Mudcats to face familiar faces

At the very least, Carolina Mudcats owner Steve Bryant will have mixed emotions when the Jacksonville Suns visit Five County Stadium for the first time this season.

The Mudcats have changed affiliations before, but never has their Major League Baseball parent stayed in the Southern League and fielded a team dominated by former Mudcats.

"It'll be interesting," said Bryant, whose team is now affiliated with the Cincinnati Reds.

Mudcats fans may have similar feelings, too. The Mudcats had been affiliated with the Marlins since 2003, and Bryant said some Mudcats fans still attended the Marlins' spring training in Jupiter, Fla., in the spring.

But now the Suns are the Florida Marlins' new Double-A affiliate.

"You get to know these players," Bryant said. "The fans follow them throughout their careers."

Bryant has no hard feelings.

"I don't think you'll have one of our pitchers hit one of them in the cheek," he said, laughing.

The Suns' current roster has 16 players who wore Mudcats jerseys at some point last season.

Such is life in the minors, where affiliations can change every couple of years. The Marlins wanted to bring their club into state lines and did so when the Suns became available after it appeared the Los Angeles Dodgers would be leaving town.

Ironically, the Dodgers ended up signing with the Chattanooga Lookouts, the Cincinnati Reds' former affiliate.

This year's Mudcats had to face their old team, the Lookouts, for the first time in their first series of May.

"The only thing I know is that the Jacksonville players are going to be jealous they're not wearing Mudcats jerseys," he said. "You can't be better dressed."