STOCKTON – Baseball’s return to Stockton was not without some drama in the ninth inning. But not the kind you would expect on opening night.
With a failure at the end of ninth place, the ports behind the San Jose Giants 5-1 and two men on base, the lights at Stockton Ballpark went out causing a 15 minute delay.
“Weather, lights, half the lights, I’ve been to those where the lights went out and it’s been over an hour,” said Rico Brogna, manager in the first year. “They came back very quickly.”
A large group of Ports fans stuck to Stockton’s 5-1 loss on the last two outs because it had been two years since they saw the Ports play.
After losing the entire 2020 season to the COVID-19 pandemic, the first summer since 1977 without a baseball at Stockton, a 20% sold out crowd returned to Stockton Ballpark and was ready to go for the first Stockton professional sporting event since 2019 enjoy baseball again.
“It was a great atmosphere,” said Brogna. “After all this time, I’m sure Stockton fans, many of them, have said to me, ‘It’s been two years and it’s great to have you back.’ So from that point of view, the game aside and everything, it’s just great that we can do that. That was the coolest thing above all. ”
Around 1,000 fans at Stockton Ballpark were socially distant with masks unless they were actively eating or drinking. A free COVID-19 test was also offered in the stadium.
Fans arrived at the stadium early for a first look at this year’s Ports team and the new amenities like the park’s new scoreboard. For 11-year-old Gavin Avila, he made sure he did punch practice to keep up with his baseball collection.
By the time of the first field of play, Avila had already collected six baseball balls from homers and toss-ups from players. But he said nothing would beat the 21 balls he got in a Ports game prior to the pandemic in 2019.
“Just to be able to finally see a baseball game,” Avila said of his return to the ballpark.
Avila sat in his right field seat and was unable to catch any of the four home runs that were hit in the Ports 5-1 defeat.
The Giants opened a 4-0 lead after five innings with a home run by Alexander Canario in front of Ports starter Osvaldo Berrios in the second inning, an RBI single by Armani Smith in the third and a two-part home run by Luis Matos in the second inning, fifth.
The Ports retreated with a home run by Brayan Buelvas in the sixth, before Casey Schmitt’s narrow home run in the ninth beat the Giants 5-1. The ports were able to load the bases after the lighting delay, but couldn’t cross any more runs before the game was over.
Despite the slow start, ports are 2-5, Brogna said he likes the pieces this year’s team has.
“Young and inexperienced in terms of service, but skill isn’t on the charts,” he said. “To be part of the foundation of your career is humble and I enjoy it.”
Fans like 36-year-old star Thornton got to see some of the young local talent like rookie catcher Tyler Soderstrom (Turlock) in person for the first time this season.
“It feels really good, it’s been a long time,” she said. “It feels good to be outside. It doesn’t feel like we have limitations because it feels so good to be out with our families. It had been a long time since being outside watching sporting events. “
Thornton, who bought a ticket package for eight games so as not to miss the action, said it was the atmosphere and family atmosphere that she missed most about Stockton Ballpark.
For other local fans like Pat and Erica Murphy, a welcome after-work week activity is a welcome presence as COVID-19 restrictions gradually ease.
“It’s nice to come out and be in the stadium,” said Pat Murphy, 51. “To be able to have a beer and something to eat. Just go out, hang out with other people and socialize. I just love being here, hanging out with everyone and having a good time.”
Despite the defeat, Brogna said he was very excited for the players on the team who, after a long wait, were finally able to experience a home game atmosphere in Stockton.
For Brogna, he’ll be enjoying his first year at Stockton when the crowd gave a hint on Tuesday night of what this summer will be like.
“Good crowd. I could hear them training third base,” he said. “It felt like a lot of fans down there. I could hear them behind me. The atmosphere, the music, the fans, it’s great. Nice night, that’s it.” Pro baseball, you can’t beat it. “
Record reporter Justin Frommer reports on preparatory and university sports. He can be reached at or [email protected] or on Twitter @JustinbFrommer. Support local news and subscribe to The Stockton Record at https://www.recendet.com/subscribenow.