September 21, 2017
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Crushers once a big draw in RP

By: Irene Hilsendager
October 14, 2016
Did you know?

The Sonoma County Crushers were a minor league baseball team located in Rohnert Park. The team played in Rohnert Park Stadium, which was built in 1981 for the California League’s now-defunct Redwood Pioneers.

When the Western Baseball League was formed in 1995, the Sonoma County Crushers were one of the original teams and would remain throughout the league’s many changes. They were a member of the independent professional baseball league and were never affiliated with any Major League Baseball team.

In their first year, 1995, under manager Paul Deese, the attendance was more than 84,000 and the Crushers won their first and only league championship in 1998. Kyle Washington was the player of the year and led the league in average and slugging.

The Crushers were the Western League’s worst team in 1996. Dick Dietz was the team manager and had one all-star in designated hitter David Mowry. In 1997, Dietz was named Manager of the Year but attendance fell. Sonoma County had the best record in 1997 but lost to the Chico Heat in the playoffs. Dietz’s last year netted only a 41-49 result and the Crushers were taken out in the first playoff round.

In 2000, Jeffrey Leonard was at the helm and drew more than 86,000 fans, but the team did not have a single all-star although a famous name showed up in DH Kevin Mitchell, the 1989 National League MVP. In 2001 Tim Ireland was in charge of the team and finished with a 48-42, but attendance continued to drop off. The final season in 2002, Mitchell was player and manager but lost to Chico in the playoffs.

The team’s mascot was Crusher who had very large purple feet and was a large furry animal and called the “Abominable Sonoman.”  The Ballard and Anderson family participated in the team fun activities. Locals loved the games not only for the ballgame but because there were many lively contests during the inning break, making the games a fun family experience. Even Sumo wrestles showed up and played games.

The Crushers did have one notable professional baseball player in Chad Zerbe, who pitched for the San Francisco Giants from 2000-2003 and made three appearances in the 2002 World Series against the Anaheim Angels. Zerbe was credited with a win in Game 5.

Rohnert Park no longer has a baseball team, but Sonoma County still has professional baseball. The Sonoma Stompers and the San Rafael Pacifics (Marin County) are part of the Pacific Association of Professional Baseball Clubs. In addition, there are teams in Vallejo and Martinez. Michael Shapiro, who is president of the Stompers and the Pacifics said, “We want to bring the joy the Crushers brought, but on a smaller scale.” 

The stadium was located on LaBath Avenue off Rohnert Park Expressway but was closed in 2002 and demolished in 2005. The site is now rife with houses and condominiums.