Slippery Rock set to open inaugural season
Slippery Rock hasn't played a game, but a rivalry has already surfaced.
The Frontier League announced Monday that the Sliders, the league's newest addition, will play their home games at Slippery Rock University and open the season on the road against the Washington Wild Things on May 23 at Falconi Field.
The success and popularity of the Wild Things influenced the Frontier League's decision to bring a second minor-league baseball team to the Pittsburgh area.
"We have a huge benefit over a traditional franchise team coming in because, in the greater Pittsburgh market, the Frontier League is a known commodity because of the success the Wild Things have had the last five years," Sliders general manager Steve Tahsler said. "The successful Wild Things made it much more attractive to look for a second ball club in the Pittsburgh area."
The Frontier League chose the venue as the home of the Sliders because of how closely the university will be working with the minor-league team -- Butler County's first professional baseball team in 55 years.
Slippery Rock's highly regarded sports management program will run the organization.
"There were a few other locations we toured in the area, but when we looked at the combination of the facility, the market ... and really the overwhelming factor was the tie-in with the university," Tahsler said. "This type of tie-in has never taken place before. We saw this as a new way to market the Frontier League."
The Frontier League has a one-year contract with Slippery Rock, but depending on the community's response and the success of the franchise, an extension is possible.
"It's a gauge for everybody, I think," Frontier League commissioner Bill Lee said. "We want to see. This year is a test from the university standpoint, from our standpoint, for everybody just to see how it goes, and we'll make that decision as the year progresses.
"I know we are going to have a competitive product on the field, and that cooperation goes a long way in making things successful. You just got to kind of see what happens and be patient with it, have a little bit of understanding. It's nurturing a new child, in a sense."
The Sliders, who will play their home opener May 29, have named Greg Jelks the bench coach and signed 16 players.
Jelks, who doubles as the Australian national team hitting coach, guided the Evansville Otters to a Frontier League championship last season.
Slippery Rock's incomplete roster includes local notables such as outfielder Jason Curry, who played four seasons at Slippery Rock University; outfielder Tony Marciante, who played at Pitt and Winthrop; and Blairsville native Greg Lasinski, formerly a Washington Wild Things pitcher.
"We've got a very nice tradition that's been started here in the Pittsburgh area with the Washington Wild Things, who have just made tremendous inroads," Lee said. "Now, we have the opportunity to have a second club in this area. We are very pleased to be able to work with Slippery Rock University."