Most of the team is new, but when the Trappers open the 1989 season at Idaho Falls tonight, returning center fielder Pat
Waid will certainly have them aware of how the lowly Braves helped ruin last season for Salt Lake.Idaho Falls, the third-worst team in the '88 Pioneer League, won eight of 14 games against the Trappers. They by scores like 11-10, 14-6, 20-8 and 10-9. If Salt Lake had gotten a better shake out of that series - winning, say, nine of the 14 - the Traps would have tied for first in the Southern Division and could have still gone to the playoffs.
Instead, their season ended with a split against the Braves and no postseason for the first time in club history.
"That was hard to swallow," says Waid. "I don't want to have that happen again."
To avoid it, Waid counseled his new teammates, telling them how the Braves played well while the Traps took them for granted and got took.
It's just one of the things Waid plans to do this season to help.
"This is my team," he says, talking about his veteran status and saying his purpose this season is "bringing the title back to Salt Lake City."
Less than two years ago, Waid wasn't thinking anything of the sort. He was officially retired from baseball. "I told my mother, `That's it,"' he says.
He'd tried out for the 1987 Trappers, The Streakers, but he didn't make it and played semi-pro in North Pole, Alaska, for former Trapper Manager Jim Gattis. After that season, he gave up and tended bar in Malibu, Calif.
A couple of nights into that job, he began talking to a fellow employee named Amber, and she could tell his heart was still in baseball. She encouraged him to play more.
"Out of the blue," says Waid, current Trapper Manager Barry Moss called and offered Waid a place on the 1988 club.
"She said it must be meant to be," says Waid about Amber, who's been his fiancee and career counselor ever since.
Waid, a University of Arizona product who sat on the bench while the Wildcats won a national championship when he was a freshman, played most of last season in center field, platooning with Jeff Allison. He was leadoff man much of the time. He hit .274 in 52 games but wants much more now.
He expects to be the full-time center fielder. "That's my acreage," he says. And he wants to lead off.
Waid spent the off-season eating right and lifting weights, hoping to improve. "When I came home from Salt Lake last season," he explains, "I'd lost 10 pounds." It was from eating improperly and getting run down. "Now I know what to eat and how to eat," says Waid, who beefed up his upper body working construction and weightlifting.
The Trappers knew they'd bring Waid back - rookie-league teams are allowed only a few veterans - and to get him ready this spring, they sent him to the Miami Miracle of the Florida State League, a full-season Class A club.
Trapper part-owners Van Schley and Bill Murray are also part-owners in Miami, and Schley provided several players to the Miracle until the Trapper season started.
Waid could have stayed in Miami, playing for Gattis, who's manager there now. But he wanted to come to Salt Lake. Miami won only a few games while Waid was there, mired at the bottom of the standings and needing a real miracle.
"The whole thing to me is, I can't do what I do best unless it's a good atmosphere," says Waid. "People there were spread too thin, and they weren't winning. I want to win."
Waid figured no big-league scouts would see him in Miami, even if it was a higher-class league, so he chose rookie-league Salt Lake, knowing he could hit .300 against Class A pitching.
"I feel comfortable in this town," Waid says. "This is the best I've ever been treated as an athlete, and that's saying a lot. I've been to the College World Series and overseas, but this is the best I've had," says Waid, planning to give something back to Salt Lake this season.