The Marysville Gold Sox begin play this week, and the organization even has a big anniversary celebration planned. Kind of. The franchise is commemorating its tenth anniversary. Sort of. For the season opener Thursday, part of the program includes a tribute to the 2003 team. But the tenth anniversary? Not really.
They even have a tenth anniversary logo, but at the top, it says the team was established in 2003. You didn't have to get through trigonometry or calculus to figure out that if the team was established in '03, and this is 2012, that's only nine years. Manager Jack Johnson got married in 2003. I haven't asked him, but I bet he and his lovely wife Elizabeth plan to celebrate their tenth anniversary next year. So what gives?
The thing is, though, this actually is the tenth anniversary of the Gold Sox. The franchise, under that name, competed as a professional team in the independent Western Baseball League in 2002. That league folded, and in 2003, the Gold Sox began its current format of collegiate wood bat summer baseball. For the franchise, 2012 is their tenth collegiate season, but if you have “established 2003” on the logo, it's not the tenth anniversary season.
The point here, though, is not to criticize the organization's mathematics, but rather to wonder why the “pro year” of 2002 isn't included. It seems no one around here remembers, or wants to remember. It's like Will Smith showed up with that laser-pen mind-eraser thingie from the Men In Black movies. It's like 2002 never happened.
Professional baseball came to Marysville in 2000 with a franchise called the Feather River Mudcats. The attendance was good, but the record wasn't. Neither were the profits. After taking ticket deposits and sponsorship money for the next season, owners went bankrupt and took off. There was no joy in Mudville, or baseball in Marysville, in 2001.
After a year of an empty stadium, the city of Marysville got involved. They were granted an expansion team in the WBL, and named it the Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox. Marysville now had a municipally-owned team. Office workers and players were city employees. However, instead of fanfare and rejoicing that baseball had returned, there was mostly skepticism in the Marysville-Yuba City community. People who were bilked out of their ticket and sponsorship money from previous owners were not eager to get involved again, even though a city government can't leave town. The city didn't have a lot of money, though, and many people questioned whether a local government should be in the baseball business. Okay, so maybe that's why some people (especially city officials) don't want to remember.
The baseball team, though, was very competitive. They finished with a 43-47 record, but it was better than their Feather River Mudcats predecessors (41-49). They had local players, and the usual independent league journeymen. Some had colorful, alliterative names like Angel Aragon, Billy Bone, Bucky Buckles, and Harvey Hargrove. Local player Danny Lewis had played in almost every minor league park in the country. Pete Nystom and Tony Cosentino each hit grand slams, and a blue pail was passed around the stands for fans to give them prize money (you can't do that with current players because they are amateurs, and it would be an NCAA violation). Two of the best players were local guys who later joined the ministry. Josh Cook hit over .300, and Gabe Foster was the closer with 14 saves. Why not celebrate them this weekend?
The closest geographical rival for the Gold Sox was the Chico Heat, and they won the league. Even so, the Gold Sox took the season series against the Heat ten games to eight, and that included a Chico three-game sweep late in the season. Why not celebrate that?
Outfielder Rick Nadeau played in 87 of the 2002 Gold Sox' 90 games. Pitcher Mike McGurk knew that 2002 was his last go-round as a baseball player, and was going to become a firefighter. A pitcher named Ken Ray not only played in the big leagues before his stint with the '02 Sox, but he actually got back to the majors in 2006 for a short stint. How about honoring him?
No one remembers, or seems to want to. I don't know how many times people have asked me how long I've been broadcasting Gold Sox games. When I tell them I go back to the pro year, they always say something like 'Oh, you mean the Mudcats?' When I say no, I mean the pro Gold Sox of 2002, they look at me with that tilted head, like the dog looks at you right before he gets to go for a ride in the car.
In the grand scheme of things, though, even when it comes to local baseball history, 2002 probably wouldn't go into the annals as an historical or landmark year, but it is the inaugural year of the Gold Sox. In fact, when the 2012 season delivers its first pitch Thursday night, it will be the actual tenth anniversary of the franchise. On May 24, 2002 in Marysville, the Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox built a 7-0 lead over the Long Beach Breakers, but ended up losing that game 12-7. The announced crowd was 2374. Maybe it's a good thing they don't remember.
And while the “Pro Year” seems to have been erased from fans' memory banks, current ownership doesn't even seem to want to recognize its existence. It's their right, of course, but it's a shame. There are no stats from 2002 on the website, but probably not much clamor for them either. Maybe it's because the city of Marysville lost money while operating the pro Gold Sox. That 2002 season, though, paved the way for what the franchise has become.
What the franchise has become is what will be celebrated Thursday night, and there's certainly nothing wrong with that. The Gold Sox could do what a lot of major league clubs do with their promotions—celebrate the tenth collegiate season this year, and its collegiate tenth anniversary in 2013.
However, since we are talking about ten years and a tenth anniversary, here's to the professional Gold Sox of 2002. At least someone remembers.