Tanner Gardner wasn’t greeted with dry, unforgiving heat Friday when he stepped off his flight at the Spokane International Airport.
The Texas Tech product and 14 other members of the Spokane Indians – many coming from a rookie developmental league in Phoenix – were instead met by a balmy 79 degrees, gawking passersby and the emphatic high-fives of a Spokanasaurus.
Carrying bags with the namesake of their parent club, the Texas Rangers, players trickled through the airport terminal, reporting to Spokane a week before the Indians’ season opener at Avista Stadium.
At least six players on Spokane’s 23-man roster return from last summer’s Northwest League playoff team, including home run leader Curtis Terry. For the rest, the Lilac City – and the Inland Northwest – is a foreign experience.
“Definitely excited to be in cooler weather. It was starting to get really hot in Arizona, up to about 108 degrees,” said Gardner, who got his first glimpse of Otto, the Indians’ mascot, when it beelined toward him at the airport on his way to the baggage claim. “I’ve heard good, positive things about this Spokane team, especially its atmosphere, so I’m glad to be here.”
Obie Ricumstrict, a 19-year-old third baseman from Michigan fresh out of the rookie developmental league, is looking forward to finally playing a pro ballgame in front of a crowd.
“I’ve been following the team’s Instagram, looked at its videos and pictures, and it gets pretty packed and really loud,” Ricumstrict said of Avista Stadium, annually ranked among the top minor league ballparks in country. “I’m excited to get the crowd pumped up.”
While the majority of players reported to first-year Indians manager Kenny Holmberg by way of flight Friday, some opted to drive – including the club’s highest-paid player.
Six-foot-five right-handed pitcher Hans Crouse, the Rangers’ fourth-ranked prospect, was still in a car Friday on his way to Spokane. Crouse, 19, committed to USC before signing a $1.45 million contract last summer after being taken in the second round of the MLB Draft.
Terry, along with Tai Tiedemann, a right-handed pitcher who recorded a 3.83 ERA in Spokane in 2017, immediately put on Indians jerseys and hats after arriving at the airport, welcoming their newest teammates.
Tiedemann, who played quarterback at national prep power Long Beach Poly and was formerly committed to play football at FCS Manhattan College, says he’s happy to be back.
“This is a great place to be, a great place to play, I had a lot of fun last year,” Tiedemann said. “I am looking forward to return with a really good group of guys.”
Spokane opens its season on June 15 against the Boise Hawks, a 6:30 p.m. game that will include a fireworks show.
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