More that 4,200 fans witnessed professional baseball’s rebirth in Ottawa last night.
When Ottawa’s Mike Kusiewicz threw the first pitch to the opposing New Jersey Jackals — a ball — the Ottawa Rapidz’s inaugural season officially began.
Kusiewicz threw three more balls, then struck out two. But many of the 4,246 that braved threatening skies to attend had not yet settled in before Rapidz lead-off batter Jared Lemieux faced his first pitch.
“It rained at 5:30 (p.m.), which is usually death,” said Can-Am league commissioner Miles Wolfe. “I was impressed when I drove up at how many people were here, considering the rain. I think everything is going good.”
The late afternoon rain may have caused some to hesitate, leading to a last-minute crunch at the ticket windows once skies cleared. As anthems were belted out, long lines remained and some fans reported waiting 30 minutes to get tickets.
Still, team officials called it a good re-start for pro baseball here — the first since the triple-A Ottawa Lynx of the International League left town last year. With ticket prices that max out at $10 for adults, many Ottawans seemed willing to give the Rapidz a chance.
“We’re going to slowly get people back into the habit of coming here. Hopefully, we’ll get teens and 20-somethings thinking this is a good place to go for a date,” said Rapidz CEO Rick Anderson. “We’ve got a nice stadium. It’s a nice environment.”
Many former Lynx fans turned out, ready to embrace another pro baseball team.
“It’s baseball in Ottawa. Other than that, you have to go to Toronto to see another game,” said Krista Kipp.
North Gower native Fraser Robinson, a left-handed pitcher for the Rapidz, didn’t get to start last night and was third in the pitching order, but the local product had supporters in the stands.
“All my high school friends, none of them have seen me throw, so they’re all excited. They’ve been e-mailing saying ‘when’s your first game, we want to come watch’.”
The downpoint? The 6-0 score for N.J — a result Ottawa will want to improve on ‘Rapidzly.’