The brutal winter appears to have finally made its exit. It’s time to remove the tarp and play ball!

Season Seven for the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs is about to begin. The club opens at home Thursday, April 24 against Bridgeport.

Players gathered at the park for media day. In addition to signing merchandise, the players had pictures taken in uniform.

The Blue Crabs play in the Atlantic League, an independent circuit that is considered the highest level of minor league baseball. This will be the Waldorf-based team’s seventh season. The Blue Crabs play their home games at Regency Furniture Stadium, which is just down the street from Southern Maryland’s newest high school, St. Charles High.

“I’m very excited about this group,” said Lance Burkhart, the club’s rookie manager. “It’s a strong core of players—good character, good people.”

The 39-year-old Missouri native played in 95 games for the Blue Crabs in 2009. He was drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1997 and played is such locations as Cape Fear, Huntsville, Bowie and Aberdeen. He was named to succeed Patrick Osborn as Blue Crabs manager earlier this year.

Burkhart previously served as batting coach under Butch Hobson in Lancaster last year.

While he never played a day in the majors and his own playing career plateaued in Triple A, Burkhart knows a chance to play in or return to the big leagues motivates his team.

“Clinging to a dream is what drives us all to work,” said Burkhart. “In this game it’s every day, all day, it’s a grind, hours of work. The success you do have is gratifying.”

Success and failure abound in baseball and Blue Crabs outfielder Brian Barton has just finished writing a book about the game’s teaching moments. Barton is beginning his fourth season with the team.

He calls Southern Maryland “a great community, great host families, great atmosphere.”