FUNNVILLE - Former major-league star Ryan Klesko will be on hand for the Richmond Flying Squirrels' Opening Night festivities at The Diamond on April 4, the club announced on Wednesday. The former Richmond Braves first baseman, National League All-Star and World Series champion will throw the ceremonial first pitch and sign autographs for fans as the Flying Squirrels open their 10th season.
Klesko will be on hand for the season-opening festivities, which also include a dueling fireworks show, presented by Chick-fil-A and the Virginia Birth Father Registry. Fans in attendance on Opening Night can meet Klesko during an autograph session that will run from 7 p.m.-8 p.m.
Group packages for Opening Night are currently available by contacting the Flying Squirrels ticket office. Individual game tickets for Opening Night and the rest of the 2019 season will go on sale in person on March 2 at 10 a.m. at The Diamond during the annual Nutzy's Block Party.
"Opening Night here in Richmond is special, period," Flying Squirrels VP & COO Todd "Parney" Parnell said. "All nine years so far have been a celebration, and it has become a thing of pride for the entire community to reconvene at The Diamond to celebrate the start of summer and the Squirrels' season.
"Particularly special this year is our ceremonial first pitch on Opening Night being thrown by a former Richmond Braves and Atlanta Braves star, who is very much looking forward to coming back to RVA."
Klesko spent two seasons in Richmond from 1992-93 as part of a star-studded era in Richmond baseball history. A fifth-round draft pick by the Braves in 1989, Klesko combined to hit 39 homers and drive in 133 runs in 221 career games with the Richmond Braves.
In the majors, he played 16 total seasons with the Braves, Padres and Giants from 1992-2007, playing mostly first base and left field.
The Braves won the 1995 World Series with major contributions from Klesko, who became the first player ever to homer in three straight road World Series games. A key part of the group they called "The Team of the 90s," Klesko reached the World Series with the Braves two more times in 1996 and 1999 before joining the Padres in 2000.
In 2001, Klesko was selected as a National League All-Star and went on to hit 30 homers with a career-best 113 RBIs. Over nine seasons from 1995-2003, Klesko hit at least 20 home runs eight times, and he finished his career with 278 total homers. After seven seasons in San Diego, he wrapped up his playing career with the Giants in 2007.
Klesko is the latest in a decade-long list of stars who have helped make the Flying Squirrels' Opening Night a must-see event for fans across the region. Since the team's inaugural season in 2010, all nine Opening Night games have sold out. Past guests include:
2018 - Fred McGriff & Gov. Ralph Northam (caught by Mayor Levar Stoney)
2017 - David Justice (caught by Mayor Levar Stoney)
2016 - Jerome Bettis
2015 - Will Wade (caught by Gov. Terry McAuliffe)
2014 - Michael Robinson
2013 - Javy Lopez & Ryan Kerrigan
2012 - Dale Murphy
2011 - James Farrior, Brandon Rozzell & Chris Mooney
2010 - Gov. Bob McDonnell
For the first time ever, the Flying Squirrels host the 2019 Eastern League All-Star Game presented by Genworth on July 10 at The Diamond. Tickets can be purchased at the Flying Squirrels Ticket Office, located on the first-base side of The Diamond, or online at squirrelsbaseball.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.