IDAHO FALLS — The 2013 Idaho Falls Chukars are celebrating the 75th year of professional baseball in Idaho Falls, the bream is also looking to make it's first legitimate run at a Pioneer League title since the 2008 season.
With the a little help from the parent club, the Kansas City Royals, some big name prospects will be spending at least part of the summer in Idaho Falls.
For the first time since the 2004 season, the Royals organization has sent it's first round college pick to play for the Chukars.
Shortstop Hunter Dozier was picked eighth in the Major League Baseball draft earlier this month out of Stephen F. Austin State University.
The 21-year old Texan led the Southland Conference in batting average, slugging percentage, double and home runs.
"I am looking forward to get going with the next phase of my career," Dozier said. "The Royals have sent me here to to get work in and get used to the organization and how we do things."
While drafted as a shortstop, Dozier will more often than not see time at third base, as his 6-foot-4, 220 pound frame is surprisingly athletic.
As a top 10 pick it would be easy for someone from the outside to assume with the high draft place would equal extra pressure.
Not for Dozier.
"I try to not put any extra pressure on myself, I just go out and play my game," Dozier said. "It is obvious that the Royals organization feels very highly of me and my job now is to go out and play and improve and try to move onto the next level."
It is not often that a first round pick is sent to single A short season Idaho Falls, usually they are placed into the single A full season level, either low A Lexington of high A Wilmington. But Dozier is not disappointed to be sent to Idaho Falls, he looks like it as an opportunity.
"I have heard about the fans here and I look forward to seeing them come out and support us," Dozier said. "The rest and the team and I are focused on the season and hopefully getting into the playoffs."
Dozier is not the only top pick of the Royals that will play for the Chukars this season. Second round pick, number 46 overall, left handed pitcher Cody Reed will be a key cog in the starting rotation this season as the number three starter.
"I had never flown before until I flew to Kansas City to sign my contract," Reed said. "This is the farthest north I have been in the country. It has taken me a little bit to adjust, but I think I am ready to go."
Before signing with the Chukars, Reed had committed to Ole MIss to play baseball after pitching for Northwest Mississippi Community College this past season.
"My advisor told me I was going to be picked between 29 and 46," Reed said. "I did not get discouraged when all those picks were gone and my name was not called. I knew 46 is where I was going to go and when they called my name it was awesome."
Reed said the Royals do not have anything specific for him to work on while in Idaho Falls, but he wants to use the summer to get better and hopefully move through the organization as quickly as possible.
"I hope maybe when this short season is over I can get a little call up and that's what I am working on," Reed said. "The Royals have not given me any timetable on how long I will play here. A lot of it depends on how well I pitch and what the organization needs. No matter what happens I am focused on the season and my first start on Saturday."
The entire team is not just Dozier and Reed. Eight other 2013 draft picks will be members of the team this summer. Fourth round selection, catcher Zane Evans, sixth round catcher and son of Boston Red Sox managerJohn Farrell, Luke Farrell is a pitcher on the squad, as is seventh round pick Kyle Bartsch.
There are a few returners to the team this season as well. Outfielder Elier Hernandez, infielders Nick Cuckovich and Carlos Garcia return to Idaho Falls.
The team is managers by second year skipper Omar Ramirez.
Idaho Falls has not won a Pioneer League title since the 2000 season when they were an affiliate of the San Diego Padres.
But thanks in part to an agreement struck between the Chukars and the Royals more top tier talent should be making it's way through Melaleuca Field.
Hopefully for Chukars fans that title drought ends this season.
The 2013 Chukars season gets underway tonight at 7:15 p.m. when the teams hosts the Orem Owlz at Melaleuca Field.