MOOSIC — When the media frenzy ended late Tuesday afternoon at PNC Field, the 2014 RailRiders took the field to get acquainted with the surroundings, take batting practice and participate in a simulated game.
Also going on at the stadium was an open house. It was a two-hour event where fans could come in, could get close to the field, watch the players in action before the team begins its season Thursday at Syracuse. Some even had the luxury of getting an autograph from Russ Canzler or International League Hall of Fame manager Dave Miley.
It will be more than a week before fans could see Scranton/Wilkes-Barre at home again because Miley’s squad won’t return home until Thursday, April 10, for the home opener.
But there was more than just seeing the players on the field Tuesday. Concession stands were open for those in need of a drink or a snack, all three of the team mascots — Champ, Quills and Mr. IncrediBall — were our in full force entertaining the little ones.
And if the mascots weren’t enough, the kids play area was also open as well as the new RibbitRiders frog pond game, which was free to play.
Once the on-field activities wrapped up for the players, they headed up to the Mohegan Sun Club, where a meet-and-greet named Meet the RailRiders was held for two more hours. Fans had an opportunity to mingle with the players and coaches.
Time flies when…
Right-hander Bruce Billings gets the Opening Day start for the RailRiders on Thursday at Syracuse, in his debut with the new organization. He couldn’t stop praising the Yankees for the opportunities and the way spring training was run.
“This spring felt like it flew by. My first with the Yankees, it’s such a great organization,” he said. “They make you feel like part of the family. Even though it was two months long, it feels like a blink of an eye. Now, we’re here ready to start the season and I’m excited for that.”
Russ Canzler may have been away from the area for quite some time, but he never stopped taking an interest in sports or local athletes, especially baseball.
In fact, he thinks the sport is on the rise in NEPA.
“I think you’re starting to see in the area a big passion for baseball,” the Hazleton native said. “Guys are going out of the area, going to showcases, going to different tournaments around the country to expose themselves. It’s great. You’re starting to see a lot of guys getting drafted. A lot of guys getting college scholarships and that’s awesome to see. I feel like we’ve always been a football area, but I think that’s starting to turn a little bit.”
With him expected to be playing 72 games locally, that could only make interest even higher.