The return of professional baseball to Schaumburg -- after a nearly two-year hiatus -- proved to be as successful in the stands as it was on the field Friday night.
A crowd of more than 5,000 mostly orange-clad fans cheered the Schaumburg Boomers on to their first home victory, beating the Florence Freedom 5 to 2.
Apart from the win, however, many fans raved about the quality and attention to detail the new ownership paid to making the game an overall entertainment experience.
"New team, new excitement for the community," Schaumburg resident Bill Taylor proclaimed early in the game.
Taylor said he'd been following owner Pat Salvi's efforts to build the team since it was first announced last year and had long planned to be at Opening Night.
Though he wanted to wait until the end of the game to judge the new team's success, Taylor thought he'd likely go to five to 10 games this year if he stayed pleased.
Mark and Gail Socki of Schaumburg, whose son is nearly 2, said they've known since late in the Schaumburg Flyers era that a minor-league baseball game is a great venue for a young child.
But they said they found the Schaumburg Boomers experience a superior one, particularly for its promotions and food.
"The Schaumburger was absolutely delicious," said Gail, who's looking forward to the Wine, Women & Baseball promotion June 7.
Her husband, Mark, said the Flyers had only basic food, no signature items. A friend of theirs had the Boomers' pot roast smasher Friday and also loved it.
At the barbecue pit in right field, fans in orange "I Was There -- Opening Day" T-shirts were buying pulled pork sandwiches, foot-long smoked turkey legs and corn on the cob.
A behind-the-scenes problem in the box office that most fans seemed oblivious of involved the stadium's Internet connection going down, taking the Internet-based ticketing system with it.
The staff worked feverishly to repair the issue and minimize the lines fans were standing in outside.
New owner Salvi said it was one of the things that would be looked at for improvement once the first homestand is over.
"Of course, I'm thrilled that so many people are here," Salvi said. "But I don't like fans having to wait any period of time to get inside."
Though minor-league baseball thrives on word-of-mouth, Salvi was pleased that promotion and advertising got the new team off to a good start Friday night.
He now has full- or part-ownership in four teams -- the Boomers, the Gary SouthShore RailCats and two collegiate teams in Massachusetts. But the Boomers have a special place in his affections, he said.
"The Boomers probably represent the franchise in which I have highest expectations for success in all areas," he said, citing the size of the local market and the quality of the stadium. "I hold them probably to the highest standard."
But any shortfalls Salvi saw in Friday's fan experience were lost on Bob Slawek of Elgin.
For Slawek, who grew up in Hoffman Estates, even the short wait in line heightened the expectation of getting inside -- like being on a red carpet. And those expectations were met by the quality of the baseball and the strong showmanship outside of it, he said.
"First-class, top shelf, and it's going to grow," Slawek said. "It's more lively, more community-oriented. I think the Salvis got the community involvement thing. This is home."