The Dublin Leprechauns are closing in on the end of an inaugural season that's been filled with all kinds of excitement as the independent league team prepares to build for the future.
Despite a hasty relocation right before the season, hectic contract negotiations and less-than-ideal final scores on the diamond, local fans have still shown appreciation this spring and summer for the first-ever professional baseball team based in the Tri-Valley.
"This year is all about letting people know the Dublin Leprechauns are in town. We will build on this year's excitement and provide the best on-field product we can," Guy Houston, who is serving as the team's director of baseball operations, told the Weekly last week.
"This is the Tri-Valley's team," added Houston, a former Dublin mayor and state assemblymember. "There are a lot of baseball fans in the 580-680 corridor, and I suspect that there will be homegrown baseball players on the roster in coming years."
The Leprechauns are part of the Pecos League, which was founded in 2010 as an independent professional league, meaning the teams are not affiliated with Major League Baseball or its minor leagues. Many players join the league to build experience, get opportunities and possibly get noticed by other pro teams -- more than 25 former Pecos League players have gone on to play in the MLB.
The Pecos League announced earlier this year that the Santa Rosa Scuba Divers would not be returning for the 2023 season after their home field, Doyle Park, was unable to qualify for a full team license. The team would then relocate to Dublin following a series of fortuitous events and rebrand as the Leprechauns.
Ahead of the start of the season in May, Pecos League Commissioner Andrew Dunn discovered Dublin and the field at the Fallon Sports Park after experiencing car trouble in Oakland. As he was searching for somewhere to relocate the Scuba Divers, the local maintenance workers suggested Dublin.
Hours of discussions with Dublin city and community leaders followed, and the community landed its first professional baseball team, according to Houston.
Due to the Leprechauns starting just weeks before games began, factors like getting available housing for players and enlisting help from the community to get the best available players are important pieces team officials plan to work on once the 2023 season ends.
"Right now it is all about laying the groundwork for the future. The nature of a Single A-level team is there is constant player turnover," Houston said. "The Dublin Leprechauns goal is to build a quality program to ensure a great experience for the players and for the local baseball fans. Winning will take care of itself."
Houston describes the team and league as being a lot of fun, hosting special days such as Little League Day and Military Appreciation Day during home games. Kids may have the opportunity to run around the bases, and 50/50 raffle tickets are sold during the game and announced in between a certain inning.
Many fans and team workers like Kent Moddelmog, a Dublin resident since 2004, appreciate the tight-knit atmosphere of the venue that brings people closer to the game. They enjoy being close to players on the field that will interact with spectators, and having the ability to hear each aspect of the game in action.
"(The community loves) it. It's fun; they do a lot of great things during the game and the people are engaged. It's good and it's exciting, it's good baseball, something that you just don't always get to see here in the Tri-Valley area," Moddelmog, announcer and scorekeeper for the Leprechauns, said at the July 11 game. "Me being a lifelong baseball person, I enjoy being able to talk with the coaches (and) players. They love having us out here because this is their life."
Moddelmog points to the value of having a strong fanbase and support at each game above other factors.
Mike Bottarini, a Pleasanton resident who lived in Dublin for years, said he has attended every Leprechauns home game this season and enjoys the excitement the team brings to the community.
"I'm pretty proud to have a professional team playing in the city I grew up in; it is exciting baseball. I hear a lot of cheering, there's always a lot of kids chasing the foul balls and seeing a lot of families out here," Bottarini told the Weekly on July 11.
Following one of the Leprechauns' previous games, an anonymous patron bought hot dogs, chips and other food for all the players on both teams -- an example of the community looking to build a stronger connection with the players and show their appreciation for working hard each game to put on a show on the field.
"I really would love to see more people come out for the games, bring their kids out, bring their families out, enjoy the game. The more people we get out here, the more fun things that we can do, and we can always keep adding and building on it," Moddelmog said. "I think once people start seeing what we're doing, we'll get more people out here."
Despite the Leprechauns sitting with just three wins on the season, excitement is in the air as a large crowd and a special program are anticipated for their final home game of 2023 – set for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday (July 25) against the Lancaster Sound Breakers at Fallon Sports Park. For tickets and more information, visit www.dublinleprechauns.com.