SALEM, Virginia (September 23, 2019) - "History in the Making" - the phrase in itself takes on a wealth of expectations, dreams, and precedence before the clock's hands flinched. Without regard to outside forces, the season commenced nonetheless as did the memories and the magic.
March slowly unfolded and stretched its arms into a chilled, sunny afternoon for Sox Fest. Hundreds of fans brought Haley Toyota Field back to life to not only pick up their 2019 tickets but partake in the Red Sox community as face painters and balloon artists delighted children, ballpark food filled the air and National Anthem tryouts rang out from the suites.
Baseball graced the grounds soon after as magicians, caricature artists and musicians helped usher America's pastime back to the Roanoke Valley. Fans were able to bring their favorite Fido for the first Bark in the Park and received magnet schedules. April also embraced Autism Awareness Night thanks to the Blue Ridge Autism and Achievement Center and introduced Copa de la Diversion - an MiLB initiative taken on by 72 teams to celebrate baseball's deep involvement in the Latin American community. The month re-introduced Friday Night Fireworks, player poster signings and kids run the bases that would wind its way through the calendar. Costumes came out in full force for Mean Girls, Star Wars and Halfway to Halloween nights, proving celebrations can happen whenever imagination (or the Force) strikes.
May kicked-off with a day game to celebrate Education Day as gaggles of children and teachers spilled into the park. The Red Sox introduced their alter ego, the Salem BeerMongers, to honor the local craft brewing economy and garner fans in over 20 states. The Million Dollar Man elbow dropped in for Wrestling Night and even without baseball, families gathered on the field for another Movie Night. Total Action for Progress (TAP) Domestic Violence Service Center helped Paint the Park Purple during domestic violence awareness month. Red Sox nation zoomed into the final week for NASCAR night and drew a line down the block to take home a Boston World Series replica ring and meet the parent club's 2018 World Series trophy. The best of the best came out to cap May, celebrating Hero night and Sox Strong night with as many capes, face masks and curls as one could handle.
Three-time Olympian Meghan Duggan brought the gold standard in June to celebrate You Can Play Night before pink took over the park the following evening for the Virginia Blue Ridge Susan G. Komen's Pink in the Park battle against breast cancer night. Heroes of the four-paw variety protected the house for K-9 Hero appreciation night as the Red Sox downed the Frederick Keys for a five-game sweep to close the first half of the season.
Children spilled into Salem Memorial Ballpark, rubbing sleep from their eyes only to become wide-eyed with excitement as the Red Sox hosted another hands-on camp for Roanoke's future stars of summer. The adults got to partake in their own fun with a cheers to Junetoberfest, a touch of nostalgia on YouTube Night and debating Buzz versus Woody on Toy night.
Salem had a unique start to July as the fair moved in, sharing a parking lot and ticket specials for those who knew the way to finish a day at the ballpark was with fried Oreos, ferris wheels, and Fourth of July fireworks. All sorts of fun was had both on and off the field as the annual Camp and Girl Scout Days staked out at the park and gave young leaders a chance to watch the sun rise over the field the following day. St. Patty's in the Summer kept more fun on tap before fans were left spellbound amidst Wizard Night. The sands of Beach Night were washed away by the frigid ice of an ALS Ice Bucket Challenge taken on by the players. Ice melted to rubble left by stunning dinosaurs during Dinos at the Diamond. Fans even got to witness a prehistoric creature hatch on the field and toss the first pitch before wandering upstairs to ride triceratops and meet velociraptors. Uncle Eddie and the crew nearly stapled our heads to the carpet as Christmas in July provided a nice vacation from the dog days of summer.
August arrived in the blink of an eye but the fun never slowed. The assistant to the regional manager delivered some Office night fun and even allowed Battlestar Galactica to give way to Star Wars II Night as fans got another crack at taking down the Empire. Kids spilled onto the dewy morning field for another Red Sox camp week and the chance to learn skills from their favorite players. The Roanoke community came together as one to celebrate its support of police officers, first responders and their families on National Night Out, another initiative also recognized across Minor League Baseball. Sports of all kinds crossed paths for Hockey Night and College Kickoff before the daring Pirates and dazzling Princesses laid claim to Haley Toyota Field. Mookie Betts was Salem's third bobblehead giveaway of the season to commemorate African American Heritage Night while simultaneously acknowledging Back to School Night. The Salem Booster Club celebrated the season with a members-only ice cream social with the players and all were invited to Game of Throws Night at the House of Salem as well as Military Appreciation Night.
Season ticket holders cracked open September with a special chance to take batting practice on the field in the morning and by the night's end the Red Sox were popping bottles to celebrate clinching the second half and extending into the postseason. The final regular season game exploded with tons of giveaways on Fan Appreciation Day including 500 bobbleheads, food trucks and massive team store discounts. Thaddeus Ward delivered the 600th strikeout (609 total) for Strikes for Tikes to benefit the Carillion Children's Hospital and amass nearly $1,500 in pledges. The season drew to a close but fans still gathered to Kick the Keg with a toast to Salem's offseason schedule of events, patiently waiting to see what 2020 brings to Red Sox Nation.
The Salem Red Sox are the Advanced-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox and call Haley Toyota Field in Salem, Virginia home. The team was founded in 1968 and purchased by Fenway Sports Management in December of 2007. For more information on the Salem Red Sox, please visit SalemRedSox.com or contact Melanie Newman at MNewman@salemsox.com.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.