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One town, two teams
Both the Indians and the Packers have started their seasons in Santa Maria
BY SARAH E. THIEN

Date: 06/12/2008

A lot can change in a year. Just one summer ago, Santa Maria's baseball fans had only one summer ball team to root for. Now there are two.


Ready, aim, fire:
Pitcher Mark Triolo lets one fly for the Packers in their 7-6 victory over the San Diego Mavericks on June 6. Triolo plays for the University of Portland during the regular season
PHOTO BY SARAH E. THIEN
On a recent Friday night, the fans had come out to see some baseball, and this time they had choices. It just happened that both the Indians and the Packers were playing--the Packers at Allan Hancock College and the Indians at Elks Field.

The Packers took the field at 4:30 p.m. against the San Diego Mavericks. The Indians went up against Conejo Oaks at 6 p.m.

Packers games start early, explained pitching coach Bryn Smith, because the Hancock baseball field doesn't have lights. That, and he and the other coaches liked the idea of fans being able to go to a game right after work and still have time to get to bed early.

"I like that the games start earlier," said Wayne Perez, a Packers spectator who's been to two Packers games so far.

"It's the new team in town, and I know a lot of people supporting the team, so I came out to support them too," he said.

Perez was one of 20 or 30 people in attendance. It was a slightly smaller crowd than usual, possibly because, as some spectators theorized, it was the same night as high school graduations in Santa Maria.

That didn't keep the Barrocas away. Terri Barroca her husband, Tim and her son, Tim Jr., came to the game to check out the new team.

"We decided it'd be a fun Friday night thing to come out and watch them," Terri said.

Though the Barrocas like baseball--Tim Jr. plays baseball on his high school team--they aren't regular supporters of either team. Yet.

"I don't think we've ever been to an Indians game," Tim said.

"Yes, we have," Tim Jr. answered. "Well, I have."

A few miles down the road, there was a smaller-than-usual crowd at the Indians' game as well, this time about 50 people. Attendance ranges from 50 to 75 on most nights, said Indians owner Kevin Haughian.

A fair amount of the people in the stands were related to one of the Indians' players or knew an Indians player or had one staying in their house. Veteran Indians player Josh Meagher had his mom, dad, grandma, and grandpa rooting for him. Meagher, a Santa Maria native and current player at Chico State, also played for the Indians last season.


Go big red:
Jonathan Ramirez, No. 1, high fives his teammates at the end of the inning. He plays for Hancock College. This year, there are 11 local players on the Indians squad--more locals than in past years, according to owner Kevin Haughian.
PHOTO BY SARAH E. THIEN
His grandpa, Stan Best, said that he used to come to Indians games in the 1960s and '70s.

"We don't get the excitement and crowds we used to get," he said.

Meagher is one of 11 local players on the Indians roster this year, Haughian said. That's the most local players the team has boasted in years, he added, and he thinks it'll be good for the team and the community.

While the Indians can claim the most local talent, the Packers have attracted a lot of local support.

Smith said that the team has seen huge interest from local businesses and sponsors, and the players are happily set up in apartments provided by the team and furnished by donations from the community.

"We're not trying to set any attendance records," he said. "We hope people would come to one game, and if you come to one, you might come back."

Whether or not Santa Maria can support two teams doesn't seem to be a concern for either team. The Indians' Haughian is confident that the market can and will support an entertaining, well-run team as soon as he makes improvements to either Elks Field or builds a new facility.

Smith also dreams of a new facility, but since the Packers are a nonprofit venture, he said, they don't need to market themselves--though it would be nice for the players to have a crowd to play in front of.

Still, the Packers played an exciting game that early June night, eventually beating the Mavericks 7-6. The Indians eventually lost 11-14 to Conejo Oaks, but rallied to beat them on Saturday and again on Sunday.

It's just the start of two busy seasons for the teams, both of which have more than 50 games scheduled for this summer--though not against each other.


Sports Editor Sarah E. Thien wants someone to buy her some peanuts and Crackerjack. Tell her you care if she ever gets back at sthien@santamariasun.com.


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