Sports

May 31, 2012

Local minor league team offers family fun

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Kenneth Drylie
Command Information Officer Public Affairs Office

Catcher John Hicks singles on a ground ball to left fielder Everett Williams in the 4th inning.

The boys of summer are back. Residents of Fort Irwin don’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 Maverick’s General Manager Eric Jensen there is good reason to make the drive to the ballpark.

“It’s all about fun,” said Jensen. “Minor 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. It’s a complete family experience.”

Jensen said you don’t need to be a big fan of baseball to enjoy coming out to a game.

“You can know absolutely nothing about baseball, and you’re still going to be able to come out here and have a good time,” said Jensen.

Mavericks’ mascot “Wooly Bully” visits with fans in the stands during the Mavericks game against Lake Elsinore, May 1.

For the fans it’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 pro’s.

“It’s a daily grind,” said Grifol. “They’re going to go out there, they’ll make good plays, they’ll make mental mistakes, they’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.”

“It’s a team game, but there are a lot of individual battles that go on, like pitcher/batter duals but overall it’s a team game.”

For the players it’s all about the game. Pitcher James A. Gillheeney couldn’t be happier to be playing for the Mavs.

“I love baseball – minor league baseball,” Gillheeney said. “For people who don’t know much about it, it probably doesn’t seem like a whole lot of fun, but for guys who love the game of baseball, you can’t really ask for much more.”

First baseman Mickey Wiswall hits a bouncing grounder past the pitcher for a single in the High Desert Mavericks win over the Lake Elsinore Storm on May 1.

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.

“The High Desert fans are great and I really love their enthusiasm,” said Gillheeney. “I think they’re great fans, they’re loyal fans. They’re out here every night rooting for us and we can’t ask for much more than that.”

Second baseman Stefen Romero agreed.

“It’s always great to be back at home, playing in front of your home fans,” said Romero. “The energy they bring to the stadium every day, just makes our energy out on the field just that much better.”

Gillheeney, who started playing t-ball as a child in Rhode Island, offered some advice for future baseball stars.

“Don’t ever give up on your dreams, don’t ever think that it’s too far of a long shot, and don’t ever think it’s too good to be true,” said Gillheeney. “Just keep working every single day, and if you love it enough and you put enough effort in, the game will repay you.”

A young Mavs fan cleans off first base as part of the “junior groundskeeper” promotion between innings at Mavericks Stadium on May 1.




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