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Diamond in daylight 

by Angela Johnson


The Spokane Indians baseball team is cutting back on its use of electricity this season, which is only fitting since the team's home is Avista Stadium. Instead of its normal start time of 7:05 pm, the Indians are moving their nightly game back by 35 minutes. In addition, three afternoon games will be played at 3 pm.


"We have made this change not only to conserve energy, but also to serve as an example and reminder to the rest of the community that we all have to do our part to reduce electricity consumption during this energy crunch," says Bobby Brett, managing partner of the Indians.


This time difference is supposed to reduce the Indian's energy consumption by 20-25 percent.


Paul Barbeau, general manager, says the players will like the change and believe the fans will agree because of the opportunity to get their families home at an earlier time.


"The response from fans we spoke with was positive," says Barbeau. "The fans said they would still be able to get to the game on time, and they appreciate our efforts at conservation."


But just because the Indians are trying to cut down on electricity doesn't mean the fans will be left in the dark. For instance, fireworks will be displayed four times during the season, including opening night on June 19. "It should be a pretty good show," says Kevin Maloney, director of public relations for the Spokane Indians.


Many companies in the Spokane area are sponsoring the promotions for the Indians this season. The promotions are helpful because they attract more fans to the games, says Barbeau. This includes one promotion in particular, 50-Cent Feast Night. Those nights often sell out. And 7,000 people in the stands make the game more exciting, he says.


Kids' opening night and Otto the Mascot's birthday marks the following game on June 20. On August 7, The Inlander will be a part of baseball hat night. In addition, this season includes the used car giveaway and tie-dye night, where the players wear tie-dyed jerseys.


"That's the typical format we do every year," Maloney says. "It's a whole entertainment package."


Not only do fans come for the promotions, but also because they want to see baseball. With the success of the Seattle Mariners this year, people may be in a bigger mood for baseball than ever. Fans get the opportunity to watch the minor league players progress and develop because of the almost 100 percent player turnover from year to year, Barbeau says. Playing for the Indians, as an affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, is just a short stop on the road to the majors for many of the players. All in all, the Royals have six minor league teams playing under them.


"We're second on that list," says Barbeau. "The players hope they move up a level [each season]."


There's another change coming to minor league baseball this season. The Northwest League will now be divided into East and West Divisions. The league decided to make the adjustment because of the Portland franchise's relocation to the Tri-Cities.


The Indians are now a part of the East Division and will be competing against Yakima, Tri-Cities and Boise. The West Division includes Vancouver, B.C., Everett, Salem-Keizer and Eugene.


"The realignment reduces travel for all teams in the league," says Barbeau. "We still play everybody in the league."


The only difference is now the Indians will play each team within its division a total of 12 games and only 10 games with those outside its division. The winner in each division will compete for the championship in a race for the best of five games.


Last year, the Indians finished just out of first place, with a 38-38 record, says Barbeau. Two years ago, the team won the Northwest League championship. But with new players every year, "there is no way to predict wins and losses," Barbeau says.


With the division change and a whole new team, the Spokane Indians baseball season promises to have a lot of surprises. "Hopefully, we get some wins along the way too," he says.


The Spokane Indians' opening game against the Everett Aquasox is Tuesday, June 19, at 6:30 pm, at Avista Stadium, 602 N. Havana. Tickets: $7 for upper box seats; $4 for reserved bench seats. Seniors, military and children under 12 get $1 off reserved bench seating. Call 535-2922 or visit [email protected]

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