OGDEN — When the Ogden Raptors open their 20th anniversary season Thursday evening, they again look forward to putting another winning product on the field.
But the franchise's front office also wants to look back fondly at the past — at Ogden's professional baseball history, which stretches back for more than 100 years, and to set aside some special nights for some special people who have helped enrich the city's glorious history on the diamond.
People like Robbie Parker, who more than a decade ago served for three seasons as "Oggie," the Raptors' lovable dinosaur mascot.
Back then, Parker could not have ever imagined the horrific tragedy that he, his wife Alissa and their family would have to endure last December when their adorable 6-year-old daughter Emilie was among 26 people slain in the shocking Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Conn.
On July 20, the Raptors will honor Emilie and the Parker family by holding a special night in her memory.
"Our players are going to wear pink jerseys, her favorite color, with her name on the backs of their jerseys," said Raptors president and general manager Dave Baggott. "We'll auction those jerseys off for $500 each, and all the proceeds will go to the Emilie Parker Fund.
"We want to pay tribute to a fallen child who did not get a chance at life. This will help raise money for their other two daughters and allow their family to come out and enjoy a night of baseball with us and our great fans. It's our small way of trying to help them overcome a terrible, devastating tragedy."
Baggott said the Raptors are hoping to have pink T-shirts for fans to wear that evening as well. The team is looking for a corporate sponsor to print up those pink T-shirts, which can either be given away or sold for $10 apiece that night as a way to raise additional funds for the Parker family.
That special night in July is one of several events planned by the Raptors as they honor the history of baseball in Ogden.
"We want to try to pay homage to Ogden teams that go all the way back to 1901," said Baggott, including teams like the Ogden Canners (1912-14), the Ogden Gunners (1926-28), the Ogden Reds (1939-42 and 1946-55), the Ogden Dodgers (1966-73), the Ogden Spikers (1974), the Ogden A's (1979-80) and the Raptors (1994-present).
They're still trying to find out the names of two other Ogden teams that played in pro leagues in 1901 and 1921.
"We want to celebrate the history of baseball in Ogden, and there is quite a history here," Baggott said. "We want to make sure our fans know (what) fan experiences we'll be offering this season. Our goal for our 20th year is to increase that fan experience and thank our fans for the support they've always given us."
Along those lines, the Raptors will have a poster giveaway night to honor members of the 1968 Ogden Dodgers team — Steve Garvey, Bobby Valentine, Bill Buckner and manager Tommy Lasorda — who were part of a run that saw Ogden sweep four consecutive Pioneer League championships. Lasorda went on to manage the Los Angeles Dodgers and is in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Another poster night is planned to honor another Hall of Famer, Frank Robinson, who played for the Ogden Reds in 1954. Yet another Hall of Fame player, Rickey Henderson, played for the Ogden A's in 1979.
As to this year's team, manager Damon Berryhill returns for his fifth season at the helm of the Raptors, who fell one win short of winning the Pioneer League title last year and have led the league in attendance every year since moving into Lindquist Field in 1997.
Five players return from last year's team — infielders Alex Santana and Jesus Valdez, catcher Austin Cowen, and pitchers Jonathan Martinez and Sawil Gonzalez.
Five members of the Raptors' 2013 roster are the sons of former major league players — Dillon Moyer, the son of longtime MLB pitcher Jamie Moyer, who won 269 games in a career spanning 24 seasons; J.D. Underwood, whose father Tom, now deceased, pitched in the major leagues for a dozen years; Jesmuel Valentin, whose father Jose was an infielder who spent 16 seasons in the majors; Santana, whose dad was shortstop Rafael Santana; and Zach Babitt, whose dad Mack "Shooty" Babitt spent one season with the Oakland Athletics and has since worked as a baseball scout and broadcaster.
"We had a very proud effort last year," Baggott said of the 2012 Ogden team that reached the final game of the league playoffs before losing to the Missoula (Mont.) Osprey 10-0 in their decisive championship showdown.
"The Raptors have been nothing but successful as far as putting winning teams on field. We're always competitive — only once in the last 10 years did we not make the playoffs — and we expect to be right there again this year."
The Raptors will play their home opener Saturday.
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