What success looks like for Columbus Clippers in 2024: ‘Everybody’s got the same goals’

0
34

Myles Straw heard only good things about baseball in Columbus. 

Having spent the last two-and-a-half seasons with the Cleveland Guardians, Straw said teammates raved about the city of Columbus and about playing in “one of the coolest ballparks” in the minor leagues. But it was something Straw hadn’t experienced until he joined the Clippers’ roster as they prepared to start the 2024 season. 

“It’s totally understandable,” Straw said ahead of his first Triple-A stint since 2019, when he was with the Round Rock Express in the Houston Astros organization. “I mean, we have a great young team. I have played with most of these guys here already, and it’s an exciting team. We have a lot of young, good players, so just trying to be here and help out with whatever I can with these guys. That’s what it’s all about.” 

Few know that better than Clippers manager Andy Tracy, who is entering his fourth season leading the club.

“Some people don’t want to be here at all. Some people are excited to be here. And some people are just here,” Tracy said. “The hardest thing to do in Triple-A is to have the players and the team play for each other. And that’s what you strive to do here is create a culture and an atmosphere for that.” 

Manager Andy Tracy is entering his fourth season leading the Columbus Clippers.

Tracy and the Clippers begin their 2024 season Friday on the road against the St. Paul Saints. At that point, every Columbus player – from the youngest prospect looking for his first taste of the big leagues to the veteran fighting his way back – will be working on some part of their game hoping to earn the 141-mile trip to the parent club in Cleveland. 

Columbus Clippers provide learning opportunity

Kyle Manzardo is fighting for that first stint with the Guardians. 

The Clippers first baseman and second-ranked prospect in the Guardians organization per MLB.com said to do that he’s focusing on becoming a better fielder and base runner to find more success at the plate against left-handed pitching. 

Infielder Kyle Manzardo joined the Clippers last season after being traded by the Tampa Bay Rays organization. He played 25 games with Columbus after the deal.

Playing 25 games with the Clippers in 2023 following a trade from the Tampa Bay Rays organization was enough to show Manzardo he can benefit from the veteran voices in the Clippers’ dugout.

“There’s a lot of good people to learn from here,” Manzardo said, “guys that have been doing it for a lot longer than I have. So I try to learn as much as I can from those guys. 

“Everybody’s got the same goals.” 

One goal might be to improve on last year’s 68-79 finish, which landed the Clippers at the bottom of the International League West division. Jhonkensy Noel led that club with 27 home runs, but he has yet to make his major league debut.  

Jhonkensy Noel of the Columbus Clippers is hoping to make his MLB debut with the Cleveland Guardians in 2024.

“I like Columbus, man. It’s a lot of fun,” Noel said. “They call your name. They know you too. I mean, last year I felt really good with the fans too. … I’m very happy to be here and help the team win here and help the team win in Cleveland, too.” 

Straw, on the other hand, has played 555 MLB games and is hoping to add to that total. He knows that means leaning into his strengths as a hitter (he has a .305 career batting average in the minors but has struggled offensively in the big leagues) and his aggressiveness on the base paths (in 2018, he had a combined 35 stolen bases in 66 Triple-A games and 19 more the next season when he also played 66 Triple-A games).

“That’s the goal, trying to get back to what I was doing back in Triple-A last,” Straw said. “That’s it, man. Just coming out here, having fun, working on those things with these guys and trying to win some games.” 

After a three-game series against St. Paul to start the 2024 season, the Clippers open their home schedule April 2-7 against the Omaha Storm Chasers.