OLEAN — It was driven, perhaps in part, by the sheer excitement from what they saw around them.
From looking at least halfway down one baseline all the way down to the halfway point of the other. And everywhere in between. And even up on the concrete walkway behind the bleachers.
“There has to be at least 1,000 people here,” said one observer, in the early stages of the game.
“The people taking the headcount say close to 2,000,” a completely different observer said just a couple of innings later.
“Twenty-five hundred. That was the final count,” another fan stated, probably an hour after the game had finished.
Yes, with each passing inning, it seemd, the estimated attendance figure at Friday night’s Olean Oilers’ home opener — the first baseball game played at Bradner Stadium in decades — went up ... and up ... and up.
That type of thing tends to happen when you’re looking out at a gathering that was probably much bigger than expected and you want to remember that night as being even grander than it truly was in the moment — the crowd was THIS big, the ball went THIS far, the call at the end was THAT bad.
There’s no limit when talking about those kinds of things, because on Friday night, for almost anyone who came out to the ballpark, and certainly for the Oilers and everyone within their organization, the excitement was that real.
And who knows exactly how many fans turned out two nights ago to watch Olean win the game in the bottom of the ninth, then have that victory snatched from it by the third base umpire, then lose it to Niagara, 14-11, in 11 innings?
Two-thousand was the number estimated by an Oilers’ resprentative in Saturday’s game story. It certainly seemed to be over 1,000 and maybe really even did come closer to two.
But that’s not even really the point.
The point is, the excitement really was there, the little buzz — from the moment the three ceremonial first pitches were thrown — palpable.
It had been understandably difficult for the Oilers to draw any kind of a big crowd in their first two years in the New York Collegiate Baseball League.
In 2012, they played on a nice field at St. Bonaventure, but were tucked away on the campus a few miles down the road. Last year, they were a bit more visible, but still at a venue (the Olean Middle School) that lacked stands or any kind of a stadium feel.
They may have drawn over a hundred fans on a few occasions, but a normal crowd the last two summers probably amounted to about 50 or 60 people.
And that’s what made Friday all the more exciting, and a bit overwhelming for the players and coaches.
“I was extremely surprised,” Olean coach Bobby Bell said after the game. “It was really cool. It took me about two innings to get over it, actually. The atmosphere was awesome (tonight). It was really neat.”
Yes, on Friday night they packed the place.
And sure, for many people, it may have been more about the curiosity of a baseball game being played at Bradner — that’s a completely new prospect for most of the area’s residents.
For others, it may have been more about the social aspect, the idea that you could buy a beer and a hot dog and be there with your friends before going out later in the night. That’s okay, too.
That’s what the organization has wanted to do — add the entertainment aspect to the baseball games.
Whatever the reason, fans came and they got behind this team they still don’t know a whole lot about in a league they may not totally follow.
They began cheering and clapping when the Oilers’ starters were announced, and they kept it going when rightfielder Austin Johnson ripped a line-drive single to lead off the bottom of the first and then when their team plated four runs in that very first frame.
This was a pretty cool community event, whether it was seen live by a thousand fans or two thousand fans.
And the Oilers hope it’s a sign of what’s to come the rest of the summer.
(J.P. Butler, a Times Herald sportswriter, may be reached at email@example.com)