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Rain cancellations don’t dampen Flying Squirrels’ opening spirit

Fred Jeter | 4/12/2019, 6 a.m.
The speed limit on Arthur Ashe Boulevard, formerly known as The Boulevard, varies between 25 mph and 35 mph. But ...
The Richmond Flying Squirrels mascot, Nutzy, works the crowd during last Saturday’s doubleheader at The Diamond. The Flying Squirrels opened the season last Thursday with a sold out crowd of 9,845 fans. Last Friday’s game was canceled because of the weather, resulting in the doubleheader on Saturday. Photo by Regina H. Boone Richmond Free Press

The opener

The Richmond Flying Squirrels got off to a flying start last week with an opening sellout and three straight victories.

Before a crowd of 9,845 Thursday, April 4, at The Diamond, the Squirrels edged the Hartford Yard Goats 1-0.

It marked the 10th straight season The Diamond has sold out for the Squirrels’ opening game.

Richmond went on to win its first three games against Hartford, marking the first time in franchise history — dating to 2009 — that the team has started 3-0.

On the debit side, the Friday, April 5, date with Hartford was rained out, postponing the inaugural Las Ardillas Voladoras de Richmond night honoring baseball’s rich Latino and Hispanic history.

Now, Las Ardillas will debut on Friday, April 19, at The Diamond with the Flying Squirrels game against the Altoona (Penn.) Curve. The celebration will continue at every Friday home game throughout the season.

Richmond, the AA Eastern League affiliate of the San Francisco Giants, will host Altoona April 18, 19 and 20, and then the Reading (Penn.) Fightin Phils on April 22, 23 and 24.

The speed limit on Arthur Ashe Boulevard, formerly known as The Boulevard, varies between 25 mph and 35 mph.

But at The Diamond, located on the thoroughfare, there is no speed limit.

Richmond Flying Squirrels centerfielder and leadoff hitter Johneshwy Fargas is the latest local pro to excel in acceleration with no fear of getting a ticket.

He even has been given a license to steal, once the umpire cries “Play ball!”

Fargas’ hobby, coinciding with his profession, includes the collection of stolen bases. And he has a growing pile of them.

The 6-foot-1, 170-pound, 24-year-old native of Carolina, Puerto Rico, comes to Richmond with some glossy numbers in the stolen base column.

The former 11th round draft pick out of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy had 185 steals during his six previous seasons — 457 games — in the parent San Francisco Giants’ farm system. That includes a franchise-leading 47 steals in 89 games last year with the San Jose Giants; 30 stolen bases in 68 games in 2017 with San Jose and the Augusta, Ga., GreenJackets combined; 41 in 119 games in 2016 with San Jose and Augusta; and a whopping 59 in 102 games in 2015 with Augusta.

Fargas, named to last summer’s California League All-Star team, also showed some pop with eight homers, nine doubles and two triples.

He picked up his first stolen base with the Richmond Flying Squirrels last Saturday in a 2-1 home win over the Hartford (Conn.) Yard Goats.

Richmond has a history of base bandits. Both infielder Kelby Tomlinson and outfielder Darren Ford used their speed to help reach the big leagues. The bespectacled Tomlinson, now with the Toronto Blue Jays, swiped an organization best 49 bags in 2014 and is the Flying Squirrels’ career leader with 68 stolen bases.

Before Tomlinson, Ford showed off his fleet feet with 37 thefts in the Squirrels’ inaugural season in 2010. Largely because of his speed in metal cleats, Ford became the first player with the Flying Squirrels to be promoted to the parent San Francisco Giants.