Hawks' home opener also means issues for stadium employees

dsouthorn@idahostatesman.comJune 18, 2013 

Taylor Martin, 5, high-fives mascot Humphrey the Hawk during the home opener Monday night. The Hawks play 37 more games at Memorial Stadium this season.

The Boise Hawks had a few games under their belt before Monday's home opener, but there was no such luxury for the game-day staff at Memorial Stadium.

According to General Manager Todd Rahr, about 60 percent of the 100 or so employees are new this season. Their job was hampered by credit card machines that went on the fritz, ATMs that struggled to give out cash, and Wi-Fi that only occasionally decided to work.

Those issues prompted the Hawks to offer Monday's fans in attendance a free ticket to any upcoming home game.

"Opening night is the best of times and the worst of times," Rahr said. "We don't have exhibition games, there's no dry run."

Though the Hawks lost 8-6 to Salem-Keizer in front of 3,097 fans, the first "beer batter'' of the season got fans cheap suds when Trevor Gretzky doubled in the bottom of the third. In Boise's opening series at Eugene, he was the Emeralds' version of the beer batter, and he struck out to give their fans the same deal.

"I guess I give the fans what they want, so that's good,'' Gretzky said. "It was one of the biggest crowds I've played baseball in front of, so there's a few nerves, but it feels pretty good to hear those fans cheering.''

The players on the diamond weren't alone in having jangling nerves in their first home game.

Monday was Joe Crupper's first day at Memorial Stadium, his job made a little more difficult because of the 90-degree weather and the Humphrey the Hawk costume he was wearing.

"It's a bearable hot," said Crupper, 17. "I definitely had some nervousness, it was my first time in it in front of the crowd, but it's fun - if you don't have some nerves, there's probably something wrong."

Down behind home plate in the Hawks' Diamond Club, plenty was wrong for the wait staff, which is almost entirely new. New tablets were used to send orders - but losing the internet created a bit of chaos. It wasn't Amanda Brown's first night, but her first night in four years after serving at Hawks games as a teenager.

"I don't know if we've had to write down orders since the '90s," Brown said. "Everyone was very understanding, but it was kinda scary when those things came up."

High above Brown, Geno Ray was toting about 30 pounds of ice and beverages up and down the stairs in his first night as a "Hawker." With sweat beading on his forehead well after the sun went down, he joked it is bound to be a good summer workout program.

"I had a bit of adrenaline at first, I didn't really notice the weight because I was so focused on getting everything right," Ray said. "You basically are thrown to the wolves, and the first hour I would have to check this price sheet constantly, I was a little shy - but you get over that pretty quick."

With so many new faces roaming Memorial Stadium this season, along with a new focus on customer service, Rahr and the Hawks were thrown a curveball off the diamond, but the human element was not a letdown.

"They were absolutely ready to go, we've probably done more training than ever," Rahr said. "It was something beyond our control - I feel worst for the fans, but after that, our staff. I'm glad we have the group we do."

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