Heading for home

There are only 200 or so days until professional baseball returns to Chico, but who’s counting?

At a press conference held Monday, the still-to-be-formed team’s general manager, Bob Linscheid, said some voids remain to be filled but that the ball club will take the field on May 27 for its home opener.

Linscheid, who was vice president and general manager of the Chico Heat, said the team is currently looking at several former major leaguers to fill the manager position and that an announcement will be made on Nov. 15.

A team name and mascot will also be announced in mid-November. The club has received hundreds of suggestions from local fans, including the Chico Chimps and the Chico Oaks. The pool was narrowed to 10 finalists at a World Series Party held this week at the Chico Holiday Inn.

Tryouts for the club are set to run over the next two months, but Linscheid said he wants to secure a skipper to help with the selection process. A draft will be held in March.

Linscheid said team management will also try new promotions at Nettleton Stadium, where the team will play for at least three seasons. He said he wants more fireworks nights and possibly entertainment before and after the games. He also tossed around the idea of having a guest chef each night at the ballpark.

“Ballpark food is ballpark food,” he said. “We’ll try to shake it up a bit.”

Linscheid said ticket costs will remain the same as the Chico Heat’s 1997 inaugural-season ticket prices: $10 for behind home plate, $8 for seats on the first-base side and $6 for the third-base side. Season ticket packages and mini-packages of five, 10 and 20 are now available for the team’s 45 home games.

The team is part of the Golden Baseball League, which includes the California and Arizona Divisions. There are currently seven teams in the league, including ones in San Diego and Yuma, Ariz. An eighth location is slated to be chosen next month.

The Chico Heat played its last game in 2002. Financially, it was a successful operation, but when other, weaker teams in the league went belly up, the league collapsed.

The new club will operate under the "single entity" model. This means every club is owned by the league, allowing money to be distributed to weaker markets. The team has agreed to a sponsorship arrangement with Safeway, which Linscheid said is putting up the largest amount of money in independent baseball history.