Quite the mix at Cheney this spring

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Sounders S2’s Felix Chankam lines up for what would be a successful penalty kick. The goal marked the first goal ever for the S2 at Cheney Stadium. A crowd of 6,049 showed up to welcome the newest soccer club to Grit City. Photo by Justin Gimse

Things are going to be getting mighty busy at Cheney Stadium this spring and summer. Not only will the historic field play host to the Tacoma Rainiers, but it has also become the new home of the Sounders S2. It’s going to be interesting to see how Cheney’s top-notch ground crew manages over 70 home baseball games, while switching over 16 times for soccer matches.

In years past, baseball at Cheney during the month of April was often a big, wet letdown. Rainouts were the norm, and when it wasn’t raining it was often downright chilly outside. The last two seasons have been remarkably dry in April at Cheney and we’re hoping and praying that the baseball gods have more of the same in store for baseball fans this time around.

Slugger Daniel Vogelbach has spent a good amount of time with the Rainiers over the last couple of years, but a hot bat in Mariners’ spring training has the 25-year old starting the season with the big club this year. Let’s hope Vogelbach continues his torrid start and remains with the Mariners from here on out. Photo by Rocky Ross

While there’s always a grip of new faces in Tacoma Rainiers’ uniforms every spring, this season looks like it could be the newest-looking bunch in quite some time. Just a quick rundown through the current roster offers up a bevy of new names. Perhaps the Seattle Mariners can somehow stay reasonably healthy this season, so Tacoma fans can spend a little more time with the organization’s new blood and get to know them.

Injuries to a Major League Baseball club always have a negative impact on the farm system, and that was certainly the case for the Rainiers last season. After winning the Pacific Coast League Pacific Northern Division in 2016, Tacoma came out looking to defend their title last spring. Before the injury bug began to bite down hard on the Mariners, Tacoma was again at the top of the division standings.

Injuries to the Seattle Mariners have had quite an impact on the Tacoma Rainiers’ over the past season. Seattle legend Felix Hernandez made three starts for Tacoma during injury rehabilitation stints. Photo by Rocky Ross

What followed was a swinging door of players in and out of the Tacoma line-up, which turned a good club into a team that had the grit to scrap out wins, but wasn’t built for the long haul of the season. Tacoma would end the season 10 games under .500 at 66-76.

One player we won’t be seeing come opening day is last year’s PCL All-Star Daniel Vogelbach.

The stumpy first-baseman has been a machine with the bat in spring training, batting .407 with seven home runs, seven doubles, 15 runs batted in and 13 walks. It’s nice to see one of our Tacoma guys truly earn a spot on the Seattle roster, and Vogelbach looks like he may finally be ready for the “Big Show.”

Cheney Stadium is the new home of the Seattle Sounders FC S2. Tacoma fans can expect plenty of more drums and chants from the Emerald City Supporters’ section located behind the sound end goal. The S2 boys return to Cheney Stadium on Wednesday, April 11, to face the Real Monarchs SLC at 7 p.m. It will be a quick home turnaround as the S2 then hosts Rio Grande Valley FC on Saturday, April 14, at 5 p.m. Photo by Justin Gimse

There’s another player that we’re kind of hoping we don’t see at Cheney Stadium this season. While it was fun to see Seattle legend Felix Hernandez take the mound three times for the Rainiers, that also means the Mariners are working through the injury bug. Most baseball fans figure the gas tank is getting down there a bit when it comes to Hernandez, so it would be awfully nice to see him make his last run with Seattle in full health.

The Rainiers offer up special promotion nights throughout the season. Arguably, the best of these promotions is the Friday Night Fireworks. This year, Cheney will play host to 11 of these Friday spectaculars. Start making your plans and getting your tickets soon, because these Friday night games are always big draws to Tyler Street and tickets could get scarce.

Throwback Weekend is scheduled for Saturday, April 21, and Sunday, April 22. This year, the first group of fans through the gates will get their hands on a throwback Tacoma Giants cap on Saturday, and a Tacoma Twins hat on Sunday. Mark this down now.

Soccer has a new home at Cheney, and the early results look promising. A crowd of 6,049 welcomed Tacoma’s newest soccer club to town and witnessed a 2-1 victory over rival Portland Timbers 2. The future looks bright for the Sounders S2 in the 253.

There are also four other high-level soccer clubs beginning new seasons in the Tacoma area. The highly-competitive Sounders U23 begins their USL PDL season on Sunday, May 20, with their first home match taking place on Friday, May 25, at Starfire Sports Stadium in Tukwila. The club will return to their regular home at Sunset Stadium in Sumner on Sunday, May 27, as they host Lane United at 2 p.m.

The Sounders Women also begin play on Friday, May 25, as part of a doubleheader with the Sounders U23. The club will then host FCM Portland on Saturday, May 26, at Sunset Stadium at 8 p.m.

For several years, the South Sound FC Shock have been playing at a high level in the Evergreen Premier League. Two seasons ago, the Shock even brought home the U23 National Championship. However, times have changed with the club, as their partnership with Washington Premier has moved into a new phase and branding. The SSFC have now become Washington Premier FC for both the men’s and women’s team of the Northwest Premier League.

The Washington Premier FC men open their season on Saturday, May 5, at the Washington Premier Complex in the Puyallup Valley against their rival, the Olympic Force. The Women will also host the Olympic Force as part of a doubleheader. Times have yet to be announced.

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