Wind season opener Thursday; Community Tailgate night

Photo courtesy of Katina Reist

By SCOTT AUST, FCEDC Director of Communications

The Garden City Wind professional baseball team will kick off its fourth season on Thursday with a 6:30 p.m. match up against division rival Trinidad Triggers at Clint Lightner Field.

Heading into Thursday’s season opener, Randy Ralston, the Wind’s new director of baseball operations, said his goal is for the team to be competitive.

“I’m not looking to win championships — I mean, that’s obviously nice, but we want to at least be competitive in our division,” Ralston said. “Trinidad is probably going to be our biggest competition. They’re probably the best team in our division, but we play them the most, too, so we’re really going to have to compete.”

Ralston said Trinidad has become a rival over the past four years, noting that during the Wind’s playoff run two years ago, Garden City and the Triggers played a seven game series that Trinidad won in Game 7  to get to the Pecos League championship series.

“It really got competitive. Every since that, Trinidad has been our rival, and that’s good,” Ralston said.

Earlier this week, the Wind had 20 men on the roster with room for two more. The team has three returning players on the roster include RHP Chip White, LHP Troy Mannebach, and OF Ryan Whitt.

One of the newbies is Daniel Williams, a first baseman and left handed pitcher hailing from Houston, Texas. Williams said he’s excited to be in the Pecos League.

“This is my first year going pro. I hope to get in the swing of things, go to the playoffs, contribute, do whatever I can to help out, whatever they need, really,” he said. “It’s something new. I figure it will be similar to college ball except I won’t have to worry about school. I can focus on baseball.”

Most recently, Williams played ball at the University of Texas-Tyler, an NCAA Division III school. According to a story by Wes Bloomquist, UT-Tyler sports information coordinator, Williams hit .381 over two seasons for Tyler including 11 home runs, 72 RBI and 117 hits in 84 games. During his final year, Williams it .395 with 13 doubles, eight home runs and 53 RBI in helping UT-Tyler win a third consecutive American Southwest Conference Championship.

After being in Garden City less than a week, Williams said it’s definitely a different experience.

“It’s got that small town feel. I like it a lot better than being in a city, sitting in traffic all day or something like that,” he said.

Community Tailgate Night

• This Thursday’s Garden City Wind game will feature a Community Tailgate at Clint Lightner.

The first 100 fans will be admitted free of charge. All evening, beer will be $1 and food trucks from Burger City and The Ole Cook Shack will be on hand. There will be prize drawings every half inning as the club looks to break the opening day attendance record of 805.

Gates open at 4:30 p.m. Fans can tour the field and meet players until 6 p.m. First pitch and game time is at 6:30 p.m.

Hosted by the Garden City Area Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Vision, Finney County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Greater Garden City.

Community Nights This Season

Last week, in a spring training game, Trinidad beat the Wind 18-6. Following a two game home series on Thursday and Friday, Garden City will go on a 12-game road trip to Trinidad, Alpine, Santa Fe, and Roswell before returning to Garden City on June 7.

This season, Ralston said, fans can expect to see several special community and sponsor nights during home games.

In addition to Thursday’s Community Tailgate at the season opener, Ralston pointed out the June 14 Special Olympics Night, which will include a law enforcement torch run from Love’s to the ball park as well as a cauldron lighting ceremony; Bark at the Park on June 18 with the Finney County Humane Society; and an event featuring food trucks on July 6.

“That’s one thing about the community; they’ve been so supportive, all around. Businesses, the City of Garden City, everyone. We want to keep that,” Ralston said. “We definitely want to be more fan-based. The emphasis this year is taking care of people, they’re the ones that support us. And we’ve got a good group of guys. I really think it will be a good season all around.”

One challenge this year is the lack of Saturday or Sunday home games, which is why the organization is trying to do more community nights this year. Ralston said he’s been assured that scheduling won’t happen again.

“The (Garden City) Rec has a lot of baseball tournaments they’re hosting this summer on the weekend, so it just didn’t work this year,” Ralston said.

First Season Enjoyable

Ralston said his first season with the wind has been a lot of work but enjoyable. The only challenge right now is finding enough host families for the players, he said, and if anyone is interested in that Ralston asked that they contact him.

Ralston and Ryan Klaus are splitting the typical general manager duties, with Ralston handling most day to day tasks while Klaus, director of game day operations, handles logistics at games.

Klaus agreed with Ralston, saying fans will see some good competition.

“We’re just happy to get baseball back in full swing,” Klaus said. “I was born and raised in Garden City, I played high school baseball here and many a games at that stadium over the years. We’re going to keep building on tradition and keep growing. I think it’s going to be a good season. I think we’re going to see a lot of competitive baseball this year.”

New field manager Ian Horne will act as both manager and a player. An outfielder, Horne, of North Vancouver, B.C., played collegiate baseball at Norfolk State University and played the past two seasons in the Pecos League for the Hollywood Stars and Topeka Train Robbers. A first-time manager, he’s looking forward to the opportunity.

“The goal’s obviously to win the Pecos League championship. That’s always the goal. I hope we’re some grinders, I hope we work really hard, play the game the right way,” Horne said.

Klaus said the biggest goal for Garden City is to continue to foster a friendly, home town feel.

“Every time these guys come to play here, they love it. They hope they can come back. There’s a lot of jealous teams in the Pecos League about our facilities and the way we operate,” he said.