Schlact enters first full season as RedHawks manager with roster filled with 'versatile guys'
FARGO—For the first time in more than two decades, the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks hosted their media day with a different field manager Monday afternoon at Newman Outdoor Field.
Michael Schlact is entering his first full season as team manager. He was the team's interim manager for the final 24 games last season before the "interim" tag was removed last September after the American Association baseball season.
"Any time that there's a new person in charge, any time there's a change in management, there's going to be a different temperature in the room just because everyone is different," said Schlact, who has been with the team since the 2015 season.
The RedHawks also have a new look in the front office with Matt Rau entering his first season as the team's general manager, taking over for Josh Buchholz in the offseason.
Buchholz, who spent 22 seasons with the RedHawks, is now the executive director of the American Association.
"It's a new position, it's a new manager, but it's home," said Rau, a Fargo North High School graduate who played baseball at North Dakota State. "This is where I started my career in the industry."
Schlact took over for longtime RedHawks manager Doug Simunic last August after Simunic had been "relieved of his duties" late in the regular season. Simunic had managed the team since 1996, the club's inaugural season. He posted a 1,202-839 record with five league championships in 22 seasons with F-M.
The RedHawks haven't qualified for the playoffs since 2013 and last won a league title in 2010.
"We're excited about what the future holds. We're excited that there is some change going on," Schlact said. "We're going to do the best we can as a whole in this organization to put a championship team on the field."
Schlact said this season has a different feel for him compared to the 24 games he was the interim manager last summer, since he worked with RedHawks player personnel consultant Jeff Bittiger in the offseason to build the team roster.
"I think the biggest difference is that it's on me so to speak when you think about it. We put the team together," Schlact said. "There's definitely anticipation because we've worked hard, Bitt and I, to put together team that can make a run at a championship."
The RedHawks have 11 players on their current active roster who played with the team at some point last season, including outfielders Devan Ahart and Keury De La Cruz and catcher Charlie Valerio. Ahart, who batted .292 in 78 games with F-M last summer, likes the makeup of this year's squad heading into the team's exhibition schedule.
"We've got some sticks," Ahart said. "We've got a lot of sticks. ... There are a lot of guys who can put the ball over the fence. We have a chance to put some runs up on the board."
The RedHawks play at Winnipeg on Tuesday in the first of their six scheduled exhibition games. F-M is scheduled to start the regular on May 18 at the Texas AirHogs in Grand Prairie.
F-M's home opener is slated for May 25 against Lincoln at Newman Outdoor Field.
Schlact likes the versatility of the current roster for both position players and pitchers. He thinks there is a mix of batters who can hit the ball out of the park and play small ball.
"This is a team full of versatile guys. We wanted to be sure we got a group of guys that all brought different strengths to the table," Schlact said. "It's a good mix. It's a versatile mix and there's a lot of guys who can play a lot of different positions. ... We're going to be creating and manufacturing (runs) and maybe doing some things that we haven't done in the past."