Oklahoma City Dodgers look forward to new season with new manager 

click to enlarge OKC Dodgers President/General Manager Michael Byrnes, presents a jersey to new manager Bill Haselman, during a welcoming press event for Haselman, at the Bricktown Ballpark, in Oklahoma City, 2-9-2016. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • OKC Dodgers President/General Manager Michael Byrnes, presents a jersey to new manager Bill Haselman, during a welcoming press event for Haselman, at the Bricktown Ballpark, in Oklahoma City, 2-9-2016.

Bill Haselman arrived in Oklahoma City when he was 24 years old.

It was early spring of 1991. The season before, the catcher made his major league debut in a Texas Rangers jersey. Before he was called to the majors, Haselman played two seasons for the Tulsa Drillers.

He spent the ’91 season as a Triple A player for the 89ers, performing in front of OKC crowds in All Sports Stadium at the Oklahoma fairgrounds.

Haselman hit nine home runs and 60 RBI. He returned the following season, appearing in 17 games before moving to a Pacific coast Triple A team and finishing out the season as a Seattle Mariner.

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Haselman had an impressive career, playing primarily for the Rangers, but also landing on the rosters of the Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers.

Haselman returns to OKC in a different light April 15, because that’s how baseball works. For someone like him, baseball is in the blood and runs red like the seams of the ball.

For the past five seasons, Haselman’s role in baseball has been outside the diamond. Now, he manages teams, and he’s as effective as he was during his playing career.

His success led him back to OKC, but it has been a quarter century since he wore an Oklahoma City jersey.

OKC Dodgers new manager, Bill Haselman, addresses the media during a welcoming event at the Bricktown Ballpark, in Oklahoma City, 2-9-2016. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • OKC Dodgers new manager, Bill Haselman, addresses the media during a welcoming event at the Bricktown Ballpark, in Oklahoma City, 2-9-2016.

New look

Oklahoma City baseball is no longer played in a fairgrounds ballpark. Instead, crowds pack Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, located in one of the city’s most vibrant districts. Fans wear blue and white and ball caps with a diagonal white “OKC” stitched atop a Dodgers blue base.

Gone are the days of fans sporting RedHawks or 89ers gear.

Haselman said he admires the changes, but he hopes much is still the same, especially the eager young players looking to sharpen their skills and progress into the game’s upper ranks.

He remembered OKC fans and referred to them as “knowledgeable.” He said they came to games even when the team played lousy.

“I am very excited about being back in Oklahoma,” said Haselman, who resides in Newcastle, Washington, with his family. “I played here a while ago. Nothing from what I played here looks the same. The city has really grown, and it looks beautiful.”

Days before the start of 2016, Oklahoma City Dodgers officials named Haselman manager. He replaced Damon Berryhill, who was not retained after the 2015 season. Eight days before reporting for spring training, Haselman stopped in OKC for a brief visit with media and Dodgers officials at the ballpark.

“It looks like it was built yesterday,” he said about the facilities, an original MAPS project. “The people keep it in great shape, and it is really great to see that. I am excited to be out in it with a team. It has a festive feel. That’s what you want as a manager, to come in and have a good feel of the place. I certainly feel that.”

Haselman inherited a team with a winning record and postseason play in its inaugural season. Additionally, Oklahoma City sold out 23 of last season’s 68 home games. He also brought his own winning experience to OKC. Last season, he managed the Class A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, another Dodgers affiliate, to a California League championship.

This is his third season with the Dodgers organization.

It’s anybody’s guess how Oklahoma City might play this year. The Dodgers open its season Thursday in Nashville, kicking off eight road games.

The home opener is a Friday night bout with first pitch at 7:05 p.m. The April 15 game concludes with fireworks. Fans can catch the Dodgers through the summer months at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. The last regularly scheduled game is Sept. 1 against the Memphis Redbirds.

At Dodgers games, look for Haselman on the field and near the Dodgers’ box. Twenty-five years ago, the young catcher was known for his ability to block home plate for Oklahoma City.

Now, he prepares the next round of baseball players for the big leagues and ensures those players perform to their full potential, which translates to good baseball watching for OKC fans.

“I think being affiliated with the Dodgers is a great thing for Oklahoma City,” he said. “I think you are always going to have big-time talent at the Triple A level. They need to have guys ready to go to the big leagues and step in there right away.”

Print headline: Play ball, OKC Dodgers begin the new season with a former player as the team’s manager

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