By John Bohnenkamp
Sam Monroe looked like a veteran at the bottom of the Burlington Bees’ lineup on Sunday.
Monroe had two singles, a walk, and drove in two runs in the 8-4 loss to the Quincy Gems.
His four plate appearances — Monroe grounded out to end the second inning — were his first in the Prospect League this season.
“Today was the first time I saw him swing,” Bees assistant coach Owen Oreskovich said. “He seems like a great kid. Can run, hit. Hit well for us today.”
It’s late in the season — the Bees have just 15 games to go on the regular-season schedule — but the roster has gone through plenty of changes in the last couple of weeks.
The Bees have 26 players on the roster. Eight players have left the team for various reasons, but it’s part of a natural evolution in the summer league for college players who are coming off a lengthy season at their schools. Quincy, for example, has lost four players.
“Toward the end of the summer, it gets tough,” Oreskovich said. “Kids have playing since the fall, it’s a long time.”
Monroe, who was a freshman this season at Southeastern Community College in West Burlington, was added to the roster over the weekend. Outfielder A.J. Henkle and infielder Joey Fitzgerald were added last week.
“They’re good players, they know how to play,” Bees manager Gary McClure said about Henkle and Fitzgerald earlier in the week. “They bring some tools with them.”
Finding new players means relying on connections. McClure was a long-time college head coach. Oreskovich is an assistant coach at McHenry County (Ill.) College. Pitching coach Scott Barnum is an assistant coach at Howard College.
“It’s all we can rely on right now,” Oreskovich said of the networks the three have within college baseball. “It’s just guys that me, Scott and Mac know.”
Henkle, for example, played at McHenry County College and was coached by Oreskovich.
“I coached A.J., and he played baseball with my brother growing up, at the same community college I went to,” Oreskovich said.
“It’s hard to find good players,” McClure said. “But we had a couple there Coach O knew about it. He had coached one of them. The other one was his best buddy, so he brought him along with him.”
Monroe was a freshman last season at Southeastern Community College and was teammates with four other SCC players on the Bees’ roster.
It hasn’t been a problem inside the clubhouse, Oreskovich said.
“All of the new guys we’ve brought in have been good with the other guys we’ve had here,” Oreskovich said. “That’s great for them, and everyone else.
“It’s a little different. It’s tough to get guys in the right situations sometimes. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.”
THE WEEK AHEAD
• Tuesday, at Quincy. If the Bees want to get back in the playoff chase, this would be a good place to start. The Gems lead the Great River Division in the second-half standings, with the Bees three games back.
• Wednesday, vs. Illinois Valley. Thursday, at Illinois Valley. The Bees have a home-and-home series with the Pistol Shrimp, who are 5-9 in the second half.
• Friday, vs. Quincy. Saturday-Sunday, vs. Lafayette. A weekend homestand for the Bees, who get the Gems first before playing two games against the Aviators, who are 14-2 in the second half.
Photo: Sam Monroe tracks down a fly ball in Sunday’s game. (Steve Cirinna/Burlington Bees)