The coronavirus knocked one player out of action even before the Flying Chanclas de San Antonio opened practice last week. Two more players, Chanclas manager John McLaren said Sunday, have tested positive in the past few days.
On top of that, one of his key pitchers has had to leave town because of a personal matter in his family, leaving a significant gap in the starting rotation.
But even with the adversity, McLaren has developed a good feeling about the potential of his team, which is set to open open play in the Texas Collegiate League this week.
His spirits were lifted by performances that he witnessed in a scrimmage on Friday and in an intra-squad game on Saturday at Wolff Stadium.
Supplying an update in a phone interview on Sunday night, McLaren, a former manager of the Seattle Mariners and the Washington Nationals, said some of his players have a chance to excel in professional baseball.
He also likes their overall attitude and willingness to be coached.
“We talked about the (intra-squad) game yesterday, and we shared some ideas with them,” he said. “You know, the kids, they’re all ears. They want to learn the game. And we love teaching it. We’re having a lot of fun with this. I think they are, (too).
“For myself, it’ll be nice to follow these kids (in the future), seeing how they’re doing in their career. A couple of them, I’m really, really high on. They can take this to the next level, and maybe higher.”
McLaren is set to board the bus with his players Monday morning.
They’ll leave at 7:15 a.m., en route to Amarillo, where they’ll open their first season in the Texas Collegiate League on Tuesday night.
After three games in three nights against the Amarillo Sod Squad, the plan calls for the Chanclas to motor eight hours back to the Alamo City, where they’ll open at Wolff on Friday night against the Acadiana (La.) Cane Cutters.
It’s the start of a 30-game schedule that will run through the end of July.
Talking about Saturday’s practice game, McLaren cited the play of his outfield, namely Porter Brown of TCU, Kyte McDonald of Mississippi State and Jordan Thompson, who will play for Texas A&M next season.
“These kids are scrappy, and they hustle,” he said. “They’re multi-talented. They run the bases aggressively. They have nice (hitting) strokes. I think our strong suit is our outfield.
“I’m hoping our pitching is our strong suit, too, but that’s yet to be seen. We’ll have to see how all the pieces fall together.”
McLaren said Marcelo Perez, Austin Krob and Riggs Threadgill have entered the picture as pitchers slotted into the starting rotation.
Stopping short of naming an opening-day starter, the manager said it likely would be Perez or Krob, both from TCU.
Catching is rounding into form with Tyler LaRue, the son of former major league catcher Jason LaRue, and Nick Wolff.
On the corners in the infield, Conner Shepherd is at third, with Ryan Flores and Lee Thomas at first.
McLaren mentioned Leyton Barry and Grant Smith as two with versatility to share the middle infield positions.
It’s been a hectic first week on the job for McLaren, an Arizona resident, in putting together his team.
Not only has he tried to get things organized with only six days of practice, he’s also had to do it against the backdrop of the worst health crisis in the United States in more than 100 years.
Since the coronavirus hit the United States in March, it has sickened more than 2.5 million people and killed more than 125,000.
To complicate matters more for McLaren, Texas is now considered a hot spot for the disease.
Bexar County, which includes San Antonio and surrounding areas, has reported more than 10,000 cases since March, with more than 7,300 coming since June 1.
McLaren said he has been on the phone with other managers to see how it is affecting the 10-team league.
“Like I said, we’ve got our challenges,” he said. “We talk every day, about social distancing and doing the right thing. You know, I think with the bars and night clubs closed down, it’ll help, because these kids won’t have any place to go hang out.
“I mean, I don’t care how many times you tell ’em, they’re kids. They go out. They like to go have a good time, and there’s consequences during these tough times.
“We put it right in their lap — it’s up to you. If you be as careful as you can, we can maybe get this season in. If not, we might have a problem. So, that’s where we are.”