MOOSIC — Josh Olerud and the rest of the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders front office have been planning for Sept. 19 for more than a year now, since the franchise was awarded the Triple-A National Championship Game in Aug. 2016.
From a year-plus of preparation, down to months and weeks, the clock to first pitch has just days left until 7:07 p.m. Tuesday night.
“I’m excited just to see the response — one — from the fans because of how much we have put into it and how different we’re trying to make it, but also with all of my peers and with Minor League baseball here and what their take is on it because we’re taking more of an All-Star Game approach,” said Olerud, the RailRiders president and COO. “There’s going to be a lot of things for people to do, be a part of, and then the initiatives. It’s been a grueling eight to 10 weeks, but I’ve already seen a lot of the benefits paying off.
“We’re just (offering) the lawn seating only now. There’s a lot of people coming from outside the area. I’m getting a lot of positive feedback from the community.”
As of Friday, Olerud said that they have already sold just under 9,000 tickets for Sept. 19 and expect to sell out the game by Tuesday. He said there will be an added boost in sales when the two teams finalize this weekend.
With everything the RailRiders front office has done to make Tuesday night special — a fan fest pregame, partnering with Stand Up To Cancer to drive a charity effort for the game, bringing Hall of Fame athletes like Philadelphia 76ers great Allen Iverson and New York Yankees legend Reggie Jackson to the park — International League president Randy Mobley has been taken aback by the RailRiders’ approach at planning the game.
“We’ve certainly seen great efforts from clubs in the past. We haven’t seen anything that has positioned the game this way or that has used the game in this matter to create the atmosphere, the funding, the community contribution that this one is planning on,” Mobley said. “It’s created a ‘wow’ reaction for me. I know the staff is working really hard and they’re engaging so many folks in the community that it’s going to be a very unique twist and a very positive twist on the game.
“It’s over the top and the thing that people have to remember is they’re doing all of this and putting in all this effort at the same time they’re in the midst of a 72-game home season and they’re trying to do their normal jobs, their everyday jobs. This is an add-on event for them and they have obviously grabbed it with both hands and (are) really running with it.”
But the RailRiders aren’t just planning to blow people away at the game. Their fan fest will be located in front of PNC Field and starts at 4 p.m. and will include food trucks, beer tents, a performance from popular local band Black Tie Stereo and different “interactive fan zones” from the Philadelphia 76ers and Eagles, New Jersey Devils, New York Yankees, former Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons and Trenton Thunder.
After the fan fest, the Team Fastrax Sky Diving Team will fly onto the field during pre-game. The game will also be nationally televised on NBC Sports Network, putting Scranton/Wilkes-Barre on the national stage.
“It’s going to be a spectacular event,” Mobley said. “It’s going to show through in the number of people at the ball game, but they also have elements like the fan fest that’s going to happen before the ball game where the community can come out and it can be a celebration and not only just a baseball game. That’s going to be very special.”
If all goes well on Tuesday, Olerud hopes that this will open the door for a possible bid to host the Triple-A All-Star Game in the near future.
“I think it makes us understand how big of an event that we could possibly hold,” Olerud said. “When and if the bidding process goes out, if we want it, which I would love to host it, I could go back to my ownership and my staff and say, ‘Hey, we’ve already done this. We’ve already done it once. Let’s make it even better.’”