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Chiefs charge into new era

Crazy Horse and Big Country will lead Syracuse ballclub this season

The 2009 Syracuse Chiefs lay claim to two of the most colorful nicknames in baseball.

Owing to his legendary temper over 19 years as one of the game's best shortstops, new manager Tim Foli is called "Crazy Horse."

Due to his physical prowess, first baseman Brad Eldred has been dubbed "Big Country."

While Crazy Horse will determine the lineups and do battle with the umpires, Big Country will slug the long balls that'll put runs on the board for the Chiefs in their first year as the top farm club of the Washington Nationals.

As the Chiefs open their 2009 International League baseball season at 2 p.m. Thursday April 9, at Alliance Bank Stadium, everyone hopes for a victory over Thruway rivals the Rochester Red Wings, the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. Syracuse Area Music Awards hall-pf Famer Joe Whiting will sing the National Anthem, and the ceremonial first pitch will be tossed by Congressman Dan Maffei.

The Chiefs and the Red Wings meet here again at 4 p.m. Friday April 10. After a week-long roadtrip, the Chieftains return to ride herd on the Buffalo Bisons at ABS April 17-20. Ticket prices have risen slightly and now range between $4 and $10; plus there's a charge for parking; 474-7833.

First year with Nats

After 31 tiresome years with the Toronto Blue Jays, 2009 marks the Chiefs' first year affiliated with the Washington Nationals, so it's tougher than usual to deduce the team's chances. Almost all the names and faces are new, including Crazy Horse and Big Country.

Old-time Syracuse fans may vaguely recall that Foli played at MacArthur Stadium in 1970 when he was a 19-year-old shortstop for the Tidewater Tides. A couple of new Chiefs' previously played here: pitcher Gary Glover went 4-6 in 1999, while outfielder Mike Vento hit seven home runs in 2007.

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