Tyler Lundgren crossed home plate and met Julio Rodriguez with a celebratory helmet tap after Lundgren gave Garden City Wind fans one last reason to cheer for 2015.
Lundgren had just blasted a two-run home run to right-center field at Clint Lightner Stadium on Monday night against the Las Vegas Train Robbers to cap a 9-7 win in the Wind’s inaugural season finale, while also finishing a doubleheader sweep of the Train Robbers after a 4-3 win earlier in the day.
For the otherwise struggling Wind, which finished 2015 at 21-43 overall, it was seemingly the perfect send-off after what team and City of Garden City officials deemed a home run inaugural season in the Pecos League.
“I totally think it was a successful season, despite their record,” Garden City Recreation Commission Director John Washington said Monday. “I think it brought something great to this city, and when I went a few times, just to see the people out there enjoying a professional baseball game was great.”
Season-wide attendance numbers were not available on Monday, but Pecos League Commissioner Andrew Dunn said that games had anywhere from 70 to 250 fans daily, and a couple of games had just over 700 in attendance on specific group promotion events during Thursday’s dollar-beer promotion games.
“I think I was surprised that Thursday night crowds had as many people as it did,” Dunn said Monday. “I think the team and league have a future in the area, and will be a source of entertainment during the summer, which is the whole reason we do this.”
On Monday, more than 200 fans were entertained by not only a Wind win — which brought about several ‘Let’s go Wind, Whoosh!’ chants from the crowd — but a bat girl who did summersaults, a spinning, dizzying race between a pair of fans, the running-of-the-youths around the bases and a more pleasant than most weather late July night in western Kansas.
It’s the type of night that Garden City baseball fans can look forward to — for at least one more season. Dunn confirmed that the Wind will return to Garden City for the 2016 season.
“We’re just going to keep building and getting better,” Dunn said about the Wind and the six-year old Pecos League in tandem. “I’m really glad that Garden City invited us and that it was such a positive experience.”
That positive experience was something that Dunn brought with him to a meeting with city officials Monday, including Washington.
“Their enthusiasm to be in this community is overwhelming,” Washington said of the Pecos League officials. “I think they want a city with a charge, and that goes along with the city and the county and the community, everybody is working together with the same vision.”
Because of that, the Pecos League may further integrate into Kansas, with a possible team in Great Bend in 2016. This season, Dunn said, the Las Vegas Train Robbers did not play a home schedule, which meant too many home games at the other seven Pecos League parks. Dunn said another formal team in 2016 would fix that, and Great Bend could be that home.
For now, Garden City is officially the Wind’s home, which is an exciting prospect for Washington.
“I think I can see Garden City supporting this for (five to six years) if not longer,” he said. “I think next year they’ll come back and be more charged and give a better show.”
Monday’s show could not get much better, with Wind starter Craig Jaquez giving a performance that is not mirrored in his final numbers of eight innings, five runs and three strikeouts. Outside of a poor fifth inning — which led to four Las Vegas runs — Jaquez was brilliant, pitching a perfect opening four frames, and then settling back down in the sixth to get deep into the game.
Even still, the Wind would need almost every run they could scratch out, and that included Lundgren’s opposite field shot in the bottom of the eighth that proved to be the winning margin after the Train Robbers scored a pair in the top of the ninth to pull within two runs and have the tying run on second with one out.
Closer Ryan Blinderman was able to come out of the bullpen to induce a game-ending double play for the save and the fourth consecutive win for the Wind, their longest streak of the season. It also finished an 8-2 run to end the season for the Wind.
“That was huge for us,” Reeves said of the finish. “It came down to our pitching, which really stepped up big for us.”
It’s the type of finish that can leave Garden Citians expecting more in 2016.
“I’m a Kansas guy,” Reeves, a Hutchinson native, said, “and I think this is a great area for the Pecos League. You see our crowds. I mean, we didn’t have a great season, and we still get great support.” I’m looking forward to coaching here the next few years.”
Lundgren echoed his coach’s sentiment.
“Great fan support — they did a great job coming out to support us every game,” Lundgren, who played 49 games with the Wind. “Everybody loves coming to Garden City to play and hearing that ‘Whoosh!’”