Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Inland Empire 66ers 5 at High Desert Mavericks 6 - April 26, 2011

Adelanto, CA might be the least known minor league city in the nation. For one, it has a population under 30,000, and secondly, their team is called the High Desert Mavericks, since the town is located in the Mojave Desert. To be fair, there are a number of larger communities nearby which provide a solid fan base. The area is also just off I-15, the main highway between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, so it is an ideal sports roadtrip destination. I had been here once before but was late arriving and didn't have a chance to relax and enjoy it. So I decided to end the California portion of this trip by stopping in to see the Mavericks hosting the Inland Empire 66ers in a battle of the two Cal League teams that are not named for the city in which they play.

Stater Bros. Stadium

Located just off US 395, Stater Bros. Stadium is a basic ballpark with few amenities. It was opened in 1991 and originally known as Mavericks Stadium before Stater Bros., a local supermarket, bought the naming rights prior to the 2007 season.

There is a single roof over the concourse that stretches between the bases. The roof is supported by several posts, some of which have the opening day lineups from the past. You can also see the alumni report to the right, which mentions a one-time Maverick who has advanced up the ladder.

There are just two seating options: the red lower box seats (first 11 rows) for $7.50 or the blue upper box seats for $6. With parking being free and concessions reasonably priced, this might be the most affordable experience in the league.

The Hardball Cafe is a party patio for groups along the left field line, but it was not being used during this game (below). There are also private VIP skyboxes, which are small brick enclosures above each section with plastic chairs for up to 12 fans.

The visiting bullpen is right in front of the Hardball Cafe (below) while the home pen is more standard, being in foul ground down the right field line. The scoreboard has just the linescore and a small dot matrix section that shows the batter's name and stats.

The park is known as being a hitter's paradise as the high elevation and extreme wind lead to a lot of easy homers. Baseball America referred to it as a pinball machine, and there were 24 hits last night, a number of which would likely have been outs in another park. It also gets very cold once the sun sets, so make sure to bring a sweater or three. I'd say the temperature went from 70 to 50 between the first and sixth innings.

Overall, Stater Bros. Stadium is a fun place to see the game. The staff enjoy themselves as do the fans. The Mavericks drew over 200,000 in their first season but have fallen off lately and lie 9th in the 10-team circuit, averaging about 1,500 in the 3,000-seat stadium. There has been talk about moving the team to a newer facility, so if you haven't been here, try to stop by in the near future. For me, I really enjoy seeing minor league ball in places like this and highly recommend that you add High Desert to your list of stadiums to see.

The Game

While I watch a game, I try to look for something interesting that I haven't seen before. Baseball has so much variety and limitless possibilities that almost every game shows me something new. Well, this battle was one of those that had nothing worth mentioning. Pitching was mediocre, with only one 3 up-3 down inning, but this was to be expected given the hitter-friendly park. I suppose the biggest item was that both teams wore bright red jerseys. That's Ryan Franklin (27th overall, 2009, MLB #38 and Seattle's #3 prospect) being held on by Kole Calhoun (8th, 2010)

The game went back and forth without any big innings. High Desert scored a run in the 1st but the 66ers replied with 2 in the 3rd. Both teams scored singletons in the 4th before Casey Haerther (5th, 2009) smacked a solo shot in the top of the 5th to make it 4-2 Inland Empire.

Matt Long (30th, 2009) singles for Inland Empire

In the bottom half, Mario Martinez hit a 2-run homer to tie the game. High Desert retook the lead when Franklin doubled home a run in the 6th, and they added an insurance run in the 8th to make it 6-4.

High Desert's Denny Almonte (2nd, 2007) is 4th in the league in OPS

This is where I finally got to see something different. Jose Jimenez, a Venezuelan who has been in Seattle's system for 8 years, came on to close the game. After a walk to Long, he induced Haerther into a double play. It was very cold and I wanted to get out of there but Calhoun followed with a homer to bring the 66ers within one. Then Jon Townsend singled to complete a 4-4 game for him and bring up catcher Jose Jimenez (47th, 2009). So it was Jose Jimenez on the mound facing Jose Jimenez at the plate. A cool coincidence and fortunately the batter flew out to right to end the game and give the home team a hard-fought victory, 6-5.

Angels' #3 prospect Jean Segura


The In'n'Out Double Double batter was Franklin, and he doubled in the 6th inning. Amazingly, the section I was sitting in was the winner! I was in section 106 and there were maybe 3 other people around me, but once they announced the winning section, everyone in the adjacent sections moved over to get a freebie.

The Mavericks' mascot is Wooly Bully.

As a roadtripper, I believe in watching live sports before any televised event, except a championship decider. Last night was a tough call, with the Canucks playing game 7 against Chicago. I figured if the hockey game went to OT and the ball game was fast enough, I'd get a chance to see the overtime winner, but of course, the ballplayers conspired against me. They dragged things out, taking 3:11 to finish the game, so I just missed Burrows' series winner when I finally returned to the hotel.

Fortunately, I saw the two other game 7s tonight in Las Vegas, where I had a day off to visit with my brother who is in town for a conference. I'm going to visit the Las Vegas 51s tomorrow and Friday, so check back on the weekend for what happened in Vegas.



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