Team standing for anthem
PREGAME The 2023 version of the Healdsburg Prune Packers stands for the National Anthem on opening day in June 2023. This year’s team will take the field at Rec Park 17 times in the month of June.

Soon the crack of the bat will resound again over the newly replanted surface of the baseball diamond at Rec Park, as the Healdsburg Prune Packers wade into their 103rd year of local, quality, pro-level baseball.

UPDATE: The Prune Packers started their 2024 season off with a bang, overwhelming the San Francisco Seals with a 15-1 shellacking on Wednesday evening, June 5. Mayor David Hagele reports is opening day “first pitch” was a high strike...

The Prune Packers, under coach Joey Gomes for the past 11 years, have accumulated a remarkable record, winning their California Collegiate League’s championship the last three years running. They were so successful, in fact, that they took the ball and started their own league, the Pacific Empire League.

Among the teams who joined the new league are two other refugees from the CCL—Solano and Lincoln—and a couple of baseball teams in the northernmost part of the state, even into Oregon.

“The Pacific Empire League checks all the boxes as a topnotch collegiate baseball league, featuring historic teams with devoted fan bases, and strong ties to college coaches and scouts,” Gomes said. “Our integrated tech further enhances player exposure and development.”

THREE-PEAT Healdsburg Prune Packers celebrated their third CCL championship in a row in August, 2023. Coach Joey Gomes is flanked by the series’ Most Outstanding Pitcher Michael Rice (left) and Most Outstanding Player, Hunter Dorraugh (right). (Photo by Christina Thai)

That means cameras track the players to gauge pitch speed, velocity of hits, baserunning and all sorts of other metrics that give today’s baseball players a statistical profile.

Participating teams in the new league include the northmost, the Medford (Oregon) Rogues and, from that same direction, the Humboldt Crabs; the Lincoln Potters, the Solano Mudcats, the West Coast Kings and the Prune Packers round out the Pacific Empire League.

Like the Packers, the Lincoln Potters and Solano Mudcats are former members of the CCL. Most of the teams sticking with the CCL are in Southern California.

Among the players returning to Healdsburg for this year’s Pack are: Tyler Stasiowski and Robert Aivazian (both of University of California, Berkeley), Blake McDonald (Arizona State), Hideki Prather (Clemson University), Damien Bravo (Texas Tech) and Will Hodo (University of Alabama).

“This summer’s roster is the best we’ve had,” Gomes said. “Along with longstanding relationships with D1 programs, MLB certified agents and MLB scouts reached out to help assemble this roster. It’s a good thing because the new league is more competitive.”

Opening night took place this Wednesday, June 5, against the San Francisco Seals. Mayor David Hagele threw out the first pitch, and there may be no bigger fan in town than David Hagele. For the third year in a row, he and his family are playing host to a visiting Packer, this time a shortstop from the Oregon Ducks, Maddox Molony.

“I saw firsthand the inspiring impact having Division 1 players in our community for the summer has on Healdsburg kids,” he said. “From the Little Leaguers watching national talent play here night after night, to our 11- and 13-year-old kids learning about college traditions and talking about colleges they eventually want to apply to.”

RISING MARINER Jared Sundstrom, who played with the Prune Packers in 2022 and at the outset of the 2023 season, was drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 10th round of the MILB draft this month. (Photo courtesy NorCal Images)

Sixteen home games are scheduled at Rec Park between opening night, June 5, against the San Francisco Seals, and the June 23 meeting against the Humboldt Crabs. In fact, the week of June 16-22 has no fewer than six games in seven days. A total of 32 games will be played at Rec Park through the season’s end, on July 28—plus whatever championship series results.

Most games start at 6pm, though Sunday games have first pitch at 12:30pm and occasional midweek games have a “matinee” time of 3pm. Baseball fans are advised to keep an eye on the schedule for special offers and opportunities—like ’80s Night on Friday, June 7; Hawaiian Shirt Night a week later on June 14; and a Prune Fest on National Prune Day, June 15.

“I know our family is really excited for another Healdsburg Prune Packer season at the ballpark,” Hagele said.

Gomes is proud of the team’s continued success, and proud also of the support the community provides. “It’s safe to say Prune Packers are a bright spot for Sonoma County fun in the summer. The team has been twice recognized as the best place to bring kids!” he said. He added that the team has seen a surge in “local nonprofits wanting to team up with the Prune Packers, which is amazing.”

He admitted to one special goal for this year’s Packers: “Laser-focused on a fourth championship!”

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Christian Kallen has called Healdsburg home for over 30 years. A former travel writer and web producer, he has worked with Microsoft, Yahoo, MSNBC and other media companies, usually in an editorial capacity. He started reporting locally in 2008, moving from Patch to the Sonoma Index-Tribune to the Kenwood Press before joining the Healdsburg Tribune in 2022.


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