Modesto Nuts’ pitching coach Brandon Emanuel was a second-round pick of the Anaheim Angels in 1998, he spent six years pitching in the Angels’ organization and six more coaching the Angels’ young arms - including time with Inland Empire.
This is his first season in the Colorado organization, and who should come to town for the Nuts’ home opener? Inland Empire. The Angels.
At this point, even the most grizzled baseball guy might reveal a soft spot for his former organization, or perhaps reveal a secret or two about his former employer.
“It's good to see some of the faces, but it doesn't matter who you play - you still want to beat them,” said Emanuel, who turned 39 last Thursday, the California League’s opening night. “I didn't give any thought to this being the Angels we're playing tonight, or that we have to do things a certain way to beat the Angels.”
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Since Emanuel was not coaching last season, a whole new crop of young arms has moved into the Angels’ High-A slot in Inland Empire. As a result, the only current 66ers players he’s worked with are third baseman Kaleb Cowart, who was in Inland Empire in 2013, and Kody Eaves, to whom he’s thrown some offseason batting practice.
“It's good to see the guys, and that's the part I'm looking forward to,” Emanuel said. “Other than that you're here to play baseball.”
THE ROAD TRIP
Nuts manager Fred Ocasio was upbeat before the home opener, knowing the 3-4 road trip to open the season could have been better, but also could have been worse.
“Record-wise it wasn't want we wanted at 3-4, but we'll take it, especially the way we came back and won the last game,” Ocasio said, referencnig Wednesday’s 3-2 victory at Bakersfield. “The offense did a nice job, and the bullpen did a good job. The second time around, both starters were really good. I hope we learned some things on the road trip and we can get off to a good start here.”
Modesto did hit well on the road, averaging 5.4 runs per game and hitting .277 as a team. Given the historic slow offensive start of most Nuts teams, those numbers are impressive, but they didn’t surprise Ocasio.
“We had a pretty good spring training as a team,” He said. “We knew it would be a young and talented group. Starting the season on the road for seven games was a road trip that seemed to last forever. Now we get to play at home.
The good thing is that we have seven games under our belts and we've played under the lights, which we never do in spring training.”
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (209) 578-2150. Follow him on Twitter @modestobeek.