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Spokane Indians opening night at Avista always special

UPDATED: Fri., June 15, 2018, 11:23 p.m.

Although the Spokane Indians fell short 7-4 to Boise on opening night, the crowd was in full force with old and new fans and even a lucky winner of a free car.

Forecast calls for a brand new car

How scary is it to be a meteorologist at opening night when it’s raining?

KREM’s Tom Sherry knows that fear all too well. When he was announced at last year’s opening night game – which was canceled because of the rain – he was booed. He knew it wasn’t his fault, but he also knew he was going to be at Friday’s game to help give away a car after the game.

And when he saw rain on the weather forecasting computer models for about the same time the Indians were supposed to open this year’s season, he was cautious … but he also had a sense that it would all be clear in time for the first pitch. He was right.

Sherry loves opening night, not just because of the beginning of the local baseball season, but because he gets to give away a car most years as a joint promotion between Toyota and Avista. He said it’s one of his favorite memories of opening night. And the only person who was more excited than Sherry about the car giveaway was Tanya Beck, who won this year’s Toyota Camry Hybrid.

Beck said it was her very first baseball game, and it was one she would never forget.

Familiar faces glad to be back in Spokane

Among the six players returning from last year’s Indians team is 6-foot-6, right-handed pitcher Tai Tiedemann, who found his second opening night in Spokane more comfortable than his first.

“Last year, there were a lot of nerves since I was pitching on the first day, but this year I feel more confident and relaxed coming into this season,” Tiedemann said.

The Long Beach native, who struck out 43 batters in 13 games last season, said he was ready to return to the mound with a familiar set of teammates behind him, wearing familiar uniforms.

Opening night never gets old for longtime fan

John Bishop, a season ticket holder for more than 30 years, has seen a whole lot of Indians games.

He can tell all sorts of stories about his favorite memories at now-Avista Stadium, including how in 1988 an Indian baserunner stole home with two outs to win the championship.

He can also tell you why opening night is so important in one of the most efficient ways possible: “It’s the start of baseball season.”

Well said, John.

New netting behind dugouts, netting memories

They say the grass is greener on the other side, but it’s even greener when it’s baseball season, said Chris Duff, vice president and general manager for the Indians.

Duff said one of the new features at the stadium is dugout netting to protect fans sitting right behind the teams. Duff has worked for the team for 18 years and he’s seen lots of the highs and lows of opening night firsthand.

“Last year is one that stands out to me. We prepped so long and worked so hard to sell that game out, and it rains out on the first day of the year after working for seven to eight months before that specific day,” Duff said. “One of the more positives is in 2004 when I got a chance to open the gates for the first time.”

Grandma Vickie welcomes fans, workers to stadium

For the past 10 years, Vickie Mularski has been both a welcoming presence to every fan in the crowd and a guiding force for new recruits working at the stadium.

“I try to help them because they’re really nervous, and I think my experience can help them be a little bit more relaxed and show them it’s not just a job, we want them to have fun,” Mularski said.

This experience and thoughtfulness has netted her the endearing nickname “Grandma Vickie” around the ballpark.

Scoreboard quits working, local team starts scoring

Through the first six innings, Spokane’s bats weren’t connecting. Or at least weren’t scoring. The Indians were getting beat, 6-0.

Then the scoreboard at Avista Stadium quit working. And the local team started scoring.

Otto Klein, the team’s senior vice president, said he’s sure the scoreboard has quit working before, but couldn’t remember exactly when. And not during an opening night.

“But it will be fixed by tomorrow,” he said.


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