First, I am so excited to be back and blessed enough to write about the Tri-City Dust Devils for you guys. Tonight, on 4/4/23, the team hosted its first Fan Fest. I remember the last time I went to a Fan Fest was as a kid at the Seattle Mariners Fan Fest. The vibes were similar, and I felt incredibly excited about the season. When you walk in, you smell the fresh air; you see the beautiful skyline; you hear Erik the Peanut Guy; you see Dusty taking pictures and waving; you see the fantastic staff hustling, smiling, and having fun despite the stress around them. You hear kids running, laughing, plotting, screaming, and enjoying being at the park again. The overall simplicity of the event gave room for growth and more to come in future years.
They are seeing all the players and being able to talk to players like LHP Sammy Netera and RHP Bryce Osmond, who are so excited to make their pro-debuts and live their dreams, to guys like D'Shawn Knowles, who is coming back from representing Great Britain in the World Baseball Classic. It was a great experience to meet the players face to face and realize these are a bunch of guys living their dreams and having fun doing it cause it's not for the money.
The team had great things for the kids, from the bounce house to the pitch speed, to free food samples(mac n cheese, teriyaki chicken, hot dogs, chips, drinks), player interactions, and course, our two favorites, Dusty the Dust Devil and Erik the Peanut Guy, a friend of the show. Speaking of food, the Dust Devils had their entire menu for the upcoming season, which included new items like Mac N Cheese, Teriyaki Chicken Bowls, Vanilla Dipped Dairy Free Bar, Chips Galore Ice Cream Sandwich, also 12oz Monster Energy drinks, and a variety of Alcoholic choices that are new. I am also excited to see what food vendors will grace the concourse this season.
The team store was also well stocked with Dust Devils, Vineros, and Rooster Tail Merchandise. The shop also held a few new items. The first was some blankets in red, blue, and a couple of other colors that were so soft and amazing. The next was a rock, the rooster plush that was to die for; it was hard to keep that away from my kids. However, one will likely join our Dusty Plush that we already own. There were also bats in the team shop, which looked like a new addition. I am unsure if these are game-used, but they are real MiLB bats.
Fans also got experience in a Q&A with manager Cactus Jack Howell, the long-time manager of the Dust Devils. Jack's management style roots in teaching these kids how to win, overcome failure, move on, store the good things and erase the bad stuff, and become professionals while also learning how to fine-turn their games and progress onward and upwards to AA and on. The rest of the coaching staff was also at the table with Cactus Jack, while not being at the Q&A, likely for the same reason Jack wanted to hurry off was not because of nerves, but because it was only about 45 degrees tops in the shade of GESA Stadium and it was time to warm up.
Overall, getting a sneak peek of the season, feeling the energy of the community, and seeing friends from around town, it's a special time for baseball in the NW, and it's going to be nothing short of a fun season for the Dust Devils, I have a feeling there will be some playoff baseball in the Tri-Cities this year.