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FanFest gives Spokane Indians players and fans chance to connect before the season

UPDATED: Sat., June 10, 2017, 10:36 p.m.

There’s no better feeling than sitting at the ballpark and watching the home team’s ball disappear behind the outfield wall.

For a few Spokane Indians fans, that feeling never seemed to stop on Saturday afternoon.

Several hundred fans at the Indians’ FanFest at Avista Stadium lost track of more than 40 balls during a home run derby that had four Indians competing for the most out-of-the-park homers in three minutes.

Some players had been waiting all year to get back in the stadium and hit a few balls around the field.

“It brought back some good memories,” said Clay Middleton, who played in Spokane last year. “It felt great to get back here and enjoy the good weather and remember how good this field is.”

It felt even better to rope one out of the park.

Middleton, one of the four batters in the derby, sent four pitches out. It wasn’t quite enough to get him past the semifinals.

In the final round of the derby, returning first baseman Curtis Terry faced infielder Andretty Cordero, who is new to Spokane this season.

Terry knocked 10 of 40 pitches out of the park, three more than Cordero. The Indians gave Curtis a chance to rack up four more points with a grand slam opportunity on one pitch to seal a win.

Three Spokane youth baseball players loaded the bases as Terry took a couple of cuts before stepping back inside the batter’s box. He watched three pitches go by before he finally took a chop and connected.

His teammates jumped up from their spots on the grass along the first-base line and watched the ball fly high to center field and clear the stadium wall.

For a moment, it felt as if the Indians had just won the Northwest League championship. Fans jumped up from their seats, threw their hands in the air and cheered. Terry’s teammates ran to home plate and hugged him before pouring a jug of water over his head.

The celebration was well deserved. Saturday was the first time the players had heard cheers from the stands after working out for the Texas Rangers’ extended spring training in Surprise, Arizona, for the majority of the year.

“We’ve been in Arizona for four months now. There’s … 10 people in the stands on a good day,” returning infielder Charles Leblanc said.

Saturday’s annual Spokane Indians FanFest was free and open to the public for the first time. In previous years, the Indians opened FanFest to season ticket holders who were members of the Banner Bank Diamond Club.

First-year manager Matt Hagen said the event was beneficial. “It’s nice to come out and do stuff with people watching,” he said.

“The opportunity for those guys to come out and get around people who are excited to be at the ballpark, it’s … a good experience.”

Fans got a first look at players who will be part of the 33-man roster that will flood the home dugout Thursday on Opening Night.

Some fans found a seat inside the stadium for the entire afternoon and watched the players work out on the field and introduce themselves to the fans. The players took turns stating their names and saying whatever they felt might get the most laughs from the crowd.

Catcher Isaias Quiroz garnered the most cheers and laughs after he mimicked the team’s announcer and loudly introduced the Spokane Indians over the stadium speakers. His efforts earned him a $100 bonus directly from the wallet of Indians managing partner Bobby Brett.

The Spokesman-Review

The Indians continue their daily workouts at Avista Stadium on Sunday at 3 p.m. All practices are open to the public.

The Indians open the season on Thursday against the Boise Hawks at 6:30 p.m. at Avista Stadium.

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