It may be cold outside, but things are heating up in the front office of the Tulsa Drillers. Chuck Lamson, the drillers executive vice president, has announced several important developments in the off-season.
Tom Runnells will return this year for his second season as the Drillers manager, the team has signed a stadium lease at Expo Square through the 2009 season, and the games will again be broadcast on KAKC AM 1430 with Mark Nelly returning for his tenth season as the team’s broadcaster.
Tulsa baseball fans will have to wait until mid-April to see the first Texas League baseball action at Drillers Stadium. The Drillers 2005 season opener will take place in Wichita on April 7 against the Wranglers in what will be the beginning of a nine game road trip to start the season. The Drillers will not return to Tulsa for their home opener until Sunday, April 17 to play the Arkansas Travelers in an afternoon game that will begin at 4:05 p.m.
The Drillers will again play a 140-game Texas League schedule split into two 70-game halves, but the schedule will look different in 2005. First, there are two new teams in the Texas League with the Springfield Cardinals joining the Drillers in the East Division and the Corpus Christi Hooks beginning play in the West Division. The team in Springfield, Missouri, is replacing the El Paso club, while Corpus Christi is replacing Round Rock, Texas, in the league.
The second change to this year’s schedule is with a different length in most of the series. In the past years, most series in the TL schedule consisted of four games, but in 2005 the Drillers will play several three and five-game series.
The Drillers will get their first look at the new stadium in Springfield during their season-opening road trip. After a four-game series in Wichita to start the season, Tulsa will play the first Texas League game in the new Hammons Stadium in Springfield on April 12.
Runnells, a former manager of the Montreal Expos, led the Drillers to a 71–68 regular season record and a berth in the Texas League playoffs last season. He is the only manager in the team’s 29-year history to have previously managed in the majors.
In addition to Runnells returning, coaches Bo McLaughlin and Darron Cox will also return to the Tulsa dugout. McLaughlin will be back for his third season as the Drillers pitching coach, while Cox will be working with the team’s hitters for the third straight year.
“We are fortunate to have Tom Runnells and his entire staff returning for this season,” says Lamson. “Tom did a great job handling a young team last year, and it was a credit to him and his staff that we reached the Texas League playoffs.”