No current Lincoln player was on the roster the last time the Saltdogs made the American Association playoffs in 2014, but that doesn't mean there's a lack of big-game experience.
"You have a bunch of guys on this team that have been other places," said Saltdogs manager Bobby Brown, recently named the American Association Manager of the Year. "You have four guys from the Netherlands that played in front of the whole world for the biggest championship in the world besides the World Series (the World Baseball Classic) and guys with championship rings here, and coaches with playoff experience, so it is not foreign, but there are some guys that it will be their first time out and will rely on some of the experience of the older guys."
Lincoln, which made the postseason for the third time since winning the American Association championship in 2009, will face the Winnipeg Goldeyes in a best-of-five game series in the first round. The Saltdogs will host the first two games before finishing the series in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
The veteran experience from Shairon Martis pitching in the major leagues earned him the Game 1 nod on the mound. Martis spent three seasons in the majors, pitching two seasons with the Washington Nationals in 2008-09 and compiling a 6-5 record. He also had a second stint in the majors with the Minnesota Twins in 2013, and most recently spent time in the Baltimore Orioles organization before rejoining the Saltdogs earlier this season.
"Shai is our most experienced guy. He's been in the big leagues, he's made multiple starts in the big leagues and he has been in this league for three years," Brown said. "He knows the hitters in this league, and when you have a guy like that on your roster, your team automatically plays at a whole other level."
Haymarket Park, which was just named the league's best playing field for the 17th straight season, will also play its part in the first-round series.
Infielder/designated hitter Curt Smith, whose wife is a Lincoln native, knows this is a special opportunity for the city.
"It's about momentum, but it is really about the fans," Smith said. "They have come here year after year supporting us and I think it is a great gift to hopefully give them the first two wins (of the series) and (later) the whole championship."
Derek Gordon, also a Lincoln native and the scheduled Game 2 starter against the Goldeyes, thinks being at home for the first two games of the series will help the Saltdogs in the playoffs.
"Home-field advantage is huge for us the first two games," Gordon said. "We have to come out and put on a show through these first two games. It will be really, really crucial for us to go into Winnipeg with a 2-0 lead."
Lincoln and Winnipeg begin the series at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday at Haymarket Park.