I love baseball. I love watching it, playing it, listening to it on the radio – whatever. So when the Sacramento Press editors asked me if I wanted to cover any games, I jumped at the chance.
All right, maybe they didn’t so much ask me as I harassed them until they gave in. They finally tired of the flow of sad, slightly creepy voicemail messages I’d been leaving on their machines:
"Hi, it’s Lindol. I just wanted you to know that I’m free for every River Cats home game, and if you want, I could, maybe, I don’t know, go and write about it?"
“Hey, Lindol again. I just wanted to say that I had a really nice time at the Kings game, and I really like baseball, and if you wanted I could, you know, help out…"
"Hey, Lindol here, I don’t know if you got my last three messag…"
"Lindol, it’s Casey. We got you a couple press passes. Now, please, never call here again…"
Long story short: Tonight I attended my very first River Cats game, and I did so with a press credential hanging around my neck. I asked the gentleman who gave me my pass where I should sit. He looked at me like I was I from Mars.
"Uh, the Press Box?" Me, sitting in the press box? Be still my beating heart!
I must admit, I had a highly romanticized idea of what the press box would be like. And it did not live up to the high standards I set for it in my fantasy world. There was not a single person wearing a fedora with a piece of paper reading "press" shoved into the band. Illusions shattered.
There was, however, a full catered spread with three salads and two types of meat, rolls, cookies, sweets and all the coffee you can drink. I grabbed a cup of coffee and took a seat at the front table in between three far more professional scribes (I could tell ’cause their credentials were laminated). I offered a, "What’s up fellas?" The response was less than warm.
As I recall, it was one low-key, "Hey guy," and two that went something like, "Please, no eye contact."
I hung out for almost the whole first half inning, at which time I came to the realization that baseball is not meant to be watched from on high with a bunch of high-faluting mucky mucks. It’s meant to be watched from down below, with the hoi polloi. I excused myself, grabbed a small plate of pulled pork and potato salad and joined the unwashed masses for what turned out to be a remarkable ball game.
The River Cats jumped out to a 3-0 lead the first time through the lineup, without an extra base hit. They scored the three runs on four singles, some heads-up base running and some less-than-stellar fielding by the Bees.
Meanwhile, Clayton Mortenson retired the first 11 Bees he faced, losing his no-hit bid when he miffed fielding a swinging bunt so badly that the scorekeeper called it a hit.
Chris Carter followed that misplay with an error of his own as the Bees cleanup hitter smacked one right between the first baseman’s wickets. E3, and the Bees were on the board.
The good guys answered with four runs in the bottom of the fourth on two monster home runs – one by Corey Brown to lead off the inning and another, a three-run shot by Carter, making up for his earlier miscue.
At this point, it was 7-1, and I set about enjoying the atmosphere more and keeping track of things like “who did what,” less. I grabbed a hot dog and may or may not have grabbed a beer, depending on what the policy is on people with press passes having a Tecate with their dinner. It’s anybody’s guess really.
I love that it is a minor league game and atmosphere, but there is nothing "minor-league" about the stadium. The facilities are absolutely top-notch. It feels a bit like a smaller version of PNC park in Pittsburgh, and that is high praise indeed.
In case you forgot that it was a minor league stadium, you had these nuggets:
-The "K batter" on the Bees striking out and winning everyone in the stadium free sushi.
-The "Senior Dance-Off"…a dance-off…between seniors. It was hotly contested, but I think everybody won.
-The hot dog gun.
-The T-shirt gun.
-A lone, tatooed super-heckler, whose booming catcalls resonated throughout the entire stadium.
-One of the weakest "Sweet Caroline" sing-alongs I’ve ever seen – and I’ve seen some awful ones, most started by me.
So then it was 8-3, and I moved up to the front row behind the Bees’ dugout. I met a couple of fifth graders, Dakota and Adam, who were there on a VIP package. Dakota had won said package, which included being "the lineup card kid" before the game started. He had the Bees’ original lineup, signed by the River Cats coach, whom he’d met. Both of the kids were clutching newly won PCL baseballs and exceedingly happy about the development.
I asked Dakota how he’d won the package.
"I wrote an essay about what the YMCA means to me."
"Very cool," I responded, thinking that it was, indeed, very cool. "What did you write?"
He looked at me a bit quizzically at first, then smiled sheepishly and offered, "To be honest, I don’t really remember. I won though!"
You certainly did, my young friend, you certainly did.
So right about there, the score went from being 8-3, to being 8-9. It was brutal. The Bees put up six runs in the top of the seventh.
Marcus Mcbeth came in with two men on and an 8-4 lead. He didn’t record an out, and by the time he was finally relieved, it was too late.
In his defense, he did form one half of possibly the best-named pitcher/catcher battery of all time: Marcus McBeth was pitching to none other than Dusty Napoleon. Ladies and gentlemen, I defy you to make up something like that.
So the River Cats lost, but the point is, everybody else won, in both the whimsical "We’re all winners at the ball game sense" and in the "We all get free sushi from Sushi Unlimited" sense.
Winner, Winner, Sushi, Dinner.
The really good pics (7-11, 16, like I need to tell you. . .) are the work of Ahsan Awan, those of lesser quality are the "work" of yours truly.