WHEELING - It's been a lucky week for Tony Petry and his family.
Last week, Petry's wife, Ashley, won tickets to Tuesday's Wheeling Nailers game by wearing green to the McDonald's restaurant in Caldwell, Ohio, their hometown.
As Tony used one of those tickets to enter Tuesday's game, he was met with the clanging of a cow bell, balloons and a handshake from Nailers Vice President Craig Bommer, who congratulated Petry for being the 2.5 millionth fan through the turnstiles at WesBanco Arena to take in a Nailers' game.
A SPECIAL FAN — Tony Petry, center, was honored Tuesday as the Wheeling Nailers’ 2.5 millionth fan to attend a game in the team’s 22-year history in the Friendly City. Pictured are Xavier Petry, 11; Ashley Petry; Hudson Petry, 8; Havison Petry, 8; Tony Petry; and Nailers’ Vice President Craig Bommer. They are joined by Nailers’ mascots Buck and Spike. - Scott McCloskey
Petry posed for photos with Bommer and the team's mascots, Spike and Buck, and was presented with a plaque, jersey and season tickets for two-and-a-half years. All this while his wife and three sons - Xavier, Hudson and Havison - looked on with smiles on their faces.
"This is my first game ever," Petry said after being led to upgraded seats in the corner, against the glass and as close to the action as he and his family could get.
First-timers are who Bommer has in mind when planning promotions for the Nailers. He said he and other team officials recognize there are plenty of other entertainment options for residents in the Ohio Valley and beyond, and creating a destination and event people want to see is important.
"We know we're competing for their entertainment money, with movies and other things," he said. "We try to come up with fun things in addition to the game, and we try to keep ticket prices as low as we can."
Bommer said Petry was officially the 2.5 millionth person to attend a game, as he and other Nailers' officials have been keeping track for the past few weeks. He said they recognized prior to Tuesdays' game that number would likely be reached, and kept tabs on how many people walked through the gate prior to Petry.
"We waited until the ticket was in hand and he walked through the turnstile," Bommer said.
Reaching the milestone is an important feat in the team's 22-year history in the Friendly City, Bommer said - one that wouldn't be possible without supportive fans.
"We are so appreciative of our season ticket holders and our fans who come back year after year," he said. "It's rare to have people who stick with a team for so long, but we're lucky."