Vancouver Canadians pause for a moment of silence as the team remembers a lost friend, just before the first pitch as they begin their season in the venerable Nat Bailey stadium in Vancouver on June 17, 2013.
Photograph by: Mark van Manen, PNG
VANCOUVER -- It’s the same everywhere in baseball on opening night. Players play, managers manage and the groundskeeping crew keeps the grounds.
But how many groundskeeping crews dance around the infield?
The Vancouver Canadians’ crew did Monday night at Nat Bailey Stadium – it’s tradition now – and they will do so every other night of the season. It’s part of the show when the Canadians are in town.
Sadly for the C’s, the dancing crew drew most of the cheers as the two-time defending Northwest League champions were drubbed 10-1 by the Spokane Indians in their home opener before a sellout crowd of 5,157. Vancouver was done in by an eight-run Spokane fifth.
Before the debacle, C’s manager Clayton McCullough noted that Tom Archibald and his grounds crew of Trevor Sheffield, Dylan Marsden and rookie Curtis Magrath add a certain element to the experience of a night at The Nat.
“The fans don’t come here to watch us play, they come here for that show,” quipped the C’s skipper, his comment proving prophetic. “It’s the highlight of the night.”
It’s also the fun part of the job for Archibald, who spends many serious hours preparing the Scotiabank Field so it looks in pristine condition to open a new season. It’s Archibald’s sixth year with the Canadians and every one of them has felt like New Year’s Eve to him.
“We start work on the new season as soon as the old season ends,” explained Archibald, a 30-year-old Calgary native. “We want the field to look good for when the team shows up and for every other team that comes here throughout the summer. It gets beat up during the season but it definitely starts at its best. Every year we try to improve something, whether it’s the grass, or the dirt, or the clay.
“We want it to look good,” continued Archibald, “and obviously we want it to be safe. We don’t want any bad hops or a player turning an ankle, or anything like that.”
Archibald doesn’t want a member of his crew turning an ankle either when they do their dance number. Their choreographer is Candace Sheffield, wife of Trevor.
“Candace has been gracious enough to put our dances together for us, but we all have a little input and add our flair and twist on things,” Archibald chuckled. “It’s kind of grown into a monster. I would hate to see what would happen if we didn’t dance. There is no looking back now.”
On Monday, Archibald and crew appeared in white tuxedos to the musical accompaniment of Psy’s Gangnam Style. Naturally, the crowd loved it.
Off the field, veteran beer hawker Rob McGowan loved opening night, too. He’s been at it for 23 years, dating back to the C’s days in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League.
“Every off-season just brings me misery and pain waiting for the next season to start,” deadpanned McGowan, a vice-principal of the adult division at the Vancouver school board (and a frustrated comedian). “Every day after the New Year is just one day closer to opening on a beautiful night like tonight. It’s the elixir of life as far as I’m concerned.”
He calls himself “a lager perfectionist” and even has his regular customers along the left field line.
“Joe and Cisco and Spencer – no, they don’t have last names – they know to look down the stairs and we know to look up and eye contact is easily made,” explained McGowan. “So you look forward to seeing people year after year and seeing the smiles on their faces with positive recognition.”
The C’s and Indians, both 1-3 on the young season, meet again Tuesday at The Nat.
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