ADELANTO • Stater Bros. Stadium may have been half-empty, but diehard fans were there to cheer on the High Desert Mavericks on opening night.
Take Donald Tatera, 41, who has been hosting Mavericks players in his Apple Valley home for the past three years.
"It's all about helping the players follow their dream," Tatera said. "It makes it a lot more personal, because you know more about their history and how hard they worked to get to this level."
The Mavericks treated those fans to a 9-3 opening night win against the Lancaster JetHawks. Edilio Colina and Travis Scott homered for the Mavs.
Couple George Sheeler, 46, and Sandy Sheeler, 48, have been devoted Mavericks fans for the past nine years — especially on Thursdays, when the Cocky Bull sponsors $2 12-ounce beers.
"I'm not going to lie — Thirsty Thursday brings me here every week," George Sheeler said with a chuckle.
Then there's Anita Haefely, who got so excited answering a call about going to a Mavericks game last year that she broke her hip getting to the phone.
"That was the worst part — not that she broke her hip, but that we never got to go to the game," said Marlena Haefely, Anita Haefely's daughter-in-law and "game buddy."
As the smell of freshly-popped kettle corn, juicy hot dogs and peanut shells wafted across the aisles, fans welcomed the 19th season of professional baseball in the High Desert with cheers and whistles.
Just before the game, Assemblyman Steve Knight, who represents Victorville, Adelanto and rival Lancaster, threw the pre-game pitch, the Lakeview Middle School colorguard performed and longtime fan Rick Radecki belted the Star-Spangled Banner to loud applause.
Across from right field, children played in the grassy area, running up and then rolling down the hill.
"By the time I get to the top of the hill, I'm out of energy," said 10-year-old Heather Sheeler.
Mavericks Booster Club Vice President Dorothy Peters, 83, enjoyed the game, but she said she hopes to see more fans show up throughout the season.
"We need more fans, we really do," said Peters, of Apple Valley, who has been a member of the Booster Club for nine years.
Peter recalls one of her most exciting games — about two seasons ago when two Mavericks pitchers combined on a no-hitter, she said.
A memorable game for Tatera happened when he had to take the player he was hosting to the emergency room.
"He took a line drive to the head while he was pitching, got knocked out and my wife just burst into tears," Tatera said. "You get really attached to them — it's not just a player, it's an actual person."
A few hours before the game, Mavericks General Manager Tim Altier said he was expecting about 2,000 fans, maybe more.
Some may have been deterred by the cold, but many showed for the O'Douls postgame fireworks show and Cocky Bull's Thirsty Thursday deal.
Couple James Bigbee, 62, and Jo Bigbee, 68, come back year after year because they enjoy following Mavericks players up the baseball ranks.
"What's exciting for me is seeing the Mavericks players now playing in the big leagues," said Jo Bigbee, of Adelanto. "And here all the seats are good, the price is right and it's close."
Natasha Lindstrom may be reached at
951-6232 or at