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rubberdinghy
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Opening game May 22nd...

Official Roster...

Greg Bunn

R R 6'1 205 Raleigh, NC

Michael Kusiewicz

R L 6'2 200 Ottawa, Ontario

Karl Mejlholm

R R 6'4 195 Nanaimo, British Columbia

Jason Pilkington

SW L 6'6 210 St. Catharines, Ontario

Fraser Robinson

R L 6'6 220 North Gower, Ontario

Jose De Los Santos

R R 5'10 180 Rancho Viejo, La Vega

Napoleon Calzado

R R 6'3 205 Santo Domingo, DR

Jeremy Ware

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The Ottawa Rapidz will try to win back fans left soured by the departure of the Ottawa Lynx when professional baseball returns to the capital tonight.

Dropping the price of beer from $5.75 to $4.50 is a good start. The famous Montreal Forum hot dogs for $2.50? You're getting our attention.

Cheap ticket packages will leave more money for beer and hot dogs. A new shuttle service from Hurdman Transitway station will help solve the parking problem.

Oh, and the team looks pretty good, too.

"Guys throw as hard here as they do in Triple-A," said Rapidz pitcher Mike Kusiewicz, who will start today's season-opener against the New Jersey Jackals. "Guys hit the ball as hard and as far as in Triple-A. The only difference is they may not do it as consistently. Instead of hitting a hard ground ball seven out of 10 times, they're going to do it five out of 10 times.

"People are going to notice it's a high level of baseball."

Ownership wants to ensure fans have an enjoyable experience at the ballpark.

"We talked to a lot of people about what was right and what was not right with pro baseball in Ottawa over the last few years -- and one by one, we're addressing them," said Rapidz co-owner Rick Anderson.

Tonight's game, the first of 48 Rapidz home games, will be their test run. As of yesterday afternoon, more than 2,000 tickets had already been sold. The average game attendance is about 3,000 in the Can-Am League, an independent league with no major-league baseball affiliation.

A couple of thousand would have been a good crowd for the Triple-A Lynx last year, but not in the early days when they would routinely sell out the 10,000-seat stadium on Coventry Rd.

Anderson hopes to bring those glory days back, and he said he's willing to be patient.

"We don't expect to make money in the short term," he said. "We bought this team because we're baseball fans. The business side is secondary. But we're not operating a charity, either."

Roster stability is another key to success, Anderson believes. The Lynx had players moving up and down to the big leagues, making it difficult for players to develop a relationship with the fans.

"It's not a good model for building a fan base," said Anderson. "It worked early on when they were (the Expos' Triple-A farm team) because they were only going down the road a couple of hours away and playing for a team people tended to watch."

The Rapidz' 22-man roster should stay pretty much intact, although under league guidelines, they can sign two more veterans, so two players could be bumped.

(Veterans are considered players with five or more years of pro baseball experience. Teams are allowed four, and the Rapidz have two in pitcher Mike Kusiewicz and newly acquired outfielder Pete Pirman.)

ACTIVE IN COMMUNITY

The Rapidz also plan to be active in the community.

"There are thousands of little leaguers on both sides of the river," Anderson said. "The fan base is here. If baseball is given a fair shot here, it can succeed."

The players, many new to and loving Ottawa, are anxious to get their season started.

"(Ottawa's) a beautiful city," said first baseman Jabe Bergeron. "I'm here for the summer to see this through."

And if you don't like what you see, the team wants to hear your complaints. On the back of each ticket is a phone number and e-mail address where you can give feedback.

"Anything about the game -- the players, the food, the parking, the washrooms -- we want to hear about it," said Anderson.

How about dropping the price of beer to $3.50?

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