The Walla Walla Sweets officially took on a new look on Thursday night, as new leadership of the wood-bat baseball franchise met with fans at Sweet Basil.
In attendance with mascot Sweet Lou were new general manager Cody Miller and manager — and 14-year Major League player and former All-Star — Jeff Cirillo for a question-and-answer session.
Miller, who took over from Zachary Fraser as GM in November, named Cirillo as new manager in December, and fielded questions from fans.
The Sweets will have nine returners on its roster, Miller said.
“We try to bring in high-quality guys,” he told the crowd.
Right now, 34 players are under contract for the 2020 season, which begins June 5 at Kelowna.
The Sweets’ first home game at Borkeske Stadium will be on June 12, also against Kelowna.
Cirillo, who is a partner in Pacific Baseball Ventures, which owns the Sweets as well as the Yakima Valley Pippins, has hit the ground running.
“It’s nice to get started, and putting the roster together,” Cirillo said.
Cirillo is spending most of his time on the phone lining up players and coaches, he said.
He’s coached high school and select ball following his major league career, which began with the Milwaukee Brewers in 1994 and included stints with the Colorado Rockies (2000-01), Seattle Mariners (2002-03), San Diego Padres (2004), the Brewers again (2005-06), Minnesota Twins (2007) and Arizona Diamondbacks (2007).
Cirillo was named to MLB All-Star teams in 1997 and 2000.
His son, Connor, played infield for the Sweets last summer, and will return this season.
“I’m looking forward to it,” manager Cirillo said of the upcoming season, “seeing, when we roll it out there, what it looks like.”
He’s never managed at the college level, but is familiar with the Sweets after watching Connonr play last summer, he said.
“You mix in the young guys that are super-talentwed, and mix in the guys that played in the (West Coast) league and understand what summer baseball, and the amount of hours that goes into it as far as preparation, the work, the bus trips,” Cirillo said. “You kind of get them ready for what a minor league baseball season might look like down the road.
“It’s a nice blend of young guys and guys I’m very familiar with,” he said.
Cirillo takes over for Frank Mutz, who managed the Sweets from 2015-19.
“I feel comfortable with my skill to teach,” he said. “We’ll know a lot more after a couple of weeks (of the West Coast League season).
“I’m excited!” Cirillo said. “I’m excited to be immersed in the community of Walla Walla.”