E.A. Sports Today

Monsters prepare for Year 2

Team officials project Monsters will make revamped league playoffs in second season of Sunbelt Baseball League play

By Al Muskewitz
East Alabama Sports Today

The Choccolocco Monsters are gearing up for their second season in the Sunbelt Baseball League in a smaller league with the absolute intention of playing in a new league playoff format.

The Monsters will play a 28-game SBL schedule with two-game home-and-home series against each of the league’s other seven opponents. The Gwinnett Astros, the last-place team in the Monsters’ SBL West Division, are taking the year off to give the summer collegiate wood-bat league an even number of teams.

The Monsters went 11-17 last year and got beat out of the playoffs in their inaugural season but a reasonable year should give them a chance to play in a revamped postseason format. In fact, Scott Brand, the president of Monsters parent company, Ignite Sports, virtually guarantees it.

“Absolutely – there’s no question the Monsters will be in the playoffs,” he said. Especially since it’s his format the league is adopting.

Six of the eight teams will make the playoffs this year. The top two teams draw byes, with the remaining four fighting it out in a unique format that gives the higher seed an advantage but gives the lower seeds an opportunity to advance.

Under the format, 3 hosts 6 and 4 hosts 5. The higher seeds need only win one game in the series, while the lower seeds must win twice. So, the playoff series will either be a one- or two-game affair. The 1 seed will get the lowest remaining seed in the semifinals, while the 2 gets the highest seed left.“It’s different,” said Brand, who oversaw the Monsters’ first year of operations.

“There people that are like 5 and 6 shouldn’t be in the playoffs, what if they win and then they win the league … well, if they can beat the higher seed two games in a row then they probably deserve to advance in the playoffs because that’s getting hot in the playoffs, right?

“I think that’s better than a one-game elimination. If I was 3 or 4, I’d be nervous as hell in a one-game.”

Once again, the Monsters will play all their home games except one in early July as Friday-Saturday series at Choccolocco Park.

They’ll open the season on the road at Brookhaven (June 2-3) and Waleksa (June 5-6). Their home opener is June 9 to start a home-and-home with rival Columbus and their first home series is June 16-17 against the Alpharetta Aviators. There is talk of a preseason exhibition tournament with two teams from Ozark Memorial Day weekend.

Here is the Monsters 2023 home schedule:
June 10 — Columbus
June 16-17 – Alpharetta
June 23-24 – Atlanta Crackers
June 30-July 1 – Brookhaven
July 3 or 5 – Columbus
July 7-8 – Waleska
July 14-15 – Atlanta Blues
July 21-22 – Gainesville
July 24 – Playoffs begin

Ticket information is expected to be available next week. Ticket prices will remain the same.

The Monsters didn’t win a game at Choccolocco Park last year until the next to last home game of the season, but despite those troubles they were mathematically in the hunt for a playoff spot until the last week of the year.

Steve Gillispie returns to manage the club. Team officials expect to start signing players within the next two weeks. Several of last year’s players already have committed to return.

“I think, and Steve will tell you, he underestimated the league, there’s no question about it, but our team got better,” Brand said. “This year I think we’ll be in really good shape.

“On the field I think he knows exactly what we have to do. There’s so much talent there, I’m not worried about on field. Off field, now that we have the planning and the time, I think we’re going to have some pretty good nights there. And the city has definitely stepped up to help, so I see a lot of positive coming out of all this.”

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