The Tri-City Chili Peppers are looking to bring the ultimate fan out to Shepard Stadium to kick off their season with Fan Fest on May 28.
After a nine-month hiatus, Chili Peppers staff and players alike are excited to reconnect with their fans. Following May 26th’s season opener against the Martinsville Mustangs and the first road game at Martinsville the next night, the team will return to Colonial Heights for a meet and greet, pancake brunch, cornhole tournament, and home run derby at Fan Fest.
Ticket members will be able to enter Shepard Stadium at 11:00 a.m. that Saturday for the exclusive chance to enjoy an all-you-can-eat pancake bar brunch with the team. At 11:30 a.m., the doors will open for the general public to enter the stadium and enjoy the festivities of Fan Fest. This event is an opportunity to bring the Tri-City community together to kick off a successful Chili Peppers season.
“This is all about our community,” team owner Chris Martin said. “This is for the ultimate fans that want to come out and get to meet us and build a relationship with us early in the season.”
Fans can prepare for Fan Fest by brushing up on their skills at the plate for the fan and staff home run derby. Last year, Director of Operations and Group Outings Austin Sizemore was victorious with seven home runs in two and a half minutes. Sizemore is preparing to put on an award-winning performance again come May.
“I’m definitely staying on top of my game, making sure I’m still fresh for when it comes,” Sizemore said.
Head coach James Bierlein, who will have his inaugural season with the Chili Peppers this summer, is looking to give Sizemore a run for his money.
“Definitely excited about the home run derby, definitely going to try to win that this year,” Bierlein said. “He (Sizemore) won it last year, but I wasn’t in it last year.”
Apart from the home run derby, Bierlein is looking forward to interacting with the fans of his new team.
“I’m excited to meet everybody that came out and supported last year and hopefully some new fans as well,” Bierlein said. “I think it’s huge building that relationship with those guys that are going to support us night in and night out.”
Fans can test their skill against Bierlein and Sizemore in the fan and staff home run derby and then sit back and watch the Chili Peppers players compete in a home run derby of their own.
Longwood University first baseman Hunter Gilliam was one of the only Chili Peppers players able to make it to Colonial Heights in time for last season’s Fan Fest. Gilliam reflected on the significance of meeting fans at the Fan Fest and then seeing them support the team in their inaugural season.
“To get formally introduced to the fans there in Colonial Heights was probably my favorite memory,” Gilliam said. “Being able to go out there and play in front of them and those connections are kind of what keeps me going personally.”
These connections built between fans and players are so strong that a fan that Gilliam met at last year’s Fan Fest recently came to watch him play in a college game. As a returning Chili Pepper, he hopes to make more of these connections at this season’s Fan Fest.
“When the players meet the fans, we’re not going to forget them,” Gilliam said. “Fan Fest is an opportunity for kids to meet players they’re going to get to watch play every single day in the summer and create a connection that’s going to last.”
The ultimate fan can purchase ticket packages for the Chili Peppers’ season to get access to Fan Fest here: chilipeppersbaseball.com/tickets/