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Break out the growls and CrackerJacks

THE OUTLOOK: DAVID BALL - More than 500 fans turned out to take in Opening Night with the Gresham GreyWolves, which ended in a 4-2 win over Thurston County. It was a night filled with water balloons, licorice ropes and a good share of howling, as Gresham welcomed its newest team to town Friday night at Oslund Field.

A long line of ticket buyers delayed the first pitch for a few minutes with more than 500 fans on hand to take in Opening Night with the Gresham GreyWolves. The team offered plenty of family-friendly fare, starting with Reynolds Little Leaguer Orin Patrick being chosen to run the bases to kick off the festivities.

“He's a baseball player, and we thought this would be a good chance for him to see how the big boys play,” said his grandmother Marie Heikkila.

Patrick was back in his purple uniform the following day, joining his farm-league team for a playoff game.

Scoreless through the early innings, the team called another pair of young fans down to the backstop for a Growl-Off showdown. Perhaps the fierceness of the display intimidated the Thurston County side, who took the field and let across the night's first run on a fielding error. Plenty of other howls could be heard on the night, as the Gresham fans quickly found their inner wolf to celebrate big moments.

The GreyWolves broke out to a 4-0 lead in the fourth inning and carried that margin into the late stages of play. That allowed Travis Kennedy to breath easy knowing that his CrossFit workout partner and GreyWolves coach Justin Barchus in the third-base box was well on his way to victory.

Kennedy took in the game behind the GreyWolves dugout with his four children.

“It's reasonably priced family fun, and a chance to come out and support a friend,” Kennedy said. “And it's just nice to get out of the house for an evening and enjoy some fresh air.”

Joe Willis is a local volleyball coach with the Adidas Northwest Club and takes in his share of baseball games on the high school circuit.

“I read about the team in The Outlook, and thought I'd come out and see some baseball — something that is a higher level and the price is right, so why not come out and catch some games,” he said.

Willis chose to go beyond simply cheering from the grandstands and signed up for the club's host family program. Similar to the Portland Winterhawks ice hockey team, the Gresham baseball squad is in need of families willing to provide lodging for its players during the summer season.

“Our kids are mostly out of the house, so we have room, so I called up the boss, my wife, and she okayed it,” Willis said. “I thought it would be fun to have another reason to follow the team through the summer.”

Jim Linch, one of the club's earlier season-ticket buyers, settled into his spot near the top of the grandstands behind home plate eager to see Gresham's squad take the field.

“It's really nice being out on opening day — it's that time of the season where every team has all kinds of hope,” Linch said. “I wanted to watch an enjoyable game and support a Gresham team.”

Tickets range from $10-$14 on game day with $2 discounts on early purchases made through the team's website. The GreyWolves remain at Oslund all week, wrapping up a three-game set against Cowlitz tonight and Wednesday, and hosting Yakima Valley in a series Thursday through Saturday. All game times are 7:05 p.m.

Twitter: @DaveBallSports