Portland Sea Dogs infielder Wendell Rijo (left) talks with outfielder Rainel Rosario during Media Day on Tuesday at Hadlock Field.

Portland Sea Dogs infielder Wendell Rijo (left) talks with outfielder Rainel Rosario during Media Day on Tuesday at Hadlock Field.

PORTLAND — With the 2016 regular season kicking off tonight, the Portland Sea Dogs are hoping to win games on the field as well as polish their resumes for the big leagues.

Portland welcomes many new faces as well as some old ones. Regardless of background, the players have begun to familiarize themselves with one another this spring.

Pitcher and second-year Sea Dog Justin Haley is excited to see what this team can do.

“We’ve got a great group of guys … we’re really looking forward to this season. Most of us spent two months down in Florida, so I got to know the guys. We got to experience what roles we would be in,” said Haley. “I’m excited personally for this group, we have a lot of talented guys. I’m excited for us to get on the field and do what is natural, which is work hard.”

According to Haley, an important factor in the team’s success will be playing together and eliminating ego.

“We definitely mesh well, we all get along … there are no big heads in the clubhouse,” said Haley. “That is the key to success, definitely at this level as you move up. You’re going to need to work with the guy next to you and know that he is going to do his job so you can do yours. Everyone works harder that way and you’ll have a lot more success that way.”

First-year Sea Dog and infielder Wendell Rijo likes the mix of young guys along with veterans.

“It’s a pretty good team, we’ve got a lot of talent here. We have a few verterans and a few new guys like me. It’s good to be in this type of league – I know it’s tough, but I think the team is going to do a good job this year,” said Rijo.

Rijo enters the season as one of the Red Sox’ top prospects, however his focus is to continue to improve while helping the team win.

“I just feel like I need to play the same way that I’ve been doing it. I just need to keep playing baseball and try to get better everyday – that’s it,” said Rijo.

Rijo believes that focus will be important for the team to succeed moving forward.

“It’s the focus, the focus is important and coming to work to play every day. I think if we stay focused and stay locked in, the team will have a good chance,” said Rijo.

Although the players are focused on bringing wins to Portland, there is the undeniable desire to advance in the organization and one day make it to Fenway Park.

Seeing many former Sea Dogs break into the big leagues is good motivation for Haley.

“That’s an elite group and a lot of them come through here. That’s great to know, great to have in the back of your head,” said Haley.

Rijo also looks forward to establishing himself in the system.

“There have been some guys that have played here and have been excellent players. I feel awesome about playing in the same place they played. I am going to try to do the same or better than they did,” said Rijo.

The players hope to progress on the field, and Haley believes that progression begins with putting wins on the board.

“One works for the other. If you’re successful for this club and you stay here, work hard and put your heart and soul into every game you play at this level, the rest will take care of itself,” said Haley.

Fellow pitcher Mike McCarthy echoed that sentiment.

“I think they are one in the same. You play hard here and put your best foot forward. If you put your best foot forward here in practice, in your workouts and the weightroom, you’re going to move up,” said McCarthy.

McCarthy also preached patience along with hard work.

“You’re going to get rewarded for the hard work that you put in. It may not be right when you want it, but you will be rewarded. Even beyond the promotion in the organization, its the satisfaction of looking yourself in the mirror and knowing that you’ve done everything you can,” said McCarthy.

Outside of competing, McCarthy looks forward to representing the city of Portland and the Sea Dogs organization.

“Playing in Portland is an incredible experience. I’ve been a part of it for four years now and they treat you like you’re their own,” said McCarthy. “They know just as much about the game as you do. They follow your career and understand how hard the game can be, they are there for your successes and understand the struggles of your losses. In general, Portland has been a true blessing and I will always appreciate playing here … I can’t speak highly enough about it.”

Sports Staff Writer Alex Sponseller can be reached at [email protected] or at 282-1535 ext. 323. Follow the Journal Tribune Sports Department on Twitter @JournalTsports.


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