THE WEEKLY - Sweeet! Fans make it family

So you think Walla Walla Sweets players are having all the fun? Check out the crowd.

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It's another perfect day for hometown baseball.

The sun is shining off the lush Blue Mountains in the distance, and on the Borleske Stadium diamond before me I hear the crack of the bat as the Walla Walla Sweets and Corvallis Knights meet in the third of a five-game homestand.

How sweet it is, and not just on the field.

Watching fans enjoy time together with friends and family is about as much fun as the game itself, as the West Coast Baseball League fires up its second season for the Sweets, comprised of college and university players.

Up in the general admission stands along the third base line are Michael and Julie Anderson and their 2-year-old son Cooper. It was their third day in a row pushing a baby stroller from home to Borleske to get settled for first pitch.

The funny thing is that Mike and Julie -- second-year season ticket holders -- didn't start out as baseball fans. But they've definitely become Sweets fans.

They watched in amazement while Cooper enjoyed baseball on TV and thought, Why not try live baseball in the neighborhood? So they bought tickets and headed to their first Sweets game and first-ever baseball game last summer.

Now they are hooked, and Cooper can sit the entire game watching the excitement live and close up with his mini-mitt on his hand.

"It was the Sweets that made us come and love baseball" said Michael. "Last year we even knew by what song was playing over the sound system to begin our walk to the stadium so not to miss first pitch."

The fans in the general admission section have been kind to the Anderson family, explaining to them some of the baseball terms and idiosyncrasies.

The Andersons now even have game-day rituals.

"We walk to every game with Cooper wearing his baseball shoes and, of course, we enjoy a Walla Walla onion sausage" says Julie.

Their favorite player also is a returning favorite for the Sweets, Ryan Richardson, from Campbellsville University, Ky. As it turns out Ryan also went to high school with Michael's younger brother.

For months I have been fortunate enough to be working behind the scenes with the staff of the Walla Walla Sweets getting ready for the season. Since the "100 Day" countdown, the office team has been preparing for a perfect season. Whether it was selling tickets, cleaning Borleske, ordering concession supplies and inventorying merchandise to ensure all would be ready to go for Opening Day.

It's been gratifying to see the results for fans.

Take the Rambos, for instance, whom I always saw in the family section last season no matter the time of day or weather.

In interviewing Micah and Lucas Rambo, ages 13 and 10, respectively, I was hard pressed to get eye contact from them. But I do manage to learn that before they leave for the game, they play catch at home waiting for their parents to get ready.

Though not annoyed by my questions, the boys were definitely at the game to watch baseball and not be social with adults.

Holding their mitts, Micah says he is "really excited" that University of California-Irvine outfielder Scott Gottschling is to return after competing in the College World Series.

"He is one of my favorite players" Micah, says, then yells at the umpire over a call at first base.

Lucas, wearing his red lucky Sweets hat and keeping his eye on the action, says, "Goose [Kallunki] is my favorite player and [Brackenridge] Kalani because he is really fast."

"Safe!" Micah yells as he jumps up and down as the action continues -- a cue for me to wrap it up.

At the other end of the spectrum but no less a Sweets fan is Jan Corn, a second-year season ticket holder. Actually her husband, Gregg, would walk Borleske last year waiting for the seats to be numbered so he could pick out his seats.

"We love our seats so much that we decided to keep them while our friends moved to the new diamond seats behind home plate" says Jan.

For Jan it might be all about social interaction, but she didn't miss a game last year and was maintaining that record this year. She says she loves all that is going on at the ballpark -- the nice weather, being outside and seeing so many people."

Kate Rambo, mother of Micah and Lucas, echoes that sentiment.

"It is wonderful to be here as a family," she says. "We are all outside surrounded by beautiful scenery while watching baseball."

There were no local losers during the Sweets-Knights game, in the grandstands or on the field. The Sweets downed the Knights 1-0.

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