PITTSFIELD — The gates at Wahconah Park had just opened up Thursday night and a fan walked up to Pittsfield Suns owner Jeff Goldklang and pumped his hand.
"Thanks for keeping the team here," the fan said.
Goldklang quickly responded by saying "It's all about you guys."
The Suns opened their fifth-anniversary season at the historic ballpark on Wahconah Street. All the trappings of Opening Night could be seen within the friendly confines.
Live pregame music flooded the concourse outside of the park. Inside, your typical ballpark or arena pop, rock and hip-hop music echoed around the grandstand.
There were face painters for kids; a balloon sculptor was on hand, while the boys from the Pittsfield American Little League champion East Side Pizza were excited about being the "Baseball Buddies" for opening night.
"I remember this when I was a kid," Suns shortstop Kevin Donati of Pittsfield said. "The atmosphere is amazing already."
Donati played on the field here with Pittsfield High School, but he remembers being here long before that.
"I remember being the bat boy for the Dukes [of the NECBL] when I was six or seven," Thursday's starting shortstop said. "I thought those guys were pros. It was the coolest thing on earth."
Pittsfield's 56-game Futures League schedule kicked off Thursday night against the Bristol Blues. The team's regular season runs through early August.
Richard Harris has been coming to Wahconah Park for a long time. The 93-year old Pittsfield resident, originally from West Palm Beach, Fla., played for the Pittsfield Electrics back in 1946.
"Baseball. I enjoy the game. That's why I'm here," Harris said, shortly after walking into Wahconah Park.
"I come as often as I can," he said. "They've been improving every year.
"It wasn't like in 1946; we didn't have a grandstand. We had benches alongside the foul line."
Harris said that he remembers the Electrics having a "Donkey Night," and there were 5,000 people in attendance.
While the Suns might not have a Donkey Night, the team promises much in the way of promotions and an effort to "Take Me Out With The Crowd," which is the new slogan the Goldklang Group is using with all four of its minor league teams.
Young Jace Dickhaus said he loves coming to the park.
"I used to play T-ball, and then I was on a baseball team," he said, and couldn't take the smile off of his face.
As much fun as it must be for the fans to come to the ballpark, Jeff Goldklang said there's nothing like opening night.
"Opening Day in baseball is my favorite day of the year," said Goldklang. "Luckily, we get to do that four times across our group.
"We came here five years ago and we didn't know what to expect. The greater Berkshires and Pittsfield specifically have embraced us. They've been more welcoming than we could have imagined."
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.