New-look Rockland Boulders win home opener
The Boulders rolled to an 8-4 victory, aided by two home runs from third baseman Ryan Mollica, including a three-run blast in the third.
The Boulders continue their series with the Bears on Wednesday in a rare 10:30 a.m. start.
But win or lose, it was just a fun day at the park for many fans.
"I come for the game," said Michael Leon, 51, of Pomona. "I don't care who's playing, as long as it's baseball. I've been watching baseball all my life."
Leon says he prefers coming out to Boulders games because it's a lot cheaper than going to Yankee Stadium.
"I don't want to pay for nosebleed seats at Yankee Stadium," Leon said. "I'd rather come here. I don't know why more people don't come here."
Boulders President Ken Lehner is hoping more fans take Leon's view.
Turnout was a few hundred short of a sellout with 3,182 fans turning out for Tuesday night's contest, officials said. The stadium seats 3,500.
This is a critical year for the Boulders as the second-year team tries to attract a wider fan base to fill the stands at Provident Bank Park in Pomona. The team has been trying to woo fans from nearby Bergen County, N.J., as well as New York City to help Ramapo pay off the $39 million stadium. Lehner said the Can-Am League team has pumped more promotional money into the franchise this year as part of an effort to develop a solid fan base, though he declined to give a specific dollar amount.
"New York City is the sweet spot of baseball. It has the most fans, and we're right in the middle of that," Lehner said. "So we're really excited about our prospects here."
Johnson watched from behind the first base dugout as his son Glen started as the designated hitter for the Boulders.
"It's going to be great watching him," Howard Johnson said. "This is a great park."
A few rows back from Howard Johnson, David Lewis took in the game with his son Matthew.
He paid $32 for two seats 10 rows behind home plate.
"I like this a lot," said Lewis, who is from Stony Point. "We can decide to come out here on a summer afternoon and just get in the car and go."
After opening the season with four games on the road, the team is hosting the Newark Bears to open a six-game home stand. The Boulders are scheduled to play 50 home games this season.
Can-Am League players earn an average of $1,200 a month and come from across the country to play in the league, which also has teams in Quebec; Newark; Little Falls, N.J.; and Worcester, Mass. Some are younger players looking for a shot at the major leagues; others are older players who didn't make the majors but love playing the game.
For this season's roster, the Boulders have retained a strong core of players and added a few new faces under the guidance of team manager and former major league pitcher Dave LaPoint. They include Keith Brachold, who led the Can-Am League in RBIs last year with the Brockton Rox, a team that is on hiatus for the 2012 season, and catcher Scott Knazek, a former New Jersey Jackals righthanded hitter who had a .985 fielding percentage while throwing out 25 percent of opposing baserunners trying to steal a base last season.
Christian Wade contributed to this story.