Saturday, July 28, 2007

Getting my baseball fix on the road

I have to do a couple of weeks of Army training at Fort Hunter Liggett, CA. Since I have to sign in in the morning, I decided to drive down today so I don't have to wake up at 3AM to get there.

Anyway, I decided to stop by a Visalia Oaks game which seemed like a good fit as it is the High-A affiliate of my favorite team, the Arizona Diamondbacks. The stadium is tightly inserted into a neighborhood so it wouldn't surprise me if a few foul balls land in people's yards. Parking is limited to a lot with about 100 spaces or so, a dirt lot, or the street (which I used).
Well, I must admit that if you are a Sox fan, you don't know how good we have it. First of all, the stadium is old and run down and the field is pretty torn up in spots (and they didn't even bother to draw coaches boxes).

The first thing I did was check the internet (wireless rules); it listed the following as the promotion:

July 28 vs. Lancaster - 7:00 PM
Team Photo Giveaway & Autograph Day

I thought, wow, that might be a nice thing to get since maybe one or two of these guys will be a future D-Back. Well, they moved the promotion but decided not to update the website. So I headed to the souveneir stand and thought I'd at least get a pack of team cards. They wanted $20 for them! $20! When I asked why, they said because it included a Justin Upton card. Needless to say, I walked away.

So I headed to the concession stand. After standing in line for a few minutes, I finally got to the front of the line and placed my order. Well, all they do is give you a slip of paper and you stand in another line where the grill is to actually get your hot dog.

Finally, I got to my seat and here was my view:

Nice. So I figured I would just enjoy the game. Unless you came to see Lancaster (which was the D-backs affiliate last year by the way), you'd go home empty handed as they crusied to a 10-2 victory on 15 hits. The Oaks starter, Anthony Cupps, dropped to 2-10 with an ERA of 6.43 and the bullpen didn't do much better. The guy was missing with a curveball all night but they left him in there.

As far as atmosphere, there was no mascot, no onfield promotions, and very little music or sound effects. Outside, there was a leader board that someone forgot to fill out and just moving around from my seat was difficult. The first 3-4 rows only have an exit on the first base side or the tihird base side so if you sit in the middle, it is at least 100-200 feet of "excuse mes" before you get to an aisle. Very poor construction.

I think I was spoiled...I grew up attending Rancho Cucamonga Quakes game which were in the best (at the time) Class A minor league park in the country. Since then, I've seen A level games in Adelanto, CA (High Desert Mavericks) and Columbia, SC (Capital City Bombers). I thought I had a good idea of what an affiliated stadium was supposed to be like (since they claim they have a standard that is much higher than independent baseball). This stadium, though it had nice stadium seats in the bowl around the plate, was run down and a real disappointment.

So I left after the 5th and went to my hotel room to catch the end of the Sox game. They were up 5-2 when I joined the game but then Eric Thomas came in and blew the save for Johnson after Balteff had done his part to preserve the lead. I think Ben Deach jinxed him because he called him the team's closer. Everyone that even came close to that designation started pitching poorly so I think it is safer to just say we have a closer by committee (Pluoffe, Testa, Nikolic, Martinez, and Thomas have all faltered when they had to close out more than a game here or there).

So the OC Flyers were able to steal a 6-5 win. Thus ends my journey to find my baseball fix on the road. I guess on the bright side, Les picked up two new pitchers who should get a shot soon to see if they can shore up the bullpen. Eric Brock and Adam Harendza both come to the Sox from the now defunct New York State League. With the end of the second half coming up quickly, we need to start winning the close games if we intend to get to and win the playoffs.


harendza said...

hey keith my name is keith also keith harendza, adam's older brother...since adam is in reno now and we are here in johnson city ny it is hard to see the games if there is any way you could update us on how he is doing i was able to listen to it on the radio broadcast but it's not the same if you were there watching it my e-mail is i hope adam does good at his first start tonight!

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