Rawhide baseball officials have big hopes for this season. Not only does the team have bigger players but they have even more seats sold this year as compared to last year.

With just a few hours before the Rawhide home opener, employees cleaned the seats and sprayed down the mound gearing up for a nearly-sold out crowd.

In its second year at the newly renovated Recreation Ball Park, ticket presales are already up from last year's record numbers.

"Last year we had over 105,000 fans officially we're hoping to break that record again this season," said Donny Baarns with the Visalia Rawhide.

The new ballpark features a catered, glass-walled hall of fame and V.I.P. section, family-friendly cowbell section and more. But rawhide team officials say different promotions every night of the week are also bringing people in.

Baarns says the economy may have actually helped the team this year. "Even when times are tough people can afford to come to a minor league baseball game and that's what they're doing. I think fewer people are traveling up north to San Francisco down south to L.A. They're staying local and supporting their local team and we appreciate that."

Baarns also says this year's team is bigger and stronger than last year's, with more than 90-percent of the roster measuring over 6-feet tall. "We were exciting to watch, but not a whole lot of home run threat (34) this year we have just a bunch of large individuals that can hit the ball a long way which is always fun to watch."

"We're excited to be here you can see on our players face they are really excited to be here and really happy," said team manager Audo Vicente.

This newly renovated stadium also got national attention last year, winning Best Minor League Baseball Stadium Renovation by Ballpark Magazine, and tying for best renovation for both major and minor leagues with Kansas City's $250-million renovation of Kauffman Stadium.

Thursday night's home opener starts at 7pm, against the Stockton Ports.

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visalia rawhide, visalia, sports, jessica peres
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