Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Road Trip: Reno @ Chico (July 23, 2007)

We were on vacation for the past several days and saw a window to go to see the Sox play an away game so we took it. There is something special about seeing other ballparks but moreso, there is something special about supporting your team on the road.

We drove for 8 hours from our previous location (Woodburn,OR) and arrived about 90 minutes before gametime. Since we were staying at the Super 8 on Manzanita and 99 and only about 10 minutes from the Net, we let the kids swim for a while and got to the park about 6:45PM.

The first thing I noticed is that they charged for parking ($3), something I am not used to with the Sox. However, the next thing I noticed is the appearance of the ballpark. The facade looked nice, like a real stadium. Peccole is such that you see the backs of the bleachers where the Net had a concrete, decorated wall (flags, awnings, etc). It was a very good way to set the tone. Around the park, there was a souvenier trailer which had a much wider assortment of items then I am used to in Reno. They also had multiple concession points (3 that I counted with 1 that could be opened if the crowd required it). They also had a booth as we do in Reno where you pick up the night's rosters. In addition, they also gave out game notes and current statistics. This was a nice touch and I hope it is one all the teams institute.

There was a play area for kids as well as picnic tables down either line...again, another nice way to make sure families have a good time when the young ones get tired of sitting in 100 degree weather. They also had concession points in those areas with $1 candy bars. Speaking of concessions, they were all run by folks in Outlaw gear. At Reno, we get the Sedexho workers who have a contract to do all sporting events on campus. After seeing this, I wonder if Reno gets a cut of concessions or if theirs is smaller than Chico.

The stadium crowd was small (959) but that is defintely more than Reno draws on an average Monday night. The Outlaws staff also includes members who hold up signs to pump up the crowd (Charge, Wave, etc) and that helped get them going. Those staff members also dance on the dugouts and pulled up some fans to dance with them. And they collected trash throughout the innings.

The sightlines are great at this park. Reno, due to its continual building has structures (the batting cage/player building in right and the bullpen in left) that block views down the lines for all but those directly behind homeplate. There is a large amount of foul territory and on field pitchers mounds. In fact, the pitchers back up to the fence where the family areas are I mentioned earlier allowing for some interation with the players. There is also a much bigger pressbox/luxury seat area and more seats behind homeplate than in Reno.

And, their sound system is awesome...clear, perfect volume, etc. The scoreboard also has an Outlaws logo on it (wish we could get equal billing at Peccole where everything is about the Wolfpack at our park). Their programs were well done and published more frequently than the once a month we have in Reno. About the only negative thing I can say is that the lighting isn't as good as Peccole.

As for being in enemy territory, it was a fun experience. We sat in 101 (home team side) and when we first cheered everyone turned around to see why we would do such a thing in Chico. We later moved to the 301 side and it started fun as well. I got accosted by the mascot on the way over who put his arm around me and led me toward the exit; and my daughter got razzed by some kids in the playpark for wearing a Silver Sox hat. Of course, they were all friends after that. As for the Sox section, it included me, my wife, and a little ways down, Carlos Madrid's significant other. I have not been to a game that she has not been at--I guess she goes to away games too.

About the only negative moment came when some rowdy college kids sat behind us and began yelling obscenities at the Sox and made some derogatory comments about Reno and how the only thing from them that would ever stay there is the urine they left on the street. Eventually a staff member told them to tone it down and they did so in a sarcastic manner (shouting things like "If we can't cuss, can I say F You instead?)

As for the game, it was Reno domination from the first inning. James Johnson pitched well en route to his first win and the offense was also strong. Mike Done has really rebounded from a sub-par first half to be a prime contributor. And the pitching is much more solid as is the defense. I guess I'll throw out there again how I hope spring training is longer than 7-9 days next year. When you assemble a team basically from scratch, it is hard for them to gel and get in playing shape immediately. Even Juan Senreiso, our league player of the week, took a few weeks to find his groove--and he was playing solid baseball right up until he joined the Sox.
All in all, it was a great event and it is nice to say we followed our team on the road. The other two times I've done it didn't require traveling more than an hour or so. So this was our first official road trip! And on top of that my oldest daughter caught her first foul ball!

And, after seeing how Chico operates and how great their stadium is comparatively, I really hope the Sox do well enough to either command more decision ability at Peccole or interest some investors to build them a small park of their own. Our team plays great baseball (leads the league in HRs and SBs) and I would love it if people in Reno would just give them a chance and go see a game. The Sox have made great strides this year and it will be interesting to see how things turn out in the years to come.

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