It seems that Cole Ragans will have a case of the butterflies for another day.
Just a couple of hours before the Spokane Indians’ scheduled 6:30 p.m. start Thursday evening against Boise Hawks, the 19-year-old lefty was starting to feel the nerves on one of his biggest starts of his career. He had never pitched in front of a crowd that exceeded 1,000 attendees, and the Indians were expecting close to 7,000.
“I have a little bit of butterflies right now,” Ragans said Thursday afternoon. “When people start to get here … (the nerves) will kick in.”
The gray sky and possibility of rain didn’t give the Indians quite the crowd they had hoped for, but the weather didn’t deter a few thousand fans from slowly making their way into the stadium, umbrellas in hand.
The weather didn’t have much of an effect on Ragans either, who was more than ready to get on the mound for the first time in a minor league uniform.
“Even if it’s a light rain, I’ll be all right,” Ragans said.
But Mother Nature wasn’t so kind.
The rain started up about a half hour before the Indians’ season opener was scheduled to begin. It didn’t stop until the Indians called the game at nearly 8:30 after delaying the start time three times.
The Indians will make up Thursday’s game in a doubleheader on Sunday. The first game will begin at the original 3:30 p.m. start time. Both games will be seven innings long.
“It’s disappointing because the guys were just so jacked up to play,” Indians manager Matt Hagen said after the game was called. “They basically got themselves a dress rehearsal in tonight, and then (we’ll) get back at it tomorrow.”
Ragans was slated for his first minor league start in his career. Since being selected by the Texas Rangers in the first round of the 2016 Major League Baseball draft, he has only played in the Arizona League, for the Rangers’ rookie team in Surprise.
Hagen said Ragans’ minor league debut will be pushed to Friday’s game against the Hawks at 6:30 p.m.
Hagen kept Ragans of the field for warmups ahead of the game out of concern that the Indians would postpone.
“The last thing we want to do is have one of our pitchers out there and start getting hot and then the rain comes down and they’ve got to sit for 45 minutes,” Hagen said.
Fans stayed close by for the majority of the evening in hopes that the rain would lighten up just enough for the Indians to play a few innings. Hundreds of them gathered under the overhangs and pop-up tents scattered about the stadium. Others claimed their seats in the stands and braved the rain in ponchos and under umbrellas.
“Rain doesn’t deter us,” said Kevin Dockter, a Spokane Indians fan from Coeur d’Alene.
He and his wife, Linda, didn’t move from their uncovered seats until the game was officially postponed.
“We dressed warm for it,” Linda said. “We’ve got our ponchos, so we’re ready to go.”
Their loyalty was more than appreciated by Hagen and his players, who got a first-time look at Spokane’s loyal fans they can expect to see all season.
“You want to give back after the fans show their support like that and there’s a feeling of, ‘We’ll put on a show for you guys.’ Unfortunately, it looked like it wasn’t going to stop raining so we couldn’t make it happen,” Hagen said. “The players really wanted to go out. We had to talk them back into the dugout.”
The rain didn’t keep the Indians from following through with one scheduled event – their Toyota RAV4 giveaway, presented by Toyota, Avista Utilities and KREM-TV.
Ten finalists were paraded onto the field in front of a still fairly large crowd that was mostly gathered under the covered concession stands. They were each handed a blue gift box, with one containing a winning key for the RAV4 parked in front of the stadium.
The finalists opened their boxes together and looked inside for a key. Cheney’s Larry Whitney found the large paper key and waved it in the air.
“It’s a pretty big surprise, to be honest,” Whitney said.
To have entered the contest, fans had to look for a word of the day during the KREM-TV daily newscast and enter the words online. Fans could enter as many words of the day as they wanted.
Whitney said he and his wife Michelle worked together to enter the word of the day online almost every day of the week. Their efforts certainly paid off.
“I almost wanted to run the field, but I didn’t have the capability. Plus, I’d probably look crazy,” Whitney said.
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