STORY AND PHOTOS BY SARA GILBERT
Though the stadium was only about half full Tuesday night, the Rockland Boulders kicked off the baseball season on a high note by celebrating Rockland veterans Barry Fixler and Sgt. Eddie Ryan, then went on to end the evening with a win against the Newark Bears. The Boulders won the Bears 8-4. To begin the Boulders second season, Fixler and Ryan were asked to pitch the ceremonial first pitch.
“It’s a big honor for me,” said Fixler, a Vietnam Khe Sahn Marine veteran. “The ballpark has a community spirit and we’re very involved in giving back to the community.”
Fixler wrote a book about his experiences, called “Semper Cool: A Marine’s Fond Memories of Vietnam.” Using 100 percent of the proceeds from the book, he has opened the Fixler Foundation, which helps severely wounded veterans returning home.
“This is America’s book,” said Fixler, who hopes to raise at least $10 million.
Ryan, a Marine Corps sniper, was shot twice in the head during an attack in Iraq. He is one of the veterans Fixler’s helped. “He’s a young kid and we’ve been tracking his progress. It’s been really incredible,” he said.
Just prior to the ceremonial first pitch, Supervisor Christopher St. Lawrence and Congresswoman Nita Lowey spoke to the audience, introducing the veterans.
Lawrence voiced his appreciation for Lowey and all her hard work. And Lowey, who had not been to the ballpark before, marveled at the design and said she looked forward to watching the game.
“Roll Boulders Roll!” they shouted.
There was much excitement in the air for the first home game, the stadium buzzed, the hot dogs were a hit, children raced each other around and the weather held up nicely.
“It was awesome that they had the Marines out there throwing the first pitch,” said Joe Mercurio, 25, of Sparkill. “I’m very excited for the season.”
His friends, John McCullough, 22, of Piermont and Randy Weber, 24, of Sparkill, agreed, adding how nice it was to have something fun, affordable and in Rockland to do during the summer.
Game Recap from Boulders Team:
Ryan Mollica crashed two homers for four RBI and Bobby Blevins picked up his second straight home opening victory as the Rockland Boulders took down the Newark Bears 8-4 at Provident Bank Park. Cole Kraft added a two run homer as the Boulders picked up their second straight victory.
Newark broke on top in the top of the second when Burt Reynolds led off with a single, stole second, and came around on a double by Eric McGee. After a Norberto Susini single, McGee came in to score on a Billy Alvino double-play to put the visitors up a pair. The Boulders quickly answered with a pair in the bottom half without the benefit of a hit thanks to a pair of Bear errors.
Rockland would take the lead just an inning later when Mollica recorded his team’s first hit, sending a three-run homer sailing deep into picnic area to give the Boulders a 5-2 edge. They added another in the sixth on Mollica’s second homer, a solo shot, and Kraft extended the margin with a two-run round-tripper of his own in the seventh.
Blevins worked six strong innings but Newark posted a threat in the seventh, pushing across a pair and ending the right-hander’s night. Nicolas Blanco came on in relief, and was followed by Chris Rubio, who escaped further damage. Rubio worked into the ninth before leaving with an undisclosed injury, and Adrian Martin came on to finish the affair. Mollica added a single to complete his 3-for-4 night. Blevins improved to 1-1 on the season with the win, while Newark starter Pedro Rivera took the loss to fall to 0-1.
The Boulders return to action tomorrow, May 23, for a special 10:30 am start for game two of the three game series with Newark. After the series concludes on Thursday, Rockland will then host Jose Canseco and the Worcester Tornadoes in a weekend set running from Friday through Sunday.