County’s beloved Blowfish to welcome several new players, staffers
Lexington, SC (James Bowers) - When Lexington County Blowfish owner Bill Shanahan told some people about his plans to have a luncheon in January to begin the lead up to the summer baseball season, he was met with puzzled looks. His response to the listeners' dubious skepticism was always the same, “We have so much to talk about!” As usual, Shanahan is right. There is a lot happening in the Blowfish clubhouse now, in preparation for the 2018 season to come.
Already, there’s the addition of several new players, a new head coach in Marshall McDonald, and several new members of the Coastal Plain League team’s front office staff. Shanahan used the first Wednesday luncheon to share some of this exciting news with the community. Among the festivities was the introduction of several new staff members to the large contingent of fans and sponsors on hand. New to the Blowfish front office are General Manager Theo Bacot, an eight-year veteran of professional baseball administration who most recently worked with the Biloxi Shuckers, a AA Minor League affiliate of the MLB’s Milwaukee Brewers. Other stops in Bacot’s career include the Durham Bulls and fellow CPL franchise the Wilmington Sharks. Bacot, a native of Raleigh, NC, is a graduate of East Carolina University.
Bacot replaces Brian Larkin, who was recently promoted to Vice-President of the Blowfish organization which is formally known as Shanahan and Company Sports Management. Bacot will be aided in his new GM role by Assistant General Manager Kyle Calhoun, Stadium Operations Director Robbie Hardy, Community Relations Director Anna Vergelli, Marketing and Promotions Director AnnaGrace Foell, and Food and Beverage Director Devin Leon. The Blowfish also recognized a slew of seasonal hires. Among them is Media Coordinator Lawson Estridge, whose expertise as a graphic designer and strong communication skills make it hard to fathom that he is only a junior at Lexington High School. Other additions include several students of the University of South Carolina’s Sports and Entertainment Management program: Sales/Box Office Interns Zach Woodard, Allie DeGrouchy and Kevin Cooper, and Communty Relations/Merchandise Intern Mayde Moore. These additions will continue a Blowfish tradition of giving young people their first experience working in professional sports.
Among the new additions to the Blowfish on field roster are a host of Lexington County natives. These players include a pair of recent River Bluff High School alumni in Aaron Adams at pitcher, and Sean Parsons playing in the infield. Gilbert High School is also well represented by Patrick White in the infield and on third base, and Trace Whetshell who’ll be in the middle infield when play begins. Chapin High School also has an alumnus on the Blowfish roster in pitcher Tyler White, while Lexington and White Knoll are represented by Jon Scott, a pitcher, and Mac MacCurdy playing first base respectively.
New Head Coach Marshall McDonald is excited about the 2018 ‘Fish, noting a strong presence of left handed hitters on the roster. The new, local players will join veteran Jared Williams and fellow newcomers Brennan Strovnik on first base, currently playing collegiate ball at Limestone College, Matt Honeycutt, who plays for Mars Hill College and Appalachian State. McDonald also plans to bring onboard some USC and Clemson players as the season approaches.
McDonald was promoted to the head coaching role after his predecessor Jonathan Johnson left the team to pursue Christian missionary work. McDonald had joined the Blowfish as an assistant to Johnson in 2017. He is also a member of Presbyterian College’s coaching staff. This is McDonald’s third head coaching job with a summer farm team, as the Forest City, NC native also helmed the Lenior Oilers and Statesville Owls.
McDonald played college baseball at Montreat College. Following this collegiate career, he had a stint in independent professional baseball. His playing career took him to far-flung destinations such as Puerto Rico and Washington State. McDonald touts the preparation that summer league baseball gives college players. “Playing college summer league can get you ready for minor league ball,” McDonald said. “Playing every night takes a toll on your mind and your body, you have to learn to prepare. McDonald’s goal for 2018 is simple; Win a championship. “I think I’m putting together a roster to make it happen."
The event also highlighted several community initiatives the Blowfish are undertaking. In an effort to support veterans “everywhere, not just in Lexington County," the Lexington County Blowfish have themed their 2018 campaign the “Season of the Stars & Stripes." The Blowfish will honor military veterans by wearing patriotic “stars and stripes” jerseys in select games, and then auction off these shirts for charity at the end of the season. As they do every season, the Blowfish will frequently honor service men and women by hosting a Fort Jackson Night during which the Blowfish host scores of soldiers from the Columbia-area military base.
Other organizations the Blowfish will partner with include Batesburg-Leesville Animal Hospital, with which the team will work to promote adoption of homeless pets. This partnership saw the addition of Phisher (pronounced Fisher) to the Blowfish staff. Fisher, a Boykin Spaniel, will serve as the team’s “director of on-deck circle operations” and part of his duties include retrieving baseballs for the team. During the team’s “Dog Day Tuesdays” Phisher will lead the “Pooch’s Parade,” which features area dogs, most of whom belong to fans.
Perhaps the crown jewel event at Lexington County Baseball Stadium this year will be the Coastal Plain League All-Star Show, set for the weekend of July 8-9. Festivities for that weekend include a Home Run Derby,featuring some of the Coastal Plain League’s best hitters, and a mini-derby in which 11-12 year old youth all-stars from Lexington County square off against local media figures.
The Blowfish have been a welcome addition to Lexington County, which owner Shanahan dubs the, “Youth baseball capital of the world.” “It’s amazing how much baseball and softball happens in Lexington County,” Shanahan said. “The county is really exploding with growth, and we hope to bring many more events here.”
Community involvement is and always has been a big priority for the Blowfish. Shanahan says he plans to hold a luncheon on the first Wednesday of every month in order to “make friends” with the county’s communities. “We want to find out what’s going on in the county, and really make connections in the area.”
The Blowfish season gets underway May 31, but there will be plenty of action for the Blowfish until then. For more information, visit goblowfishbaseball.com or call (803) 254-3474.