Despite snow, Timber Rattlers '95 percent sure' they will start the season on time

The Fox Valley's minor league baseball team is scheduled to open the season on Friday night. Despite eight inches of snow in Grand Chute, the T-Rats believe they will be good to go.
Posted at 6:56 PM, Apr 03, 2024
and last updated 2024-04-03 21:45:59-04

GRAND CHUTE, Wis. (NBC 26) — Despite a heavy snowfall that hit the Fox Valley on Tuesday night, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are optimistic they will be able to begin their season as scheduled Friday night at Fox Cities Stadium.

  • The Timber Rattlers are scheduled to begin their season at home Friday night at 6:40 p.m.
  • T-Rats staff spent the day shoveling snow out of Fox Cities Stadium's bleachers.
  • A company called Midwest Turf Solutions will clear off the playing surface on Thursday.
  • The Timber Rattlers previously used Midwest Turf Solutions following the April snowstorm of 2018, which dumped more than 20 inches of snow on parts of northeast Wisconsin.
  • On the field, the team has a new manager this season; Victor Estevez takes over for Joe Ayrault, who was promoted to become the manager of the Biloxi Shuckers, the Brewers' Double-A team.
  • Several of the Brewers' top prospects will begin the season with the Timber Rattlers, including No. 9 ranked Luis Lara, a 19-year-old outfielder.

Longtime Timber Rattlers president Rob Zerjav didn't shy away from an opening day guarantee.

"Honestly, I'm 95... 99 percent sure we're playing on Friday," Zerjav said, just hours after eight inches of snow fell on Fox Cities Stadium, which is located in Grand Chute just outside of Appleton.

Timber Rattlers staff spent Wednesday clearing out the stadium's bleachers.

Meanwhile, the weather pushed the players inside for their preseason workouts.

"Its not fun, I've got to be honest." T-Rats manager Victor Estevez said. "We need to be a little bit creative. We've got a really good facility over here so we just make an adjustment."

T-Rats players spent much of the afternoon taking batting practice in an indoor cage.

Estevez is entering his tenth season with the Brewers organization, but his first in Wisconsin.

"The main purpose for us is to develop these (players) because they need to be ready for the next level," he said of his coaching style.

Player development is something he knows a little something about. Not long ago, Estevez helped develop the Brewers top prospect.

"Jackson Chourio was with me two years ago," he said. "And watching that kid play in the minor leagues is very grateful for you as a coach.

"And we told all the guys yesterday, that can be you," Estevez added.

This year, Milwaukee's No. 9 prospect highlights the Timber Rattlers opening day roster.

19-year-old outfielder Luis Lara, like Chourio, is a native of Venezuela.

"He's from the same country as (me)," Lara said Wednesday through a translator. "So that's definitely something that's definitely something that gives (me) inspiration to really play hard and make it."

Development of players like Lara is at the forefront, but Estevez also hopes to re-establish a "winning culture" in the Fox Valley.

Last year, he led his Low-A Carolina team to the playoffs; many of those players are with him in Wisconsin this year.

"Getting to the playoffs is addicting," infielder Luke Adams said. "Last year making the playoffs was probably the most fun thing I've been a part of. So I think the goal for this team is to first get into the playoffs and from there see what can happen."

The Timber Rattlers are scheduled to begin the season Friday at 6:40 p.m. That game - and more than 50 others this season - can be seen live on TV32.