It wasn't an ideal home opener for the Charleston RiverDogs Tuesday night, but in the end things turned out just fine for the home team.
For starters, the RiverDogs were supposed to play their home opener Monday, but the game was postponed after a tornado watch was issued earlier in the day.
The extra day gave the RiverDogs players some much-needed rest early in the season and the game operations staff a chance to work out the kinks with some of their new toys at Riley Park.
The biggest change at Riley Park this season is the state-of-the-art high-definition scoreboard and video board. The 40-foot video board in left field was installed in late March and the RiverDogs operation's staff has had little time to work with the new technology.
"It wasn't an ideal home opener, but in actuality I think it kind of worked out for us," said Charleston RiverDogs general manager Dave Echols. "I think the extra day gave us a chance to catch our breath and tighten up on a few things. We didn't get a lot of opportunities to go through a dry run with all the new things we unveiled tonight. While this wasn't the perfect opening night, it actually worked out pretty well."
The extra day didn't help with attendance either, which was 3,122, and less than half of what the RiverDogs had in last year's home opener. A year ago, the RiverDogs drew 6,670 for the home opener.
"Knowing that everyone would have tried to make it (Monday), and the fact that it's a Tuesday night, we knew it was going to be a tough sell for us," Echols said. "We're usually over 6,000 on opening day, but that was going to be tough under these circumstances. I think everyone that showed up had a good time."
The RiverDogs certainly did their part.
Charleston shortstop Brandon Thomas collected three hits, including a grand slam home run in a six-run fifth inning, as the RiverDogs trounced Greenville, 10-1.
Thomas, who played collegiately at Georgia Tech, went three for four at the plate and belted the grand slam off Greenville reliever Myles Smith.
With a 3-0 count, Thomas was surprised to see that RiverDogs manager Luis Dorante gave him the go-ahead to swing away.
"Wasn't sure if they were going to give me the green light and I didn't want to settle for something I couldn't drive," Thomas said. "(Smith) left something over the plate and I was able to drive it."
Thomas last grand slam? That came back in college against Clemson during his junior season.
"It's been a while," Thomas said. "Clemson was a big rival for us."
Caleb Smith picked up his first win as RiverDogs, throwing five strong innings, giving up just one hit and striking out five batters.
"(Caleb) was a little up in the zone for most of the game, but he was able to get through it," Dorante said.
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