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There is joy in Marysville
Fans flock to see Gold Sox open season
Some might argue for Memorial Day weekend, sticklers for the summer solstice, but a good case could be made that with the first crack of the bat, not to mention the boom of a U.S. Air Force fly-over, summer started in the Yuba-Sutter area Thursday with the Gold Sox's opening night.
As the team squared off against the Redding Colt .45s, fans with flip flops and bared shoulders watched quietly, waved cowbells at every opportunity, or in the case of some younger attendees, didn't watch at all, because there was an oversized green gecko mascot wandering around the stands and he was much more interesting.
"Nice to see you for another season," said concessionaire Debra Jones as she poured a cold frosty one for Randy Reed, 51, of Marysville. "We're going to have a fun year out here," he commented, and she shot back, "Have we not ever?"
That casual atmosphere is a big part of the team's appeal, said Reed, who said he's been coming out for years.
"Obviously, it's affordable, but it's also a place to hang out," he said. "You see people you know from Little League, from the schools, but you meet new people."
He added with a laugh, "It's not like Yankees-Red Sox, you know?"
Which isn't to say there wasn't baseball talent on the diamond. Most Gold Sox players are on Division I and II baseball teams in college, and every so often a former or future major leaguer floats through.
The weather, in the low 90s with a healthy splash of humidity, certainly felt like summer. But though Staff Sgt. Eric Jones, 38, had a bit of sweat on his brow, not all of it was from the climate.
"I haven't thrown the ball since I was knee high," said a chortling Jones, a member of the 9th Medical Unit who's been decorated for his service in Afghanistan, and, as a token of appreciation, tossed out the first pitch Thursday, more or less straight to the plate.
"I love baseball, love these guys, and it's nice to see people put a little bit aside for something like this," said Jones, who's stationed at Beale Air Force Base. "Besides those guys out there, we're America's team. And you can't lose what makes America America even though the economy's down."
Indeed, the deep recession wasn't much in evidence at All Seasons RV Park, with Debra Jones saying plenty of people wanted to quench their thirst at the beer booth, and clothing concessionaire Caitlin Moore, 18, saying shirts, hats and cowbells were all selling.
"I didn't know what to expect other than it would be hot," said Moore, in her first year working for the Gold Sox but not her first year attending games. "I can still hear them!" she pointed out, her back to much of the stadium at her post.
Team managing partner Tom Lininger said a down economy isn't necessarily a bad thing for his operation.
"Minor league baseball sees better attendance right now," he said, and explained that many fans come to the stadium rather than drive to Oakland or San Francisco for major league baseball, or Disneyland. About 1,800 people attended Thursday's season opener.
"They don't want to make trips, but they still want to do something with the family," he said.
That was true of Jeff Lake of Loma Rica, who grinned as his sons Devin, 7, and Taylor, 9, scrambled to their feet for a foul ball that, alas, fell elsewhere.
"They love the broken bats and the interactions with the players," he said of his sons, though they were also fans of root beer shaved ice, and the catchers and shortstops. "Whatever they can do, they get their fill of it."
Then there were those who return for the Gold Sox year after year, in noisy fashion. Between jangles on their cowbells, sisters Betty Nagy, 79 and Aralia Hanlin, 76, described themselves as season ticket owners "since they were the Mudcats!"
"They're terrific college boys from all over the U.S., and we just love to watch it," Hanlin said.
And Nagy added, "We get to know them all by the time the last game's played."
Through the first few innings, there were cheers for hits, groans of disappointment at runners stranded, and then, a roar for something truly engaging.
A tot of 5 or so was racing mascot Mr. G, who had a definite advantage in stride if not exuberance as they rounded the bases.
The tot won, handily. And the crowd cheered as if a Gold Sox homer had pierced the thick evening air.
Contact Appeal-Democrat reporter Ben van der Meer at 749-4709 or email@example.com.