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Spring Fest, hurler, tickets draw crowds

Not just Yankee fans show up for PNC Field festivities and Tommy John autographs.

MOOSIC – All decked out in his Atlanta gear, even Braves backer Don Flynn couldn’t resist the pull of Yankee lore at PNC Field.

“I’m an Atlanta Braves fan,” Flynn boasted. “I like the Yankees. I just enjoy baseball and coming up here.”

Flynn, a Wilkes-Barre resident, was one of thousands of fans who flocked to Saturday’s Spring Fest at PNC Field, where single-game tickets for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees’ 2008 season went on sale for the first time.

Former Yankee legend Tommy John handed out autographs during the festivities and children frolicked while shooting hoops and tossing baseballs around in the field’s new Frontier Fan Zone located just inside the main gates.

“I already bought my tickets. I’m just here to see Tommy John,” said Bob Devens of Pringle.

Some weren’t as fortunate. Misericordia University student Mary Beth Stellar and Kristen Osenkarski, who attends Wilkes University, are both Yankee sales and marketing interns who were impressed by the sizeable crowd that arrived to scoff up seats when PNC Field ticket windows opened at 10 a.m.

“There was a line here when we started,” Stellar said.

“The first five minutes,” Osenkarski said, “150 people came through here.”

Their job Saturday was to count customers while handing out seating charts and Scranton/Wilkes-Barre schedules for the upcoming season, which opens at 7 p.m. April 3 at PNC Field against the Lehigh Valley IronPigs. The IronPigs were the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Red Barons just two years ago.

That won’t present a conflict for Devens, a diehard, lifelong Phillies fan who found watching the New York Yankees’ top farm team play last season to be just as enjoyable as when the franchise was the Triple-A affiliate of his favorite big league team.

“It wasn’t bad,” Devens said. “It was nice.”

Flynn found the same type of value in throwing his support behind the local club, no matter what major league team tugs at his heart.

“I would have bought tickets if the White Sox were in here,” Flynn said. “I was here over 30 times last year. This is a great place to come to. I think the Yankees are the top franchise in baseball. Good organization. I hope they never leave here.

“Plus, they had good, young players coming through here, and some of those players are being brought up there (to New York) now.

“I just think we should support our local team.”

The attraction certainly isn’t limited to Luzerne and Lackawanna County residents, though.

Resembling a player while dressed in a New York Yankees jersey and cap, Wayne Kozloski drove all the way from Port Jervis, N.Y., with his 4-year-old son Dillon to enjoy Scranton/Wilkes-Barre’s Spring Fest – even with a 36-game season ticket plan already in hand.

“We came up for three games last year. He likes it,” Kozloski said as his son nodded vigorously in approval. “We had a lot of fun. It’s not that far of a drive for us. And it’s a lot better traffic than going to Yankee Stadium.”

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