- Associated Press - Friday, May 13, 2016

EVANSVILLE, Ind. (AP) - What’s new at the old ballpark? Plenty, according to the Evansville Otters, who open the 2016 season Friday night.

Let’s start at the concession stand. An expanded Bosse Field menu this summer will include a sandwich called the Otter Beast, with a Donut Bank fritter serving as the bun, with beef, pulled pork, bacon and cheese.

If that sounds fattening, you can wash it down with a light specialty beer from Carson’s Brewery called Otter Ale. Only available at Bosse Field, it will arrive for the opening weekend.

“It’s refreshing, cool, something that people will like at the ballpark,” said Randy Schulz, the independent professional baseball club’s new president.

Post-game fireworks are on the schedule for 11 home games, including all eight Friday games and three Saturdays. After two Saturday games and a Thursday game, an acoustic band will do a post-game concert and children will be invited to play kickball on the diamond.

The Otters made some other upgrades at their 101-year-old ballpark, some of which were musts. The Bud Light Lime Deck beyond the outfield fence is having to be rebuilt for safety reasons. It won’t be ready for the opening weekend, but Schulz said it should open soon thereafter.

Large picnic tents down both foul lines have been replaced, some new outfield signage has gone up, and railing in the seating areas has received a much-needed coat of paint.

“We’ve had a lot of volunteers, paint companies, my family,” Schulz said of the painting effort.

Schulz was named Otters president in March. Bill Bussing vacated the president’s role but remains the team’s owner.

Schulz retired last year as a partner in the accounting firm Harding, Shymanski & Co., but he’s long had baseball in his blood. His two brothers, Jeff and Pat, played professionally, and Jeff Schulz reached the big leagues as an outfielder, playing in 40 games for Kansas City and Pittsburgh from 1989-91.

In addition to Schulz, the Otters also absorbed new management staff from the Ford Center and the departed IceMen hockey club. The new staff, said Schulz, has taken on the mission to “improve everything” at the historic ballpark.

“It’s been a great experience to come out here and watch baseball,” Schulz said. “We’re trying to make it an even greater experience.”

The Otters completed a five-game exhibition schedule with a Wednesday morning game with the Florence Freedom, attended by a few hundred schoolchildren. For teachers and students nearing the end of the lengthy school year, an outing at the ballpark was a treat.

“It’s an honors trip, for good behavior and good grades,” said Albion (Illinois) Grade School teacher Logan Crum. The school brought about 80 children, two bus loads, to Wednesday’s game.

Students and teachers from William Tell Elementary School in Tell City, Indiana, hoped to get a post-game visit with Otters pitcher Shane Weedman, who is from Tell City.

“Really good kid,” said Kevin Rhodes, one of Weedman’s former teachers and coaches.

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Source: Evansville Courier & Press, http://bit.ly/1s3sVFr

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Information from: Evansville Courier & Press, http://www.courierpress.com

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