Volcanoes host first FanFest

Tony Torcato, a veteran of the San Francisco Giants, autographs a baseball for visitors at FanFest (Submitted).

Nearly 600 fans of the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes got a preview of the 2019 season by visiting the team’s first ever FanFest event on Saturday, May 11 at Volcanoes Stadium. 

Mitche Graf, the new president of the team, met the fans and told them about the expanded sound system and the new food concessions. He directed them to the table where former players in the San Francisco Giants organization were signing autographs and set aside time for aspiring anthem singers to be auditioned.

“It was a great turnout,” he said, considering that the Volcanoes had never had such an event before. 

Graf, who lives in Canby, owns a manufacturing company and catering and consulting businesses. His wife, Tami, will share in his duties with the Volcanoes.

Leading off for the autograph signers was Tony Torcato, who played for the Giants as a utility outfielder and corner infielder for four seasons and shares a distinction with Mickey Mantle — a lifetime batting average of .298.

After Torcato came Daniel Turpin and Joe Paterson, both of whom were drafted by the Giants after pitching for Oregon State University. Neither reached major league baseball or even played long in the minors.

Between 15 and 20 people auditioned for anthem singing and several food vendors passed out free samples.

Leading the Volcanoes will be a partly new staff. Mark Hallberg is the new manager and last year was the fundamentals coach. He played in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization as a shortstop, second baseman and third baseman.

The new batting coach is Doug Clark, who played 14 professional games after being drafted from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst.

Returning to coach the pitchers is Dwight Bernard, who pitched briefly for the Milwaukee Brewers and the New York Mets. He has been coaching for several minor league teams since 1986.

Nestor Rojas succeeds Hallberg as fundamentals coach. A native of Venezuela, he was a backup catcher for several minor league teams and has coached and managed in the Giants organization since 2003.

Also from Venezuela is Victor Cairo, the bullpen catcher. He was a reserve catcher for the Volcanoes for part of last season.

None of them showed up Saturday, because they were on duty with the Giants organization. Broadcasters for radio station KYKN, however, did show up; they will be providing play-by-play this season after an absence of over a decade.

This year’s season will start June 14 with a home game against the Boise Hawks. Regular-season play will conclude Sept. 2 with a home game against the Eugene Emeralds.