Napa has now joined the big leagues – sort of. It is now home of the Napa Silverados professional baseball team, part of the six-team Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Club.

The minor league, which is not affiliated with the majors, includes the Sonoma Stompers, Vallejo Admirals, San Rafael Pacifics, Pittsburg Diamonds and also new Martinez Clippers. They hope to eventually add two more nearby cities.

Silverados owner Bruce Johnston thinks Napa is ready for the team. “Napa is a baseball town,” he claims, noting that we have two Little League groups and active girls’ softball, too.

Two places on the roster of 22 are even reserved for female players.

Johnston emphasizes that the team is for the whole valley, however, not just Napa.

He sees the Silverados as badly needed affordable family fun for an area infamous for lacking youth activities. He also considers the team a great opportunity to pull the community together.

The games will cost only $10, $5 for kids wearing colors of their Little League or softball leagues during the week and there will be many related activities at the games and elsewhere.

The Silverados open their official season May 31 at the Napa Valley College baseball field complete with new bleachers and food truck for refreshments. They will play 80 games in 92 days, 40 at home, more if they make it into the finals.

Johnston is the team’s general manager and he’s selected Napa native Megan Castellucci as assistant general manager, Tito Fuentes, Jr. as team manager and Emily Rutherford for special events and marketing.

Castellucci, who has a Master’s in Sport Management from the University of San Francisco, was assistant general manager of the San Rafael Pacifics and also worked with the Oakland Athletics and headed ticket and game day operations for her alma mater team, Cal State Fullerton Titans. Castellucci will oversee host family and stadium operations and assist with business and marketing.

Fuentes’ father, Tito Fuentes, Sr. was a San Francisco Giants player and is now a sports commentator. Fuentes Jr. has played, scouted and coached in the minor leagues, as well as having operated baseball academies in the US and Dominican Republic. He will manage sponsorship and advertising sales as well as managing the team.

Ironically, Johnston himself didn’t play baseball after his earliest days. He spent 35 years developing shopping malls but went out on his own and then moved to Napa in 2007.

A few years ago, he heard that the Pacific Association wanted to expand to Napa, and after consulting with his family – and securing enough sponsors – he committed to the team.

The team can’t survive on tickets sales and program advertising, but he found many local businesses and organizations wanted to sponsor the family-oriented activities.

He also had to find a place to play, negotiating with Napa Valley College to use its baseball field when its team isn’t playing there and paying to upgradie the bleachers.

Silverados players come from many places, from college to minor leagues; some are local. They hope scouts will recognize them at games, and Johnston says typically a dozen or so are hired away each year at other league teams.

The Silverados are looking for families to host for out-of-town players, sponsors for games, advertisers for the program – and obviously, fans.

Sponsors get to promote their favorite charities as well as themselves at the games and with informational booths.

Johnston hardly expects to get rich owning the Napa Silverados, but he hopes to at least break even. For him, it’s something more important: “It’s a chance to give back to the city,” he said.

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A food truck for the games

Silverados fans will be happy to learn that they can enjoy hot dogs and beer with the games – or wine, since this is Napa Valley. But it was a little more complicated than at some ball fields.

The baseball field that will be used by the Silverados at the college floods in the winter, which is no problem since the games are in the summer. But that precludes building a permanent concession stand.

Instead, the Napa Valley College culinary program has teamed up with the Silverados to outfit a food truck. The collage got a grant to buy the truck from French Corner Napa, and is turning it into the ScholarEat truck.

This will give students experience with one of the food world’s biggest trends and a chance to earn a few dollars.

The truck will serve food like hot dogs, a chicken sandwich, veggies wraps and nachos plus specials at the games. For now, the food will be prepared at the college’s commercial kitchen but before next season, they’ll add a stove and hood so they can prepare food, too.

After the ball season, the truck will be on campus and may appear at Farmers’ markets and other events, too.

A non-profit will sell beer and wine at games, too.

Article Contribution: Paul Franson