After ensuring that his 2006 lineup has plenty of power by signing slugger Juan Thomas last month, Calgary Vipers Field Manager Mike Busch is now concentrating on defense.

Today the Vipers announced the signing of RHP Josh Daws a Frontier League All-Star in 2005 and the closer on the league champion Kalamazoo Kings.

“Last year we never could decide on a true closer”, said Busch from his off-season home in Iowa.  “J.P. Fauske did a good job early in the season, then Cody Cillo eventually won the role, and finally Ben King emerged as our go to guy.  Daws will have that job from day one of training camp”.

Daws posted a 7-2 record with a 2.82 ERA in 2005 for the Kings.  The 27 year old right hander appeared in 34 games and earned the save in 12 of those.  He didn’t give up a home run in his 38.1 innings of work and struck out 41 batters.  Daws was drafted by the Minnesota Twins out of Jacksonville University.  The 6’0”, 200 lb Floridian also played in the Cincinnati Reds organization.

And it won’t be a stranger giving him the signal to warm up in the Vipers bullpen.  Calgary’s new pitching coach, Wes Crawford, was his mentor in Kalamazoo last season.  “Jason has a low 90’s fastball”, said Crawford from his Baseball Academy in Minneapolis.  “And he’s got a nasty mid 80’s slider that frustrates batters.  He was a major key to our championship run”.

Vipers fans will immediately know how fast all pitchers are throwing in 2006.   Last week engineers from Daktronics installed a “Pitch Speed” LED screen into the ViperVision scoreboard.  “It’s the one add-on that fans really wanted”, said Vipers President Peter Young.  Statistics show that the average fan looks for the speed of the pitch about 160 times a game in the parks that have radar.  So this will make it great for our fans and the sponsors on our scoreboard”.

The Vipers will have a busy off season.  Busch, Young and team owner Jeff Gidney will travel to the Dominican Republic in mid-January to hold a baseball clinic featuring team MVP Carlos Duncan.  The entire coaching staff will also meet in Florida in early April for the Northern League Free Agent Camp.  And the Vipers and Edmonton Cracker-Cats will tour the province in an eight game exhibition series in early May.

The Vipers open the 2006 season on Thursday, May 18 against the defending champion Gary Southshore RailCats at Foothills Stadium.  The 2006 schedule features eight Saturday afternoon games as well as seven Wireless Wednesdays with 12:35 pm starts and the entire stadium hooked up to the internet through a wireless signal so business men and women can bring their laptops to the park and make it their “office” for the afternoon.

Season tickets, Gift Certificates and “You Pick Em” Flex Packs are available through the Vipers office at 277-BALL (2255).