Tuesday night will be New Year’s Eve, the Fourth of July and Christmas morning all wrapped up with one big bow for Theo Fightmaster.
That’s because Fightmaster is the general manager for the Sonoma Stompers baseball club, and Tuesday is opening night for the Stompers at Arnold Field.
“We want this to be a festival atmosphere wrapped around a baseball game,” Fightmaster said. “When fans walk into Arnold Field, we want it to reek of community baseball. We want the fans to see players they may have seen or coached in Little League.”
The Stompers have been spiffing up Arnold Field in preparation for opening night.
“We’re working real hard to make sure people never forget opening night,” he said. “I know I’ll never forget it.”
The Stompers are a new team in the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, a four-team independent minor league. Other league teams are in San Rafael, Vallejo and Pittsburg. The league season started the first of June, and because Arnold Field has been booked with Babe Ruth baseball, the Stompers have been playing road games the past three weeks.
The team is the first professional baseball team to call Sonoma home and the caliber of play is somewhere between the Single-A level and Double-A level of minor league baseball – much like the Sonoma Crushers who called Rohnert Park home from 1995 through 2002.
As of Thursday, the new and expanded dugouts were still cinderblocks awaiting to be put together. And there are other things that need to be done before opening night.
“You hope you anticipated everything,” Fightmaster said. “Especially when it’s your first impression.”
The restrooms, which were acting up at high school graduation earlier this month, are in working order and there will be additional porta-potties.
Fightmaster has been through this before as general manager of the San Rafael Pacifics when they took the field for the first time in 2012.
There will be the usual pomp and circumstance that goes along with an opening night game. There will be community people acknowledged for their contributions in making the Stompers a reality.
The players from both teams will be introduced one at a time as they line up along the first- and third-base lines.
“The player introductions are unique to baseball,” Fightmaster said. “It’s a big game … it’s opening day, the all-star game … it’s the World Series.”
And there will be some surprises as well.
Fightmaster said the players are eager to finally have a field to call home. “They’ll have people cheering for them,” he said.
He said June was difficult since there were no home games. Last weekend, for example, the team had a six-game series in Pittsburg, which meant an hour-plus ride each way. And he said with NASCAR last weekend, that increased traffic on the road.
“The players have done a great job,” Fightmaster said. “With that many games on the road and all the obstacles … It’s a testament to them, their professionalism and their abilities.”
During the game, there will be games for kids between innings – events such as racing around the bases, pie eating contests, bat races and more.
There will also be the usual hot dogs and hamburgers and ballpark food to go along with soft drinks, beer and wine.
And after the games, the players will stick around and sign autographs until the last one is signed.
“It’s important that we’ve got good players who are good people too,” Fightmaster said. “We give them the talk. They know they’re under a microscope.”
So far this year, the Stompers are sporting an 11-9 record, through Wednesday night, and are a game-and-a-half behind the league-leading San Rafael Pacifics. And, the Stompers have two local players – Jayce Ray and Tommy Lyons, both of whom starred at Sonoma Valley High and went on to play college ball.
Tuesday night, the gates will open at 6 p.m. with first pitch scheduled for 7:05, but because of pre-game festivities, the game will probably get under way by about 7:15 or so.
While the grandstand seats and the Cline Club seating are sold out for opening night, Fightmaster said there are bleach seats available for $3.
“We don’t know what sort of crowd to expect,” he said. “But we hope there’s lots of people.”
The Stompers have hired 23 people for game-day who will be doing everything from selling tickets to ushering and selling concessions. And parking at Arnold Field is free.
“We’ve told the guys, it’s going to be a blast,” he said. “Enjoy it because it’s going to fly by.”