The Cleburne Railroaders have only six home games remaining this season, and they’re in a heated battle for a playoff spot.
It’s time to fill up The Depot, folks, and support those ‘Roaders!
Yes, school just started so things can be a little hectic. But let’s pack The Depot over these final five home games and cheer on the Railroaders as they try to clinch their first playoff berth in 113 years!
According to the American Association website, the Railroaders’ average attendance this season has been 1,538, which isn’t bad considering Cleburne is the smallest city in the league, and by a wide margin.
But The Depot can accommodate up to 2,500 fans, so there’s some room to work with.
Throughout the season, Railroaders players and coaches have spoken about playing in front of a large crowd. When five Cleburne players were selected as all-stars, a couple said the thing they were most looking forward to was playing in front of 8,000-plus fans at CHS Field in St. Paul, Minn.
The players feed off of the crowd’s energy, and the Railroaders need every bit of encouragement and energy they can muster with fewer than 20 games to go in a three-team chase for two playoff berths.
If you attended a Railroaders game during the 2017 and 2018 seasons but haven’t been out to a game this year, you need to. New ownership, new management and new players make the fan experience feel almost completely different from the first two seasons.
This team is good. They’re fun to watch. And the players and coaches have done some phenomenal things in the community and are great to interact with.
The Railroaders return home Thursday just in the nick of time. Entering Thursday’s game 1 against Sioux City, Cleburne has lost four straight games, including getting swept by Kansas City.
Ten days ago, it appeared like Cleburne and Sioux City had the two playoff berths from the South Division all but locked up. But Kansas City has come storming back in the standings to make things interesting — and uneasy for the Railroaders and Explorers.
Entering play Thursday, Cleburne (47-35) had a half-game lead over Sioux City (46-35) for first place. And what was recently an eight-game lead over third-place Kansas City only a week ago is now down to a three-game lead.
In the North Division, Fargo-Moorhead is four games up on St. Paul for first place. But the Saints have some fierce competition if they want to hold onto a playoff spot; Chicago is only 1.5 games back of St. Paul and Winnipeg is just two games back.
If you love baseball, the American Association — especially this season — is great fun to keep up with. The vast majority of these players are in it for the love of the game. They’re not raking in $20 million a year and doing it for the money and fame. They make tremendous sacrifices to keep playing the game they love while holding onto their dreams of making it to affiliated ball.
With just five home games remaining this season, make plans to go out to The Depot and cheer on our local team.
Even if you voted against the proposal in 2015 that brought The Depot at Cleburne Station and the Railroaders to town, they’re here now and have been for three years.
Small towns like Cleburne simply don’t have professional baseball teams in their back yard. Take advantage of it. Support it.
You don’t have to pay $25 to park. You don’t have to pay $11 for a hot dog. You don’t have to deal with a 45-minute traffic jam trying to leave the stadium parking lot. You don’t have to drive two hours round-trip to and from the ballpark. It's very convenient and fun, and it's your team.
There’s only five games left after tonight. The Railroaders host Sioux City in game 2 at 7:06 p.m. Friday then the two teams conclude a three-game series at 7:06 p.m. Saturday. This is a huge series with first place and a playoff berth on the line.
Then Cleburne’s final homestand is Aug. 24-26 against the Texas AirHogs. Those will be three huge games for the Railroaders, who not only will likely be fighting for their playoff lives, but also looking for some revenge against the ‘Hogs after Texas swept a three-game series from Cleburne three weeks ago.
Every game matters. And you don’t want to miss out on the action. There’s still time — but not much — to jump on the train.
Sports Editor A.J. Crisp is in his eighth year covering sports for the Times-Review. He can be reached by email at email@example.com or phone at 817-645-2441, ext. 2334.