I know I’m not the first hack to extol the down-home virtues of watching minor league baseball games, but you’re just going to have to go with me on this one because I went to a Rainiers game yesterday, and MAN did I have a great time!
It all started with bedbugs. A couple of weeks ago, I noticed a couple of them walking across my couch’s giant ottoman. Upon confirmation of the infestation, I was forced to spend the entirety of that week’s weekend cleaning and bagging everything in my apartment (leaving only for the occasional gym run and to buy groceries). This is what happens when you live anywhere in the Capitol Hill/First Hill/South Lake Union areas; and just know that the problem is getting worse, not better (I’m looking at you, Amazon. The bedbug scourge is spreading through Seattle’s hipper areas like upwardly mobile tech-yuppies; you might want to clear out while you still can).
Anyway, last weekend was the worst. So, I made it a point to spend this weekend as far away from my apartment (now supposedly bedbug-free, but we’ll see) as possible. Turns out, “as far as possible” is 30-something miles south, to Tacoma, to stay with my family. Of course, there’s only so much you can do with your family, and so much binge drinking you can accomplish in a 3-day period. So, I decided to clean & sober it up on Sunday afternoon with a 1:35pm baseball game at Cheney Stadium.
Or, I guess, The New Cheney Stadium?
I can’t remember the last time I attended a game at Cheney, but it was before all the renovations. I vaguely remember there being Dollar Hot Dogs, Dollar Ice Cream, and Dollar Other Stuff (maybe beer?). I’m almost positive the only reason we were there was for the hot dogs (and beer, I guess), and for the life of me I can’t remember any of the Rainiers in the game that day (probably for the best).
Yesterday, I had more of an agenda at hand. James Paxton was on the hill and I’ve yet to see any of the games by members of The Big Three, so this was as good a time as any. We also had soon-to-be-promoted Nick Franklin as well as catching phenom Mike Zunino. Going into this day, there were enough interesting elements to capture my attention full throttle.
That was before I realized we had Guti at DH (and batting leadoff) as he works his way from DL to Majors. So, that was a nice bonus. Stefen Romero was also in the lineup, playing left field (and making a nice diving catch early in the game). Carlos Triunfel was also in the lineup at short (pushing Franklin to second). I don’t know if that means the Mariners see Triunfel as a more-likely replacement for the Brendan Ryan/Robert Andino experiment than Nick Franklin, or if they’re just keeping both players fresh in the event one of them is brought up to play short, but I thought it was somewhat interesting.
James Paxton started out the game as a strike-throwing machine. He breezed through the first 7-8 hitters, then they started figuring him out and knocking him around. It’s hard for me to make any definitive opinions on the guy after only one viewing, but suffice it to say James Paxton did not have a good game. Was this just one bad day? Was it a fluke that this particular team seemed to get the better of him?
If you want my inexperienced take, I can see why he’s the lowest-rated of the Big Three. If he’s hitting his spots, painting the corners, he’ll be in good shape. He either needs to develop a better secondary out pitch or he needs to start throwing it more often, because it didn’t seem like he trusted it as much as he should’ve. James Paxton might be too predictable. Or, he might just have the kind of stuff that hitters are better able to figure out as the game goes on. I understand why some people believe he’s destined to be a bullpen arm; because the second and third times around the lineup saw him getting hit pretty damn hard. The thing is: his stuff isn’t all that great. How much can you expect out of a semi-finesse lefty with no real strong out-pitch in the bullpen?
Either way, Paxton didn’t make it out of the fifth inning. Jonathan Arias relieved and made his AAA-debut. He was recalled from AA and looks like a strong right handed power arm. Arias went 2.1 innings of no-hit, 2-strikeout ball before giving way to Brian Sweeney who went the final 2 innings while giving up only 1 hit.
On the offensive side of things, Tacoma scored first thanks to a second-inning solo home run by Mike Zunino, which was apparently his first home run at home in his brief Tacoma career. Zunino would go hitless the rest of the way, but he knocked in another run thanks to a sac-fly in the bottom of the sixth.
Paxton gave up two runs in the third and two runs in the fourth to put Memphis ahead 4-1. The way Maikel Cleto was going, I thought this was going to be a long day (made even longer thanks to the Mariners losing for a third consecutive day in Cleveland, with Felix getting pounded), but third baseman Nate Tenbrink homered in the bottom of the fourth to pull the game to 4-3. A solo homer off of Paxton in the fifth effectively knocked him out of the game and put Memphis up 5-3, which stuck until the bottom of the sixth with the aforementioned sac fly by Zunino, followed by an RBI single (with the infield pulled in, a runner on third, and only one out) by first baseman Rich Poythress to tie the game.
The teams exchanged zeroes until the bottom of the ninth, with one out, when Carlos Triunfel mashed a game-winning, walk-off home run. And the majority of the 5,341 in attendance went home happy.
All in all, it was a great time. One thing I noticed from the renovation is that they’ve done away with those long, hard metal benches. All the seats are actual SEATS. View Reserved seats are only $13 and you feel like you’re RIGHT THERE. These same seats at Safeco Field would probably be over $100. There’s a grassy hill area next to right field (down the first base side) where people can sit and those tickets are only $7. From the looks of things, nestled comfortably in my $13 seats behind home plate, it looked like a fucking madhouse of kids running around in that grassy area. So, unless you’re on a huge budget, or you’ve got a million kids and are already dead inside, I suggest NOT sitting on the grassy knoll. For the record, the real good seats, down practically on the field, are still only $25. And, there are suites, which I didn’t bother to price, as well as a party deck area with tables and umbrellas and, I guess, beer and stuff, but I didn’t price that either. As I was with just one other buddy, I didn’t see the point in doing a full price-breakdown of all possible experiences at The New Cheney Stadium.
As I have no other minor league stadia to compare it to, I won’t. It’s a fairly similar experience to going to Safeco – there are between-innings announcements, games on the video screen, stupid trivia, a reindeer mascot that’s a clear knockoff of the Mariner Moose. Unlike Safeco, there were t-shirts shot into the stands, teenage girls dancing on the dugout while music is playing, kids running the bases in the middle of the game, about a million pre-game ceremonial pitches, a Kiss Cam, and a bunch of other things that distract from the actual experience of watching a fucking baseball game. I would say my old age is starting to creep in, but even when I was a child I thought these things were idiotic and pointless.
Do you think they ever have throw-back days where the stadium announcer doesn’t do anything but say the names of the batters, where we’re not bombarded with music to fill any dreaded silence we might be forced to endure, where there’s nothing on the video board, where there’s no mascot running around, no T-shirts given away, and where we’re not forced to make it all about the kids, thereby dragging out the game an extra 15-20 minutes? Followed by an after-game celebration with NO fireworks? Where everyone can just sit there and quietly watch a fucking baseball game? Where they can cheer when they want to cheer instead of being told when to cheer? Do you think that’s possible? Because I would GO to that game. I would go the SHIT to that game! I’d even wear an old-timey hat from the 1930s and a suit if need be!