THEY’RE BACK!!! Rainiers to roll out veteran lineup

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The Tacoma Rainiers were back from spring training and taking in some practice at Cheney Stadium on Tuesday, April 3. While it was a bit on the chilly side, the skies failed to give up anything wet and the team’s preparation for opening night on Thursday, April 5, went without a hitch. While there is some wet stuff in the forecast over the next several days, the team is hell-bent on kicking off opening night with their usual first-class style.

With a roster that includes 19 players with Major League Baseball experience, this looks like the sort of Tacoma team that should find itself challenging for the Pacific Coast League Pacific Northern Division crown, if not even more.

After an incredible 81-62 division-winning season in 2016, a seemingly unending string of call-ups to the Seattle Mariners sapped much of the Rainiers’ strength after a couple of months. After sitting atop the division into late May, Tacoma finally began to slip, while Reno and Fresno caught fire.

Despite finishing the 2017 season with a 66-76 record, it seemed to have little impact on the size of the crowds flocking to Cheney Stadium throughout a sensational summer. As a matter of fact, even though they finished 10 games below the .500 mark, the Rainiers drew the third-largest attendance total to Cheney Stadium in the historic park’s 57-year history.

Sure, the fans love to see a winner, and any sort of playoff race is sure to bring out some more fans to the park, but when it comes to tail-ends in the seats, it’s not entirely all about the victories. One thing that the Rainiers and Cheney Stadium offer up as good as any organization in the business is an incredible fan experience. Ticket prices are reasonable, and often throughout the season, the Rainiers offer up some one-time deals that are downright sensational. For instance, there is an opening night deal that gets you in the park, with a new Cheney Stadium T-shirt, for just $15.

For folks that love the baseball experience, yet have been turned off by the soaring cost of attending a game in Seattle, there is no doubt that a trip to Cheney Stadium is not only going to satisfy the baseball cravings, but will also have a significantly smaller impact on the checking account.

The Rainiers deliver a full, family-friendly experience. Whether the kids are taking cuts out at the wiffle ball field just south of the grass berm seating, or their joining in on the conga dance line that often stretches from one side of the grandstands to the other, the fun is there for the taking. People love to argue about it, but it’s a no-brainier from this writer. The best sports mascot in the Puget Sound has got to be Rhubarb the Reindeer. He’s not only visible and active throughout the game, but his exploits are not only creative, but often hilarious. That’s without even getting into awesome characters like Epic Sax Gorilla or others.

Friday nights at Cheney Stadium are among the largest attended during the season. Not only is it a great night to get out, following a week of toiling away in the salt mines, but it is also capped with a free fireworks show shortly after the final out of the ballgame. This season, fans have 11 Friday fireworks nights to choose from. Cheney will make the fireworks business an even dozen when they host Reno on July 3, which is also always followed with a fireworks extravaganza.

While the fireworks are always an easy draw, there are several other special dates that bring out a variety of fans throughout the season. Throwback Weekend is set for Saturday, April 21 and Sunday, April 22. Fans early to the ballpark will get a free throwback Tacoma Giants cap on Saturday, and a Tacoma Twins hat on Sunday. Every Thursday home game is also a “Thirsty Thursday” with cheap beers and rotating food specials.

Special individual games include Salute to Armed Forces Day (Sunday, July 1), Pink at the Park (Sunday, July 22), Paint the Park Purple for UW fans (Friday, Aug. 3), K-9 Innings (Sunday, Aug. 5), Color Cheney Crimson (Saturday, Aug. 18), First Responders Night (Thursday, Aug. 23) and Central Washington University Night (Friday, Aug. 24).

As far as the Tacoma roster goes, fans are going to be busy finding new favorites with all the new faces coming to Cheney Stadium.

A last-minute call-up of shortstop Taylor Motter to the Seattle Mariners altered what was set to be the opening night roster, but it’s still stacked with veteran talent.

On the pitcher’s mound, Tacoma will roll out Dario Alvarez and Ariel Miranda from the left side. That’s it for Tacoma lefties at this point in the season, as the Rainiers’ line-up is stacked with right-handed hurlers. From the right side, Tacoma will suit up Shawn Armstrong, Christian Bergman (opening night starter), Chasen Bradford, Ryan Cook, Erik Goeddel, Ashton Goudeau, Pat Light, Mike Morin, Max Povse, Josh Smith and Rob Whalen.

To start the season behind the plate, Tacoma returns Tuffy Gosewisch and added Garrett Kennedy to the mix. The Tacoma infield returns Gordon Beckham and Danny Munio, while adding Matt Hague and Zach Vincej. There are also plenty of new faces in the outfield with John Andreoli, Kirk Nieuwenhuis and Cameron Perkins set to make their first Tacoma appearances. Ian Miller is the sole returnee to the Tacoma outfield.

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