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4/2/2012 - Tourists back in Asheville
by Keith Jarrett - Asheville Citizen Times

ASHEVILLE -- A couple of familiar faces will be easier to see this season when the Asheville Tourists open the 2012 season Thursday night at McCormick Field.

A new lighting system is among the changes at the ballpark as the 92nd season of professional baseball in Asheville kicks off with the popular Thirsty Thursday, a 7:05 p.m. start against Delmarva (Md.) that features discounted beverages.

The opener starts a seven-game homestand for the Tourists, looking to snap a streak of three straight losing seasons in the South Atlantic League.

SAL Hall of Fame manager Joe Mikulik is back for his 13th season, the longest current streak of managing the same team in the minor leagues.

"We're excited to get the season started," Tourists assistant general manager Chris Smith said. "With all the great weather we've had, people are really thinking about baseball and coming out to the ballpark."

The five returning players include a pair of outfielders who know their way around town and McCormick Field -- Delta Cleary Jr. played with the Tourists in 2009 and '10, and Tyler Massey is with the Class A team for a fourth straight season.

Three players on the roster are ranked among the top 30 prospects of the parent club Colorado Rockies by Baseball America -- shortstop and 2011 1st-round draft pick Trevor Story (6th), infielder Rosell Herrera (16th) and catcher Will Swanner (21st).

The team broke spring training Sunday and flew into town yesterday afternoon.

The first public workout at McCormick Field begins at 3 p.m. Tuesday, and the team will greet fans at Wild Wing Cafe across the road from the ballpark at 6 p.m. Admission is free and autographs, prizes, ticket giveaways and mascots will be available.

From 6-9 p.m., 10 percent of the proceeds from food sold at Wild Wing will be given to the Asheville Tourists Children's Fund, which provides free shoes for children in need.

The new lighting system includes more energy efficient bulbs that produce a brighter display. Other changes, additions or new features include:

o A unique fashion for delivering the game ball each night, which will be unveiled at a news conference today.

o The Clubhouse Suite down the right-field line is available for groups only, and about 50 of the 70 home games have been rented.

o Food items include a Philly cheesesteak cart, kettle corn, Acropolis pizza, fresh apples ( caramel covered also available) and a sausage of the month.

o Hot dogs are $1 on Friday nights.

WANT TO GO?

Single-game ticket prices have remained steady for another season of Asheville Tourists baseball. Box seats are $10 advance ($11 game day), $7 general admission ($8 game day), with reduced prices for children, military personnel and senior citizens. Call 258-0428 or purchase online at theashevilletourists.com.

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