Before a modest crowd of potential ballplayers, media and other assorted on-lookers, Tony Riviera proclaimed that Wednesday afternoon's press conference stood as the beginning of, "what we believe will change the baseball face in the city of Glendale."
Unveiling the somewhat confusing if not silly team name of the Glendale Angelenos, the city officially got its very own summer collegiate ballclub.
"I don't ever think there's ever going be a moment where you're not going to experience some sort of level of excitement here between the innings and certainly on the field," said Riviera, the team president of the eighth ballclub in the California Collegiate League, a wood-bat summer league brimming with top-flight NCAA talent bettering its skills during the dog days of June, July and August and getting a minor league feel for baseball, while holding on to its amateur status.
While news of Glendale getting its own collegiate franchise came about weeks ago, Wednesday was really the day in which everything got rolling. It was the day in which Riviera, Glendale Major Ara Najarian, Glendale Director of Community Services and Parks George Chapjian, CCL Commissioner Pat Burns and Riviera said all the right things, which is exactly what you're supposed to do at a press conference. And on a hot autumn afternoon, it was proclaimed that there would be something new to do on a hot summer day.
But while many Angelenos are baseball crazy, I'm not all that certain about Glendalenos.
Stengel Field, which will have its baseball face lifted, will now play host to the Angelenos, the Crescenta Valley High Falcons and the Glendale Community College Vaqueros. Between the Falcons, Vaqueros, Glendale Nitros and Hoover Tornadoes, the former is far and away the biggest baseball draw in Glendale.
Hoover, and particularly Glendale, have struggled over the last few years and support in the stands is hardly anything that would supplement baseball fever in the Jewel City. GCC battles season in and season out to get above .500, but quite frankly Coach Chris Cicuto and his staff do exactly what junior college programs are supposed to do — they get players to the next level. But the Falcons do get big crowds at Stengel and Little League is a huge draw locally. So maybe there is hope that Glendale will transfix into this hotbed of baseball.
Likely not, though.
As the Stengel infield was littered with Glendale college players and former high school standouts like Hoover's Sako Chapjian and Tyler Delzell and CV's Chad Nacapoy, there was a very local feel. But the Angelenos — it just gets weirder the more I write it — like any other collegiate squad will have talent from all over.
"My plan is not to settle for anything less than a championship for this city," Riviera said. And that's not likely to happen if the starting nine is solely an All-Pacific League squad.
So as this new team is built, will the people of Glendale come?
Sure, some will, obviously. Admission is free, after all. But, while Glendale grows, it is still very much a community in which parents go to watch their kids play baseball. I don't know if that will change.
Stengel Field will change, with proposed renovations including a press box, redone dugouts and wooden fences.
"It'll give it more of a minor-league feel," said the elder Chapjian.
Of course that feel will come with a price, though nobody knew or was offering up any numbers.
"We won't look solely at the profit and loss of the field cause it goes beyond that," said Najarian, adding that an influx of spending at neighborhood restaurants, hotels, etc. caused by the franchise would be a city boon in addition to gained notoriety for the city, which will host the league's 2011 all-star contest, which will be televised live on FoxSportsWest. "Just look at the visibility we'll get from the all-star game alone."
But is this collegiate baseball juice really worth the city's squeeze?
"I think it will pay for itself many, many times over," Riviera said.
But in all reality, whether or not this is as big as those involved would like you to think it is, that's rather inconsequential. Summer collegiate ball isn't the World Series, it's a needed tool in the maturation of college players. It's not about thinking blue, $17 beers and 50,000-plus jam packing a stadium; it's an easy, entertaining day at the ballpark.
In all likelihood, there will be interest at the onset and thereafter it will settle into what it is, a summer collegiate baseball team playing at Stengel Field. There will be some good baseball, a decent-sized crowd, a boost to local businesses from fans and traveling ballclubs and a bunch of college kids busting their butts on the hottest days of the year in the hopes of continuing to do what they love.
Frankly, there are plenty of questions that will be answered like most, only when time will tell.
But there are some certainties. Something new is coming to Glendale and there's a bit of a buzz about it. Good baseball will be played and future major leaguers will shuffle in and out, whether they're playing for Glendale or San Luis Obispo or Santa Barbara.
This is a good thing for Glendale and all those involved, but it certainly won't change the face of the city. Sure, for the summer months anyhow, it might put some eye black on it and dirty up its uniform, but nothing major. Bottom line, on Wednesday it became abundantly clear that Glendale will become a city where you can come and see some good baseball. Plain and simple. Nothing more, nothing less. And, at least for me, that's plenty good enough.
That's just the way I see it, playing second string.