PASCO -- The Tri-City Dust Devils certainly will hit some memorable home runs this year, but their front office already has hit one out of the park with its newest improvement to Gesa Stadium.
This season, large groups of fans will have the option of sitting in Dusty's Bullpen or The Hot Corner, situated at field level along the first- and third-base line behind the dugouts. The new group areas, built to accommodate either a 25- or 50-person group, will not only give organizations an exclusive section to hold corporate parties or social gatherings on a given night, but it also provides a unique look at professional baseball.
"That's the selling point. You can't be any closer to the action," said Derrell Ebert, the Dust Devils' vice president and general manager. "We saw it in action with the Washington State game against Washington two weeks ago. RBC Wealth Management loved it. They were really excited about it."
The Dust Devils will open the season against the Everett AquaSox at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, June 17, at Gesa Stadium. Ebert said that tickets are still available, but they are moving quickly.
"There's very limited reserved seating. We're close to the sellout point," he said. "We're thrilled to be opening on a Friday night."
Each of the new sections features seating along the front fence and taller bar-style chairs along the back of the area.
The sections are in close proximity to the dugouts, providing fans an exclusive look into the sights and sounds of the game.
"It's a great way to entertain clients or sit with friends," Ebert said. "Oh, and by the way, you are right in the base coach's back pocket."
The Hot Corner, set next to the visitors dugout, will accommodate 50 fans. Dusty's Bullpen, situated along the first-base line next to the Dust Devils' dugout, will hold 25 fans and includes an all-you-can-eat buffet for an hour. To book either section is $600, which breaks down to $12 a person for The Hot Corner or $24 per person for Dusty's Corner.
For the last five seasons, Gesa Stadium did feature field-level box seats down the first-base line. That section, which was often sold out, was expanded and is now Dusty's Bullpen. The Hot Corner, however, is a brand-new addition to Gesa Stadium.
"(The Hot Corner) just needs to be seen. There's no better place for 50 people to have a group night," Ebert said.
The new sections are just the latest in a long line of stadium improvements. In 2005, the Brett Brothers took over management of the franchise and immediately began making changes. First came the field-level boxes, and then the sun shade behind the first-base grandstands in 2007. In 2008, new box seats were installed below the press box and behind home plate.
Before the 2009 season, a new scoreboard was installed and a new office building was added just outside Gesa Stadium. But the improvements will keep coming, according to Ebert.
"Our partnership with Gesa Credit Union has allowed us to do this stuff," he said.
NOTES: Four players selected by the Colorado Rockies in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft have already been assigned to Tri-City. They are: shortstop Timothy Smalling, a 15th-round pick out of Virignia Tech; pitcher William Rankin, a 17th-round pick out of Southern Polytechnic State; pitcher Ben Alsup, an 18th-round pick out of LSU; and first baseman Jordan Ribera, a 21st-rounder out of Fresno State. They will join the 28 players who had already been assigned to the Dust Devils out of extended spring training in Scottsdale, Ariz.
-- The Dust Devils lost a close member of their family when Dave Lemak lost his battle with cancer Thursday evening. He was 63 years old.
Lemak was a dedicated and passionate citizen who wore many hats around the community. He was a veteran who served in the Vietnam War, a Post commander for the Veterans of Foreign Wars No. 5785 in Kennewick, a chancellor at WSU-Tri-Cities, the director of CBC's applied management program and the president of the Dust Devils booster club.
"He was an amazing man, and we absolutely loved him," Ebert said. "He's going to be missed but not forgotten."