LOVES PARK, Ill. (WIFR) The RIvets are back to work for another season in the Northwoods League. After winning just 28 games a year ago, there is only room for improvement.
With nearly the entire roster in attendance, Rockford got to work over the weekend in anticipation of the team's season and home opener on Tuesday.
New Field Manager Josh Keim returns to Rockford after a stint as the Rivets hitting coach in 2016. Keim wants to win, but said it's also his job to prepare the players for the next level.
"This is the closest thing you can get to professional baseball. 72 games, 76 days", said Keim. "So finding their routine and working on what they need to do to get better and make sure they go back to school better than what they were when they got here."
"We're going to do our job as a coaching staff to continue to develop these guys each day with early work, batting practice, some things with the weight room. I think that if we can buy into that as a group, I think that winning should take care of itself."
Four local names are on this year's roster as well. Forreston grad Nathan Schneiderman returns for another summer with the Rivets. He recently finished his senior year at the University of Dubuque, where he appeared in 17 games and had an ERA of 1.57. He also recorded six saves and was named Third Team All-Central by D3Baseball.com. The big lefty is happy to have one more shot to impress major league scouts.
"Last summer was a critical time of just learning all the hitters and getting the next level aspect of what the next level really is," said Schneiderman. "I was just taking it every day granted. I got so many games left in my career and just knowing that this might be the last one. Just going out there and giving it all I got."
Another area product is Harlem grad and current Rockford University pitcher Zach Jones. This past spring, Jones was named the NACC Pitcher of the Year and First Team All-Conference. He also became just the second Regent to ever be named First Team All-Midwest Region by D3Baseball.com.
Jones has experience in the Northwoods League as well. He pitched for the Bismark Larks in North Dakota. Jones said he is ready for another opportunity.
"Since I got a chance to play last year, I'm not really nearly as nervous as I was," said Jones. "Last year was a whole lot of nerves in the beginning when I got there. I think I'll be able to settle in nicely here."
"Since this is basically like a minor league schedule, it'd be nice to have this full season. I had half of the season last year. But having 72 or however many game it's supposed to be will prepare me, say if I happen to do play forward after this, it'll get me ready for the next years."
Former Rochelle Hub and current Northern Illinois pitcher Kyle Seebach will tow the rubber for the Rivets. Seebach had 36 strikeouts in 34.2 innings pitched and gave up only three home runs this past spring for the Huskies.
Last, but not certainly least, is Stillman Valley grad Andrew Wilhite. The former Cardinal had his freshman year at Minnesota come to an end in the Big Ten Conference semifinals. He hit .229 with three home runs and 14 RBI in 70 at-bats with the Gophers. Wilhite is expected to join the team later this week.
The Rivets open the season Tuesday, May 28 at 6:35 p.m. at home against the Wisconsin Rapids Rafters.