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New baseball season lures them to Stockton
Mantecans Stephanie James and her niece Lisa Mendez shared a box of popcorn behind home plate Wednesday night as the Stockton Ports exhibition was about to begin. James is the senior human resources manager at Food 4 Less offices in a Lathrop industrial park. - photo by GLENN KAHL


• WHAT: Stockton Ports baseball
• TICKETS: MVP seats are $11 in advance, $12 game day; field box seats are $8 in advance, $9 game day; and Metro PCS Home Run Hill tickets are $7 game day only
• TO PURCHASE: Go on line to www.stocktonports.conm or call 644-1900 Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

STOCKTON — The Wednesday night exhibition baseball game between the Stockton Ports and the Sacramento River Cats was admittedly a breath of fresh air for a number of Manteca and Ripon residents.

Ripon High grad Adam Heether, 29, signed with the A’s last year coming from a Milwaukee Brewers farm team.  He connected with the ball in an early inning last night and put it back against the center field fence.  Heether played right field against Stockton and will go on to play the opening night game of the season against Tacoma in Sacramento tonight, while the Ports will open tonight against the Modesto Nuts in Modesto.

Stockton Ballpark fans were quick to tell of their excitement with the opening of the season and  going to their favorite game after a long day’s grind – many agreeing it to be a welcome relaxing end to their day.  One man sitting with his wife in the stands said if he had an opportunity to enjoy a steak dinner or to go to the ballpark, he would choose the latter.

Food 4 Less executive Stephanie James and her niece Lisa Mendez, both of Manteca, were obvious faithful fans.  They said they try to make at least 15 games each season as they sat behind home plate waiting for the game to begin.

“We love baseball and I think this is a fantastic venue to watch the game and you can get home in 15 minutes,” James said.  “When you go to the Oakland A’s you can see the players who have moved up to the majors – you get a chance to watch the future big leaguers play here.”

James said that at the farm team level the players are very open and will readily autograph baseballs.  She cited a game two years ago when the San Jose Giants came to town and one of the youngsters in her family braved to approach Buster Posey and Madison Bumgarner with a baseball and pen in hand.

Posey was Rookie of the Year last year and Bumgarner now pitches for the San Francisco Giants.  

Mendez agreed saying she loves to watch baseball.  She said it is a good park – “just relaxing to come to a game” at the Stockton Ballpark –and it’s comfortable, she added.

“When you walk through the gate here – whatever is bothering you is gone.” James said.  She also cited the Ports for their conscious interaction with the fans.  And as far as working with them through the grocery business, she said they are a great partner to work on projects together.

Carol and Eric Stolz of Manteca were sitting in the first row just feet away from the first base line talking with friends – coming to the games since 2006.  

“This is our summer family,” Carol said.

Carol, a retired graphic artist with the Manteca Bulletin, and her husband Eric,  a retired machinist,  said they too just enjoy watching the players mature and go on to the majors.

The Stolz were bitten by the bug of Ports’ action in 2006 when their cousin Tommy Everidge played the first base position and they have been coming ever since.  They not only go to the home games, but many of the team’s away games as well.

For a group of four residents from the Del Webb at Woodbridge,   it was something of an adventure.  Three had recently moved to the Manteca retirement community and were coaxed into going to the game by Pat Buxton whose son Steve Hervas runs the Ovation catering service at the ball park.  She said she first experienced the excitement of the farm team games with him.

The other three Del Webbers were Paul Miller, Billie Kolsrud and Robert Philis.  The group proved it was not just watching the game, but also enjoying each other’s company with past memories – it’s all about being with friends they realized.  

Miller is originally from Hayward and worked with PG&E for over 40 years.  He played baseball in high school in Oakland where he pitched and played catcher – “playing second when they would let me.”

He also remembers playing in the Police League in the Bay Area when they won the championship – almost 40 years ago.  Still clear in his mind was his serving on the Earthquake Recovery Team in the 1994 Northridge earthquake.  He said the utility company caravan of work trucks had a CHP escort due to the damaged freeways going south.

“I remember people afraid to go into their houses.  One man said he smelled gas coming from his tent that he had in his front yard.  I put a detector under the edge of the tent and it registered 100 percent gas content – all the while a Coleman lantern was burning inside.  I told him to move the tent to the other side of the yard,” he chuckled.

Miller added that they were housed in a 27-story hotel in Beverly Hills where the elevators would only go to the 11th floor because of earthquake damage.

Robert Philis, on the other hand, is a retired portrait photographer who, like many of that era, continues to be amazed by the creation of the digital camera that has simplified the profession in many ways immediately looking at the image.

Philis and Billie Kolsrud told of the game of Pickle Ball that they have brought to the Del Webb community – already popular in the South.  Similar to tennis, it is played on a badminton court.