The crack of the bat, the roar of applause — those were sounds at Colusa Casino Stadium in Marysville not many summers ago.
Crowds of more than a thousand people showed up nightly, and occasionally up to 4,000, enjoyed the Yuba Sutter Gold Sox: a perennial winner in a wood-bat league that the squad helped found.
One of the young men who provided memories on the field was Tommy Lininger. He played three seasons before going to Abilene Christian University. It seems like a lifetime since a torn labrum in his shoulder ended his playing career.
He’s now 25, and says a twist of fate has brought him back to the Gold Sox.
Today, new owners have purchased the team after its previous owners announced they could not survive financially and the Gold Sox folded. They’re hoping to rebuild — and they recruited Tommy Lininger to help.
“I grew up here. I spent every summer here. This is a big part of my life,” he said, seated behind a desk as the team’s new general manager.
For people who live in the area, his name should be familiar. His parents, Tom and Karyn Lininger, were the majority owners for nine years. But they got out of the business in 2015.
Some fans say things have not gone well for the team since. The new owners changed leagues and ditched the Thursday-through-Sunday schedule. They also stopped giving away tickets, even though they generated foot traffic for local businesses and allowed many in the community hit hard by the recession to experience quality entertainment for the cost of a reasonably priced soda and a hamburger.
The wood bats were still part of the game, but the wood beneath the mural that wraps around the stadium began to rot, as well.
Dennis and Pennie Bissell were season ticket holders. They and several other seniors in the area would regularly bring plastic horns, noisemakers and cowbells to the game — and even had shirts made that read Gold Sox Horn Section.
But eventually, they stopped going.
“We really liked the old schedule,” said Dennis Bissell from his home in Marysville.
He also liked how Tommy Lininger’s parents would occasionally join them and other fans in the stands to talk baseball during games.
“If they bring back that same that same level of community support, I think they’ll be successful again,” he said.
Retired manager Jack Johnson has also returned, in an advisory capacity, to help bring in better players. And former player Michael Frantz will take over this year as manager.
Pennie Bissell says she expects the quality of the play on the field to improve, too.
“We felt the players weren’t learning anything and weren’t having fun. And we weren’t having fun,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to the games anymore.”
She added that attendance had dwindled to no more than 200 people.
Tommy Lininger says play on the field will improve, and tickets will be back on the counters at local businesses. He gives full credit for the effort to save the club to Mark Mulliner, the business manager for the Local Plumbers and Pipefitters 228 union.
Mulliner says the union was interested in saving the club and had already purchased a $30,000 scoreboard last year. Union members were also eying lease negotiations between the city of Marysville and the team’s ownership at the time, CSH Holdings — which were not going well.
“As it was all falling apart, we thought, ‘This is a good community program. We’ve got to save it,’” Mulliner said. “So, I went to a good friend of mine, Al Montna, and met with him and gave him the books and the financials and everything that was there and said, ‘Hey, if you can figure out how to save the team, let’s do it.’”
Mulliner says Montna then went to John Cassidy with Sierra Central Credit Union, and, before long, the three had created an ownership group along with a host of other people and then landed at the door of Tom Lininger, who’s an attorney in Fair Oaks. He agreed to help. When Lininger’s first choice for a general manager wasn’t available, he turned to his son.
“I’ve been winging it,” Tommy Lininger said of the job, adding that he doesn’t hold a grudge about being second choice. “I grew up here and I know how things are supposed to run. But I have no experience actually running a baseball club. It makes sense they went after someone else. But I’m getting a lot of help from the ownership group, especially my parents and my dad.”
He says the front office typically has nine months to prepare for a season. Because of the circumstances, that has been cut in half, so it’s been a scramble to get things ready in time and to get the word out that the old Gold Sox are back.
Tommy Lininger promises more promotions for fans, a competitive team and the installation of the new scoreboard this year. Next year, he hopes to oversee renovations to the press box and the ballpark’s exterior.
It will take time to restore the team to its glory years. But two former fans have already signed on for season tickets.
“Once we heard the Liningers were back, we jumped back in,” Pennie Bissell said, then laughed. “I’ve misplaced my horn. I’ve got to figure out where I put it. I’m very excited.”