The Marysville Gold Sox, as thousands of fans have come to know and love them over the last dozen-plus years, may never be the same again. Or maybe they will. No one seems to know, and it may be several weeks before anybody does.
The Gold Sox concluded their season with a win Sunday night, and while the good-byes to the college players who come here from different parts of the country to play are difficult, this year seemed especially uneasy. You see, the team is under new ownership, and out-of-town ownership at that. No one locally knows these people, or what they plan to do with their ball club.
The main issue is this, and on the outside, it doesn't seem to be that big of a deal. One of the new owners also has ownership of a new team in Chico, and that team is entering a brand new league. The logical speculation is that the Gold Sox would also be part of the fledgling Great West League, which would alter the way the current franchise operates.
And while you may be thinking “so what?”, entering a new league means a different schedule. Gold Sox fans are used to Thursday through Sunday home games every weekend, with a road trip once a year on Tuesday and Wednesday. A league could mean (but not necessarily) a more traditional-style schedule with three to six games at home, then a week-long road trip, then maybe a week-long homestand, etc. In other words, something most baseball teams do.
The issue this creates, is it could mean more total games on the schedule, maybe 50 to 60 instead of 46, but also fewer home games—maybe only 30, compared to 44 now. Coaches don't like the idea of more games because that means they'll need more players (mostly pitchers), which means less playing time per player. There's also only space for 24 lockers in the clubhouse, so some arrangements would have to be made there. Also, there's the week-long travel. The Great West League has officially announced three teams, and one of them is in Portland, Oregon. (Chico and Lodi are the other two). Sure, coaches here may be a little spoiled, but both are former long-time ball players, and the bus rides have been long enough. It's also a more grueling grind than the four-days-on, three-days-off model that has been printing money for former owners for a decade and a half.
And while the grander picture is more total games, fans could be seeing fewer. The season goes by quickly enough as it is. Now you're talking only 30 home dates? Staff also work those games. That means less income for them. Even though it's a second job for most, a third of that income could be lost, and many may decide it's not worth it to continue.
Before the Bavasi family sold the team to Tom and Karyn Lininger, and after Don McCullough's sudden death a decade ago, Bob and Peter Bavasi constantly stated that they were looking for a “community owner”. Even though the Liningers are from the Sacramento area, they turned out to be what the Bavasis were looking for, and the team continued its traditional existence.
You can't blame the Liningers for cashing out when a trucking company from Arizona (Knight Transportation), a prominent Major League Baseball executive (Pat Gillick), and an owner of several minor league baseball and hockey teams (Gary Gelinas) wrote them (what we assume to be) a huge check, but with it comes change.
Attendance was down this year. The average announced crowd was 726 compared to last year's 1003. There were fewer big promotions and fewer tickets distributed to the community, and that could be attributed to an ownership transition, but crowds have been dropping slightly for the last several years with an upward spike here and there.
A new format could energize the area, or fewer home games could keep people away. Workers may decide 30 games is not enough money compared to 44 or 45. Current coaches may not like the new format, and bail. The radio station may decide 55 to 60 games is way too expensive than what they have to pay now.
Or not. Or there may not be any changes at all. We'll just have to wait and see.
Many thank yous: Before the final game each year, host families are recognized, and team awards are given out (MVP, Pitcher of the Year, Gold Glove, and Most Inspirational). This year, they also gave me an award for my longevity, "in grateful appreciation of your 14 years of outstanding service as the voice of the Marysville Gold Sox." Even though I got this strange text from Jack Johnson a couple of weeks ago asking me how long I had been doing this, I was truly surprised, and unbelievably honored. It's just been a joy to do it, to watch these fantastic athletes play, get to do play-by-play on the radio, and even have some people listen. Thank you all.
Rhyme time: I've done this for several years now, ending the final broadcast of a Gold Sox season with a poem. It's not the greatest and you might think it's lame. In any case, though, I hope you enjoy it the same...
It's always amazing how fast time does fly
Eleven weeks done, and now it's good bye
These boys of summer came to contribute
So a few moments here to try to pay tribute
A recap of the season. It started so great
19 of 20 right out of the gate.
You have to lose eventually and that's what they did
It all came at once, a seven-game skid
A franchise record and a pretty big hunk
Jack Johnson referred to it as a stinky funk.
Two to the PUF Caps and two to the Gulls
Maybe hitting the road would end all their lulls
The trip was a short one, but the heat we were dreading
It was 112 when the team got to Redding
Outside of the games they avoided the sun
We all went bowling, which sure was fun
Two losses there, and then one more came
Losing to Top Speed isn't a shame
But finally, it ended, the streak over and done
The Gold Sox beat Top Speed. They won four to one
A celebration, a big crowd, fireworks would begin
It was the Third of July and Jack's 300th win
This year, the hundredth game for both Mejia and Frantz
Louis homered in both, which was a kick in the pants.
Some strange things happened—a lightning delay
Guys tagged too soon, and were out on appeal play
Frantz a gold glove, Mejia MVP, and top pitcher to Bradley
A reminder that this is the final night, sadly.
But before we go, though, I've got a little bit more
Not much longer, just a few things in store
It's really, tough, when it gets to this part
To share some thank yous, and things from my heart
First of all to Jack, you know he's the best
Head and shoulders above all of the rest
It's so hard to say in a silly little rhyme
but thank you so much, Jack, for your friendship and time
To Coach Jim Stassi, and Eric Lambert the trainer
I love you guys, and that's a no-brainer
In the press box, Kevin and Steven do their jobs with precision
They also help here and there with a scoring decision
To Andrew, my man, back at the station
Great job, my friend—you deserve a vacation
Also to Moe, Chris, Marina, and Dave
Filling in back there, and providing the save
Thanks also at KUBA to Gordon and Chris
They are the ones that let me do this
To the Liningers, who've for years have guided this team
A great example of the American dream
So for next year, some changes? which brings some intrigue
There's a possibility the Gold Sox will be joining a league
New ownership means a franchise in transition
I hope Matt Lundgren keeps his GM position
Some little things from this year I'll remember
Things you think about when it gets to November
The horn section, the Chicken Dance, and antics by Kea
A couple of simulcasts with Nate Abaurrea
But especially the fans, and there are so many of them
There's no way I can say how much I love them
Whether you're listening on line or over the air
You have no idea how much I care
But it's time to go now, I've been rambling enough
Don't wanna do it, but I'll get off my duff
So we'll say it once more before they come turn out the light
You've been listening to Gold Sox baseball on KUBA and kuba radio dot-com. Good night.