All across the United States, the snow is melting, the sun is rising and the birds are chirping. Yes, spring is on the way and that can only mean one thing to Americans the start of the Major League Baseball season.

In Rochester, however, the snow is still here and the birds and brilliant spring sun have yet to arrive.

Nevertheless, the baseball season will begin. And baseball in Rochester can be found downtown at Frontier Field, home of the Rochester Red Wings, the AAA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles.

The Red Wings compete in the International League and will open their season against their Northern Division rival, the Syracuse SkyChiefs April 5th at P & C Stadium in Syracuse. They will return home to play the SkyChiefs, the AAA affliliate of the Toronto Blue Jays in their home opener on Saturday April 7, at 2:15 p.m. at Frontier Field.

Rochester is coming off a disappointing 2000 season in which it stumbled to a 65-79 record finishing 20 1/2 games behind the first-place Buffalo Bisons, the AAA affiliate of the Cleveland Indians.

The Red Wings aim to rebound from last year’s disappointment. The Red Wings management has made some changes in the organization that should help the team become more competitive.

Despite absence of Marv Foley, the most successful and most popular Red Wings manager in the past 25 years, the arrival of new manager Andy Etchebarren brings promise this season.

Etchebarren, a catcher for the Red Wings in 1965 who then played 15 years of major league baseball- 12 for the Baltimore Orioles. Last year, Etchebarren was the manager of the Bowie Bay Sox, the Orioles AAA affiliate in Bowie, Md.

With Etchebarren as manager, look for a more exciting season on the field for the Red Wings. As reported in the Democrat and Chronicle, Etchebarren plans to give the younger players a chance to show what they can do.

“We’re going to go with our kids next year, if they fail, they fail. I promise you this.”

Etchebarren promises to fill his roster with “young, energetic players,[rather] than all these six-year free agents.”

There will definitely be new bodies suiting up for the Red Wings this year. In the off-season, the Red Wings traded third baseman Ryan Minor. Minor was supposed to be the next Orioles superstar and was once thought to be the heir apparent to Cal Ripken. Minor had a decent career in Rochester but on numerous occasions failed to pan out in Baltimore.

He was dealt to the Montreal Expos for hard throwing pitcher Luis Rivera.

Rivera might have earned a spot in the Orioles’ starting rotation. However he suffered a lateral tear in his shoulder and is out for the season. Rivera has been known to hit triple digits on the radar gun and may end up as the Orioles closer in years to come.

The Red Wings have also acquired outfielder Kenny Woods from the Scranton Wilkes-Barre Red Barons.

Woods hit .303 last year with 35 RBI and 20 stolen bases. He led the Red Barons with 155 hits and 89 runs.

First baseman Calvin Pickering is a familiar face to the team who should provide the power in the lineup. Pickering has had to live up to high expectations in his career.

Pickering has done well but has yet to have the impact on the Orioles organization that was expected.

Rumors are that this year may be his last chance to prove that he can make an impact on the big-league level. A native of St. Thomas in the Virgin Islands, Pickering claims that he has trouble playing in cold weather. Last July, he hit .366 with 10 home runs and 27 RBIs in 24 games.

The Red Wings will once again be a fun team to watch but may not be able to make a run for the top of the International League. However, making a trip to Frontier Field will be a great time for UR students.

Frontier Field is a beautiful park that provides a fan-friendly atmosphere.

While watching the game, fans are usually entertained by the Red Wings unofficial mascot Super Wasteman, formerly known as Recycle Man.

Recycle Man leads the cheers in the stands and often from atop the Red Wings dugout while throwing favors in to the crowd and encouraging fans to recycle.

As the snow melts, the season begins. See you at the park.

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