Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category

TAKE US OUT TO THE BALLGAME—BEAUTIFUL PLAY IN THE CALIFORNIA LEAGUE

Sunday, July 3rd, 2016

Our national pastime can be enjoyed in an unforgettable afternoon and evening by attending a California League game, at one of eight minor league stadiums, such as the wonderful venue in the little town of Lake Elsinore, in Riverside county—halfway between Los Angeles and San Diego.

 

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STORM STADIUM, LAKE ELSINORE, CALIFORNIA

There, on the late afternoon of July 2, 2016, the home club, Lake Elsinore STORM, hosted the Lancaster JETHAWKS, for a delightful and exciting game. The Storm won, 3-1, but for a charmed spectator the outcome was less important than the fun of watching major league prospects show their stuff. For example, a right-handed pitcher, Enyel De Los Santo, seen below, may someday soon join the San Diego Padres, as the Storm is one of the Padre minor league affiliates (farm team).

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On this marvelous afternoon The Lancaster JETHAWKS, a Houston Astros minor league club, appropriately named also for its location in the California Antelope Valley, a region long associated with the aerospace industry, was the visiting ball team. Lancaster is about an hour north of Los Angeles.

For a fan who has had the privilege of seeing baseball in many major league parks around the nation and in Canada, this afternoon was as good as most of those experiences. Just to watch batting practice, followed by immaculate grounds keeping work to get the field in perfect playing shape was a treat. As the fans easily strolled into the stadium (with brief stops for what appeared to be serious security checks) the tarpaulins were removed to unveil a mix of perfectly manicured green turf, with brown base paths and a carefully measured pitcher’s mound.

Precisely at 6:05 pm the home plate umpire called, “Play Ball.” (There are two umpires running California League games, compared with four in the majors.) Soon the score was 3 to 1, on an early homerun by the Storm’s Fernando Perez, the designated hitter.

(In the lower minor leagues each team has a “designated hitter, “ a practice first employed in the American League of Major League baseball, giving the pitchers a chance to concentrate on that skill without having to worry about batting.)

As the game progressed—and the fans were clearly patronizing the concession stands for dinner or snacks—the Storm’s efficient media relations specialist, Tyler Zickel, also took to the field between innings to honor local kids and other dignitaries for civic activities. (This also provided a good chance for some fans to ignore the field and get food!)

Lake Elsinore itself, in a beautiful valley setting amid California hills and mountains, was named for a spectacular body of water quite visible from the stadium.   Now somewhat diminished by the terrible California drought, the lake is still a brilliant and lovely natural wonder. Team management schedules almost all games for very late afternoon when the heat of central and southern California has subsided.

If a spectator came to Lake Elsinore early enough to get a look around there were numerous fast food joints, but also three fine restaurants lined up to serve a more discerning taste—a Persian restaurant, next to a really good Mexican place, which was next door to an Italian restaurant with a welcoming and serious menu. For three diners at the Mexican eatery, the total tab came to under $30 for a full and memorable meal. This seemed typical of Lake Elsinore prices.

A nearby Spa advertised serious massage treatment, probably not up to the highest standards of LA or San Diego, but a tired driver could get relief there, before the game. Of course it would be difficult to be too worn out from driving since the time to get to Storm stadium from nearby big cities was a mere hour-and-a-half. Much less driving time would be required if a fan was coming from close in cities in Riverside County or Orange County, both important population centers in California.

The true designation of Riverside and adjoining counties is California’s “Inland Empire,” perhaps a bit of overstatement but one could get the royal treatment at Lake Elsinore just by purchasing a moderately priced ticket and going out to the ballgame!

SAN DIEGO PADRES ENJOYING 10th ANNIVERSARY AT PETCO PARK

Sunday, June 8th, 2014

 

by Barry Jagoda

Petco Park, was  spectacularly beautiful on Saturday evening, June 7, 2014 when the hometown San Diego Padres hosted the Washington Nationals, the middle game of a three contest series.  With its beautiful green fields, scoreboards revealing statistics of easily understandable recaps of player records and up-to-date scores from around the majors, this is exactly the kind of sports and entertainment shrine that draws and excites baseball fans who come to appreciate the fun and excitement that has been the compelling glory for which our national past time has been drawing crowds of fanatics for many years.

Our small group was comprised of two San Diego-based journalists and one Washington Nationals writer in with his fanaticism from the nation’s capital.  A perfect grouping for this encounter between the beloved local Padres and the Nationals, a team which has also continued to draw attention and crowds for the past decade to its own urban baseball park in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol.

Petco was the setting for the action this Saturday night and by early in the ballgame the score was tied 2-2.   We were having a great time and split away from our fine seats behind the visitors dugout on the third base side to go up and purchase a couple of hot dogs and the required accompanying cans of beer.  By the time we got back to our seats the visitors had taken a 3-2 lead, very satisfying for the Nationals partisan in our group.

The beer was ice cold so it was fortunate the ballclub, and one of its sponsors Lexus/Toyota, chose this evening to give away “beach towels” which, when wrapped around shoulders, easily took the chill out of the lovely San Diego night air.  This season is being celebrated as the 10th Anniversary of Petco Park, but the venue looks so clean and fresh that one could almost assume we were present on opening night in 2004 instead of celebrating a terrific 10th birthday.

But, back to the ballgame:  The last Padre was at the plate in the 9th Inning and the park was emptying.  Dramatically, the highly regarded Nationals closing pitcher threw one right over the plate just in a perfect spot for Padre first baseman Yonder Alonso to knock it over the 400 foot mark in center field.  Tie game!  The ballpark exploded in fan frenzy.

Alonso is seen at left in this dramatic moment–exactly what makes people love and appreciate baseball.  In one second, with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, it was about to be over for the home team and in another instant there was new life, another great baseball dream.

 

 

This is the way baseball is supposed to be seen and played.  Thrilling.  Extra Innings.

 

 

It all ended when the Padres center fielder, Cameron Maybin, facing the camera above, knocked in the winning run in the bottom of the 11th.

Since the visitors had won on Friday night the series would now be tied between these two very competitive teams.  A Sunday afternoon ballgame, won by the Nationals, 6-0, made the Nationals the series victor but only after nearly 30,000 Saturday night fans could easily be considered the big winners with an forgettable outing in downtown San Diego.