Thursday, July 13, 2017

Everett AquaSox 11 at Tri-City Dust Devils 5 (Northwest League) - July 12, 2017


After a week without baseball, I returned to my minor league ballpark quest by paying a visit to Pasco, Washington, home of the Tri-City Dust Devils. Pasco is one of three cities that lie along the Columbia River, near where both the Snake and Yakima Rivers join, with Richland and Kennewick the other two. The entire area is known as the Tri-Cities, but the ballclub prefers the singular appellation.



The Dust Devils are aptly named as the area is semi-arid and there are plenty of dust devils visible along the roadsides as you drive in. The team plays out of Gesa Stadium, part of the Pasco Sporting Complex located just north of I-182. The stadium has a special entry lane off Burden Road that leads to the main parking lot, which is not free. However, Google Maps took me onto Homerun Road, which leads to a free parking lot that is separated from the ballpark by a chain-link fence (below). At first it appears as if you have to walk all the way back to Burden, but there is a gate to the main lot just a few feet away so you can try this option if you want to save a couple of bucks.



There are three ticket categories here: $11 for maroon box seats close to the action all around the seating bowl, $10 for green box seats above the walkway behind the plate, and $9 for general admission, which comprise four sections of benches down each line.



Most of the park is shaded by the time first pitch rolls around at 7:15, helped by a 137-foot tall sunshade that stands behind the first base seats.



I decided to get a $10 seat because I prefer sitting behind the plate, and the added comfort of the box seat is worth the extra buck. However, as soon as I sat down, I regretted my decision as my view of the plate was blocked by the railing.



I immediately moved over to the GA section and watched the game from there for a few innings. The netting does not extend to the dugouts here, so you get an unobstructed view.



Once fans had settled in and I had scoped out an open area, I moved back to the seats behind the plate, just a few rows higher than before, which is a much better view.



While there, I was approached by the peanut vendor, who asked if I was Sean. I always wonder how people know my name in these situations, forgetting that I post my entire schedule on Twitter, and this gentleman happened to be one of my followers. He is Erik the Peanut Guy, and in addition to selling peanuts, he takes care of the on-field promotions too. We chatted for a while; he is also a ballpark traveller, having covered 85 minor league parks himself. Before parting, he took a selfie and handed me his card - not a business card but a Ben's Biz Card. If you recall my visit to Ogden two weeks ago, I met Benjamin Hill, and he has worked with Topps to create cards for minor league characters like Erik. Brilliant idea! How do I get one?



In terms of the other aspects of the stadium, there is a bit of history with some pennants representing past titles above the breezeway to the seating bowl. Seems like the Northwest League changed division names a few years back. I don't know why they don't just have a North Division and West Division.



At the top of each GA section is a photo, including this shot of the Atoms, who played here between 1965-68.



Russell Wilson started his pro baseball career here before wisely deciding on football, and there is a giant bobblehead commemorating this fact.



There is a starting lineups board, but pay attention to the spelling when copying to your scorecard.



I usually don't study the advertising on the outfield fence, since I am only in town for a day and unable to avail myself of these services, but a local urgent care facility had a cute way of encouraging fans to drop in.



Overall, Gesa Stadium is a simpler ballpark, even for this level. I appreciated that there were innings without promotions, which afforded a bit of time to appreciate the scenic setting, and Erik's energy added quite a bit to the evening. Make sure you say hi if you happen to visit.



The Game

Osvaldo Hernandez, a 19-year-old Cuban signed by the Padres back in March, started for Tri-City, while Everett (Seattle) countered with Randy Bell (10th round in 2017). Bell lasted three innings, giving up four runs, with two of those unearned after shortstop Chris Torres dropped an easy pop fly with two out in the third. Hernandez was pulled after four frames, yielding a couple of runs while striking out 5.



The AquaSox scored a pair in the fifth to tie the game, but the Dust Devils got one back in the bottom half off reliever Michael Suarez. After that, things got ugly quickly for the home team. Everett plated 4 in the sixth, 2 in the 7th, and another run in the 8th for good measure, while Suarez was superb, totaling five innings in relief, yielding just the one run while fanning 8 as Everett won 11-5. Every Dust Devil had at least one hit, and all but one scored at least one run, so with such offensive balance, my Player to Watch award goes to Suarez.



This was another typical low-level minor league contest, with 5 errors and a lot of bad pitching. The difference here was walks: not a single Dust Devil received a free pass, while 7 AquaSox did, with two of those scoring and another two coming with the bases loaded.

Notes

There is another Tri-City in minor league ball: the Valley Cats of the New York-Penn League, with Albany, Schenectady and Troy the three cities covered.

Gesa Stadium was my 290th ballpark and 740th overall venue.

Next Up

I'm heading west along the Columbia River Gorge to Hillsboro to see the Hops tonight. Their moniker is my favourite among the 160 minor league teams; it has both beer and baseball connotations. Check back tomorrow to see if the experience matches the name.

Best,

Sean

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