Tulsa Drillers open 2014 season in front of sold out ONEOK Field, win game in extra innings

A sellout crowd welcomed the Tulsa Drillers back to ONEOK Field Thursday night, after the threat of bad weather blew over, leaving only a clear sky with a slight breeze. 

For most people the season opener is just the ball game, but the game day action starts at the ballpark well before the first pitch.

Several hours before even a single fan lined up at the gate for the Drillers' season opener, the team's head groundskeeper was pulling his rake around the infield, smoothing out the dirt.

"It is a long walk and I do it a couple times a day," Gary Shepherd said.

He tries to make the field look perfect, for opening day and every other game too. 

"Just giving it a nice finishing touch," Shepherd said as he finished raking. 

Down in the clubhouse, everything is calm for the most part. 

The clubhouse staff gets the Drillers' jerseys, cleats and bats ready. Back on the field, the sound of wooden bats crushing baseballs fills the downtown air, as players take batting practice.

Watching balls fly into the outfield, the Drillers' manager says he is ready for the opening day crowd.

"I can't field the ball, I can't throw a pitch, I can't swing a bat, but I still get energized by the enthusiasm of the crowd," Kevin Riggs said.

Before the gates even opened, fans began lining up. A few fathers and sons peeked through the fence to watch bating practice finish up.

Among them, Tim Carroll and his son Brett. They drove down from Bartlesville to catch the game. 

"We love being out here," Carroll said. "Going to the game. There is nothing better than going to a baseball game with your son."

First in line for the home opener, a 12-year season ticket holder and diehard Drillers fan, ready for the boys of summer.

"I'm tired of winter time, I just want to watch a baseball game," Wayne Rice said as he waited for the gates to open at ONEOK Field.

At 5:30 the gates opened, and a capacity crowd of more than 7,800 fans filled the ballpark to see the Drillers take on Corpus Christi Hooks.

The smells of concessions filled the concourse. Grilling up hot dogs and brats one concession vendor laughed and said, "It almost smells as good as me!"

With a slight breeze under a clear blue sky, the 2014 Drillers took the field. Just past 7 p.m., Driller Eddie Butler delivered the first pitch. A strike right over the plate. 

With that, America's pastime returned to downtown Tulsa.

The fans that stuck around even got free baseball. The Drillers tied the game with a ninth inning homer off the bat of Cristhian Adames and then the game went to extra innings. 

After a wild pitch in the bottom of the 11th inning, Taylor Featherston scored to win the game for the Drillers. Final score 5-4. 

One game down, 69 more home games to go this season.

Print this article Back to Top