By John Bohnenkamp
Owen Oreskovich said it was an easy decision to take the job as the Burlington Bees manager in the Prospect League this season.
Oreskovich, who was a coach with the Bees last season, is a full-time assistant at Mount Mercy University in Cedar Rapids. But Oreskovich enjoyed his time in Burlington, and the chance to manage a team in the college summer league was too good to pass up.
“I enjoyed my time here last year,” Oreskovich said at the Bees’ spring banquet on Friday night. “Burlington’s a great town, you’ve got a great front office here, good place to be, good people to be around. It wasn’t a hard answer.”
The challenge for Oreskovich has been putting together a roster for this season.
Oreskovich already has 22 players signed for this summer, but is still trying to complete his pitching staff.
“We basically have a full position player roster set already,” he said. “Just looking to add eight or nine arms.”
Oreskovich said several players from last season’s team are coming back — position players Lincoln Riley (.237), A.J. Henkle (.233), Chase Honeycutt (.261), Kevin Santiago (.271, 7 home runs), Joey Fitzgerald (.218) and Sam Monroe (.267), along with pitcher Garrett Moltzan (1-3, 6.81 ERA).
Oreskovich has gotten help finding players from new Bees pitching coach Jack Gray, who is working at Carl Sandburg College this season after finishing his college career last season at Western Illinois. And other players have tipped him off to friends or players they have seen.
“Some guys will text me and say, ‘Hey, I’ve got this buddy here,’” Oreskovich said. “So I’ll tell them I’ll check them out, see if it’s someone we want. And we’ve been able to find some guys like that.”
He’s also gotten help from Mount Mercy head coach Jack Dahm, who manages the Clinton LumberKings in the Prospect League as well.
“Coach Dahm’s been doing this a long time,” said Oreskovich, who also played at Mount Mercy. “He knows all there is to know, and he’s a great guy to lean on for help.”
Oreskovich wants a full roster, because he knows it can be a long season.
“I learned that you’ve got to give these kids a little bit of a break once in a while,” he said. “I want to have a few more position players and pitchers. It’s a long season. Some of these kids will play a full college season, that’s about 50 games. And then they’ll come here and play 60. Big-leaguers do it, but that’s all they do. They don’t have school or anything else.
“So, I want to be there for them, guide them, let them have some fun. Let them enjoy themselves. To me, that’s what summer baseball is for. It’s still competitive, you want to win. But all of the things you learn here — getting to meet new guys, living with host families, getting to know the fans — those are things that can last a lifetime.”
Photo: Bees third-base coach Owen Oreskovich (right) congratulates A.J. Henkle after a home run last season. Oreskovich will be the Bees’ manager this season, while Henkle will return for a second season. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)