Rochester Royals to feature plenty of 'new' in 2024

May 19—ROCHESTER — The Rochester Royals will have a number of new faces as they embark on the 2024 amateur baseball season, but they will once again have lofty expectations.

There is a change at the top as Logan Milene becomes the manager this season and he will also continue to play. Drew Block steps down as manager. He will still play and also will be the team's business manager.

The biggest change will be in terms of personnel for the Royals, who are scheduled to begin the season on Sunday against the Rochester Roadrunners.

"We've probably had the most significant turnover since I've been involved with the team," Block said. "For a variety of different reasons, there's just been some turnover."

A number of the core players in recent years have graduated from college and found full-time jobs outside of the area. Some current college players are playing at a different level this summer or with different teams after moving away.

"It's not a bad thing," Block said, "but there might be some growing pains."

The Royals won the Class B state championship in 2022, but missed out on a state berth a year ago. Milene still believes the Royals will be a top state contender.

"We just won a state championship two years ago and we still have a lot of the same guys on the team," he said. "I think we'll be alright. We've always had guys who can play and we obviously have guys who can throw the ball (pitch)."

Veteran players not returning to the Royals this season include Sam Warren, Nolan Jurgenson, Joe Sperry, Kyle Prindle, Matt Hayford, Adam Marshall, Alex Miller and Sam Schneider, who all hail from Rochester.

A core of position-player veterans back from the 2022 championship team include Milene, Block, Mike Michalak, Bo McClintlock, Nick Pearson, Hayden Brown and brothers Tate and Thane Meiners of Caledonia.

The two top pitchers also return in left-handers Matt Meyer, a former minor leaguer, and Matteo Finocchi. Meyer, 39, missed much of the 2023 season with an arm injury and he could be very limited this year, however.

"It's definitely frustrating, but I'm not giving up yet," Meyer said. "I'm going to see if I can get it figured out and feeling good. If I can't, maybe I won't throw as many innings, but maybe I can still contribute in certain situations or out of the bullpen."

Pitchers Brevin Goetz and reliever Derek Lilledahl are also expected to play this summer. Two new pitchers added include Gabe Pilla, formerly of the Dundas Dukes, and Tony Grabowske, who played with St. Louis Park last season.

Pilla and Grabowske both played some college ball at the Division I level.

Milene, who just wrapped up his college career at Division I Eastern Michigan University is excited for the addition of Grabowske and Pilla and said they "should give us a lot of quality innings."

The Royals did add five players who played high school ball this spring and who will also play American Legion ball this summer. They include Chase Gasner, Carson Beavers, Spencer Kober and Aaron Terpstra of Rochester and Kasson-Mantorville's Bennett Brown. Sam Hruska, who played his freshman season at St. Olaf College this spring, has also been added. Mason Leimbek, a 2023 Mayo grad, also returns after playing part of last season with the Royals.

"We're signing some of the younger kids and hopefully they can contribute," Milene said.

Milene said a key for the Royals will be to have their core players at as many games as possible.

"It's just going to come down to, are we going to have nine players on the field who can help us win," Milene said. "And I think we do, if we have the right people who show up."

The Royals did cut about seven games off their schedule and plan on playing about 25 during the regular season.

"We're just going to try and focus on our section games," Block said. "We certainly expect to be competitive."

There will be a slight change in the postseason format for Section 2B. Five of the eight section teams will earn state berths. That includes the four winners of a best-of-3 playoff series. The four series losers will then play a single-elimination format to decide the fifth state qualifier.

"We were awarded an extra (state) bid and they took away a bid from another section," Block said.

Rochester's goal is to return to form and land a state berth again this season. Meyer and Michalak being hurt at the end of the 2023 season proved to be costly.

"We got some guys who can swing it (hit) and most of our core is back," Meyer said.

Royals 2024 schedule/roster