Fans, boosters, front-office officials, players and coaches at the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs’ recent season-opening Fan Fest celebration all shared the anticipation that comes with an offseason overhaul of the roster. Nearly half of the team’s players are new faces this season.
“This is going to be the best season ever,” said Waldorf resident Dave Round, who is vice president of the team’s booster club. “We got some hitters this year. Pitching is solid.”
In addition to the new-look team, plenty of fans were excited about the 2013 Atlantic League All-Star Game, which the Blue Crabs will host at Regency Furniture Stadium in Waldorf on July 10.
“It’s a chance to showcase the stadium to all the other teams,” Round said.
Before the Fan Fest got underway, the stadium hosted more than 600 Little Leaguers for the Charles County Youth League’s opening-day ceremonies. Afterward, Blue Crabs players served as honorary base coaches for a game between Bambino Buddies teams, a Babe Ruth League division for youths with physical or mental disabilities.
For the third consecutive year, the stadium also served as the staging area for the St. Charles Running Festival, which includes 5K and 10-mile runs and a fun run for kids.
The stadium’s Kid Zone and Crabby Cove areas were open to youngsters while a number of costumed characters — including the team’s mascot, Pinch — patrolled the concourse and ballfield in search of hugs.
“It was absolutely tremendous,” Blue Crabs general manager Patrick Day said toward the end of the festivities. “Between the race and [Fan Fest], it was exactly what the stadium was built for. It was truly a day for the community.”
By 10 a.m., the parking lot was packed, and runners were streaming down Piney Church Road and across the finish line.
Charles County commissioners Vice President Reuben B. Collins II (D) attended the youth league ceremony and stayed around to see the race winners finish. Before leaving, Collins said the event’s healthy turnout was another indication that the stadium is becoming a hub for recreational activity.
Prince Frederick resident Ross Brandstetter shares Round’s enthusiasm for the team’s hitting, and expects the Blue Crabs’ batters to be more prolific this season, which could mean more foul balls sent his way in the stands.
“You’ve got to keep your eye on that batter, because them balls will come right up to you,” Brandstetter said.
Brandstetter and his wife, Carolyn, have season tickets, and he brought to Fan Fest a foul ball he caught last season. When the team lined up for an hour-long autograph session, Brandstetter made sure to get his souvenir signed by outfielder Brian Barton, who hit the foul ball last year.
Day said the team has sold roughly 2,000 season ticket plans, a 10 percent increase over last year.
“I really look forward to everyone in Southern Maryland coming out and supporting us throughout the season,” Day said.