“You couldn’t ask for any nicer night for a home opener,” said Joshua Jarrell, a life-long baseball fan who was at the Bricktown Ballpark in downtown Oklahoma City Thursday.
His wife Katie was just as eager as he was to see the first home game of the season along with their son, Carson and daughter, Allie.
They and several others told Free Press that they were excited about the beginning of the third season for the Triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers, and for good reason.
In 2015 they won their division championship. It was the franchise’s first season under the new “Dodgers” name after affiliating with the major league Los Angeles Dodgers.
Then, in 2016, they took their division championship again and went on to become the American Conference Champions. So, expectations are high for this season.
The Jarrells were just a small part of the unique cross section of people who are fans of the Oklahoma City Dodgers starting into their third season.
Carlos and Ann Lopez were high school sweethearts in a suburb of Los Angeles about 15 years ago. Now, they are married and Carlos is in the Air Force, stationed at Tinker Air Force Base.
He was wearing an “LA” baseball cap, which is not the first one he has ever had.
“I grew up going to Los Angeles Dodgers games with my brothers,” said Carlos. “We used to each keep our own score book, too.”
They said they were going to come to quite a few of the games because they are eager to see some of the Los Angeles players who occasionally are sent down to play in the Triple-A team.
Rick Morales stood at attention and gave a military salute to the flag during the playing of the National Anthem at the beginning of the game.
He was in the Air Force for eight years which gives him the unique privilege of giving the military salute to honor the flag.
Morales, who is a police officer with the Sax and Fox Nation and lives in Shawnee, comes to the games because he “grew up with baseball.”
“We lived on the south side of the city, and my dad was a ticket-taker/usher at the old 89er ballpark at the State Fairgrounds,” Morales said.
The 89ers were Oklahoma City’s first Triple-A club affiliated with a succession of major league teams over the years. When the Bricktown Ballpark was built, the club reorganized as the Redhawks.
“I spent a whole lot of days at that ballpark because mom was a waitress, so I had to go to the ballpark with dad.”
Shannon and Addison Sampson, mother and daughter, said they were “excited to be at the first game of the season.”
“All of us are big baseball fans,” Shannon said about their family of six. “We’ve even had baseball themed Christmas cards before.”
State Representative Mickey Dollens from the south side of Oklahoma City was there with friends and introduced one of his ‘favorite constituents” Colton Hurst who had overcome many challenges throughout his 21 years.
Hurst was excited to have his “first job ever” as a ticket taker and program handler for the Dodgers.
Thursday was Bricktown Ballpark’s 20th season home opener.
The park has always been a minor league home for the franchise, first, under the name Redhawks, and now with the new affiliation as Dodgers. But, it has the feel of a big league ballpark.
Its architects in the late 1990s carefully designed it to be compatible with the rest of Bricktown using a classic ballpark design using bricks that matched the old buildings throughout the district across the railroad tracks east of downtown.
Originally, the district was the home of the city’s first warehouses and heavy industry.
But then the once grubby place started to transform into an entertainment area about 30 years ago.
The architectural firm that designed the ballpark studied several historic and popular ballparks both in history and still active around the U.S.
Then, they borrowed different aspects of those parks to recreate the old, big league feel of “The Brick” as sportscasters call it.
It quickly became the hub of new, but old-look development steadily crawling eastward in Bricktown.
Rather than being surrounded by acres of parking, the ballpark sits close to the street and is easily entered from the sidewalks.
It remains one of the jewels of the original Metropolitan Area Projects (MAPS) plan funded with a temporary penny sales tax that was spent as it was collected.