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Manteca native named Ports’ milestone fan

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POSTED July 31, 2009 1:12 a.m.
STOCKTON — Randy Friend, a native of Manteca, Calif., admitted that he’s never won anything—at least before becoming the one millionth fan to enter the gates of Banner Island Ballpark.

But Friend certainly walked away from the gates with more than a Section 112 ticket to the Thursday, July 30 Ports game against the San Jose. The Ports put together a gift basket for the one millionth fan, including two tickets to Las Vegas, courtesy of Allegiant Air, an autographed 2009 Ports team baseball, CDs from Bob Dylan, John Mellencamp and Willie Nelson, and much more.  

“I feel like a million right now,” Friend said.  “I had no idea. I did not know [the milestone] was going to be tonight … At first, I thought someone had played a joke on me. I had no idea.”  

While he may have been surprised by the sudden shower of confetti and chorus of party noisemakers at the main gate, Friend was not surprised at the Ports’ celebration of the historic milestone.

“It’s a great organization,” he said. “The Ports take care of their fans.”   

Friend, an operations manager at Coast Aluminum in Hayward, has been attending Ports games for more than 10 years, catching games at Billy Hebert Field before Stockton moved to Banner Island Ballpark in 2005.  

“It’s a good time and it’s good baseball,” Friend said, explaining what keeps him coming back to so many Ports games. “Minor league baseball is the best … you can come and enjoy the game without any worries.”

Friend explained that the Ports offer fans an affordable experience of quality, professional baseball without some of the hassles of what a trip to a Major League game involves, like parking and heckling fans.  

Friend has also been a long-time supporter of another local minor league team, the Modesto Nuts. He explained that he enjoys staying local and watching professional baseball closer to home than going out to the Bay Area.  

Ports President and General Manager Pat Filippone said, “We would like to thank Randy Friend for his continuous support of the Stockton Ports over the years. It was a pleasure to welcome him as our one millionth fan in Banner Island Ballpark history.

“This accomplishment definitively shows the loyalty of Ports fans and reflects the family-fun atmosphere we produce here at Banner Island Ballpark,” Filippone added. “We’re truly excited to celebrate this accomplishment as we head into the final stretch of the season and as the team makes a run for the second-half title. We look forward to welcoming the two millionth fan to the ballpark in the future.”

Friend has even more reason to attend Ports games this season — his son, Justin, has been a highly dependable reliever for the Ports the entire season. Justin Friend graduated from East Union High School, and was selected in the 13th round of the 2007 First-Year Player Draft by the A’s.  He spent the 2008 season with Single-A Kane County.

Friend attended the Thirsty Thursday game with his wife, Maryanne, and daughter, Jillian, along with a group of friends.

“It’s a state-of-the-art facility,” he added. “The park is part of the experience.”

Banner Island Ballpark has been the home of the Stockton Ports since 2005, and the Ports have hosted more than 205,000 fans at the waterfront stadium in each season of its existence. The Ports set a franchise attendance record in 2007 by welcoming 218,497 fans through the gates that season, and set a single-game attendance record on July 3, 2008 by hosting 6,285 fans.  

To any fans who have yet to experience a game at Banner Island Ballpark, Friend said, “You gotta come out.  It’s a great facility and great fans.”
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