The Rockford Rivets (summer collegiate; Northwoods League) made their debut last night, as a crowd of 633 made their way to Rivets Stadium to see the home team lose their inaugural game to the Wisconsin Woodchucks, 6-5.
The small crowd was a function of the weather: the conditions forced a 75-minute rain delay, and it’s a certainty that many fans decided to stay home rather than brave the elements. While it’s not the opening the Rivets management wanted, it was the one they got, and most importantly it was a signal to the community that baseball was back in Rockford.
The market had been a mainstay in the independent Frontier League (after a departure from the Low A Midwest League), but financial issues led to ownership changes, a name change from the RiverHawks to the Aviators, and ultimately a departure from the market. Enter summer-collegiate ball, with the Northwoods League owning the newest team in the circuit. From the Rockford Register-Star:
But the weather didn’t dampen the spirits of assistant general manager Bill Czaja, who was excited to get the season rolling, even with all the things he had to concern himself with prior to the first pitch.
“If you don’t have strong emotions about Opening Day, you’re working in the wrong business,” Czaja said. “I’m worried about everything going on in the stadium, but there’s also that incredible excitement that we are people’s fun. You come out here and you get away from it all. Our job is to be people’s escape from everyday existence. It’s an awesome job. I love what I do.”
Those in attendance who waited out the delay had different reasons for wanting to take in the first game.
“It’s close, there are a lot less crowds to fight (than at a professional game) and parking is good,” Rockford resident Rita McGeary said.