It is that time of the year, baseball fans. America's favorite pastime has made its way back to Robstown with the Coastal Bend Thunder, and I for one am excited about the opportunity being presented to the city and surrounding areas.
Talking with various members of the community, there seems to be a buzz being generated about the new team, which is a member of United League Baseball. This in and of itself has caused various levels of excitement to form around town. Former big league players and those with familial ties to Major League Baseball Hall of Fame inductees make up the Thunder's roster, while ownership is utilizing local personnel to help the team form ties within the community.
That, to me, is the most important aspect of what the Thunder are doing that its predecessors, the Corpus Christi Beach Dawgs, failed to do in countless ways. Naming its team for a city it did not reside in, and utilizing a landmark that is a 30-minute drive away from the stadium, did not help the Dawgs, either.
Because of that, and also due to extremely poor marketing, the team failed to form a bond or a connection with the citizens of western Nueces County. Residents, already mistrusting of the Beach Dawgs because of the sudden and immediate flight of the Coastal Bend Aviators after the 2007 baseball season, were being asked to support a team they had no reason to trust.
This time around, with the Coastal Bend Thunder, the league opted for a more regional name, recognizing the fact that this team is not just Robstown's team - it is the region's, all the way from Kingsville to Corpus Christi. Sure, Corpus Christi has the Houston Astros-affiliated Hooks, but independent baseball offers a product with players that put on their uniforms not for money, but for the love of the sport, and maybe even a chance at getting noticed by a professional scout.
When the Aviators first came to town, more than 4,000 people packed Fairgrounds Field in support of the team. Those numbers later declined after the Hooks came to town, with the Beach Dawgs' mistakes helping to drive those figures down into the hundreds.
But part of the problem was the fans in general. The Beach Dawgs, mistakes and all, were a winning team. They led their division and had earned a playoff spot in their first and only season at Fairgrounds Field, which was more than the Aviators ever did in their five seasons at the stadium. And still, the fans stayed away.
The Thunder organization seems to be off on the right foot, doing what it can to connect with the community, and some residents seem to be responding with open arms.
There are citizens in Robstown and Corpus Christi who are housing players during the team's inaugural season, extending assistance to players who may be hundreds or thousands of miles away from home, all in search of a dream.
Sure, you do not have to house a player to show your support, but how many people will put aside their mistrust or negativity in order to give this new team a chance to succeed?
My advice is to head out to a ballgame and show your support for a group of players and management who are here to show the sports world what independent baseball in South Texas is all about.
Tim Olmeda is the news editor for the Nueces County Record Star. Readers may contact him via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.