State College Spikes

Our View | Opening night a celebration of baseball, community

Take us out to the ballgame

The State College Spikes return tonight with new players and coaches, a new big-league affiliation and lots of fun promotions.

The Spikes are now affiliated with the St. Louis Cardinals after six years with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization. The team was a Cardinals affiliate in the Spikes’ first season in 2006.

Opening night is always exciting, and the Spikes start the 2013 season against the Williamsport Crosscutters (Philadelphia Phillies) at 7:05 p.m. at Medlar Field at Lubrano Park.

“It’s been an entire offseason of getting ready, so to finally have opening day get here is exciting,” Spikes general manager Jason Dambach said. “When we open the gates, we’re welcoming the community, not just hosting a baseball game.”

The team is managed by 26-year-old Oliver Marmol, who was with St. Louis in 2011, when the Cards won the World Series.

“It’s surreal because it’s what I’ve always wanted to do and it’s for the best organization in baseball,” Marmol said of taking over the Cardinals’ short-season single-A team in State College. “So you put those two things together and the opportunity that they’re giving me at my age — I have no complaints.”

Tonight’s game kicks off what the Spikes are calling “The Year of the Millionth Fan Celebration.” All fans 18 and older may enter a drawing to be chosen the “One Millionth Spikes Fan” and have a shot at a $1 million prize.

The opening game will be followed by a fireworks presentation.

Future promotions include an Ike the Spike action figure giveaway on Wednesday, an appearance by Star Wars characters and an Eric Milton bobblehead giveway in July, Stan Belinda and Bill O’Brien bobblehead nights in August, and lots of other fun activities. Most nights, kids will be permitted to run the bases after the pro players are finished.

The team will play 38 home games through August.

The Spikes roster includes Carson Kelly, 18, the second-round draft choice of the Cardinals in 2012 and Gatorade High School Player of the Year in 2011 and 2012, and Mitch Harris, 27, a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy who will make his professional debut this season.

We look forward to many nights of great baseball and related fun at the park.

Welcome back, Spikes.