Cody Dykema and the rest of the Northwest Indiana Oilmen have a lot to live up to this season due to their success in 2012.
Last summer, the Oilmen finished 32-16 and were crowned Midwest Collegiate League champions after defeating the DeKalb County Liners 6-2 on Aug. 5.
It's no secret what the goal is for the Oilmen again this summer, and the excitement to get started in achieving that objective is also apparent.
"I'm definitely looking forward to it," Dykema said of today's 7:10 p.m. home opener against the Lexington Snipes. "We're going to try to repeat what we did last year, and we had a lot of fun doing it, especially in the postseason."
Only four players return from last season, according to the current roster. Lake Central grad Dykema hit .366 for the Oilmen last summer. Lowell grad Craig Austgen is back, as are Hanover Central grad Andy Wellwerts and Crown Point grad Josh Negele, who are both pitchers.
Munster grad Scott Jerge, Andrean grad Kenny Mahala and current Bishop Noll senior Danny Pobereyko are just a handful of the many newcomers that will take the field at Whiting's Oil City Stadium this summer.
"Everybody is coming in with a lot of goals," said Oilmen coach and former Kansas City Royals pitcher Justin Huisman. "The summer league, now, is really where they're trying to solidify things they're working on and show their coaches something so they can go back in the fall season ready to go. Everybody's working out the kinks and we're pretty excited to get going."
On the business side of things, the Oilmen have taken many new steps to marketing the team not just in Whiting, but all around the area. Commercials have aired during Cubs and White Sox games on cable T.V., and advertising has been purchased at print and radio outlets. Ads have also ran on the big screen in local movie theaters.
"We've done quite a bit everywhere," Oilmen general manager Jim Taipalus said. "We market the team professionally as we run the organization. It's affordable entertainment."
Last season, Taipalus and the Oilmen had about two months to prepare for opening day. It was hectic, to say the least.
"We did what we could in the amount of time we had," he said. "This year, we increased our marketing. We want to be the regional team in the area."
That all starts in the Whiting/Robertsdale community, where pocket schedules have been handed out and a newsletter has circulated.
"It's been great," Taipalus said. "I have people calling and texting me asking when the boys of summer will be back."