Baseball is returning to Rochester. The Rochester Honkers will open their season on Thursday at the St. Cloud Rox. They’ll host the Rox on Friday at Mayo Field for the home-opener at 7:05 p.m.
Here are five things to know about the Honkers heading into the shortened 40-game 2020 season.
1. NEW SHERIFF IN TOWN
Deskaheh “Bomber” Bomberry will lead the Honkers this season. The first-year Rochester manager has coached for 18 years as the pitching coach at Sacramento City College. He’s developed 49 pitchers into Division I pitchers. Seventeen of those 49 have signed professional contracts and four have advanced all the way to Major League Baseball.
In 2000, Deskaheh was an assistant coach for the Chatham Athletics of the Cape Cod Collegiate League. Eight players from that team went on to play in the Major Leagues.
Deskaheh has also spent the last three summers assisting USA Baseball with the selection of the 18U national team.
“I am honored to be joining the Rochester Honkers organization. I am excited for the opportunity they have presented me,” Bomberry said. “I look forward to helping our players continue their development on and off the field”.
2. HONKERS HAVE AN EDGE IN THE POD
The Honkers will be in the Minnesota-Iowa pod and play the Mankato MoonDogs, St. Cloud Rox, Waterloo Bucks and Willmar Stingers this season. The Honkers went 8-4 vs. Mankato last year and 7-5 vs. Willmar. Rochester also won five of the eight contests against Waterloo and they split their 12 games against St. Cloud.
3. ARKANSAS DUO A KEY
Right-hander Nathan Rintz and outfielder Bryce Matthews are among the most noteworthy additions to the Honkers’ 2020 roster. The pair of Arkansas Razorbacks will look to have huge summers in Rochester.
Rintz is a high-level pitcher who possesses a 95 mph fastball that he can pair with a devastating slider and a nasty changeup. He was the No. 11 pitcher and No. 35 overall player out of Illinois, according to Perfect Game. He was also a top-500 recruit in the nation. Rintz was named a 2019 Perfect Game Preseason All-American, while also being named a 2017 and 2018 Preseason Underclass All-American.
Matthews is a 6-foot-4, 200-pound athletic outfielder who hammered 10 home runs in the last two years of high school ball in Colorado. Matthews was the No. 1 recruit out of Colorado and the left-handed hitter will likely hit near the top of the lineup for the Honkers this summer.
4. HOME SWEET HOME
The Honkers will play 11 of their 16 games at home in August. They’ll have a stretch from Aug. 2 to Aug. 8 where they play six home games. They’ll host Willmar, St. Cloud and Mankato during that key stretch.
5. FANS ALLOWED
Social distancing protocols will be in place, and fans will be allowed to watch the Honkers this season.
The Rochester Honkers’ staff will be wearing masks at all times, while they man the ticket offices and the concession stand. Fans will have the option of wearing a mask at the ballpark.
"Our box seats will follow social distancing guidelines," General Manager Jeremy Aagard said. "Then the rest is general admission. People can sit where they’re comfortable. Concession stand (employees) will be wearing masks to accommodate everyone as quickly and comfortably as we can. It’s been hard for everybody, but this could be a return to normalcy. People are excited to get sports back. This is a huge win for everybody, not just the Honkers."
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HONKERS 2020 HOME GAMES
July -- 3, St. Cloud; 8, Willmar; 9, Willmar; 12, St. Cloud; 16, Mankato; 17, Mankato; 22, Waterloo; 25, Mankato; 28, Waterloo. August -- 2, Willmar; 3, Willmar; 4, Waterloo; 6, St. Cloud; 7, St. Cloud; 8, Mankato; 13, Waterloo; 14, Waterloo; 16, Waterloo; 18, St. Cloud; 19, St. Cloud.