Bismarck Larks baseball coach Sean Repay isn’t playing follow the leader when it comes to building his first team in the Northwoods League.
Repay insists he knows what he’s doing bypassing interested red-shirt freshmen from major Division I programs for older, proven players. “My forte is building rosters,” Repay said.
“The quid pro quo in our league is that you go after those freshmen from Division I programs that maybe haven’t seen the field,” Repay added. “I don’t have a lot of those kids on my roster. I wanted to find the best kids in the entire country, not just a school name and that was important to me.”
While recruiting a 32-man roster for Lakeland University, where he is associate coach and recruiting coordinator, Repay also put together the Larks’ 30-man roster. It was quite a juggling act.
“It was my most grueling year of coaching in general this year,” Repay said. “I won’t work at half speed, If I’m doing something, I’m doing it full speed all the time. I’ve signed 32 kids at Lakeland and built a 30-man roster I’m very proud of. God bless my wife and kids for living baseball nonstop.”
Repay’s roster shows a team made up of his kind of players: only one freshman and one red-shirt freshman and roughly one third of the roster being NCAA D-I players, although that number might grow if the right kind of player becomes available. The rest are sophomores and juniors.
“If Florida State wanted to send me a red-shirt guy that didn’t play this year, that might see the field by the time he’s a junior, or I could get an outfielder from the number one NAIA program in the country that produces eight draft picks a year and he’s got 23 home runs and hitting .470, in my mind the answer is a no-brainer,” Repay explained. “I’m competing to win this year. I want to bring an exciting brand of baseball and I’m going to build here. But my expectations are to win.”
Repay promises an exciting brand of baseball. He recruited speed and solid relief pitching. He said he might start the year with a six-man rotation until players settle into a middle relief role, which might be the team’s weakness.
Speed, on the other hand, won’t be.
“Speed is going to be a big strength,” Repay said. “We will run the bases and I see us being one of the top teams in the league in stolen bases. We’re going to fly. I like to steal bags and do it early and often and put pressure on defense.”
Repay also thinks he has players with power. “I think we can hit very well,’ he said. “Given the right lineup, my guys can run the ball out of there.”
Repay has spent previous summers as bullpen coach for the Gary Southshore RailCats of the American Association (in which the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks play). In 2015, the team’s bullpen was one of the best in the league in ERA and saves.
In 2014, Repay was named the youngest field manager in professional baseball with the Bisbee Blue of the Pecos League. He led the Blue to one of the best records in league history for an expansion franchise at 33-30 and fell two games short of a playoff spot.
The Larks open the season and a four-game homestand May 30 against the Eau Claire Express and Thunder Bay Border Cats.