I am just back from the River Cats game and what a pleasure it was. River Cats starting pitcher, Chad Reineke, pitched 5 2/3 innings of scoreless ball, and the bullpen (Jerry Blevins and Ryan Webb, who got the win) were similarly flawless. The Las Vegas 51s starter, Fabio Castro, went 6 innings without giving up a run and reliever T.J. Beam was unscathed in the 1 1/3 innings he pitched. A real pitchers duel that was fun to watch.
River Cats reliever, Ryan Webb, who played the entire 2008 season at Midland, Texas (AA), came in for the top of the 8th and gave up a hit before getting the third out. In the bottom of the 8th, the 51s’ Bill Murphy replaced Beam after the first out. Murphy faced three batters and couldn’t get anyone out, giving up 2 runs. He was replaced by Bryan Bullington who allowed 2 more runs to score (1 Murphy’s, and the other his), which brought the score to 4-0 River Cats. Webb pitched a 3 up-3 down 9th inning for the win. The River Cats have now won 10 out of their last 11 games.
Before ending this post, I must comment on going to a game at Raley Field in Sacramento. Yes it get’s very hot in the summertime, but today’s temparature barely got above 80 degrees with a nice breeze. The stadium is intimate (today’s attendance a little under 6,000) and is very fan and family friendly (no rowdy drunk fans and lots of entertainment between innings). The food is varied and delicious and there are lots of different beverage choices. So different from the MLB experience, where the players are kept apart from the fans and many players won’t sign autographs. There are few big egos among the minor league players as they get paid next to nothing. The whole atmosphere in the stadium doesn’t have the commercial overtones so prevalent at the major league level.
Here’s an example of what I am talking about: before the game began, I went in search of James Simmons, one of the River Cats starting pitchers who was the A’s top draft pick in the First Year Player Draft of 2007 (26th over all). He has graciously agreed to read my novel and I always try to say hi to him when I am at a River Cats game. I finally found him charting pitches in the stands right behind home plate with another starting pitcher, Gio Gonzales. I sat and chatted with them for an inning. They very nicely dispatched the seat police with a “She’s with us” comment. I bid them adieu when the next inning started so they could concentrate on their assigned task. This kind of player contact would never be possible in a major league park.
So, if you want to see where real baseball is played and feel like you are part of the action, you need to go to a minor league game. It doesn’t matter which level you see, although the ability of the players is the highest in Triple A. Minor league and independent baseball is where baseball is played for the shear love of the game. Yes, the players are all trying to advance, ultimately to the majors. But these guys haven’t yet become jaded and they play their hearts out. Their energy is infectious. So, if you live within striking distance of a minor league park, go to a game. You won’t be disappointed, even if the home team loses. It’s just pure fun.