When fans go to a Vallejo Admirals game, they hear the same crack of the bat and see the same thrilling home runs or athletic fly ball catch they’d witness during a Major League ball game. Children often can go home with a signed baseball they caught or captured.

“A common saying in baseball circles is you never know what you’re going to see when you come out to the ballpark,” said Scott Armstrong, director of media relations and broadcasting. He said the club is focused on “creating lasting memories for every single one of our guests.”

That’s because the ball club considers its fans as key participants in Admirals games. Most of the seats in Wilson Park are no farther than 70 feet from home plate. Fans can hear the ball players’ chatter. They hear the whistle of a pitcher’s fastball and the smack as it hits the catcher’s mitt. Fans are close enough to smell the freshly cut grass, he said. “It isn’t like watching a game on television, or even from the vast majority of seats at one of our local MLB venues,” he added. “The action’s right there for you. It’s tangible.”

Photo by Matt Sparks

The team, part of the independent Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs, offers personal touches one can’t get at other ballparks, said Armstrong. Children 10 and younger get to see games for free, and on Saturdays, they can have a free hot dog meal.

Kids are ready to race for balls hit out of the park. When they retrieve them, they often can get them autographed after the game. “The players in this league are very accessible to the fans, and we’re blessed to have a friendly and thoughtful group of players on the 2018 Admirals roster who will gladly sign autographs and chat after the games, said Armstrong.” The youngsters often play catch before and during games. What other ballpark is going to allow you to do that?” Tickets are more affordable, and getting to the local park is easier, he said. “Our whole approach is to serve as an easily accessible community asset. Our guests have the chance to visit with friends and neighbors at the park all season long.”

The Admirals are defending league champions. Manager P.J. Phillips has fostered “an excellent clubhouse culture,” and many on this year’s team are returning players, Armstrong said. “They want to play for P.J.,” he said. “Word’s gotten out about how much our fans care about our players.”

Photo by Susan Noll

Others stop by, too. U.S. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Napa) has thrown out a first pitch. Hall of Famer Orlando Cepeda attends games. Former A’s player Jose Canseco plays in the league now and then. League rivals Sonoma Stompers created the first co-ed professional baseball roster since the Negro Leagues era when they  signed and played two women, Kelsie Whitmore and Stacy Piagno, Armstrong said.

While the team is focusing on quality baseball, fans experience breaking glass sound effects when a ball leaves the park, and see sack races, musical chairs, eating contests and other between-inning entertainment. Although the team is based in Vallejo, it has plenty of ties to Benicia. “We consider ourselves Benicia’s team, too, and we believe our fans feel the same,” Armstrong said. Some of the team’s sponsors come from Benicia, and during a Farmers Market night in 2016, the team played on Fitzgerald Field.

Benicia High School coach Tony Longmire, who played for the Philadelphia Phillies, will appear at an Admirals contest. “Speaking of Benicia High,” Armstrong added, “one of the anchors of our pitching staff is former Panther Peter Reyes.”

Tickets are $10 and season passes are available online at squareup.com/store/vallejo-admirals and at games. The team plays at Wilson Park, 1007 Solano Ave., Vallejo, and its schedule is available online at Vallejoadmirals.com/schedule.