All was quiet at Avista Stadium on Friday afternoon. Only a couple of workers were out on the field, putting the finishing touches on what looked to be a nearly picture-perfect ballpark.
Inside the Spokane Indians’ home dugout were eight new uniforms hung above the players’ bench, awaiting the Indians to arrive and try them on.
The first batch of players finally pulled up to Avista Stadium at about 12:30 p.m. Friday. Eight of the current 33-man roster arrived in vans at the ballpark gates just 15 minutes after flying into Spokane International Airport.
They piled out of the cars with their Texas Rangers ball bags in one hand and luggage in the other. Some still hadn’t put away their headphones or taken off their neck pillows from the flight.
Some looked like they had barely awoken from a nap after traveling all morning. They kept their eyes down and barely took a look around the backside of the stadium.
For five of them, Spokane is already familiar territory.
“I’m excited to be back,” said right fielder Chad Smith, who is returning to play for the Indians for a second straight year. “I enjoyed the fans last year. I had a blast.”
Along with Smith were returning infielders Charles Leblanc and Curtis Terry, catcher Clay Middleton and right-handed pitcher Tyler Phillips.
The players unloaded their bags inside the clubhouse and followed each other out to the dugout in their street clothes, sneakers and flip flops. They pulled their jerseys off the hangers and threw them on over their polo shirts and buttoned-downs.
Then they reached for the hats – new red ball caps with the stickers still attached to the top of the brims.
A couple of the players tucked in their ears and fidgeted around with the cap, bending the brims and moving them up and down on their heads until they fit just right.
“I’ve got an odd-shaped head, you know. I’ve got to play with (the hat),” Smith said.
But the jerseys seemed to fit perfectly.
This is “real material here,” catcher Isaias Quiroz said while looking down at his new jersey with Spokane written in Salish, the native language of the Pacific Northwest.
Quiroz arrived in Spokane after playing for the Rangers’ extended spring training team. It was the first time he had put on an official team jersey since he played in high school.
“It feels good. It feels really nice to put on a real uniform,” he said.
Quiroz was one of the three newbies in the first group of players at the stadium. He and teammates Nick Kaye and Reiver Sanmartin had a first good look at the stadium. They stepped out onto the field in their new jerseys and caps and took a quick look around at a stadium that was more than ready for the Indians’ first workout this weekend.
“My teammates were telling me how it was, but I’m actually amazed at how beautiful this place is,” Quiroz said. “I’m excited to play some ball here … This is (my) home field now.”
Unlike Quiroz, Kaye and Sanmartin had their own jerseys and home fields in the Texas Rangers’ rookie leagues. Playing in Spokane will give them a chance to test their nerves and experience a much larger crowd.
Kaye, a 20-year-old outfielder, previously played in the Arizona League, the Rangers’ rookie level minor league team located in Surprise.
Left-handed pitcher Sanmartin, 21, previously played in the Dominican Summer League.
The remaining 25 players and first-year coach Matt Hagen arrived at the stadium shortly after the first eight players to pick up their jerseys and get headshots taken.
The Indians have less than a week to acclimate themselves to the ballpark before they open the season against the Boise Hawks at 6:30 p.m. Thursday.
They’ll have their first workout scheduled at 1 p.m. Saturday to begin FanFest, a 3-hour-long event at Avista that is free and open to the public.
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