RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - Welcoming a new baseball team is nothing new for Richmond. The Flying Squirrels are just the latest version of a lasting tradition. Here is a look back - way back - at Richmond baseball through the years, and through the eyes of a longtime fan.
"This place is gonna be hoppin', like it used to," said Ed Loyd.
Ed hasn't been witness to all of Richmond's baseball history- just the last 46 years of it. He moved here in 1964, just in time to catch the last few games played by the team that came and went before the Braves.
"The 1964 Richmond Virginians"
Before that, many other teams and players came and went. Pro baseball in Richmond dates back to 1884. The early years saw teams by many names representing the city; Bluebirds...Giants...Colts...all beloved by Richmond fans.
From 1954 to 1964, the Virginians played at Parker Field- which Ed remembers fondly as an intimate setting.
"If a player left the field or at the end of the game, players had to literally walk through the fans," Ed said.
Ed watched the Virginian's last game in 1964. 1965 was a rare year without baseball in Richmond. In 1966 the Braves came. By the early 80's, Parker Field was falling apart. The Diamond was built on the same site in 1985.
The rest is recent history-- the Braves stayed at the Diamond until 2008. Then they left for Georgia, taking a piece of Richmond's heart with them.
"When baseball left this city, that really- that hurt," Ed said.
Ed, a loyal season ticket holder, suffered through another year without Richmond baseball in 2009.
"The crowd that I hang around, we do go to other ballparks, and we went on a lot of trips last year. But there is simply nothing like having your own team," he said.
That's why Ed and so many others are excited about a new chapter in the city's baseball history to begin. On opening day, Ed and his crew know where they'll be.
"I'm going to be sitting in my seat right behind home plate, as I always do."