Sunday, May 1, 2016

Corpus Christi Hooks 3 at Frisco RoughRiders 4 (Texas League) - April 30, 2016

After a week in Ecuador and a brief overnight stop in Mexico City, I returned to the United States, arriving at DFW on Saturday morning. The airport has one of the best arrangements I have seen for customs and immigration, with a special lane for those without checked baggage. The entire immigration hall was empty, and as I was the first passenger from my plane that had only a carry-on, I completed the process in a couple of minutes. This brought me to the rental car facility well ahead of my reservation time, something you need to be wary about because you will get charged for the extra hours, assuming you reserve in 24-hour blocks. I was automatically assigned a Hyundai Accent, the same type of vehicle that I had on the recent Albuquerque trip and not particularly well-suited for these longer drives through rural Texas. So I went back to the counter and asked if there was something a bit nicer, and received a brand new Mazda 3 that had just 62 miles on it, plus all the bells and whistles. Sometimes it pays to ask.

I then drove on to Frisco, a suburb about 25 miles northeast of the airport, and home to the RoughRiders of the AA Texas League. This was my second time in Frisco, the first coming nearly five years ago for the D-League's Texas Legends, a visit I barely remember due to jet lag. With the game at night and my hotel just across the street, I had time to rest up before walking over to Dr Pepper Ballpark to start a week of watching minor league baseball.

I arrived just before gates opened and was amazed to see a lineup extending well out into the parking lot. It was Bark in the Park night, which meant that there were dozens of dogs in the queue, but the main reason for the large crowd was Josh Hamilton, who was beginning his rehab on this evening. I had a quick look at ticket prices and found that all infield seats were $19, a bit much for AA. With so many fans, I hoped that someone would have an extra and after a few minutes of waiting saw a guy waving one around. I approached him and he just handed me the ticket, which turned out to be right behind the plate (view above).

Before entering, you will notice how different Dr Pepper Ballpark is from the typical minor league venue, with grey pavilions welcoming you at the main home plate gate. There are nine of these that contain suites, offices, and restrooms, while a concourse separates these buildings from the seating bowl.

This arrangement helps to circulate the air, always a consideration in Texas, and also opens up a lot of space behind the pavilions. Along the third base side there is the Grab 'n' Go tent, with unlimited hot dogs, bratwurst, chips, and soda for those with special tickets (which cost $25). Further along is the State Fair, a collection of food trucks and alternative concessions for which fans are given a one-dollar discount coupon upon entering. You will also notice that the bullpens are built into the stands on the first and third base sides.

At the far end is the Bull Moose Saloon, a full service bar that remains open after the game.

Of course, there are the usual BBQ and picnic areas for groups, and the berms in the outfield, but the big item is the Lazy River behind the right field, which is still under construction and only visible from outside the ballpark. Once it is open, it will be a prime attraction.

Because of the construction, you cannot complete a circuit of the concourse, but you can get to center field and grab a shot of the entire stadium, which shows the pavilion set up.

Other features include a detailed Road to the Show display...

...and posters honouring past stars and accomplishments.

After completing the tour, I made good use of the State Fair coupon and bought a sandwich from Gandolfo's food truck, which models itself as a New York deli (not a sub shop!), with all the sandwiches named after NYC attractions. I had the Brooklyn Bridge (turkey with bacon and provolone) which was the best sandwich I have ever had at a ballgame, as it was freshly made and a bargain at $6.50.

This area is hidden from most fans, which is why the coupon is given out, but definitely offers better options than the typical concession stands. Having finished, I returned to my seat, only to be told by the gentleman who had given me the ticket that I was eligible to dine at the Grab 'n' Go. I had not looked at the ticket when it was given to me, but upon re-inspection, I noticed the words "Grab 'n' Go" printed in really big letters. So during an inning break, I headed over and grabbed one of each item, which was more than enough for the rest of the game, and the quality wasn't bad either. The only problem is that everyone around me also had these tickets, and they kept coming and going throughout the game without regard to the action on the field.

Despite that minor annoyance, I was very impressed with everything on offer here. There is a reason they draw big crowds (10,004 on this night) to this suburban ballpark and that is because there is something for everyone. Yes, tickets are expensive but there are specials that can reduce the cost, or you can just stand out front asking for a freebie. Regardless, once you are inside, you will definitely enjoy the experience and once the Lazy River opens, this will be one of the premier minor league destinations in the country.

The Game

Corpus Christi (Houston) was visiting the RoughRiders, who are obviously Texas' affiliate. Frisco scored an unearned run in the second, while Hamilton went 0-2 before being replaced by Zach Cone in the 5th. Frisco starter Frank Lopez had given up just 2 hits into the 6th, but walks were his undoing. His fifth free pass of the night to Derek Fisher (37th overall pick in 2014, Astros #9 prospect) was followed by a monster home run from Chase McDonald (12th round, 2013, my Player to Watch due to his name) that made it 2-1 for the visitors. The RoughRiders managed to get men on base, but had inning-ending double plays three times and added a K-CS-DP for good measure in the 7th. Adam Parks came on to pitch the 9th for Frisco and gave up a walk, the 9th of the evening for the RoughRiders, that eventually scored on an error.

Brendan McCurry (22nd round in 2014 by Oakland, traded to Houston for Jed Lowrie this past offseason and now the Astros #23 prospect) came on to close things out. McCurry was lights out last season, saving 27 of 28 opportunities, but he gave up a couple of Texas Leaguers to get things started. After a strikeout, Luis Mendez came to the plate. He was overmatched, but worked the count full. McCurry threw what looked to be strike 3, but it was called a ball and the bases were loaded. Both McCurry and his catcher Alfredo Gonzalez were upset with the umpire, but they recovered to record another strikeout. The next batter was hit by the first pitch to score a run, and McCurry was clearly rattled, walking the next batter on four straight pitches to tie the game. This brought Cone (above, signing postgame) to the plate, and he looped one over third base that fell just inside the line for the game winning hit. As the RoughRiders celebrated, Gonzalez screamed at the umpire, who had a tight zone all night long (15 total walks). The home fans didn't care, they were happy with the win no matter how it came about. A fun game that once again proves that you should never leave early.

Note the Teddy Roosevelt logo on the left; the team is named for his unit that saw action in the Spanish-American War and not the Saskatchewan entry in the CFL.


After the game, I went to the Bull Moose Saloon, which was offering half-price beers and a show by Justin Pecina, an up-and-coming recording artist. This is part of a Saturday evening promotion and was relatively well attended.

The next day, Yu Darvish pitched 2 innings for Frisco as he continues his rehab. I wish I could have stayed, but as it turns out, I should see him in Round Rock this Friday.



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