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Dickey-Stephens Park, Little Rock, Arkansas

Dickey-Stephens Park, Little Rock, ARKANSAS

Number of states: 27
States to go: 23

Number of games: 2
First game:  April 4, 2008 (Midland RockHounds 3, Arkansas Travelers 2, 10 innings)
Most recent game: April 5, 2008 (Midland RockHounds 2, Arkansas Travelers 1)

(Click on any image to see a larger version.)

It was the best of parks, it was the worst of parks.  Michelle and I were both tremendous fans of Dickey-Stephens Park

pretty quickly.  Its location on the river and views of downtown (quite lovely…trust me, sit on the third-base side!) and even of the state capitol building (if you stand on the walkway in left-center field, crane your neck just so, and look out past the right-field foul pole), make for a lovely aesthetic experience.  And the Travelers Baseball Museum on site is precisely my favorite kind of thing to see.  Celebrations of Arkansas-area players and–be still my heart!–umpires abound.  Did you know that Bill Valentine umpired the 1965 All-Star Game?  Did you know that two recent Travelers who have pitched no-hitters–Jose Jimenez and Bud Smith–each went on to pitch a no-hitter as a rookie?  And that Bud Smith did it in spite of an incredibly unfortunate anagram for his name?  I love locally-oriented baseball museums.  I wish they hadn’t charged me a buck to get in there, especially since it’s less a museum and more a walk-in closet filled with memorabilia, but I still really enjoyed it.  The ballpark did very nicely in exuding Arkansas to me, and since my wife and I were fans of Little Rock as a city (recommended:

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a burger and shake at the Purple Cow), we liked that feeling.

In addition to the museum, there were a couple of other nice touches to the place.  The ballpark hasn’t (yet) pimped out its name to the highest bidder; indeed, it’s named after two sets of brothers who were instrumental in Arkansas baseball’s past.  (The “Dickeys” are baseball playing brother Skeeter and Hall-of-Famer Bill.)  As one approaches the ballpark, lampposts are festooned with shots of the Dickeys and the Stephenses from back in the day.  That’s wonderful.  Isn’t is sad that it’s now considered quaint and retro to have a stadium named after an owner?  But keep it.  The name might be verbose, but I like it. Additionally, the ballpark features a nice perk for its high-paying customers and groups who have the barbeque porch down the right-field line.  As people

eat there before the ballgame, they are positioned in a spot that the players walk through between the clubhouse and the field.  As such, all of the players and coaches on both teams have to walk through the barbeque area both before and after the game.  I can see where it would be a pain for players to have to walk through fans twice a day (as they do at High Desert), especially at the double-A level where legitimate rising stars might fight through decent-sized crowds.  So while I don’t usually like segregation by economic status at ballparks, I’m okay with groups having to pay for a shot at an autograph.  And I especially like the way that the players stood for what seemed to be a very long time signing.  (In the nearby photo, that’s Midland’s Tommy Everidge and an unidentified Traveler.)

But once the game got started, I’m afraid Dickey-Stephens Park had too many flaws in the way it presented the game to be ignored.  I’m always a fan of getting loads of information in my programs, etc.  At Dickey-Stephens Park, I learned that it’s far better to have no information than to have inaccurate information.  The scoreboard, the PA announcer (who had an awesome voice, by the way), and the uniform numbers never seemed to agree on who was at the plate.  Of course, if there were a pinch-hitter or other change, the PA guy took his sweet time letting us know, if he did at all.  There were ballplayers on the field who were not in the program, which, while acceptable on opening night, is not at all OK on the second and third nights in the program inserts, since they are printed out that day.  Net result:

in our efforts to score the games, Michelle and I came up very, very wanting in terms of good information.  They tried to keep track of players’ stats on the scoreboard, but there were times I simply didn’t know what they were talking about.  Plus, they sure did look like they were dropping an F-bomb at me, perhaps because I was looking at the scoreboard for accurate information:   Now, seriously, did they really have to use such language towards us?

Promotions were at times distracting.  I’m not a huge fan of the guy walking around the stadium filming people going batty for the scoreboard video screen…and I’m especially not a fan of his when he stands in front of me for several pitches, blocking my view.  I’m not anti-promotion–hey, I had the lucky program and won an Outback Bloomin’ Onion!–but I am anti-distraction, so this dude needed to sit down.

In any event, this was a beautiful ballpark in a nice city, but there was enough negative–poor presentation, icky brown grass, and a cameraman blocking my view–that it won’t get a very high score.  Still, in spite of that, it’s well worth a visit.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  9/10
Fantastic.  The museum, coupled with the river and the downtown skyline, make for an unquestionably Arkansan experience.

Charm:  4/5
Pretty nice here.

Spectacle:  3/5
I like winning contests, but I don’t like sitting behind a standing camera guy for several pitches.

Team mascot/name:  1.5/5

Here I am with that something-or-other…a horse?  a moose?  a whatever?  His name is simply an abomination to all that is holy…Shelly.  Please note the Shell Oil logo under his left elbow.  That’s right:  the Travelers have pimped out the name of their mascot to big oil.  Ick.  This makes me want to buy a hybrid even more.

Aesthetics:  5/5
A gorgeous place.

Pavilion area:  4.5/5
Very nice.  360-degree walk leads to even better views of the river, etc.

Scoreability:  0/5
The scoreboard and PA actually led to more confusion than clarity.  If I can score a game easier without the ballpark’s “help” than with it, that’s a pretty severe repudiation of a ballpark’s ability to do what a ballpark ought to be doing.

Fans:  3/5

Intangibles:  2.5/5
What can I say?  There were parts I loved and parts I really, really didn’t love.

TOTAL:  32.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Myron Leslie hits a game-winning solo shot in the 10th for Midland.

Huge pitching in the second game.  Andrew Bailey pitchers 6 innings of 2-hit ball for the win for Midland.

(Written April 2008.)

John Thurman Field, Modesto, California

modestoinprogress

John Thurman Field, Modesto, CALIFORNIA

Number of states: still 13
States to go: 37

First game:  July 2, 2006 (Modesto Nuts 6, San Jose Giants 3)

After the horrendously loud and promotion-saturated experience at San Jose’s Municipal Stadium the night before, I welcomed this retreat into a quieter ballpark in a smaller city.  While John Thurman Field wasn’t exactly perfect, it was good for a number of reasons.

The ballpark itself is in a bit of a non-descript area, between a golf course and a somewhat-seedy residential area.  Before the game, it’s possible to enjoy some California Almonds while reclining under an umbrella and modestogolferwatching people tee off.  It’s also possible to walk right up to Modesto players as they make their way from the clubhouse to the dugout.  On the day we visited, anyone who wanted to could play catch in the outfield was welcome to head out there and do so.  Of course, this late afternoon and many others in Modesto were insufferably hot, so where I normally would have been disappointed to have forgotten our gloves, on this particular day I was fine not to be out there running around.

The concourse is also nondescript–a few concessionaires tucked back by the golf courses.  The promotions were reasonable–there could have been one or two more at the single-A level, but for the most part, they were fine.  Sure, the hot-dog eating contest that followed the game was disgusting, but it didn’t interfere with the game, so I can sit back and enjoy the disgusting modestoexteriorspectacle.

By the way, if you’re thinking of going to the ballpark, believe me, you want to sit on the first-base side in the shade, and not on the third-base side in the sun.  But you will have to get up if you want food. At the start of the game, I experienced one of my favorite ballpark perks:  an usher who offered to get me food while I stayed in my seat watching the game.  Too bad I never saw her again.

Among John Thurman Field’s biggest problems are a horrible PA system:  it’s actually easier to hear the PA in the pavilion than it is to hear it in the seats.  Not that there was much to hear:  the PA guy actually took the time to wish his wife a happy second anniversary.  I don’t like that stuff when it comes from the crowd; why would I like it from the staff?

Additionally, I was a better scorekeeper and scoreboard modestofromlfoperator than Modesto had.  There was a tough scoring call–fielder’s choice where everybody reaches, or error?–in the sixth inning.  As I waited to figure out what the scorer would decide, an affable usher saw me scoring (I didn’t notice anyone else scoring the game here, continuing the trend of nobody scoring games in California…is it banned by the state Constitution?).  He jokingly said:  “Just give Modesto a double.”  I laughed, but pointed out that there was a fairly large error on the scoreboard:  San Jose had two hits, but the scoreboard only had one up there.  It’s not like one of them was tough to miss…both were doubles down the line, one in the second inning and one in the sixth.  The usher immediately walkie-talkied the booth and pointed out the error.  modestoretirednumbersHe received an angry, harried response, something along the lines of “I have 5 people at once talking to me!  Stop bugging me!”  Nothing happened for another inning, when the usher called back a second time.  I actually managed to change the scoreboard!  I’m totally confident it never would have been fixed were it not for me.

I got to see a pitcher, Ching-Lung Lo, give a great performance for the second year in a row.  Lo had pitched a gem and lost when I visited Asheville in 2005.  His promotion to Modesto was not off to a great start, but he sure had a great game when I arrived for this visit:  3 hits in 7 innings–2 runs, one unearned.  Mr. Lo, I’m happy to watch you at the AAA level in Colorado Springs in a year or two.  (But, if it’s all the same to you, I’d rather not modestosignreturn to Drillers Stadium in Tulsa, so get through AA as quickly as you can.)

My wife and I met a nice woman–a mother of two from Southern California who was conned  by her 11-year-old son into stopping in Modesto on the way home from a holiday weekend in the mountains.  She could not believe that my wife and I were in Modesto only to see a baseball game, even though her husband does similar tours of ballparks.  My main concern for her was that she was turning around to talk to us.  Since we were in the second row behind a dugout, I had images of her or her daughter getting their heads exploded by a foul ball.  Hadn’t she read the sign which stated that that could happen?  When I offered to have her join us in the third row so that she could see any threatening line drives heading her way, her response was “No, I’m fine.”  Thank goodness she was right.

All in all, a fine, quiet evening in an ordinary–blessedly ordinary–ballpark.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  6.5/10
Tough to score this since I have no real image of what Modesto’s region should feel like.  They do well with all the nuts they sell in concessions and in the team name, but they fall short in the view from the seating bowl.  Also, the neighborhood and golf course could be anywhere in the USA.

Charm:  3/5
Not bad, but not great.

Spectacle: 4/5
Could be one or two more at the single-A level, but not too shabby.  I liked the multiple mascots getting around–and that they didn’t interfere with baseball.

Team mascot/name:  5/5

modestomascots

modestorobot

Wally the Walnut is on the left, Peanut the Elephant (I believe a leftover from the old Modesto A’s) is on the right.  Not pictured:  Al the Almond.  Modesto Nuts is an ideal name, and the multiple mascots are quite nice.

Aesthetics:  2.5/5
Nothing too special here.

Pavilion area:  3.5/5

Scoreability:  1/5
If I have to tell your scorekeeper and scoreboard operator that there’s been a double down the line, well, that’s a serious problem.  (But thanks to the usher for fixing it.)

Fans:  2.5/5
I sat with a nice woman and her daughter, but other than that, the game was sparsely attended and what fans there were stayed very quiet.

Intangibles:  4/5
On the whole, I liked it here, mostly because it was so cozy and calm.

TOTAL:  32/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Ching-Lung Lo pitches 7 innings of 3-hit ball to pick up the win, striking out 10 and walking none.  Here he is signing an autograph for a fan in the dugout before the game:

modestochinglo

Chris Frey has a pair of RBI.

(Written July 2006.)

Paul and Michelle’s Love And Baseball Rehearsal Dinner Extravaganza

Paul and Michelle’s Love And Baseball Rehearsal Dinner Extravaganza

Everett Memorial Stadium, Everett, WASHINGTON
Number of states:  still 11
States to go:  39

July 29, 2005 (Tri-City Dust Devils 9, Everett AquaSox 3)

After proposing to my wife (just after visiting Vancouver’s Nat Bailey Stadium), we had 11 months to set up our wedding weekend.  Now, as I have told you, there was never any question:  the wedding was not going to take place at a ballpark, just as the proposal wasn’t.  But we wanted minor league baseball to be a part of our weekend. Baseball was central to our relationship.

How you ask?  Well, let me quote the minister at our wedding:  “Dear friends, we are gathered here today, in the company of friends and loved ones, ready to celebrate the marriage of Michelle and Paul…because of the infield fly rule.”  Who else can say their marriage is a direct result of the infield fly rule?  I bet none.


everettrehearsalal

Michelle and I wait on the field for our pre-game activities with Al, an AquaSox worker.

Michelle and I dated for a while back in 1997.  During that time, I took her to a Mariners game at the Kingdome.  I taught her the ins and outs of the infield fly rule.  She thought I was nuts.  We broke up (not because of that).  Four years later, Michelle had coincidentally gotten a job with the Tri-City Dust Devils.  She was a moderately big baseball fan, but not quite as intense as those who worked in baseball her whole life.  However, Michelle found that her knowledge of the infield fly rule gave her credibility in the wild world of sports.  She also found she was all alone in Kennewick, Washington, and thinking of me.  She wrote me a letter.

Meanwhile, I was writing these pages for the first time–on the major league side.  In the process, I was thinking of how cool Michelle was.  I was also worried–I had heard through very indirect channels that Michelle had gotten married and

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had become very sick, perhaps even died.  I remarked on that on the Kingdome page!  So when Michelle wrote me, I actually wrote back “Glad to hear you’re alive!”  Weird.  I took my sweet time popping the question…and three and a half years later, we were celebrating at Everett.

All Michelle and I wanted was to get a few seats and a chicken dinner.  But the group sales representative we worked with at the AquaSox must not get a tremendous amount of rehearsal dinners.  She went crazy-nuts and was thrilled to work with us!  Right off the bat, she said:  “Of course, someone from your party would need to throw out a first pitch that night, and we’d want to get your guests in the game for some of our onfield promotions!”

We were thrilled.  But then we were concerned.

If anything was going to break up our marriage before it got started, it would be an argument over which of us got to throw out the first pitch.  So Michelle emailed to ask if we could have two first pitches–one for each of us.  We got the following response:  “I will reserve TWO first pitches as well (unless one of you would rather sing the national anthem J)”  Weird emoticon–I think it means she was being sarcastic.  But singing the National Anthem at a ballgame is one of my lifelong dreams.  I called her from work the second I saw the email and asked if she was serious.  She asked this:  “Can you sing?”  Yes, I can.  Then, this:  “Are you going to go Roseanne or Janet Jackson on me?” I’m too patriotic to do the former and not chesty enough to do the latter.  “Okay.  You’re on.”

Thus it came to pass that Michelle walked the red carpet to deliver the first pitch of the game (well, one of about a half-dozen “first” pitches).  We practiced for months…Michelle wanted to throw from the rubber and didn’t want it to bounce.  When we started practicing in the spring, she could only get the ball about 45

feet.  But the practice paid off.  Michelle threw from the mound, just in front of the rubber.  The ball made it to catcher J.B. Tucker on the fly–and out of the six first pitches, hers was the only one not to bounce.  When she walked up to have her picture taken with Mr. Tucker, Michelle was going to say “This is my last night as a single gal!”  I had even authorized a quick tryst at home plate, but Michelle chickened out and said nothing.  Your loss, J.B. Tucker.

Next up: the National Anthem.  I had worked on it for several days.  The big question:  do I go up the fourth on the word “Free”?  If I start in the right key, I can pull that off.  I had made other decisions beyond any shadow of a doubt:  I would go with a fairly slow tempo (hey, this is my moment, I want it to last).  I would slow down just a hair at the end of every quatrain.  I would smile on “That our flag was still there,” thus giving the line the warmth it deserves.  And then, if it felt right, I’d go up the fourth.  It all worked out, except maybe going up the fourth.  I hit the note all right, but had trouble getting off it (there was a minor glitch at the end of the note–I noticed, but nobody else said they did).

In any event, the best part was the cheering from my friends and family.  My buddy J.J. snapped this picture, which happens to be one of my favorite pictures of all time.  It’s me singing, but more importantly, it’s nearly everyone I love in the world in the top four rows of the first full section from the left.  All of my buddies and family are looking off at the flag–except for my mom and dad, who are looking down at me.

Things went on from there.  Michelle was the “Sweetheart of the Game” for the second time (and at the second stadium) in a month. 

My Uncle Rick won a hundred bucks in a remote-control car race when he totally T-boned his opponent.  My nephew Henry tried to throw plastic fish into a net his dad was holding…but unfortunately, he threw the fishes over his shoulder–north–while his dad was standing east of him.  My new father-in-law had to decide whether to take an AquaSox cap or “what’s in the car” (which, the PA guy said, is a Mark Goodson/Bill Todman production distributed by KingWorld).  He took the car, and was rewarded with a $50 gift certificate.  Our friend Monika guessed the movie trivia question right (“Some Like It Hot”).  Some younger guests got to run around the bases, one of them in a race against Webbly.  And, to top it all off, the night ended with fireworks!

As those fireworks died off, we had all enjoyed the perfect rehearsal dinner.  It was a celebration of baseball, and of Michelle and I, to be sure.  But it turned out to be a huge party and celebration of all of our friends and family as well.  The fireworks were an absolutely perfect way to finish off the evening–it felt like they were for Michelle and me, and a thank you to everyone for heading out.  Our only big worry was that the game would be so fun that it would eclipse the ceremony and reception the next day.  It didn’t.  The game was exactly what we wanted to launch us into our wedding, and our marriage.


BASEBALL STUFF WE SAW THAT NIGHT:

The Dust Devils’ Jason van Kooten and James Sweeney were the batting stars.  van Kooten had a double and a triple, and both van Kooten and Sweeney had two RBI.

Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, Washington

Cheney Stadium, Tacoma, WASHINGTON

Number of states: Still 4
States to go: 46
Number of games: 6 (1 before quest began)
First game in quest:  July 1, 2004 (Tacoma Rainiers 7, Portland Beavers 6)
Most recent game: July 29, 2016 (Tacoma Rainiers 2, El Paso Chihuahuas 1)

(Click any image to see a larger version.)

In the Puget Sound region, Tacoma is the butt of a number of jokes.  Its industrialization, crime problems, and, simply put, aesthetic unattractiveness lead stuffy, rich Seattleites to refer to “the aroma of Tacoma.”  This stereotyping led me to expect that Cheney Stadium, the AAA ballpark in Tacoma,

wouldn’t be a great place.  I was wrong.  Cheney Stadium is a fine place to watch a ballgame, and even better when watched with enthusiastic seven- and nine-year-old nephews.

It’s easier to teach youngsters to score than one might think.  My then-eight-year-old nephew did a fine job scoring a Mariners/Orioles game I took him to.  It was a pitchers’ duel, which made it easier…very few baserunners to follow around the bases, which is the tricky part of basic scoring.  So at the Tacoma game, I worked on the six-year-old.  We started with the very basics…color in runs when they’re scored, and a K means a strikeout.  Soon enough, David was working with me.  He started by filling in the runs that were scored.  He worked intently, like this was the world’s smallest coloring book.  Adorable.  He then  wrote in a few K’s for me.  This, also, was cute.  It’s a challenge for a six-year-old to write small enough to fit into the scoring box.  David concentrated so hard on writing the K that he actually came close to scraping through the page.  

The ballpark itself has surprising charm.  It’s fairly old, and the age shows well.  The pavilion area was  excellent–it included loads of minor-league promotions such as an opportunity to take kids’ pictures on top of horses (this would be the only time to date I’ve seen horses in a minor-league park).  I was a little bit bothered by the number of people in the beer garden.  The beer garden is in the pavilion, which means that

you can’t see the game from there.  And it was absolutely packed.  I’ve got nothing against enjoying beer at a baseball game, but why enjoy beer at a baseball game if you’re not going to watch the baseball game?  Why not just go to a bar?

A fine sense of Tacoma baseball history is on display in the pavilion–a number of plaques for big names in Tacoma baseball history (I remember Matty Alou), but most tellingly, a lovely mural.  The mural is of a dugout with a player wearing the uniform for each of the teams in  Tacoma history.  I was quite pleased and impressed.  So much nicer than the usual cinderblock wall left blank!  Additionally, they have reserved one of their better seats for a sculpture of Mr. Cheney, the bigwig in Tacoma baseball history for whom the field was named.  Not only is he there in the front row of back section, but there’s a bronzed sculpted scorecard by his feet and even some sculpted peanut shells on the ground around him.  I can’t think of a better tribute for a baseball lover than to be set down in a good seat to enjoy and score baseball

for eternity.

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  7.5/10
Good sense of Tacoma history, Mt. Rainier on the scoreboard, and evergreen trees beyond the field.  Too bad it’s in a nondescript semi-suburban location.

Charm:  4.5/5
Cheney Stadium manages to feel legitimately old without being ancient or kitschy-retro.

Spectacle: 4/5
Pretty good.  Not too much–feels about right for AAA ball.

Team mascot/name:  3.5/5


Rhubarb is a silly name.  A moose should have a proboscis bigger than his.  The name Rainiers is fantastic–beautiful, local, majestic.

Aesthetics:  3.5/5
The ballpark was quite lovely, but there was almost zero in the way of views beyond merely trees.

Pavilion area:  5/5
Quite good–loads of activity, lineups, and the like.

Scoreability:  3.5/5
Nice use of scoreboard, but failed to give information on some borderline scoring decisions.

Fans:  5/5
How can I possibly vote against my sister and her family?

Intangibles:  4/5
A good ballgame and a lot of fun with the folks.  I’ll be back.

TOTAL:  40.5/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

The first game for Jeremy Reed in the Mariners’ organization after the M’s gave up Freddy Garcia to get him.  He goes two for four with a two-run home run.

A.J. Zapp hits a pair of homers for Tacoma.

Portland’s Xavier Nady also homered just a few days before getting called up to the Padres.

In 2007, I see Salt Lake’s Joe Saunders for the second time in two weeks.  He impresses, going 7 strong innings and striking out 7.

Salt Lake blows a 4-0 lead in 2007 before winning on Brandon Wood’s 9th-inning single.

A delightful experience in a pair of games in 2015 led to one of my favorite moments ever at a ballpark.  Our family went to a game in May that year, and my son Steven, who was 6, did his usual trick of writingStevenautograph down the lineups before the game. A Rainiers photographer spotted it and took several photos. When I asked when they’d be used, he said that a shot like that looked like a cover shot for a future version of the program.  Sure enough, the Rainiers were nice enough to notify me when he would be on the cover, and we headed back up there to get about a zillion copies.

In the pregame, the Rainiers’ Shawn O’Malley was giving autographs on the concourse. Steven went up to get one.  Steven told O’Malley (and everyone else he saw at the ballpark) that he was on the cover of the program. O’Malley’s response has made me a permanent fan of his.  He said “Well, I should be asking for YOUR autograph.”  He then had an usher grab him a copy of the program…and thus it came to be that a professional baseball player asked for my son’s autograph.

 

(Written July 2004.  Updated April 2016.)

Everett Memorial Stadium, Everett, Washington

Everett Memorial Stadium, Everett, WASHINGTON

Number of states: still 2
States to go:  48
Number of games: 15 since quest (about 5 before)
First game in quest:  July 28, 2003 (Everett AquaSox 4, Tri-City Dust Devils 2)
Most recent game:  August 19, 2012 (Everett AquaSox 7, Eugene Emeralds 1)

Everett Memorial stadium is my “home” minor league park.  It is about 40 minutes from my place, and Safeco Field is both closer and major league…so my local baseball budget is pretty well filled with the M’s.  Still, I make it up for a game or two a year.  They’re always enjoyable–so unabashedly minor league.  It’s fun.

There’s one word I think of when I think of “unabashedly minor league,” and that is PROMOTIONS.  I knew we were in for a treat when they announced the umpires’ names and said “The umpires tonight are brought to you by Everett Optometry clinic.  Everett Optometry Clinic is not responsible for any missed calls.”  Stupid.  Corny.  Still, kinda funny, even though I normally hate ref/ump

jokes.  And there was some sort of promotion in between every half inning of the entire game except for two or three.  Plus, any patron who buys a program can select for which promotions he or she can be considered!  They have a massive list of every promotion they do every night, and by checking off items on the list, you put yourself in the running for said contest/promotion.  On the night I graded this stadium, I declared myself eligible for about a dozen contests and promotions.  Through five and a half innings, my name wasn’t called, but then:  WOW!  I was the contestant in the Grand Slam Inning Contest!  If the AquaSox hit a grand slam in the sixth inning, I win $5000!  What a wonderful feeling of anticipation…and very, very short-lived.  The bottom of the sixth lasted exactly five pitches.  (Apparently the M’s are not teaching their minor leaguers plate discipline.)  Brian Lentz popped the first pitch to right.  Bryan LaHair grounded his first pitch to first.  And Mike Cox watched a whole two pitches go by before flying to right.  Oh, well–no five grand for me.  But at least I got to hear my name.

This is a ballpark that’s worth getting to early.  Inside the gates are lots of places for kids to jump around, a few wandering mascots, some music, and a football-field sized grassy area in which to play catch or settle in to have a pre-game picnic.  There was also a prominently-displayed lineup board, where I saw something for the first time.  Check out the difference between the elderly fan on the left, who is writing the lineups in a scorebook, and the fan on the right, who is–swear to God–programming the lineups into a Palm Pilot.


Only in Microsoftland!  I’m sure this will grow more common down the line, but man, I sure hope I never make that switch.

Two mascots.  Webbly the frog is awesome, but Frank the Frank is what it’s all about.  A giant walking hot dog slingshotting T-shirts at patrons!  (I can’t be the only one who thinks of Maude Flanders when this happens, can I?)  So while I’m impressed with both the quality and the quantity of mascots, there’s one fairly severe problem:  accessibility.  Neither mascot stepped off the field of play and into the stands even once.  No hugs, no high fives, no direct interaction at all.  This is completely unacceptable at the single-A level!  Even major-league mascots will get into the stands, frequently to all levels of the stadium.  With only a couple thousand fans on hand and two mascots, each person in the stands needs to be personally greeted.  This highly disappointing shortcoming hurts the score.

Still, however, a fine ballpark and a fun experience every time I go.  The problems here are easily fixed…with some work on the grass and some mascots in the stands, I may change the score later on.

BIG UPDATE:  Michelle and I enjoyed our wedding rehearsal dinner at Everett Memorial Stadium in 2005.  Click here for all the fun!

BALLPARK SCORE:

Regional feel:  7/10
Espresso stands and a view of Mt. Baker.

Charm:  4/5
Mostly quite sweet.

Spectacle: 4/5
Constant, clever, wonderful, and I could have won $5000…but never interferes with the game.  That said, the score is hurt because mascots never leave the field.

Team mascot/name:  4.5/5


Frank on the left, Webbly on the right.  Multiple mascots, and Frank is a fine idea.

Aesthetics:  3.5/5
Nice overall.  It’s a bit of a strain to see the mountains, and metal bleachers aren’t pretty.

Pavilion area:  5/5
Huge areas of grass to play catch or have a picnic.  Outstanding.

Scoreability:  4/5
Nice job by the PA guy, but there needs to be an “At Bat” notation on the scoreboard.

Fans:  4/5

Intangibles:  5/5
This score has gone up since my first visit–as Everett will always have a place in my heart for hosting my rehearsal dinner.

TOTAL:  37/50

BASEBALL STUFF I’VE SEEN HERE:

Four Dust Devil errors–three by shortstop Jonathan Swearingen–play a role in all 4 AquaSox runs.

A funny mental error by the AquaSox’s Josh Ellison.  He’s called safe after sliding into second on a fielder’s choice…he beat the throw.  But I guess he didn’t think so much of his speed…he definitely didn’t think to look at the umpire, because he moseyed right on towards his dugout and was tagged out in the consequent rundown.  (To be fair, I’ve seen a similar error in person by a major leaguer…Quinton McCracken thought an out on a teammate’s rundown was the third when it was the second.  He stepped off second base, and Ken Griffey Jr. snuck in behind him to tag him out for the third out of the inning for the Mariners.  It turned out to be a 7-2-4-6-8 double play.)  So chin up, Josh…happens to everyone.  I guess.

A horrible 19-9 win by the Yakima Bears over Everett, which I mention for one reason only:  All nine of Yakima’s starters finished the game with at least one run, hit, AND RBI.  That’s right…there were no zeroes in the traditional box score.

BRANDON CASHMAN, bay-bee!  Set a Northwest League record (and the Northwest League has been around for 50 years!) by hitting four homers for Spokane in an 18-9 victory over Everett in 2004.  He also tied the record for RBIs with 9.  I’m keeping my eye open and hoping this wasn’t an anomaly.  (January 2007:  It was.  He peaked at low-A ball and is now out of the affiliated minors.)

In 2005, I saw Yakima’s Brandon Burgess hit a home run–notable because I was sitting next to his grandparents.  That was awesome.

Salem-Keizer’s Adam Cowart looked nearly unhittable in short-season A…his ERA was under 1 late in the season when he gave up two hits in 6 innings with 7 strikeouts.  His delivery was bizarre…I swear it looked like he was, um, taking a dump.  He crouches down to a Jeff Bagwell crouch, then pitches…and nobody in the Northwest League could hit it.  Another guy to keep an eye on.  He was fun to watch.

A hilarious 20-7 loss to the Vancouver Canadians at the end of the 2006 season.  Vancouver scored runs in every inning except the fifth; Everett scored all 7 of its runs in the fifth.

 
 
(Written August 2003.  Updated August 2009.)