June 6 may seem like a long way off, but the roster for the 65th season of Humboldt Crabs baseball is beginning to come into focus.
There are still holes to be filled, and unforeseen circumstances could alter the look of the roster, but at this time, more than 20 players have committed to spending the summer at the Arcata Ball Park.
The team expects to have at least five returning players, including two-time Crabs MVP Jeff Giacomini. Despite a rusty start due to injury, Giacomini hit .331 and led the 2008 Crabs in almost every offensive category.
"Having Giacomini coming back for his third year with the Crabs is really exciting," said Head Coach Robin Guiver. "It gives us a guy that we know will be a clutch hitter and team leader."
Other returners include catcher Brad Morgan — a local product and fierce competitor who played for the Crabs in 2007 and the Steelheads in 2008 — infielder Beck Wheeler, pitcher Dakota Watts and outfielders Tommy Pavesi and Bobby Ethel.
Ethel will also be bringing along his younger brother, J.J., a prospect that excites Guiver.
"Having both of the Ethel brothers this summer is going to be a lot of fun," said Guiver. "This will be Bobby's third season with the Crabs, and we love his speed, defense, and quiet leadership. J.J. is a catcher who has had a lot of success at the JC level, which led him to signing a scholarship to University of Louisville. I think that J.J. has a chance to be a middle of the lineup-type guy for us, as well as a very good defensive catcher."
Watts, a 6-foot-3 righty, was a pleasant surprise for the Crabs in 2008, posting a 5-1 record and a 1.33 ERA, and Guiver is thrilled to have him back.
"Dakota came to us as kind of an unknown last summer, and pitched better than we expected," said Guiver. "He is a big, strong power pitcher that likes to compete. If Dakota is on he can dominate a game."
Watts will be part of what Guiver expects to be a very strong pitching staff.
"I am a real believer in the idea that pitching wins games," said Guiver. "We have some really good arms that I am expecting to do good things for the Crabs, and a number of guys that have a chance to keep playing ball after their college careers are over."
Other names Guiver gave when asked for pitchers to keep an eye on are Zac Bischoff and John Holtman, both righties. Bischoff was a first-team All North Coast Conference selection as a sophomore at San Mateo Junior College last year, and will help the Fresno State Bulldogs defend their NCAA title this spring. Holtman, a sophomore at Cal State San Marcos, made 14 appearances, including five starts, last year, posting a 4-1 record.
The College most reperesented on the roster so far is San Jose State, which so far is sending four players up Highway 101, including a pair of infielders, junior Karson Klauer and freshman Michael Reiling.
"I think the fans will love Reiling," said Guiver. "He is a hard-nosed player who gets after it in all phases of the game. He was a two-time all-state player at Valley Christan High School in San Jose, and is a guy that the Spartans coaches are really excited about, as are we."
View the complete roster here, and check out the 2009 schedule here.