Monday, July 17, 2017

Tri-City Dust Devils 6 at Boise Hawks 10 (Northwest League) - July 16, 2017


I originally stopped in Boise on July 1, but immediately thereafter began my 10-day touring trip with almost no baseball, so did not write a recap then. When I rejigged the trip to see the Utah Summer League, I realized that I could revisit Memorial Stadium and do a proper write-up. Note that the pictures are from both games, so you'll notice some differences in the weather conditions.



Memorial Stadium was opened in 1989 and has been home to the Hawks ever since. There are three grandstands that are completely separated structures, making getting around the venue quite easy.



Because the sun sets behind third base, the seats along third and behind home are more expensive, while those along first base, with the sun in your face for most of the game, are cheaper.



At the bottom of each grandstand are box seats ($18 for 3B/HP, $14 for 1B), while those above the walkway are reserved ($14 for 3B/HP, $8 for the benches along first). Prices increase $4 for Feed Your Face Monday, which includes unlimited concessions until the 4th inning. You can see how the sun affects those first base seats...



... while the other two grandstands enjoy a bit of shade.



There's also the Diamond Club, which constitutes the first row around the seating bowl and is $35 any day of the week.



On both occasions, I bought the cheapest seat and moved around. There is a party area for groups down the left field line, right in front of the Hawks bullpen, so you can chat with the players during the game.



The view from this area is similar to that in the photo below.



Along the left field line is The Purple Porch (Boise is Colorado's affiliate), and there are standing areas here that are open to the public. When the sun got a bit too much, I moved over here for a couple of innings.



There is a bar here serving a couple of craft choices, so a good spot to relax before the game too. There is even a mini-scoreboard that is manually updated by a friendly gentleman, who was kept quite busy with high-scoring games both times I attended.



The view isn't great, but you can see all the action. The photo below is taken from the far end of the Porch, which is nearly in the left field corner.



This is the view from high atop first base...



... and home plate. The mountains in the distance are somewhat blocked by the trees, but it is still quite scenic.



In terms of features, just inside the main entrance is a standing triangle with the starting lineups on one side, the standings on another, and team promos on the third side. As you can see, the first game I attended was against Spokane.



The official name of the venue is Bill Campbell Field at Memorial Stadium, and there is a cast of Campbell's face on the back of the home plate grandstand. Campbell contributed to the effort to bring professional baseball to Boise and was team president of the Boise Braves from 1958-62.



The Hawks have won six league titles and a pennant for each flies above the right field fence.



The mascot is Humphrey, a rather frightening-looking hawk, who can be found wandering around high-fiving fans.



The Hawks only became affiliated with the Rockies in 2015 after 14 seasons with the Cubs, but they have embraced their new parent club wholeheartedly, with the Purple Porch, wearing purple jerseys, and with this sign below leading from Boise to Denver.



The scoreboard sits behind the left field fence and has a video board above the linescore.



I don't like selfies but shadow selfies are a different story. Here I am again on a baseball field! Third day in a row. Maybe shadow selfies will catch on.



Near the end of the second game, I was marching up the stairs along first base to snap a picture of the sunset. I heard a crack of the bat and turned to see the ball whiz just behind me. It landed in the seats and I was able to pick it up, thus getting my first Northwest League ball. I have balls from 9 of the 14 minor leagues, so more roadtrips might be in the offing. As for the picture, it turned out pretty well.



Overall, I was really happy to get to experience this stadium a second time. I find sometimes, even with smaller venues, that one visit is too short to get the full experience, but obviously I can't see every minor league venue twice. Memorial Stadium caters to its fan base quite well, and should definitely be on your list of ballparks to visit.

The Game

The Tri-City Dust Devils (San Diego) were visiting and sent Emmanuel Ramirez to the hill to face Ryan Luna (28th, 2016). Ramirez was solid through four shutout innings, supported by a 3-run homer from Bryant Aragon. After giving up an unearned run in the 5th, which the Dust Devils matched in the 6th, the wheels fell off for Ramirez as Boise scored 4 on three singles, two doubles, and another error to take a 5-4 lead. Tri-City tied it in the 7th, but a triple by Bret Boswell (8th, 2017) scored a run, and Sean Bouchard (9th, 2017) followed with a 2-run shot. Boswell added his own 2-run dinger in the 8th for insurance as the Hawks prevailed 10-6.



The first 4 innings took an hour, and the rest of the game took just over 2 hours as the bullpens struggled.  

Notes

As this is Idaho, the mascot race features potatoes: Gem, Fry, and Spud are the three contestants. They actually run from first to third and back, a different take than the usual warning track race.



The beer batter promotion here is also a bit different. If the leadoff batter for the visitors gets out in the top of the 3rd, 12-oz. Coors Banquets are $1 each for 15 minutes at two of the beer stands. Fans congregate there before the third inning starts, and when the batter is out, the lineup forms immediately. Should the batter reach, a second chance is given in the top of the 6th.



Next Up

Games in Idaho Falls and Spokane to finish the trip, and then back to reality in New York. Check back for final recaps later this week.

Best,

Sean

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Everett AquaSox 3 at Eugene Emeralds 4 (Northwest League) - July 15, 2017


The final stop on the Oregon portion of my trip was Eugene, home of the University of Oregon Ducks, as well as minor league baseball's Emeralds. The Ems have been around since 1955, and even spent 3 years in the PCL as Philadelphia's top farm club. Since 1974, they have been members of the Northwest League, and affiliated with several different clubs; now they belong to the Cubs.

The Emeralds use PK Park as their home diamond, which is also home to the Ducks baseball team. Often when an NCAA ballpark doubles as a minor league facility, many of the usual amenities are missing, but that is not the case here.



Parking is $5, though you can park on streets nearby for free and stroll over, which many fans do. If you are looking for a pub nearby, O Bar is a Ducks-themed establishment about 10 minutes away: I parked on the street midway between the bar and the stadium to minimize the post-game walk.



Tickets are $15 for premium boxes (the first few rows), $12 for regular boxes, and $9 for general admission. There are several ticket windows here, more than I have seen at any other ballpark, so no waiting.



Before I made a purchase, I looked around and spotted a couple who were trying to give away two tickets. I offered to take one off his hands, but he wanted both to get used, so he gave me one on the condition that I try to give the other one away. Within a couple of minutes, I saw a gentleman approaching alone and asked him if he needed a ticket. He did, so I handed him the extra ticket, my duty done. The seats turned out to be down low behind the plate, quite a lucky find for me.



Inside, the single seating bowl lies beneath the main concourse, with Kelly green seats all the way around.



The bleacher area is down the left field line, behind a small picnic area. I did not make my way over here to take a picture.  However, the picnic area is an indication that this is not a normal NCAA park, because beer is sold here! A good variety, including two types of IPA from local brewer Ninkasi, which are $5 before 6:45, meaning get there early as the price goes up to $7 after that (though if the beer batter strikes out, they are $3).



A much larger picnic area can be found on the left field concourse. In the background behind the fence is the home team bullpen.



Autzen Stadium, where the Ducks play football, is visible behind first base. I doubt I will ever see a game here, but it sure looks like a nice stadium.



The sun sets behind first base, so again I got my shadow on the field. Note that most of the stadium is in the shade by the time first pitch is thrown at 7:05.



In terms of features, the Road to the Show board has more names than I have seen at any level, not surprising given the history here..



There are also banners for particularly famous Ems, including Mike Schmidt, who played here in 1972.



The Emeralds are the defending Northwest League champions, their first title since 1980, hard to believe in an 8-team league. They even had the trophy on display.



The starting lineups are posted, but guarded by a large Sasquatch, who is relevant as he appears in one of the team's logos.



The university team is represented by a couple of busts of past Ducks managers on the concourse: Mel Krause on the left and Don Kirsch on the right.



The mascot is Sluggo, who did not make his way down to my section, so you'll have to settle with an inflatable version that is posted outside.



Overall, PK Park is the best NCAA/MiLB dual-use stadium I have seen. The Emeralds are not a second-tier tenant here, and with excellent concessions and beer choices, this venue is just like any other minor league park. I don't know how it compares to a Ducks game, but this was one of the better experiences on this trip. Eugene is definitely a great college town, even in the summer, so make your way there and check out the Ems!



The Game

Everett (Seattle) was opening up a 5-game set after taking 2 of 3 in Tri-City, where I saw them on Wednesday. Steven Ridings (29th, 2016) took the mound for the AquaSox against Jose Albertos, an 18-year-old out of Mexico, making his second start at this level. The Emeralds scored two in the first on three singles, and added another pair in the second on a double by Aramis Ademan. Everett got one back in the third when Eugene Helder (playing in Eugene!) singled home Chris Torres, who had tripled. In the 5th, with Albertos still on for the Ems, the AquaSox strung together three singles and a Helder groundout to get within one. Both starters were removed after 5 innings, and both bullpens were stellar, particularly Eugene's, with three pitchers combining to yield just a walk in four innings as the Emeralds prevailed 4-3. Unfortunately, the scoreboard was turned off by the time I tried to take a picture.

The game took 2:45, but with only 244 pitches thrown, a very slow pace of 1.48 PPM. Ademan went 3-4 with the 2 RBIs to garner my player to watch award.

Notes



Oregon is wine country as well, and the mascot race featured 3 types of grape: red, white, and raisin. I'd like to see these guys race against Barley from Hillsboro!

Best,

Sean

Saturday, July 15, 2017

Boise Hawks 3 at Salem-Keizer Volcanoes 2 (Northwest League) - July 14, 2017


Much like last night's visit to Hillsboro, tonight saw me revisiting a franchise I had seen in Washington in 1992, but in a new city in Oregon. In this case, it was the Bellingham Giants (who were the Mariners and had Craig Griffey when I visited) that moved 300 miles south down I-5 to Keizer to become the Volcanoes. As Keizer is a small town that few outside of Oregon have heard of, the team added nearby Salem (Oregon's capital) to their name, becoming the Salem-Keizer Volcanoes.



The ballpark is simply named Volcanoes Stadium and is located right next to I-5, making it very convenient to get to. Parking in the lot is $5, but just next to the stadium is Keizer Station, a collection of shops and restaurants, where you can park for free and then walk over. I stopped at Gustav's Bargarten, a German-themed restaurant, and left my car there; as I walked to the stadium I noticed several other fans doing the same thing.



The team moved here in 1997, so this is their 20th anniversary. They have won 5 league titles in those 20 seasons, though none since 2009.



I had stopped by earlier in the day and walked around the stadium when it was empty, hence there are no fans in some of these photos. Just inside the main entrance are statues of kids pitching, batting, and catching.



Tickets here can be expensive, with the lower level box seats going for $20, the most I have seen at this level. The next price level is $14 for upper box, the first few rows in the section above the walkway, while $12 gets you a reserved bench seat above that. General admission is $10 and I was about to buy one of those when I overheard someone say "extra". Looking around, I spotted a lady with three tickets. As I approached her, she tried to give them to a family, but fortunately for me, they already had tickets. I politely mentioned that I could use one, and without a word, she handed me a ticket. Boom, I was in the ballpark for free.



The GA sections include berms in both corners as well as some benches well down the first base line (above). This area is actually on the other side of the batting cage, which is in use before the game.



The view from down here is not that good, especially with the sun shining in your face for much of the game.



The third base berm seems a better bet if you are looking for foul balls.



There are some special table seats behind the plate that would be perfect for a group of 4 who have a bit of extra cash. These are known as the Diamond Club seats and cost $30 each.



The view from here is quite nice too.



The upper rows of the reserved sections were mostly empty so that is where I sat for the most part.



I preferred the third base side though, as I could watch the traffic on I-5 zooming by.



From here, I could also look down and see the Lava Lodge Sports Bar, just to the left of the picture below.



As the sun set behind third base, the shadow of my seating section crept onto the field of play. That's me playing the moron, waving on the left side. About as close as I'll get to being on a professional baseball diamond during a game.



The variety of concessions here are excellent and reasonably priced. Having saved on both parking and admission, I had a Three Creeks craft beer for $6 and a hamburger for $4. The $8 Volcano Burger, a half-pound steak burger with bacon, lettuce, tomato, cheese, and chipotle mayo would have been my choice had I not stopped at Gustav's before. The redundantly named Asian Wok (woks are Chinese, which is part of Asia) serves a chicken rice bowl for $8, but my favourite concession is the Healthy Hut (on the right below), which offers a wrap and salads, along with beer. Therefore, beer is healthy!



There are two scoreboards: a larger video board in left field that shows the linescore and replays, and a smaller one in right field that includes just the score and the count. It was quite an idyllic setting as the evening progressed, except for one thing. The P.A. announcer continued to urge the crowd to "Make Some Noise" like this was an NBA game. How about a new promo: "Sit Back and Enjoy the Game Without Mindlessly Screaming Because Someone Told You To"? I'm sorry, I'm just a grumpy old man.



Overall, I had a great time at Volcanoes Stadium. A free ticket always helps, and I enjoyed the space available and variety of concessions. The ballpark is entering its third decade and probably needs an overhaul in the next few years, particularly given the prices that are being charged, but it is still worth a visit for any sports traveller.



The Game



Boise (Colorado) was in town to take on the Volcanoes, who are still the Giants affiliate. Rico Garcia (30th round in 2016, wearing that horrid Diamondbacks-inspired uniform above) started for the visitors, while Jose Marte (below) took the hill for Salem-Keizer. The game was scoreless through 5 and already the Volcanoes had gone to the bullpen, which gave up the first run on a bases loaded walk in the 6th.



In the bottom half, Boise made a couple of throwing errors on pickoffs and SK added a couple of singles to score two runs. But the Hawks tied it in the 7th on a solo homer by Daniel Jipping (22nd, 2017). In the ninth, with Peter Lannoo (28th, 2017) on for the Volcanoes, Bret Boswell (8th, 2017) led off with a no-doubter to give the Hawks the 3-2 lead. SK had runners on first and second with two out in the bottom half, and with the P.A. announcer exhorting the crowd to bring some energy, Rob Calabrese (10th, 2017) struck out to end the game, probably feeling the pressure from all those screaming fans.



This one took 3:19, helped by 9 walks from the Volcanoes pitching staff. Another slow-paced game with a PPM of 1.52, but with the 6:35 start time, I was able to get out of the ballpark before it got too cold.

Notes

During the game, the announcer kept referring to RoofMan. I had no idea what that was until around the 5th inning, when RoofMan appeared atop the roof of the suites and tossed T-shirts and other goodies to the adoring crowd.



The beer batter for Boise was #9 hitter J.B. Moss (7th, 2016, by Atlanta), who I saw last year when he was with the Danville Braves, and earlier this year with the Florida Fire Frogs. Moss was released by the Braves last month and picked up by Colorado. As the beer batter, if Moss struck out, beer would be $3 for 15 minutes. Sadly, he singled, grounded out, and then was hit by a pitch. Pitchers who hit the beer batter should be demoted.

Next Up

There are four games left on the trip: Eugene today, a revisit of Boise tomorrow, then Idaho Falls on Monday, before finishing with Spokane on Tuesday. Recaps to be posted here daily, so keep checking back.

Best,

Sean