The Florida State League Champion Lakeland Flying Tigers have announced their 2013 Opening Day roster. It will feature twelve top 10 draft picks and six players who appeared in games for the Flying Tigers in 2012. The roster includes 13 pitchers, 2 catchers, 6 infielders and 4 outfielders.
Drew VerHagen and Dean Green were late season additions last season and both players helped Lakeland win its sixth championship in league history. VerHagen was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the fourth round of last year's June draft out of Vanderbilt University. He joined the Flying Tigers in July and made six starts down the stretch. His most impressive performance was against Dunedin in the FSL Division Championship Series. VerHagen pitched six shutout innings while allowing only 3 hits as Lakeland won the game and advanced to the Championship Series. He is rated the Tigers 16th-best prospect by MLB.com. Dean Green joined the Flying Tigers in July after being promoted from West Michigan where he was selected to the Midwest League's all-star team. In 38 games for the Flying Tigers, Green hit .348 with 11 doubles, 2 triples and 3 homeruns while driving in 36 runs. He was named Tigers Minor League Player of the Month for August, hitting .379 in 26 games.
Shortstop Eugenio Suarez headlines a list of top prospects. Suarez was named the ninth-best prospect in the Tigers organization by Baseball America following the 2012 season. He was selected to the Midwest League's mid-season all-star squad. He was named the West Michigan Player of the Year after finishing second in the Midwest League with 147 hits, tied for third with 135 games played, finished fifth with 65 walks, tied for fifth with 209 total bases and tied for ninth with a .288 batting average. Suarez was named Midwest League Player of the week for May 28-June 3 and was the Tigers Minor League Player of the Month for June after batting .366.
This season's team also has several local ties. Lefty reliever Joe Rogers is a former Winter Haven High School standout. During his senior season he threw a no-hitter against Lake Gibson High School, striking out 20 of 21 batters. Rogers was selected to the 2009 Florida Class 5A All-State Third Team. He moved on to the University of Central Florida and became the all-time career saves leader for the Golden Knights. He was selected by the Tigers in the fifth round of last year's June draft. Left-handed starter Kyle Ryan attended Auburndale High School and was selected by the Tigers in the 11th round of the June 2010 draft. Ryan was an All-County selection by The Ledger in 2010. Zach Maggard attended Florida Southern College 2008-2011. Maggard earned Second-Team All-Sunshine State Conference honors in 2009 during his sophomore season.
The rotation will include Tommy Collier, Kevin Eichhorn, Wilsen Palacios, Kyle Ryan and Drew VerHagen. The Flying Tigers pitching staff led the Florida State League in hits allowed (1045) and homeruns allowed (59). The team finished tied for third in the league with 10 shutouts last season.
Dave Huppert returns as manager of the Flying Tigers for his third season. This season marks Huppert's 25th season as manager at the minor league level. Huppert has the most wins by any active manager in Minor League Baseball entering the 2013 season with 1,745. Larry Herndon (hitting coach), Mike Maroth (pitching coach) and John Gentile (Strength and Conditioning Coach) all return to the Flying Tigers. TJ Obergefell will serve as Athletic Trainer this season for the Flying Tigers.
The Flying Tigers open the FSL season on the road against the Yankees in Tampa on April 4. The home opener is set for Friday, April 5 against the Yankees. First pitch is scheduled for 7:11 p.m. and gates to Marchant Stadium will open at 5:30 p.m. The first 1,500 fans that enter the ballpark will receive a 2013 Flying Tigers magnet schedule sponsored by the Crestwood Suites of Lakeland. Following the game will be a spectacular fireworks show (weather permitting).
Tickets for all home games are available by calling the Flying Tigers at (863) 686-8075. Box seats are $6 and reserved seats are $5 and seniors 55 and over, children 14 and under and active military personnel receive a $1.00 discount. Saturday tickets are an additional $1. Wednesday All-You-Can-Eat tickets are $10. Monday tickets are $1. Parking is FREE.
The Flying Tigers are a Class A Affiliate of the Detroit Tigers. For more information please visit the Flying Tigers online at www.LakelandFlyingTigers.com or call (863) 686-8075.