On Thursday, April 9 the freeway series against the Quakes kicks everything off. The first 5,000 attendees will receive the 2009 66ers magnet schedule, as well as take advantage of the promotional lure that is sure to sing to those patriots of America’s Pastime—Thirsty Thursdays ($1 beers and sodas). Friday’s freebie, limited to the first 2,000 fans through the gate, is the Dodger fleece blanket. There will also be $.50 hot dogs and sodas that night, which is a pricing structure that would be heresy in the Bigs. Fireworks will light up the night sky Saturday evening, and the series will culminate Easter with a five-ticket, $10 bargain known as the Bullpen Box.
Will the familiar infield of UCR alum Jaime Pedroza and Austin Gallagher return, or will the world be introduced to a lineup of fresh faces? Either way, Opening Day at the ballpark is the place to be as we wind into the slowness of summer and box scores. (Nancy Powell)
Opening Weekend with the Inland Empire 66ers versus Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, Arrowhead Credit Union Park, 280 S.E St., San Bernardino, (909) 888-9922; www.66ers.com; Thurs., April 9, 7:05PM; Fri., April 10, 7:05PM; Sat., April 11, 7:05PM; Sun, April 12, 1:05PM; Tickets $6 and up
Noteworthy Players to Watch in 2009
Chris Withrow (RHP) – The former 2007 first round draft pick in 2007 and highest-ranked Top-30 prospect in the line-up missed much of last season due to injuries. He has recorded a 4.50 ERA in just 14 innings pitched.
Steven Johnson (RHP) – Johnson came up from Low-A Ball to record 12 wins in 11 starts, the most among minor league pitchers.
Preston Mattingly (2B) – The son of Don Mattingly and 2006 first round pick has struggled in the lower levels, but Advanced-A Ball could be his breakthrough.
Pedro Baez (3B) – Baez spent most of last year in Rookie and Low-A leagues, but raw power and athletic grace make him a player to watch.
Scott Van Slyke (OF) – Van Slyke, another MLB son, played the second half of 2008 here, and he has the size and temperament to become a solid player. Will 2009 be his breakout year?
Alfredo Silverio (OF) – The highest rated outfielder for the organization arrives in the IE after stints in the Dominican summer and Midwest leagues.