When things didn’t go well for the Spokane Indians in Friday’s season opener, the team wasn’t afraid to get a little fishy.
For Saturday night’s game against the Boise Hawks, the hometown team donned their alternate Redband uniforms for the first time this season. The colorful jerseys, modeled after the local Redband Trout, debuted late last season.
After the Indians pitching staff sent the Hawks offense swimming upstream in a 6-1 win, the team now owns a positive record in the baby-blue jerseys, going 4-3 when representing the Redband.
But behind the red and black speckles, the jerseys hold a deeper meaning to the team and community.
After drawing inspiration from the Anaheim Angels’ “Rally Monkey” and various other teams with rally mascots, Otto Klein, senior vice president for the Indians, searched for a similar promotion that would be both fun and meaningful to the community.
Klein found his prime promotion once he learned about how Spokane’s signature fish, the Redband rainbow trout, was historically a source of food for the local Native Americans and is now facing a dwindling population in the Spokane River due to invasive species and man-made structures.
“When we realized we could also raise money for habitat at the same time, now you have a promotion that has depth,” Klein said.
The Indians organization then introduced the new uniforms alongside a new mascot, RiBi the Redband, in July of last season to rally the crowd when the home team was trailing and raise awareness for the struggling population of Redband trout.
The first day the team wore the themed uniforms and introduced RiBi to a cheering Avista Stadium crowd, catcher Clay Middleton ushered in the era of the Redband with a walkoff single for a thrill with gills.
The team stayed hot and rallied from having the worst record in the Northwest League in the first half to capture the second-half North Division title.
Plus, RiBi became every fan’s favorite 7-foot anthropomorphic trout overnight.
But the influence of the promotion isn’t limited to just the ballpark.
A percentage of sales of Redband merchandise in the team store gets donated to local river preservation organizations.
Glover Field, which resides on the edge of the Spokane River, was recently renamed Redband Park.
The club has introduced a new redband ale in a partnership with No-Li Brewhouse.
In addition, there has been talk of creating a scholarship for local teachers to take their science classes to Redband Park.
“From the baseball side, I love that we’re engaging the fans. From the community side, I love that the community has responded so well. They’ve spoken and we’ve heard them,” Klein said.
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