METAIRIE — Accompanied by the sound of the U.S. Navy Band and the squeals of pre-schoolers bouncing around inside giant inflatables, baseball fans trickled into Zephyr Stadium on Friday night for the team’s home opener, a 3-1 victory against Round Rock.
But by game time, a nice crowd had assembled for the homecoming of the local Triple-A affiliate of the Miami Marlins.
“I never start counting the crowd until an hour after game time,” General Manager Mike Schline said. “When they told me we were parking cars on the soccer field, I knew we were all right.”
Fans who made it through the traffic jam at the entrances were eventually able to savor their favorite ballpark delicacies, shop for Zephyrs gear and enjoy a couple of spirited performance, by the popular men’s dance troupe, the 610 Stompers. Early-arriving fans were rewarded with a rubber home plate-shaped welcome mat.
After the game, fans were rewarded with the traditional Friday night fireworks, followed by a concert by New Method.
Melissa and Matt McLauchlin brought their 2-year-old son, Logan, to the ballpark from Belle Chasse Naval Air Station, where Matt is stationed.
“We’re big baseball fans,” Melissa said. “We want (Logan) to grow up with it. Right now, he likes the food and the stairs and the people.”
Melissa said she was worried last week when word came out that the team might be for sale.
“I hope they stay,” she said. “We really like them.”
Likewise, the Ruiz family from Harvey was out enjoying a night at the park. Troy Ruiz was trying to corral his two daughters, who were in search of ice cream, when he stopped to watch the 610 Stompers perform one of their routines.
“That’s just not right,” he said with a laugh.
The players were enjoying their homecoming after an eight-game road trip took them through Nashville and Memphis to start the season.
This actually was the Zephyrs’ second game at The Shrine on Airline: The team played an exhibition game against its parent club March 30.
But then it hit the road, where it went 3-3 with one game rained out and one suspended with the Zephyrs leading 6-2 and Memphis coming to bat in the bottom of the 12th inning. That game is set to resume June 11 at Memphis.
Schline said he was thrilled with the turnout considering the amount of competition the team had. Friday was the first day of the French Quarter Festival as well as the first Friday of Jazz Fest.
“It is a lot of competition,” Schline said. “But if you’re going to be in this market, you have to get used to that. It’s always something. Jazz Fest always comes up. Sometimes we go up against the Saints’ preseason games. We’re very happy that people came out to see us.”