Crab Gab: Circus, state fair, family reunion rolled into one on Humboldt Crabs opening night

It’s been a whole year since we’ve had the fun of attending a Crabs game. Folks poured into the Arcata Ball Park last Friday night and the hugging commenced. Matt Filar, board member and photographer of all things Crabs, and I wrapped our arms around each other in total exhilaration. The season has started!

It felt like the circus had come to town, the first State Fair I experienced as a child, and a family reunion all rolled into one kaleidoscopic experience. The stands were a sea of smiling faces, hot dogs and $4 beers made everyone feel contented and full, and old friends hugged each other and caught up on the news. Little kids looked wide-eyed at the crowd and everyone had something to say about the new bleachers.

I overheard a mother explaining to her three children that “we can walk behind the bleachers so that we don’t ruin the view for people in the front rows.” Way to go, Mom!

I love cruising around the ballpark, looking for the back stories and talking to people I know and some I’ve never met. I have my story sources and they are great at suggesting others I should meet.  Even though I started my journalism career as a high school sports correspondent to the Scottsdale Daily Progress (where I was paid by the column inch and thrilled to see my byline in a “real” newspaper), I don’t write the game story, play by play. That’s Erik and Rich’s turf. 

What I do like to write about are all the folks who make the Humboldt Crabs games possible: the board members, the volunteers, the young people working their first jobs in the ballpark, the Crab Grass Band, the groundskeepers, the beer goddesses, the announcers, the umpires and the fans.

Supervisor Mike Wilson threw out the first pitch. Matt Filar | Union

I went to talk with Ellen Barthman, a longtime board member, who was minding the souvenir booth. I ended up helping her with the crush of shoppers who were all buying hats, T-shirts, sweatshirts, and eco-friendly beer cups by the dozens.

One woman bought baseball caps for five young boys and Barthman made sure that each one got the cap that fitted correctly. Then Barthman had to run to the back storage to find extra sizes of sweatshirts for shoppers. A kind-hearted bartender from HumBrews turned in a season pass that someone had dropped in the bleachers. A little girl went away all smiles, wearing the tye-dyed sweatshirt that her dad bought her. Nobody quibbled about prices; everyone was glad to show their support for the Crabbies.  

Check out the new designs on shirts and sweatshirts, celebrating the 75th anniversary.  I want one. 

The world famous Crab Grass Band was in full force and a new director was having a blast, leading the musicians with verve and panache. 

“I got injured so I can’t play the trumpet,” David Paden said. “I wanted to contribute rather than just hang out and drink beer. I’m just a figurehead, though,” he added.

“I like to think of him as a hood ornament,” Wizard, a clarinetist with the band since 2000, quipped.

Gordon Johnson, well known as a usual conductor, was playing the tuba. “We’ll have other directors, too,” he said.

So let me know your story ideas for Crab Gab. It’s going to be a great season!

This will be Janine Volkmar’s fourth season covering the Crabs. Contact her at [email protected].


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