ROUND ROCK, Texas (KXAN) — Baseball season has made it to Central Texas. The Round Rock Express open the 2022 season at home Tuesday at 7:05 p.m. against the El Paso Chihuahuas.

The Triple-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers embarks on another season at Dell Diamond with first-year manager Matt Hagen. The former Liberty baseball player is no stranger to the Rangers organization and knows how exciting things are right now.

“So this is my eighth year in the organization and I can honestly say this is by far the most talented group we’ve had, especially at the upper levels,” said Hagen. “We’ve built back through the system with first-round picks, with trades.”

The Rangers have the ninth-ranked farm system in all of baseball, according to Their top prospect, pitcher Jack Leiter, was the second overall pick in the 2021 MLB Draft. The second-ranked prospect for Texas is Texas Tech product Josh Jung, who will appear for the Express but is expected to miss some of the year with an injury.

Round Rock finished over .500 in last year’s regular season, going 61-58. According to their manager, there is plenty of reason for optimism with this year’s group.

“I’d say it’s probably 90% excited, maybe 10% nervous,” added Hagen. “Once we get going, it’s baseball as usual but it’s a really excited group and I’m ready to get rolling.”

As was the case with big-league players, spring training and any sort of a regular offseason was put on hold because of the lockout between the MLB and MLPA. But for the Express players, they’ve done their best to keep things rolling.

“The guys have been chomping at the bit,” said Hagen. “They’ve been doing their own stuff. They’re at home working out. They’re training. Even though spring training may have not been as it usually is, these guys, they’re going all offseason.”

The Express’ parent club, the Texas Rangers, opens the season Friday, April 8 at 6:07 p.m. against the Blue Jays in Toronto.

Helping neighbors

Round Rock Express President Chris Almendarez said they will host a Tornado Relief Fundraiser on Opening Day. Using promo code “RRStrong” via $5 from each ticket purchase will be donated to the Round Rock Cares fund through the Round Rock Community Foundation.

“I think it’s going to help a lot of folks that were devastated with these tornadoes and that’s one of the neat things about Dell Diamond – not only is this baseball but outside the four walls, it’s what can we do in the community,” Almendarez said.

According to a news release, Round Rock Mayor Craig Morgan and Greater Round Rock Community Foundation Chair Nyle Maxwell launched the Round Rock Cares initiative to assist Round Rock citizens who were directly affected by the severe weather event that struck Round Rock on Monday, March 21.