The Holly Springs Salamanders baseball team starts its inaugural season Thursday with the first home game already sold out.
The team’s stadium at the new North Main Athletic Complex is visible from the main highway and is about a half-mile from downtown.
Here are some things to know about the town’s first sports franchise, a member of the Coastal Plain League.
1. Who are these guys?
The Coastal Plain League is a summer minor league for college players who still have eligibility. The college season is short compared with professional leagues, so pitchers have a chance to get more innings and batters get more at-bats to improve their games.
The CPL, established in 2007 by Salamanders owner Pete Bock, has teams throughout the Carolinas and Virginia, although the quickest trips for the Salamanders will be Asheboro, Fayetteville, Wilson and Wilmington.
Holly Springs is in the East Division with seven other teams, and seven teams make up the West Division.
2. The team will be in flux
Some of the players who have agreed to play for the Salamanders have yet to join the team because their college season is ongoing. The opening night lineup could look very different in just a few weeks.
Some of the teams reported for duty Saturday. The first practice was Sunday.
3. Native sons returning home
The team features local and regional players. Andy Wantz (UNC-Greensboro) and Joey Roach (Georgia State) starred at Holly Springs High School.
Robbie Thorburn (UNC-Wilmington) went to Cardinal Gibbons. Jon Rosoff (Army) was a Wake County Home School player. Brian Miller (North Carolina) went to Millbrook, and Brett Daniels (North Carolina) and Jordan Bissette (N.C. State) are former Fuquay-Varina teammates.
4. Wooden bats and turf fields
Although these are college players, they won’t be using the metal bats seen at the college, high school and youth levels.
Instead, fans will hear the familiar crack of a wooden bat.
The 1,800-seat stadium has a unique feature – field turf instead of grass. This will help with the rain but also should make the ball jump a little farther as it skips across the field.
5. How to plan
The team’s schedule is good to have, but the promotional schedule – also on the team’s website at www.salamandersbaseball.com – is just as important. The 26 planned promotions include Little League Night on June 23, Military Appreciation Night on July 10 and Thirsty Thursday on July 16.
The schedule isn’t like other minor leagues, with long homestands and road trips. The Salamanders will have no more than three consecutive games on the road or two back-to-back games at home at a time.
All home games start at 7 p.m.
The CPL all-star game is in Florence, S.C., on July 12-13. The playoffs begin Aug. 5 and end Aug. 15.
6. Host families
Players from outside the Triangle have been assigned to host families who will take them in during their summer with the Salamanders. College players cannot accept pay for playing in a summer league, so host families – who can provide a room, bathroom and laundry facilities – are vital. The team will honor these families on July 31.
7. Throwing the first pitch
The following people are confirmed to throw the first pitch: Holly Springs Mayor Dick Sears, Town Manager Chuck Simmons, Parks & Recreation Director Len Bradley, Jerry Petitt, who is the majority owner of the team and chairman/CEO of the Coastal Plain League, and Justin Sellers, commissioner of the league.
8. Meet the coach
Holly Springs’ first-year manager is Andrew Ciencin (pronounced SEN-sin), who was a third baseman at N.C. State from 2009-12 and was a senior when Holly Springs’ favorite son Carlos Rodon was a freshman.
He spent two summers playing in the CPL, helping the Forest City (N.C.) Owls to back-to-back championships.
9. Sal the Salamander
Yep, there’s a mascot! The person who is wearing the Sal the Salamander mascot uniform was picked after a series of interviews and an audition. The person’s identity remains a secret.
10. Specialty beer
Aviator Brewery in Fuquay-Varina has brewed a beer – StitchBuster, a pale ale – just for the complex. Carolina Brewing is a sponsor, and fans also will find beer from Bombshell Beer Company of Holly Springs and Draft Line Brewing of Fuquay-Varina.