CLINTON — The looks on the faces of the 2014 Clinton LumberKings said it all as they arrived to get acclimated on Tuesday: this was the next step to Seattle.
The 2014 Midwest League season begins tonight as the LumberKings face Cedar Rapids for a four-game stint against the Kernels.
Most of the players who will wear "Clinton" across their chests are newcomers, hoping to make a name for themselves while aiming for a Midwest League crown.
Not only is LumberKings manager Scott Steinmann aiming for a league pennant, he's looking to do something no professional baseball team has done.
"I expect to go 140-0," Steinmann said. "I don't practice or play to lose; I send my guys out there to win, and that's what we're going to aim for every night."
Steinmann was the club's manager back in 2009, and the LumberKings barely got over the .500 hump that season winning 69 games. In that same season, the LumberKings were much stronger in the first half going 40-30 and finishing just one game short of the first half division title.
"I believe if we carry high expectations, play the right way, and do what we're supposed to do, I think we'll have a great season."
Edwin Diaz gets the starting nod on the pitcher's mound for Clinton Thursday. This will be Diaz's first career start for the LumberKings, and he has some momentum to carry with him from his 2013 campaign.
The right-handed pitcher from Puerto Rico spent last season in Pulaski making 13 appearances and turning in a 5-2 season with 1.43 ERA. He also had 79 strikeouts and walked only 18 hitters while allowing 11 earned runs.
"He displays a really quick arm," Steinmann said. "Low-to-mid 90s with a slider thrown in there; we're really excited to have him starting for us and hopefully take off to become an All-Star."