On the field and off, it feels as though the York Revolution baseball team has undergone a face lift of sorts over the offseason.
The venue the Revs call home has changed names from Sovereign Bank Stadium to Santander Stadium.
In the ballpark is the new Diamond Deck, an area constructed behind home plate for parties of 25 to 50 people to gather to watch a game.
For fans craving pizza when they come to a Revs game, Little Caesers has replaced Pizza Hut on the concourse.
In York's front office, there's a new marketing director and a new director of baseball operations.
With the game-day entertainment staff, there's a new on-field emcee taking over for Adam McCallister.
On the coaching staff is a new pitching coach.
And the team itself, well, about half of the players are new to the club, although this is actually the norm from year-to-year in the independent Atlantic League.
Revs fans will get their first chance to see some of the newbies — 13 in total — in game action on Thursday night when York opens the 2014 season at home against the Camden Riversharks, with first pitch slated for 6:30 p.m.
There are still quite a few question marks about whether this team has the makeup to win a first-half Freedom Division title and clinch a spot in the playoffs, something last year's club failed to reach for the first time since 2009.
Pitching: Chris Cody will get the start on opening night over Corey Thurman, who had started the last four opening day games for York. Although Cody and Thurman are the two winningest pitchers in franchise history, there are still concerns with both. Thurman, 35, is coming off one of his worst seasons as a pro. Cody, who became the ace of last year's staff, is 30 years old and coming off a year in which he tossed a career-high 220-plus innings combined between York and the Venezuelan winter league, so it remains to be seen if there will be some wear and tear on his left arm.
The rest of the rotation will be filled out by guys who are new to York and the Atlantic League. Revs' manager Mark Mason is going to give right-hander Jorge Martinez a chance to prove himself as a starter. Martinez, 30, defected from Cuba last year after pitching there the last seven years. The last two spots in the rotation will be filled by former big leaguer and Northern York grad Anthony Lerew along with 31-year-old left-hander Alain Quijano, who has spent has entire seven-year pro career playing independent ball.
On paper, the bullpen is easily the strongest part of this club. It includes five former big leaguers, highlighted by the addition of York resident and ex-big leaguer Mark Hendrickson. It'll be anchored by setup man Mike Wuertz and closer Rommie Lewis, both veterans and ex-big leaguers coming off impressive seasons with York last year.
Catcher Salvador Paniagua, back behind the plate for York for the fourth year in a row, should aid the pitching staff in calling games. Paniagua, Cody and Thurman are the only players remaining on the current roster who played for the Revs back in 2011, the year York last won the league title.
Offense: As he put together his roster this offseason, Mason's mantra was to find good pitchers and put a good defense behind them, often saying offense is overrated and correctly estimating the top offense and bottom offense in the Atlantic League in 2013 were separated by just a hit or two a game, on average.
As a result, it's no surprise to find York without a power hitter who will put fear into the hearts of opposing pitchers. However, the lineup is stacked with a handful of capable hitters in outfielders Johan Limonta and Tim Torres and infielders Chad Tracy and Ofilio Castro - all of whom have triple-A minor league experience - and former major leaguers Eric Patterson and Wilson Valdez.
Plus, York invested in a new pair of wheels to get around the basepaths a little faster this season. After Mason's club finished dead last in stolen bases in 2013, the Revs' skipper acquired Valdez from Camden and outfielder Sean Smith from Southern Maryland. They were two of the top-three base stealers in the Atlantic League last year.
What: The 2014 opening day for the York Revolution.
Where: Santander Stadium.
When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
Who: The Revs will take on the Camden Riversharks.
Forecast: At game time, it's supposed to be 59 degrees and sunny.
Promotions, giveaways: There will be a pre-game magic show featuring Reza the Illusionist, plus a Magic 8-Ball baseball free to first 1,500 fans - just like the traditional Magic 8-Ball, except with red stitches and with Revolution-themed answers.
Tickets: Lawn tickets are $8, field box tickets are $12 and dugout box tickets $14. Tickets can be purchased at the box office, online at yorkrevolution.com or by calling 801-4478.
— Reach John Walk at firstname.lastname@example.org.