players of the 28 on the roster saw time in Northwest Arkansas last year. But the biggest fresh face is new manager Mike Rojas.
"To me AA is the most important step in an organization. This will make you or break you. You’ll find out about a lot of players here," Rojas said.
Rojas arrives after managing Detroit’s AAA the Toledo Mud Hens, to take over for Vance Wilson.
"Vance spoke very highly of this place and I respect Vance very much. And he played for me in winter ball," said Rojas.
He’s definitely like a players manager you know, he said he’s always gonna back us up and that’s awesome to hear," opening day starter Foster Griffin said. "He’s been around baseball for a long time so I’m looking forward to playing for him."
"He’s one of those coaches that’ll do anything for you and I like playing for those guys so, I’ll do anything for him on the field," infielder Nicky Lopez said.
All those returners hope to push the Naturals to the Texas League playoffs for a third straight season.
"I’m actually really excited for the season to be able to play under him, cause he’s that fiery coach that I enjoy," Lopez added. "I’ve had fiery coaches my whole life and he’s one of the top ones."
But in the grand scheme of things, it’s easy to forget that a manager’s goal is on par with a player’s goal.
"You know that’s my dream, to manage in the big leagues. It should be everybody’s dream to be there. And until they rip the uniform off that’s gonna be my dream," Rojas said.
Northwest Arkansas opens the season Thursday night at 6:25 p.m. against Corpus Christi at Arvest Ballpark.