A week later, ZooKeepers will try again

ASHEBORO — Looks like it will be a one-week delay for the home opener for the Asheboro ZooKeepers.

Renovation snags at McCrary Park have pushed back the college summer league team’s home opener.

“We had to move a bunch of home games,” head coach Jeremy Knight said earlier this week. “We told (players) coming in that the park was under renovation and we’re not exactly sure when it’s going to be done.”

The team’s first two scheduled Coastal Plain League home games were nixed.

Saturday’s would-be CPL home opener against the Wilson Tobs was rescheduled for June 22. Tickets for this past weekend’s scheduled game will be honored on the new date.

By the end of last week, the ZooKeepers also took Wednesday’s game against the High Point-Thomasville HiToms off the slate.

So that means the ZooKeepers will attempt to play their first home game of the season Saturday night against the Martinsville Mustangs.

Since last season, the first phase of a ballpark renovation project was initiated. A major part of that was the installation of field turf and building of new dugouts.

The project was already operating close to deadline in terms of the start of the ZooKeepers’ season, which began last week. Then rainy conditions for a few days made it clear to team officials that the home portion of the season would have to be paused.

Team co-general manager Dennis Garcia said it has been a situation that has been monitored closely.

The team played just one game in a span of more than a week since players arrived in Asheboro. This week, Knight said a practice was set for Southwestern Randolph High School.

“They’re expecting a lot of games in a short period of time,” Knight said of the players.

The way the Asheboro schedule looks, the ZooKeepers won’t have consecutive home games until June 9 and 10 when there are visits from the Forest City Owls and Martinsville.

The ZooKeepers, who were called the Copperheads until a winter rebranding of the team, weren’t just impacted by the weather for home games.

The scheduled road opener was called off last Thursday night because of inclement weather. That was slated for Forest City.

That shifted the season opener to Friday night at Holly Springs, where the host Salamanders defeated the ZooKeepers 5-3.

Andrew Grande, who played briefly in college this year for Charlotte before entering the transfer portal, homed for the ZooKeepers. Starting pitcher John Owen took the loss.

Knight said the pause should allow more of the team’s core roster players to be on hand when the bulk of games kick in. Many players from Division I teams were in conference tournaments last week, with five temporary players on the ZooKeepers roster. So by the end of this week, most players should have arrived.

However, there’s an exception to that because UNC Greensboro unexpectedly won the Southern Conference Tournament during the weekend. That means four UNCG players on the Asheboro team will be in an NCAA regional this week.

By Bob Sutton