Thursday is “Opening Day” for Major League Baseball which means it’s really close to the start of a new season down on the farm. The Columbia Fireflies, a Class-A minor league affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, will open the new season on Friday night against the Augusta GreenJackets. First pitch from Segra Park is set for 7:05pm.
The Fireflies struggled to a 48-71 mark last season, losing 21 of their final 23 games. However, there appears to be a renewed energy around the club that coincides with a new voice in the clubhouse. Tony Pena, Jr., begins his first season as manager in Columbia after serving as the skipper of the Arizona League Royals back in 2019. Prior to the pandemic, Pena was the bench coach for the Omaha Storm Chasers and in 2021, he joined the big-league club as a coach. His father, Tony Pena, Sr., had an 18-year MLB career with the Pirates, Cardinals, Red Sox, Indians, White Sox, and Astros. He aslo served as the manager of the Royals from 2002-05.
On Wednesday, the organization held its annual “Media Day” to preview the new campaign. Pena and team president Brad Shank spoke about the start of the new year and the duo was joined by selected players to get their take on 2022. The Fireflies have assembled a a roster with quite the international flair, featuring over twenty members from the Dominican Republic. Columbia also boasts one of the few players in baseball, Darryl Collins, who calls the Netherlands home.