Despite the rain, more rain and the threat of even more rain, the Sugar Land Skeeters began the 2016 season in perfect weather last Thursday.
In fact, the weather was perfect for the first three games, as were the Skeeters. The team is 3-0 at the time of this writing. I was there for the first two games, once as a reporter and again as a fan (with a little reporting thrown in for good measure). I’ve made all but one Opening Day in the team’s five years.
There is something about Opening Day that’s hard to beat. There is the hope and optimism of a great season ahead coupled with the newness and enthusiasm of a new group of players as they take to the field for the first time together as a team. The fans were there, fired up and ready to go with their game faces on.
Waiting by the dugout during the pre-game ceremonies was exciting. From the National Anthem performed on the saxophone and the giant flag unfurled in the outfield to the aircraft fly-over and the unique introduction of the team (including the arrival of the starters on a SWAT vehicle), the Skeeters proved that you don’t have to be in the big leagues to have a Major League launch into a new season.
If there is anything I have learned from the first two games of the season it’s this: I need a better camera, the view from the press box is great and the Skeeters organization is first class when it comes to enhancing the game experience for the fans.
There are so many giveaways, opportunities to win prizes, special between-innings activities and other events to engage the fans that it’s hard not to feel like you’re a part of the team. In fact, I would go as far as to call the Skeeters a fans’ team (along the lines of a players’ coach). While the coaches and players are focused on winning, the organization is all about engaging the fans.
I’ve also noticed a metamorphosis of fandom over the years. At first the Skeeters were a curiosity. They were something new to try out. Now, you see hard-core fans. There is an expectation that this team will win. They made the playoffs their second season and went to the championship in their third. Winning is in the DNA of the entire organization.
As important and fun as wins are, however, this team exudes that intangible element that mixes quality and commitment and produces a sense of family and belonging. I’ve been to a lot of ballparks, stadiums and arenas over the years and this is easily one of the most family-friendly and enjoyable places to see a sporting event.
One of the things that really makes it fun is the team mascot, Swatson. He is hilarious, accessible and really spends time with the fans. He can totally crack you up without saying a word! This year he has really come into his own. The level of talent and enthusiasm doesn’t waver through nine innings. He is by far my favorite professional mascot.
It is fair to say that I’m a big Skeeters fan. It’s one of the few organizations I’ve been able to follow since the inaugural game. As much as I like them, my favorite team in any sport and any level is and will always be the Denver Broncos. The Colorado Rockies and the Houston Texans also rank high as favorite teams. But there is something about the Skeeters that will always be special in my heart.
This is the first time I’ve felt like I’m part of the team. Maybe it’s because I’m part of the press corps and I have more access and information than the average fan, but I doubt it. I’ve felt this connection with the team from the get-go. That feeling is ramped up this year and I honestly think it has a lot to do with the front office. Team President Jay Miller has brought a new level of professionalism and fan participation to the Skeeters.
He told me his goal is to lead the league in attendance and to win a championship. If these first few days are any indicator, he is well on his way to doing just that. It is so much fun at Skeeters games that I want to be at Constellation Field – rain or shine!
Please allow me a moment to brag. The South Texas Press Association held its annual conference recently and I came away a big winner based on my work last year as editor of The Sealy News. The newspaper took first place in General Excellence and Lifestyles Pages. I also won first place for Serious Column Writing and second place for Humorous Column Writing and Feature Writing. We took second place in Page Design and Sweepstakes (based on points earned in the competition).
I hope to be able to continue these award-winning ways here at the Fort Bend Star. Our readers deserve nothing less than the best from all of us here and I hope that’s what you receive.