He's not about to predict it, but Robin Minner believes the Riverdogs finally have a legitimate chance to post a winning record this year.
The Riverdogs, Cape Girardeau's second summer baseball team for players who have completed their American Legion eligibility, open their seventh season Thursday with a 7 p.m. game against the Indiana Outlaws at Hillhouse Park in Charleston.
"I think we have the talent to play above .500," said Minner, who co-coaches the team with Ray Craft.
Minner and Craft formed the Riverdogs in 1999 as an alternative for post-high school players who don't play for the tradition-rich Capahas.
"The Capahas can't carry everybody, so this gives some other people a chance to play here in the summer," Minner said. "We haven't been world-beaters, but we get good kids, and it gives the guys playing college ball a chance to play in the summer."
The Riverdogs have not yet had a winning record; they went 9-16 last year.
"I think we've upgraded from last year," said Minner, whose squad will play a few home games in Charleston and the majority of its home contests at Capaha Field. "Whether that will translate into wins, who knows. We play a tough schedule."
The Riverdogs' 21-man roster consists primarily of local high school graduates who either currently play for or used to play for junior college or small four-year universities.
Returning players and their high schools, if in the region, are Matt Bucher (Oran), Greg Craft (Central), Tim Davis (Shawnee, Ill.), Andrew DePeder (Notre Dame), Steve Fowler (Shawnee, Ill.), Shane Gibson (Central), Tyler Nelson (Oran), Billy Palmer (Kennett) and Tyler Schlosser (Kelly).
Craft, Fowler and Gibson have played every year of the team's existence.
Newcomers, some of whom played for the Riverdogs in previous years but not last season, are Ben Arbeiter (Central), Chris Bradshaw (Central), Chris Conrad (Central), Ryan Dailey, Wayne Essner (Notre Dame), Steve Guined (Anna-Jonesboro, Ill.), A.H. Marshall (Charleston), Austin McDowell (Jackson), Michael Minner (Central), Cody Shelton, Patrick Slattery (Central) and Trevor York.
Fowler was the Riverdogs' No. 1 pitcher last year, and Davis also ranked high on the staff. Palmer and Schlosser were among the squad's top hitters.
"We've got a lot of new faces, which is sometimes good, and a lot of enthusiasm," Minner said. "We're excited about the season."