Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Management changes at Seattle Rep, Intiman

There's some snarky work afoot at Seattle Repertory Theatre. Artistic director David Esbjornson announced last spring that he would not re-up with the Rep once his contract expired in June of 2009. The Seattle Times reports today that the Rep's board has told Esbjornson to get the heck out now, then. Jerry Manning, the Rep's casting director, will serve as acting director while the board reconsiders its organizational structure, according to the Times.

Last week Seattle's Intiman Theatre announced the hiring of Brian Colburn as managing director. Colburn comes to Intiman from a similar position at the Pasadena Playhouse. He succeeds Laura Penn, who left Intiman earlier this year to take a gig as ED of the Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers.

Esbjornson has a nice lineup set for 2008-09 at the Rep. Weisenheimer is looking forward to You Can't Take it With You, starting late November under the direction of Warner Shook, as well as Harold Pinter's Betrayal, a production of Waiting for Godot and, most of all, Wishful Drinking, created by and starring Carrie Fisher.

Intiman's recent seasons have been disappointing, though Weisenheimer has hope. We enjoyed its production of A Streetcar Named Desire very much this summer, and a friend gives mostly good reviews to The Little Dog Laughed, playing now.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 4, Everett AquaSox 3

August 22, 2008

Everett Memorial Stadium, home of the Everett AquaSox, has undergone significant upgrades since Weisenheimer's last visit. That visit occurred, somewhat inexplicably, some 18 or so years ago when the club was still the Giants and owned by Bob Bavasi, brother of recently deposed Mariners GM Bill and part of the Bavasi baseball clan headed by Buzzie Bavasi until his death earlier this year. The park is part of the Everett School District sports complex that has been used by the city's Northwest League club since its beginnings in 1984. Weisenheimer attended many a Giants game while living in the region and working at KRKO radio in Everett. Somehow the trek from West Seattle to Everett Memorial Stadium seems much longer than the 30 or so miles it actually is.

The main difference is the grandstand, concession, and press box area, which we remember as on the ramshackle side. Pictured above, it's been re-done in a lovely brick, with most of the concession and souvenir stands built into permanent homes thereunder, whereas most were separate shacks along the walkways in days of yore.

As big-spending high rollers from out of town, we sprung for seats in the "Key Bank Diamond Club," a whopping $15 per seat. We ordered them on-line less than 24 hours before game time, and scored seats in section E, row 2. This got us about 30 feet from home plate for an up-close look at the action. A major advantage of the Diamond Club was at-your-seat wait service: Ashley went and got our hot dogs, beer, and nachos for us. We haven't has such service in the other parks, though we may have been unaware of special service sections therein.

Also, we found the folks in the "club" the chattiest so far on our Northwest League circuit, particularly a senior citizen pair I guessed to be mother and daughter who were obviously regulars, big AquaSox fans who bellowed "Yay, Name" each time Name was announced as the next Everett batter.

When I describe our ballpark tour to others they often ask me if my sweetie, the official scorer for all games we attend, has to be "dragged" along to the ballpark. The fact that Frau Weisenheimer is the official scorer should be clue number one. Clue number two is her shoes, pictured above. Amazingly, another senior lady fan spotted them and, by gosh, she was wearing the same style shoes, though hers were so scuffed up one wondered if they were made from a baseball once used by Don Sutton. My sweetie has been talking about doing scans of her scoresheets to include on the Weisenheimer blog. I don't think that's necessary, as probably we're the only ones looking at the darn thing, anyway and can just look at the paper versions any time. But she sees a practical side. "If the house burns down," she says, "we'll still have our happy memories." So yes, our enjoyment of baseball is mutual.

The Game
The contest between the AquaSox and the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes provided a good lesson in just how far players in the short-season class-A Northwest League have to go before they get to the show. Everett's starter was Chris Jakubauskas, who was down on an injury rehab assignment from Tacoma of the AAA Pacific Coast League. (This made us wonder where A-ball players go on their rehab assignments. My sweetie suggested that they must go to the local parks and rec league.) Jakubauskas himself is an interesting story. Not exactly a young prospect, he'll be 30 in December. He played some first base and outfield for the University of Oklahoma back in the day, converted to pitching, and apparently kicked around the independent leagues before the Mariners signed him as a minor league free agent last year. In 2007 he had a fairly undistinguished record with West Tennessee of the AA Southern League. This year he compiled a 0.83 ERA in six starts at WT and fanned 24 while walking just seven in 33 innings. Moving up to Tacoma he has a 2.90 ERA in nine starts and has struck out 35 and walked 14 in 50 innings. "Jak," as I'll call him from here on out, was way too much for the Volcanoes. On a pitch count for his rehab start, he worked 2 2/3 innings, gave up just one hit, allowed no walks, and struck out seven. He threw 32 strikes and nine balls. The only non-K out he logged was a can-of-corn fly ball to left by the last batter he faced, SK center fielder Caleb Curry.

Meantime Orlando Yntema was hanging up goose eggs for Salem-Keizer as well. While not so dominating as Jak, Yntema seemed to relish letting AquaSox reach base and then getting them to hit into double plays, which they did three times in his five innings of work.

The contest zipped right along with nobody getting or staying on base in the early going. The Volcanoes finally broke through for the first runs of the game in the bottom of the fifth against Everett reliever Walter Suriel. Left fielder Casey Bond doubled with two out, and Curry ripped a shot over the scoreboard in right-center for a homer and 2-0 lead. Salem-Keizer added on in the seventh. With one out catcher Johnny Monell doubled into the gap in left center, much to the chagrin of the fan sitting behind Weisenheimer, who felt Everett left fielder Brandon Fromm was playing way too shallow and advised playing much deeper. It's easier to come in on the ball, you know. When the next batter, second baseman Ryan Lormand, hit a long fly ball for a double down the left field line, same fan let out a Kafkaesque wail of, "No, no, no, no, no, no, nooooooo..." followed by further admonishment to play a little deeper. Monell scored and it was 3-0. After Bond whiffed, Curry hit a hard bounder toward third base that clanked off the glove of Jharmidy DeJesus and went for what the authorities at the park generously ruled another double. My sweetie, the true official scorer (and a damn strict one) gave DeJesus an error. In any case, Lormand scored and it was 4-0 Salem-Keizer.

DeJesus marginally made up for his muff in the bottom of the seventh, working a one-out walk to ignite a mini-rally by the AquaSox. With two out first baseman Manelik Pimentel was hit by a pitch, and right fielder Welington Dotel grounded a seeing-eye single up the middle to plate DeJesus to make it 4-1. Second baseman Anthony Phillips popped out to second to end the threat with two men on.

The score remained at 4-1 until the bottom of the ninth, when Volcano manager Tom Trebelhorn inserted Justin Fitzgerald to close it out. DeJesus led off with a single, and shortstop Ben Billingsley ripped a towering high drive to right field that had about the longest hang time of any fly ball we'd ever seen until it landed behind the right field fence for a two-run homer that made it 4-3. Pimentel then worked Fitzgerald for a walk (one could hear Trebelhorn's teeth grinding; we were that close!) and Dotel bunted the potential tying run down to second. But Phillips grounded to second for the second out, and center fielder Tyson Gillies grounded out first to pitcher for the final out.

Salem-Keizer won despite being out-hit 8-5 and striking out 16 times. In addition to Jak's seven, Suriel fanned six in his 4 1/3 innings of work, and Doug Salinas struck out the side in the ninth.

Weisenheimer has not been good for the AquaSox. We've seen them play three times this year and they've lost them all: this game, a drubbing down in Eugene Aug. 2, and a 15-3 loss on opening day in Spokane in the dark, sad ages before West Seattle Weisenheimer became a blog. The AquaSox's slogan is "Tomorrow's Mariners, Today's Fun!" We had a lot of fun, but the future for the Mariners isn't looking much brighter than the present.

Box score

Monday, August 18, 2008

Vancouver Canadians 4, Boise Hawks 3

August 17, 2008

Nat Bailey Stadium in Vancouver, B.C., has, according to the Website of the Vancouver Canadians baseball team, often been described as "the prettiest little ballpark in North America." That's a fairly substantial claim, one that can't be proven or dis-proven during Weisenheimer's 2008 tour of Northwest ballparks. We do, however, have to give "The Nat" the nod among the yards we've visited this summer. We've been to parks in urban and suburban settings, but Nat Bailey Stadium sits right on the edge of a true gem, south Vancouver's Queen Elizabeth Park.

Fact is, Weisenheimer and his sweetie, the official scorer of the Weisenheimer Northwest Ballpark Tour 2008 (we should have thought of having T-shirts made up, but this whole tour thing came about on something of a whim) first discovered the stadium after having brunch at Seasons Restaurant in the park, and followed the sounds of stadium PA announcements to the yard below. It was a pied piper sort of thing. Then, as this weekend, it was blistering hot in Vancouver, though our visit (lo those many years ago) was in May, the heat was unseasonable, and we got sunburned to beat all hell. This time we were ready, as heat was in the forecast. They announced a game-time temp of 32, but it felt more like 90 to me. We ducked into seats in the shade even before the game began.

The Nat, to Weisenheimer's memory (admittedly feeble) has been gussied up a bit since our last visit, when it looked more as depicted at Ballpark Digest. We especially like the art that's on the outside walls of the stadium, including a depiction of the Seattle Rainiers (at right). There's another painting of Honus Wagner; we'll have to do the research some other day to see if Honus actually played in Vancouver. Certainly not at the Nat, which was built in 1951.

Vancouver, in days of yore, played in the Pacific Coast League. The AAA club left after the 1999 season, to become the Sacramento Rivercats, but in 2000 the Southern Oregon Timberjacks moved north to Vancouver to become the Canadians and join the short-season A-ball Northwest League. The Nat has a seating capacity of 6,500, and we expect it would be deemed "too small" to host AAA baseball today. We note that Sacramento leads the PCL in attendance at more than 9,500 per game. If Vancouver sold out at 6,500 per game it would rank in the middle of the pack. As an A-ball club, they're drawing an average of 3,474.

Our one quibble with the Nat -- no roster lists were available. They had a program, and a scorecard, and while the program had opening day rosters for Vancouver, there were no current rosters, and nothing for the visiting Boise Hawks. WTF? OK, a second quibble. The speed pitch displayed MPH. We're in Canada. Shouldn't it be KPH? As you can see, not a lot to gripe about at Nat Bailey Stadium. There's construction of some sort of Olympics venue going on next door. We're hoping they don't mess with this gem of a baseball park.

The game
One thing we learned at this contest, as we learned back on Aug. 1 in Portland and on Aug. 2 in Eugene: stick with the starters. Boise Hawks starter Aaron Shafer worked five innings, gave up one hit, issued no walks, fanned six, threw 57 pitches, faced the minimum of 15 hitters -- and that was his day's work! What, he couldn't have gone two more? Throw 70 pitches? Vancouver starter Trey Barham also strung up goose-eggs. Barham went six innings, gave up five hits (including a couple of the infield variety and one dunker), no runs, no walks, five Ks, threw 81 pitches, and that was his day. The hardest hit shot against him was an out: a liner that would have decapitated him had he not gotten the glove up in time.

As if to prove our point about starters, four of the five relief pitchers who worked in this game walked the first batters they faced, and this on a day in which the home plate umpire seemed to have announced, "It's hot out, boys, so you'd better be swinging." Neither starter walked anyone.

Once the starting pitchers were out of the way Vancouver broke through for two runs in the bottom of the sixth off Marcus Hatley to go up 2-0. Hatley walked Dusty Coleman to start the frame, Coleman scored on a two-out double by David Thomas, who came in on a triple by Marcos Luis. That three-bagger would have been an inside-the-park homer for most players, but Luis defies the typical image of the speedy secondbaseman. In fact, Luis was picked off third for the third out of the inning, perhaps still exhausted by the dash from home to third.

The Canadians tacked on another in the seventh to make it 3-0, and it seemed a nice, tidy affair was in the offing and that the home crowd would go home happy. But Boise plated a pair in the eighth off Edgar Tajeda, who walked a guy and was not helped by an error by third sacker Francisco Tirado, who also has a rusty gate swing and may not have a lengthy pro career. Sean Hoorelbeke, Boise's DH, doubled to plate the pair and chase Tajeda in favor of Ken Smalley, a hefty lad who seems to serve as Vancouver's closer. Smalley fanned Kyler Burke to end the inning and preserve the Canadians' 3-2 lead.

Smalley's inability to field cost him the coveted "save" in the ninth. Boise catcher Carlos Perez led off the final frame with a ground single to left. Shortstop Marwin Gonzalez laid down a bunt to the right of the mound; Smalley muffed it and everyone was safe. Shortstop Ryan Flaherty bunted, too, and this time Smalley made the play, a 1-4 putout, but the runners advanced to second and third.

This led to an interesting play. With the Vancouver infield playing in to try to cut down the tying run at the plate, Gonzalez, the go-ahead run, got a huge lead off second, almost halfway to third. So when left fielder David Macias lined one to short left field, Perez scored easily, Gonzalez was waved home, just eight or ten feet behind him, but was nailed at the plate on a nice throw from Thomas. With a normal lead, Gonzalez is probably held at third. Instead he was the second out, and Andrew Rundle fanned to end the inning.

At this point, the Weisenheimers were a bit concerned. We had a train to catch back to the States, boarding at 5-ish, but the game was tied 3-3 and pushing four o'clock. We could afford an extra inning or two, but no more.

Vancouver came through for us. Jeremy Barfield, son of former Toronto great Jesse who had whiffed three times (but apparently won the previous game with a grand slam in the ninth) was hit by a pitch leading off. Dusty Napoleon bunted him to second. Boise walked Jason Christian, who had doubled to drive in a run in the second, intentionally. But Coleman hit a gapper for a double that scored Barfield to win it for the Canadians.

It was a delightful game, we caught a cab, and made it to the train station in plenty of time.

Go visit the Nat!

Box score

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The Bard alfresco

The Weisenheimer never thought he'd discover anything better than Shakespeare in the park on a gorgeous summer afternoon, with a picnic basket full of goodies and a nice bottle of vino on the side. But on Sunday, August 10, we actually experienced something better: a twin bill of two of the Bard's finest, played out at Magnuson Park.

Seattle's delightful Green Stage is producing Hamlet and Twelfth Night for its 20th anniversary
season, and both are wonderful shows.

The melancholy Dane led off the afternoon's shows. Susanna Wilson directed and Shawn Law starred as Hamlet in one of our favorite performances of the role. Law was alternately angry, moody, flippant, giddy, and focused. Weisenheimer also singles out Allan Armstrong's performance as Polonius, simultaneously clueless and pompous, right up until he's mistaken for a rat behind the curtain. The photo above is of Law, at left, and Armstrong, lifted from the Green Stage Web site and shot by Ken Holmes, who is the company's producing artistic director and also treasurer of the Green Stage board.

The setting in a city park provides its challenges. Weisenheimer was wary at the start of the day's performances, wondering who would be moronic enough to bring their dog to a theater, even if it is outdoors in a city park. The several canines in attendance were pretty well behaved, after some early posturing. Magnuson Park was also apparently right under the flight pattern for Sea Tac for the day, and there was considerable seaplane activity in addition to your standard park stuff. Still, the dialog was mostly audible, and one must give the actors credit for hollering at the tops of their lungs for three hours.

Another particular challenge on this day, especially during Hamlet, was some sort of loud music fest going on in another building in or near the park. This was marginally distracting at times. I tried to put it off as constant revelry at Elsinore, and that seemed to do the trick.

Elsinore was pretty minimalist, props-wise, consisting mainly of a couple of fake stone archways closed off by some lovely purple shower curtains. I recommend them for the home. It makes on feel positively royal! The photo above, by Weisenheimer, shows Elsinore and the cast in the last act. Yes, it's Hamlet: everyone dies in the end. Dang, I forgot to include a spoiler alert!

Twelfth Night holds special significance for the Weisenheimers, who saw a performance of the play at the Seattle Rep as part of their first "big time date" early in their courtship, lo these 17 years ago. We saw it on our first trip to the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in 2005, and the Rep ran it again in the fall of 2007 (in a delightful production that included superb performances by Frank X as Malvolio, David Pichette as Feste, and Nick Garrison in a gender-bending turn as Fabian. (Garrison, parenthetically within a parenthetical statement, seems to be the go-to guy for gender bending, having done an enjoyable performance as the Emcee in Cabaret at the 5th Avenue this year.))

The Green Stage production, directed by Amelia Meckler, included especially entertaining performances by Mathew Ahrens as Sir Toby Belch, Thomas Maier as Sir Andrew Aguecheek, and Ashley Flannegan as Fabian. The trio were zany in their taunting of Malvolio and their use of the audience as cover in several scenes. Sir Toby nearly spilled our wine, in fact. I'm surprised it didn't stop him in his tracks. Nicole Fierstein was also memorable as Olivia, grumpy and mournful at the death of her brother, but giddily head-over-heels for Nicole Vernon as Cesario who really is Viola. Meckler herself jumped in as Maria due to a last-minute "actor emergency." The fabulously named Orion Protonentis was blustery and not-that-smiley as Malvolio, but he wasn't really cross-gartered, and it's going to be a while before someone tops X's performance in the role.

Props for Twelfth Night were even more minimal than for Hamlet, just a couple of portable benches that were dragged on and off lawn -- er, stage -- when needed.

Alack and alas, you have but one more weekend to enjoy the Green Stage productions of these two great plays. Twelfth Night plays at Seward Park on Friday evening and Sunday afternoon. Hamlet plays at Volunteer Park on Friday and is the second half of the twin bill at Seward on Sunday.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

In Paul DePodesta's footsteps

Paul DePodesta, a special assistant with the San Diego Padres, writes a blog called It Might Be Dangerous... You Go First. It's an interesting read with an insider point of view about the business end of baseball. In his August 8 post he discusses a recent visit to see the Eugene Emeralds, which Weisenheimer also saw play in Eugene Aug. 2 and in Salem on the third.

DePodesta is a former assistant to Billy Beane in Oakland, and was featured in Michael Lewis' book Moneyball. DePodesta was general manager of the Los Angeles Dodgers for a couple of years.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Albuquerque Isotopes 4, Portland Beavers 1

August 1, 2008

Athletic events have been going on at the site of downtown Portland's PGE Park since 1893, and the first professional baseball was played there in 190
5. Over the years it's been Multnomah Field and Civic Stadium, and, since a $40 million facelift in 2000, PGE Park. It's a fabulous setting. PGE (Portland General Electric) Park is served by the city's excellent transit system, is an easy walk from downtown hotels, and is quite a unique spot. The foul territory on the third-base side of the park is quite large, allowing for football and soccer fields to be laid out in the stadium. The PGE building looms high above the right field wall, including a mezzanine of bleachers. The left field wall is far below street level. There are seats up at sidewalk height in left, and, behind the hand-operated scoreboard, the offices of The Oregonian newspaper dominate the skyline and Max light rail trains trundle past frequently.

The latest updates include wide concourses, plentiful concession stands (a bit
on the pricey side for AAA) and several levels of "luxury suites" behind home plate. Given the amenities here, it's surprising that they don't draw better. We've made baseball trips to Portland on several occasions in recent years, and have been surprised that the turnout is so low. It's probably going to seem lower than it actually is, too. The seating capacity is nearly 20,000.

Maybe we were just there at the wrong time. As we heard at our Friday night game, Saturday was Jerry Mathers Night at the ballpark (Portland Beavers... get it?) and the give-away was, of course, Jerry Mathers bobbleheads for the first 1,903 fans at the park. (I don't know why 1,903; maybe that's all they had.) It's hard to tell from the photo at the right if the bobblehead was Jerry as The Beav or Jerry as present-day Jerry. Well, no matter; they look pretty similar anyway. Word is a good time was had by all, and that the Beav signed autographs, answered Leave It To Beaver trivia questions and threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

But, back to our game on Friday, which didn't lack for excitement, because it was "Latino Night" at the ballpark, which meant that some of the PA announcements were in Spanish, and that there were some salsa dancers for entertainment between some of the innings. It must be hard to dance on field turf.

The game
The contest between the Albuquerque Isotopes and Portland Beavers was a well-played one. It was a near "dandy." Our official definition of dandy is different from the one used by Dave Niehaus, who would label a 12-11 slugfest as such. Here's the official word:

Dandy, n. -- A baseball game in which fewer than five runs are scored, no team scores more than three, and no errors are made.

A 4-1 game in AAA really ought to qualify; maybe the standards should be relaxed slightly from our major league dandy definition. In any case, starting pitchers Cesar Ramos of the Beavers and Rick VandenHurk of the Beavers put on a good show, getting the ball and throwing it, and getting guys out. The game was 0-0 until Will Venable hit a solo homer just to the right of dead center with one out in the bottom of the fourth to put Portland up 1-0. Albuquerque tied it in the fifth on a sacrifice fly by VandenHurk -- with two National League affiliates going at it the pitchers were batting. I love that! Portland is the AAA club for the Padres and Albuquerque is a farm team of the Marlins. That's a long flight if they call you up to be in Miami by noon tomorrow. It remained knotted at 1-1 until the Isotopes broke through with two in the eighth on a double by shortstop Robert Andino. They tacked on one in the ninth for good measure to win it 4-1.

Player of the game
You've got to give it to "The Hurk," Albuquerque starter Rick VandenHurk, who went seven innings, gave up one run on just two hits, struck out six and walked three. He had an RBI to boot. I'd love to give a glowing report on the Isotopes' starter; he had 17 starts for the Marlins in 2007 and started four this year, including a couple in late July as the Florida rotation has had some injury problems. He spent most of his season at Carolina in the Southern League. Ramos was almost as good for Portland, going seven and allowing just one run on four hits. He walked two and fanned three. The Isotopes got their last three runs off Carlos Guevara, who took the loss.

The highlight for Portland, aside from the strong outing from Ramos, was the homer by Venable, who played center field and hit third for the Beavers. Venable is a good athlete who starred in baseball and basketball at Princeton. He's the son of Max Venable, who had a 12-year career as a sub outfielder with the Giants, Expos, Reds, and Angels, and also is now the hitting coach for Portland. Will is hitting .303 with a dozen homers and an .857 OPS at Portland, but he'll be 26 in October, a little old to be a top notch prospect.

Mariners' fans will also recognize the name of Glenn Abbott, "The Tall Arkansan." Abbott, a starting pitcher for the early M's, is Portland's pitching coach.

Box score

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

Eugene Emeralds 11, Everett Aqua Sox 6

August 2, 2008

Civic Stadium in Eu
gene, Oregon opened in 1938, hosting its first athletic event that fall: the annual high school football rivalry between Eugene and Corvallis. According to Wikipedia, Civic Stadium began hosting minor league baseball when Eugene landed a Pacific Coast League team in 1969, and is the eighth oldest ballpark in the United States that still hosts professional baseball. The same article also notes that the park has been declared surplus property by its owner, the Eugene School District, and that there's some local chatter about building a new ballpark that the Emeralds would share with the University of Oregon.

That would be a pity. Civic Stadium is a marvelous, rickety old yard with a wooden grandstand. The super duper premium seats, priced at $9, are comfortable wide stadium chairs, cup holders included. Don't give us another "luxury box" monstrosity!

The ballpark was clearly built for football. The stands on the first base side of the diamond stretch most of the way out to the right field fence. The short leg of the "L" on the right-field side doesn't get all the way to third base. They've tacked some extra bleachers and a picnic area down that side. (The photo above was snapped from the very far end of the third base grandstand.) There are a half dozen or so entryways from the outer concourse into the grandstand.

The Emeralds have a number of "inflatable" mascots. Pictured here are "Spitball" and
"Catch." Also spotted around the park from time to time were "Slugger" -- a musclebound hulk who often lost his head and whose pants would fall down to reveal polka-dot underwear (between that and Spitball's ample tongue, there was lots of eroticism at the ballpark!) -- and "Louis" who is, of course, an inflatable bat. The mascots did some entertaining routines, including a dance number with a fake umpire and a startling scene in which Catch devoured a young fan, then spit him back out... sans shirt. We're not sure the kid was actually expecting that. Mercifully, there were no between-innings promotions in which stuff was thrown or propelled at the fans, nor was there a constantly hollering huckster announcer.

My one beef with the ballpark experience was parking. We got to the yard a good hour before game time, and the stadium lot was full. A grass lot across the street was filled with ruts that rivaled the grand canyon; our Acura TL is NOT an off-road vehicle!

The game
The contest started off as a crisp, well-played affair, knotted at 0-0 until the homestanding Eugene Emeralds broke through for two runs in the fourth on a two-out, two-run single by catcher Logan Gelbrich. The Everett Aqua Sox got a run in the fifth on Wellington Dotel's sacrifice fly. Bobby Verbick hit a two-run homer for Eugene in the bottom of the fifth to make it 4-1. The Aqua Sox tied it with three in the sixth, one on a home run by Dennis Raben, and took the lead with a run in the seventh on doubles by Raben and Nate Tenbrink.

The wheels fell off for Everett in the eighth, when Eugene sent 13 men to the plate and scored seven runs, with the help of two errors, four walks, and a wild pitch. Eugene won 11-6 and could have had a lot more. The Ems left the bases loaded in the eighth and the sixth, left runners on second and third in the seventh, and stranded 13 runners in all.

Player of the game
It's unusual to have the starting pitcher named player of the game in an 11-6 contest, but Eugene starter Nick Vincent gets the nod. Vincent worked five innings, allowed one run on three hits. He fanned nine while walking only one. It's hard to find a bright spot for the Aqua Sox, who issued 10 walks. Leadoff man Tyson Gillies showed great range in center field and chased down several gappers beautifully. He was, however, 0-for-5 with a golden sombrero -- four Ks -- at the dish.

Box score

Just what the world needed. Another blog.

Agatha Christie once wrote that, "Good advice is always certain to be ignored, but that's no reason not to give it." I guess I consider this blog to be "good advice."

I've considered doing a blog now and again for some time now. I've finally been kicked into action by a baseball trip to Oregon, after which my sweetie suggested I should write it up.

Here goes.