The boys of summer are back. Residents of Fort Irwin donâ€™t have to drive all the way to LA to see professional baseball; there is a team just a little south of the installation. The High Desert Mavericks, a single-A affiliate of the Seattle Mariners, play at Stater Brothers Stadium in Adelanto, just over a hour from the installation.
According to Maverickâ€™s General Manager Eric Jensen there is good reason to make the drive to the ballpark.
â€œItâ€™s all about fun,â€ said Jensen. â€œMinor league baseball is about coming out, having a hot dog and letting your kids run the bases. Some kind of fun thing happens every game, and there is some kind of promotion between every inning. Itâ€™s a complete family experience.â€
Jensen said you donâ€™t need to be a big fan of baseball to enjoy coming out to a game.
â€œYou can know absolutely nothing about baseball, and youâ€™re still going to be able to come out here and have a good time,â€ said Jensen.
For the fans itâ€™s about fun, but on the field the team takes baseball very seriously. Manager Pedro Grifol and his coaching staff are in charge of turning young players into proâ€™s.
â€œItâ€™s a daily grind,â€ said Grifol. â€œTheyâ€™re going to go out there, theyâ€™ll make good plays, theyâ€™ll make mental mistakes, theyâ€™ll make physical mistakes and you take it from there. What goes on the field today is what you go over the following day. You make sure they are ready to take on that very same challenge the next day.â€
â€œItâ€™s a team game, but there are a lot of individual battles that go on, like pitcher/batter duals but overall itâ€™s a team game.â€
For the players itâ€™s all about the game. Pitcher James A. Gillheeney couldnâ€™t be happier to be playing for the Mavs.
â€œI love baseball â€“ minor league baseball,â€ Gillheeney said. â€œFor people who donâ€™t know much about it, it probably doesnâ€™t seem like a whole lot of fun, but for guys who love the game of baseball, you canâ€™t really ask for much more.â€
The Mavericks are currently in first place in the Cal League South, two ahead of the Lake Elsinore Storm. The players say the fans help get the team energized for the long season.
â€œThe High Desert fans are great and I really love their enthusiasm,â€ said Gillheeney. â€œI think theyâ€™re great fans, theyâ€™re loyal fans. Theyâ€™re out here every night rooting for us and we canâ€™t ask for much more than that.â€
Second baseman Stefen Romero agreed.
â€œItâ€™s always great to be back at home, playing in front of your home fans,â€ said Romero. â€œThe energy they bring to the stadium every day, just makes our energy out on the field just that much better.â€
Gillheeney, who started playing t-ball as a child in Rhode Island, offered some advice for future baseball stars.
â€œDonâ€™t ever give up on your dreams, donâ€™t ever think that itâ€™s too far of a long shot, and donâ€™t ever think itâ€™s too good to be true,â€ said Gillheeney. â€œJust keep working every single day, and if you love it enough and you put enough effort in, the game will repay you.â€