The Hawks kicked off a new season and a new era Thursday.
The club marked the debut of a new owner, new purple uniforms and a new major-league affiliation — the Colorado Rockies. Boise won 3-1 before 3,427 fans — the Hawks’ largest Opening Day crowd since 2012.
But for four Boise players, the night represented a bit of déjà vu.
Outfielder Richard Prigatano and pitchers John Sheehan and Dylan Thompson all saw action in the Northwest League last year for Thursday’s opponent, the Tri-City Dust Devils, the Rockies’ former Northwest League affiliate.
Right-handed pitcher Angel Lezama also previously played for Tri-City before missing last season with Tommy John surgery.
“It just brings back a bunch of memories playing in those same uniforms,” said Thompson, the Hawks’ starting pitcher Friday. “But it’s good to have a fresh start in Boise.”
The quartet returns to the Northwest League for a variety of reasons.
Thompson and Prigatano struggled as rookies with Tri-City last season. Thompson posted an 8.89 ERA in 18 appearances as a reliever. And Prigatano, the Hawks’ Opening Day left fielder, hit .172 in 47 games.
Lezama is recovering from Tommy John surgery. And Sheehan fell victim to a log jam in the Rockies organization.
The undrafted free agent in 2014 went 4-0 with a 3.70 ERA in 15 games for the Dust Devils last season. But promotions and demotions in the minor leagues don’t always rely on statistics. Not that Hawks manager Frank Gonzales minds as Sheehan threw a perfect eighth inning in relief.
“When you have those kind of numbers and you’ve got better at a lower level like here, it tells you we’ve got some people in the system,” Gonzales said. “We’re trying to build a nice portfolio of players throughout the system, and sometimes that causes a backlog.”
Gonzales also said bringing back four players familiar with the Northwest League benefits the entire team. They all know the league, its ballparks and its long and brutal bus rides, and their year of experience will benefit the team’s 14 first-year players.
Prigatano said his biggest lesson as a rookie came from the steady diet of fastballs.
He said the college game revolved more around breaking balls and bunting, while pro ball features players swinging away at fastball after fastball.
“I already know what to expect, having been through the entire league for a whole year,” Prigatano said.
“I have a little bit more confidence knowing that I’ve done it once. I know what to expect and can kind of help out the young guys.”
Prigatano started the season off on the right foot, smacking an RBI single through the right side in the fifth inning to tie the game at 1-1.
But Prigatano’s goal remains the same as any minor leaguer’s — to keep advancing. And he’s knows he can only guarantee that with more production in the field and at the plate.
“Play better,” Prigatano said when asked what it takes to advance. “That’s all I can say.”