Saturday, August 9, 2008

Eugene Emeralds 12, Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 2

August 3, 2008

Volcanoes Stadium, aka The Crater, is a relatively new ballpark, opened for business in 1997.
It seats a little more than 4,200 fans and includes seating in a baker's dozen luxury box suites as well as a home run porch and an ample picnic area. Traffic on the Interstate-5 freeway zooms by just beyond the right field fence. The Crater is located on the outskirts of a mall on the outskirts of Keizer, a northern suburb of Salem, Oregon. The volcano on the scoreboard spews smoke when one of the local nine hits a home run. Unfortunately, we didn't get to see much of that on this lovely Sunday late afternoon -- 5:05 p.m. start time. Parking is ample, and the yard, as it's right next to the freeway, is pretty easy to find.

The Volcano operation is modern, clean, comfortable, and enjoyable. But a curmudgeon has to have one gripe, so here's mine. The on-line ticket ordering seemed inordinately cumbersome, and they charged an $1/ticket "internet ticket fee" in addition to a $1 "handling fee" per each. Fergawdsakes, just tack an extra two bucks onto the price.

Crater (left) is not only the name of the stadium, it is the name of the team's mascot. I never quite figured out what Crater is actually supposed to be -- even his official bio page is somewhat fuzzy on the details -- but he looks like some sort of purple dinosaur. While he's not nearly so annoying as Barney, I'd have to rate Crater as the lamest of the Oregon mascots. His main trick was to shoot people with his super soaker. Perhaps welcome on a hotter day, but it was 71 degrees and breezy at game time.

Sadly, we learned at the game that the next day would be Crater's birthday, and there would be all sorts of prizes and revelry. We miss all the good stuff by one day. We were in Portland Friday night, and Saturday was Jerry Mathers night. (Portland's team is the Beavers...)

My sweetie, the official scorer, has praise for the PA announcer at the Crater, who actually gives time to write the lineups down as he announces them. The guy also talks in a normal voice; bonus points for that. They play a few annoying sound effects at the Crater, though I have to admit I thought one of them was pretty funny. Often folks driving by on I-5 will honk their horns, I presume to encourage the local club on to victory. The ballpark has an airhorn sound effect and honks back.

The game
This one was out of reach in a hurry. Both teams were tired: The Salem-Keizer Volcanoes from traveling down from Vancouver, B.C., where they swept the Canadians in a doubleheader on Saturday, and the Eugene Emeralds from traveling up from Eugene, where they had to run the bases a lot in the previous night's 11-6 win over Everett. It's interesting to note that both of these short-season A-ball clubs are being skippered by former major league managers: Salem-Keizer by Tom Trebelhorn, and Eugene by Greg Riddoch.

Sawyer Carroll, San Diego's third-round draft pick this year out of the University of Kentucky, hit a two-run homer in the top of the first. Carroll came into the game batting .303 with an OPS of .939, and the homer was his sixth. My sweetie wondered aloud, "How's he going to make it to the show if he can't tuck in his jersey?" She's right; if he makes it to the show he can let his shirt tail hang out and the press will think he's colorful, but until then it just means he's a slob. The Ems got two more in the second and another deuce in the third, and that was pretty much it.

Volcano pitchers allowed 12 runs on 12 hits and walked nine. The S-K infield could generously be described as "porous," like pumice, as many of the Eugene hits were seeing-eye grounders that one expected to be snagged. It was announced several times that S-K pitching coach Jerry Cram has his special, super hot BBQ sauce on sale in the pro shop. I think he should spend a little less time in the kitchen and a little more showing these guys how to get the ball over the plate. Nine walks!

Player of the game
Eugene starter Simon Castro, a 20-year-old beanpole at 6'5" and 205, had a marvelous start. The Dominican Dandy worked six innings and allowed just four hits and one run. No walks and seven strikeouts. Castro was in a bit of hot water in the sixth, when a single and an error put Volcanoes at the corners with one out, but he fanned the side to close out his day. By our count he threw 80 pitches. How are any of these kids going to throw a complete game if they don't ever work deep into games in the minors?

Eugene's keystone combination lived on base, too. Second baseman Cole Figueroa went 4-for-5 and scored three runs, and shortstop Jeudy Valdez went 3-for-5 with two runs and an RBI. One of his hits should have easily been a double, as it was hit over the head of the right fielder, but the runners on base held up, playing station-to-station with a big lead.

First baseman Mike Loberg was the lone bright spot for Salem-Keizer. The big kid from Coon Rapids, Minnesota, a 33rd-round pick last year out of Augustana College, hit a homer in the fourth, a double in the ninth, and scored the only two runs for the Volcanoes.

Box score

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