Let’s play ball…

Published 6:00 am Tuesday, June 18, 2019



The 2019 Appalachian League season is upon us and the Elizabethton Twins – after two consecutive league championships – will be trying for the three-peat.

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Manager Ray Smith returns for his 32nd season with the club and he isn’t tiring of the duties yet.

“My last year playing was with Oakland in 1986,” Smith said. “So my first year managing here was 1987 and I remember our first trip was Burlington and Fred Waters – a guy I played for when I played here – and I remember standing out next to the bullpen and Willie Banks was our first round pick that year.

“He got some big-league time, and he was just out of high school and he was snapping off some breaking balls.

“Fred was kind of my mentor and we discussed things that happen in the game and the value of match ups. I learned a lot from him- some things I had not even thought of as a ballplayer.”

Smith managed the Twins from 1987 through 1994 and took over at the helm again in 2002 and has been there since winning eight Appalachian League championships over that span.

The Twins won the West Division with a 39-27 record and the Rays finished with a 44-22 mark to take the East Division.

Elizabethton comes off consecutive 2-0 sweeps of the Appy championship having bested Pulaski in 2017 and the Princeton Rays in 2018 and the Twins bring a new cast of players to Betsy this season with catcher Trevor Casanova returning.

Casanova hit a robust .331 with three homers and 17 RBI in 2018 and he returns to work on improving defensively.

Last season’s team saw outfielder Alex Robles lead the team with a .297 average. First baseman Chris Williams led the club in runs (39), runs batted in (51) and home runs (15) which also led the league.

Blair Lasko posted a 6-2 record in 2018 to lead the league in wins. He posted a 3.66 earned run average over 32 innings pitched.

He gave up 27 hits and walked 22 but struck out 35. Lefty Zach Neff (3-2, 4.87) led the league with five saves and he posted 22 strikeouts in 20.1 innings of work.

“You’re always looking for pitching,” Smith said. “You got to have that. I haven’t had a lot of time with these guys yet, some of them are coming in tomorrow from Minnesota after having physicals so I will be getting acquainted with a lot of these guys for the first time.”