SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — The Sioux Falls Canaries reached the American Association Championship in 2020, but took a step back last season when they finished 36-54. They return some familiar faces this season, but they’ll lean on some new arms in the rotation in hopes of returning to the playoffs.

The last two seasons have looked a little different for the American Association and the Canaries, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, the 2022 season will see a return to normal for all 12 teams.

“It’s great to get the fans back out, because there is no limitations, no matter where we’re at. It’s great to have the fans back,” Canaries outfielder and hitting coach Jabari Henry said. “It gives us motivation to play even harder. We’re looking forward to it.”

Sioux Falls returns plenty of talent to the batting order including last year’s Rookie of the Year, Wyatt Ulrich. They also return sluggers Jabari Henry, Angelo Altavilla and Trey Michalczewski.

“It’s nice having a core group of guys that are good in the clubhouse, that want to be here, that know what it’s like to play in Sioux Falls, know the community and they’re big time recruiters for me,” Canaries head coach Mike Meyer said. “They also know what expectations are for us and what we’re trying to build here.”

The Birds have added some new faces and those guys will look to provide plenty of pop in the lineup.

“So far, we’re hitting some homeruns, like yesterday the middle of the order hit a couple homeruns. And we’re getting people on base and scoring and actually running a little bit,” Henry said. “It’s a different batting order than last year, but it’s a better order than last year too, so we’re happy about that.”

The strength of this year’s team should be on the mound. The Canaries brought in plenty of fire power this year, to pair with five returning pitchers from last year.

“I’m really excited about our bullpen. We’ve got a bunch of guys down there that throw rockets. They’re younger guys that have quite a bit of experience in affiliated minor leagues,” Meyer said. “A lot of mid to upper 90’s guys. So that’s exciting when you can bring your horses out of the bullpen.”

“We made a lot of really good offseason additions, to where I think we hit every need that we needed,” Canaries starting pitcher Ty Culbreth said. “Especially from last year, we had some holes in the staff and I think we brought back a really strong core and that we added some really strong pieces.”

A key for the Birds will be in-season additions. Sioux Falls has struggled with that in the past, but they’re hoping to find success in 2022.

“Hopefully with the improvements to the facilities, to a lot of the stuff going on with the new ownership group, that will allow me to bring in some higher talented guys during the season, because that’s been where we’ve been lacking,” Meyer said. “We’ve started off seasons well, but when we lose pieces to injuries or they get signed into AA or AAA, it’s very difficult to bring guys in to replace that.”

With plenty to look forward to this season, the Canaries are keeping their focus on winning as a team.

“When you win as a team, it always makes the individual look better. It will not only help the team, but it’ll help yourself,” Culbreth said. “Just really playing selfless and trying to win every game.”

The Birds open the season on Friday, May 13. They’ll visit the Lincoln Saltdogs for a three game series.