The Yuba-Sutter Gold Sox collegiate summer baseball team wrapped up its 20th season at Bryant Field in Marysville over the weekend.
General Manager Tommy Lininger said this season, which is his last in his current role with the club, was a return to normal following back-to-back years of COVID-19 limitations and restrictions at the ballpark.
Lininger called it pandemic baseball, especially in 2020 when the Gold Sox were one of the few teams in the country that played a season amid the height of restrictions surrounding the pandemic. Lininger said the team played over 80 games that year. The games at home were in front of 100 fans spread out via a 4,000 capacity stadium.
Lininger said the Gold Sox had no real COVID-19 issues that summer.
“We were actually the only live sporting event in the state of California,” said Lininger on the 2020 summer.
The next year, 2021, the Gold Sox again summarized a roughly two-month stretch of games playing a weekend-only format that began each Thursday.
Lininger, after he was hired as general manager in 2019 following the purchase of the club from an outside group that shut down in 2018, said he and the current ownership group helped bring back the Thursday through Sunday format that has come to be more successful, he said.
“That’s why we have been able to sustain for 20 years because you are able to at least break even (playing) your games on the weekend,” Lininger said.
Lininger, who ran the day-to-day operations the last four years with his wife and team operations manager, Rachel Lininger, said running a small-town team can be a labor of love. But as a former player who has been around the club since he was a boy, Gold Sox baseball runs deep in his bloodlines.
Tommy Lininger is idolized by many season ticket holders at Bryant Field.
Kathi Siteman, one of many season ticket holders over the last two decades, can remember watching Lininger running around the field as a bat boy.
Siteman, who estimated that she has missed about 20 games in 20 years, said that she looks at Gold Sox baseball as essential fabric in her life, calling the two-month adventure her “summer family.”
In 2020 when the county permitted just 100 fans to attend each game due to the pandemic, Siteman remembers being one of the first in line to enter Bryant Field each game.
“I love it here,” said Siteman, who was joined by her extended family – some of whom came in from out of state for Fan Appreciation Day on Saturday night against Folsom.
Siteman tries to attend every game and until her bout with COVID-19 that put her out for four days earlier this year, it had been over eight years since she missed a game, Siteman said.
Siteman said the success and longevity of this team has a lot to do with Tommy and Rachel Lininger putting in the day-to-day grind of making this a special experience for fans, players and management.
John Cassidy, a member of a 25-member ownership group that includes Al Montna and Tom Lininger Sr., said the Gold Sox will continue to thrive even after Tommy and Rachel Lininger take a step back next year.
Cassidy said he and the owners are continuing to work to upgrade a stadium that has dealt with a ton of maintenance woes the last few years.
Until it was revamped prior to the start of the season, part of the outfield fence was damaged when the team was not in season, according to Appeal archives.
But with the help of the city of Marysville and other nonprofit organizations like SAYLove, the center and right-field portion of the fence was rehabilitated prior to the start of the 2022 summer.
Cassidy, a former CEO at Sierra Central Credit Union, said management has plans to upgrade the entire outfield wall.
Cassidy said fixing the fence is the beginning of a business plan that ownership is building to make sure the Gold Sox continue to be successful and stable for many years to come.
While Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Sacramento at Fire Mountain and the Enterprise Rancheria tribe temporarily stepped down in its initial plan to rename the park, Cassidy said ownership is continuing to negotiate with the international organization that resides about 10 miles down the road near Wheatland.
“There is too much history with baseball and softball in this community,” Cassidy said. “We’re going to make sure the Gold Sox lead the charge.”
As for the last four years with Tommy and Rachel Lininger running the show, Cassidy said the two did a “remarkable” job in a situation that was less than ideal.
Cassidy knows the two local icons will still be a big part of the Gold Sox – just in a different role.