Advertisement

Blue Wahoos open new season: Five things to know about what's to come

Amid the afterglow of winning a 2022 championship in their 10th season, the Pensacola Blue Wahoos begin their next decade in Friday’s season opener with plenty of new elements.

The three-game series this weekend at Blue Wahoos Stadium against the Montgomery Biscuits – the Tampa Bay Rays Double-A affiliate – is a rematch of the last September’s Southern League divisional playoff series. The Blue Wahoos came back from an opening game loss in Montgomery to take the next two games in Pensacola to advance into the championship series they won against the Tennessee Smokies.

Champions!: Pensacola Blue Wahoos win Southern League championship title

More: Opening Day had lots of connections to Blue Wahoos. Who's on the rosters and where they are:

In winning, the Blue Wahoos became the Miami Marlins first minor league affiliate in eight years to win a title. This is the Blue Wahoos third year of a 10-year agreement as the Marlins’ Double-A affiliate.

With opening night ahead, here are five new things to know about the Blue Wahoos and the stadium experience.

1­. RAMPED UP ROSTER

The Blue Wahoos start the season with a stacked lineup. The standouts include 20 of the 27 active players returning from last year’s team and eight of the Top 30 players in the Marlins minor-league system as rated by MLB Pipeline.

“We are glad to be back in Pensacola. We have an unbelievable roster constructed,” said manager Kevin Randel. “We’ve got some veteran players, a lot of guys who repeated (at Double-A). Starting pitching, the bullpen, the depth is unreal this year. The roster is loaded.”

The group is led by the pitching staff, which has been the Miami Marlins biggest strength in Major League Baseball.

Once again, acclaimed right-hander Eury Perez, 19, the Marlins’ No. 1 rated prospect by MLB Pipeline and No. 13 overall in Minor League Baseball, is part of a five-man starting rotation that includes lefthanders Dax Fulton (No. 4-rated Marlins prospect) and Patrick Monteverde (No. 30). p

One of those three will be on the mound Friday night and it’s expected all three will be in the weekend rotation.

“It’s fun watching these guys pitch,” Randel said. “They’re going to pitch every fifth day with our five-man rotation.”

In addition to pitching, the Blue Wahoos return top 30 prospects with shortstop Nasim Nunez (No. 21), catcher Paul McIntosh (28) and first baseman Troy Johnston (29). The new addition will be outfielder Victor Mesa Jr., the 14th rated prospect, who spent last season in High-A with the Beloit Sky Carp.

2. LOOK GOOD, FEEL GOOD

The Blue Wahoos will wear all-new uniform designs this season. The home white jerseys will be a retro look back to the earlier years with the dark blue lettering and the only one with players’ names on the back.

The powder blue jersey which was first worn in 2019 as a Minnesota Twins affiliate, is now replaced by a black and pink piping design that resembles the Marlins look.

On Sunday, the team will wear a floral design, Hawaiian look, pink jerseys The other two jersey combinations are also new.

“I don’t know how I’m going to look in this pink one, I’ll guess we’ll find out,” Nunez said. “It’s kind of a Hawaii vibe. I think my girlfriend will like it.”

In contrast, Fulton said the pink floral was his favorite, “The flowers and stuff on it, I think that’s awesome. I think (all jerseys) are wonderful. These white ones, they’re cool. They have our names on the back.”

3. NEW MERCH

After ending last season with sparse inventory, the Blue Wahoos team store, now called the GoTeez Bait and Tackle Shop, has been restocked and filled with new designs, new items.

GoTeez Clothing Company, based in Alcoa, Tennessee, has a new partnership with all 120 Minor League Baseball teams, but an exclusive one in Pensacola with merchandise.

The store will sell the new jersey designs. hats, as well as the Blue Wahoos specialty apparel,, the Pensacola Poke Ta Poke, which is part of the MILB outreach initiative into the Latino community with Copa de la Diversion, Pensacola is one of the participating teams and communities in the program.

National supply-chain issues, which were a problem with merchandise the past two seasons, has been corrected and back to pre-Covid years.

4. CASHLESS CONVERSION

A reminder to fans attending games this season that Blue Wahoos Stadium is now a cashless venue. That includes tickets, merchandise and concessions.

But the Blue Wahoos are offering a generic gift card that can be obtained with cash at the team store or the box office and used as a way to purchase food, beverages, apparel.

It can be obtained for any dollar amount and refilled through out the season. The card offers an option for those who do not like to use a debit or credit card, preferring cash transactions only. The ballpark follows the lead of the Pensacola Bay Center, which has been a cashless venue for the past two years.

“This is something where we really weighed all possibilities,” said team president Jonathan Griffith. “We really feel by going cashless it’s going to streamline the food and beverage sales process, plus get people through the lines faster and eliminates having to make change, which was difficult sometimes with the coin shortage.”

5. REFILLABLE POPCORN/SODA

The Blue Wahoos are offering season-ticket holders and all fans who attend multiple games during this season with an all-you-can-consume option for popcorn and sodas.

For $25 each, a customer can purchase a refillable plastic drink cup, or a popcorn container, that can be brought to each future game and refilled for free. For $45, customers can have both unlimited soda and popcorn all season. The items are available at all concession locations.

Season ticket holders are encouraged to use the lounge on the street level, first base side to go into the room and refill their unlimited soda or popcorn with the purchased containers. It will be open the entire game.

Non-season ticket holders who purchase the unlimited containers can use them for any future games at any of the four storefront locations at the ballpark.

Bill Vilona is a retired Pensacola News Journal sports columnist and now senior writer for Pensacola Blue Wahoos. He can be reached at bvilona@bluewahoos.com.

This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Blue Wahoos Open New Season: Five Things To Know