The Greater Omaha Chamber marketing team is on the move – experiencing the sights, sounds, creativity and tastes that typify our region. We’re exploring our community and encourage you to check out these Greater Omaha gems – because best-kept secrets are best uncovered.
It’s Friday night, and it smells like baseball.
Sure, you can spot the stadium from sixty yards back, and buzz of the crowd is unmistakable, but it’s the sweet-spicy-savory smell of ballpark food that seems to set off smiles and hasten the pace of the crowd ushering into Papillion’s Werner Park near southwest Omaha.
And, this faction of Storm Chasers fans is ready to play ball.
From the hundreds of Boy Scouts invited to the spend the night at the $36-million-dollar stadium, to the pre-gaming with baseball legend Harold Reynolds, the Greater Omaha Chamber’s marketing team was there, making the Chasers vs. Oklahoma City a stellar summer evening for the memory books.
Celebrating the franchise’s 50th year, the Storm Chasers, a minor league affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, has shared a long, loyal history with Eastern Nebraska, beginning when the team first took the mound as the “Omaha Royals” in 1969 – a history chronicled by a vibrant, sweeping mural greeting game-goers at the ballpark’s main entrance.
The Royals transitioned to the “Golden Spikes” in 1999, returned to the “Royals” in 2002 and came out hitting, following an online fan-naming contest in 2011, as the “Storm Chasers.”
The night we marveled at baseball’s continued magic, the familiar Storm Chasers were spending an anniversary “Flashback Friday” in their newly minted (vintage-style) Golden Spikes jerseys.
Our first stop was Harold Reynolds’ meet-n-greet, an intimate soiree where the affable sports analyst, and former second baseman of the Baltimore Orioles, California Angels and Seattle Mariners, shook hands, introduced his family and shared his regional ties: Reynold’s wife is originally from Omaha, with parents still living in the area.
Once Reynolds’ wrapped his pre-game party, the player was off to an autograph session with fans, and Chamber marketing was on the move.
As players filtered from locker rooms to the dirt, the we watched the stadium fill from a dugout’s-eye-view, where catchers, hitters, fielders and more dusted their hands on their pants, adjusted their caps and warmed up on a well-groomed field ready for sliders, ground balls and homeruns
From kissing babies (their own and others’) held over the rails, to toeing the dirt with cleated shoes, the Storm Chasers moved through this minor league baseball’s pregame routine with gregarious ease.
After the game was in full swing, we answered the aroma of the ballpark’s cuisine call to the tune of hotdogs, cheese fries, funnel cakes and ice cream, then caught the game from the team’s media booth, where announcers wrangled multiple screens aimed at capturing big plays for Werner Park’s big screen.
The game’s biggest news the night of our visit: another win for The Storm Chasers, followed by celebratory fireworks.
No doubt about it, as the Chasers circled bases, the region’s “no coasting” rule was roundly applauded. If there’s something about a ballgame, then there’s nothing quite like a Storm Chasers’ victory.