Sights of the Week

Because I can: A few thoughts and pictures from my holiday week.

7/3 – Mariners vs. As is a lousy place to watch a ballgame, and I gather that it sucks to play there too. All the worst features of a generic stadium planned for multiple sports and none of the good–assuming there are any.
But when your team wins, you can forgive a lot. The Ms’ four two-run home runs suggested they might finally be pulling out of their extended hitting doldrums. It’s only a suggestion, of course: Wednesday’s 0-14 with runners in scoring position shows they still have a lot of work to do, but, y’know. Hope.

And a very impressive fireworks show after the game. If you’re one of those heretic non-baseball fans, you should consider going out to the ballpark on a fireworks night just for the show. And if you wind up enjoying the game too, so much the better.

7/4 – San Pablo 4th of July Family Celebration and Fireworks Show
09-3(My first opportunity to use the Android Photo app’s Panorama mode. It works amazingly well.)

A relaxing way to spend the Forth. Carnival games for the kids–and a rock-climbing wall and pony rides–a few local merchants and community organization booths*. Amateur entertainment: a karate demonstration, Zumba demonstrations, a clown act. Fortunately, this year’s acts didn’t include any singers. And the lion dance was very impressive. Outlining the lions in color-changing electroluminescent wire was a great idea.

* I got a key chain from the San Pablo Police Department, a flashlight from the San Pablo Senior Center–and joined the San Pablo Friends of the Library.

The fireworks weren’t as technically impressive as the As’ show, but were just as satisfying.

7/7 – Manuscript editing
Sachiko was kind enough to offer her thoughts. She wasn’t impressed. I don’t think the chapter can be salvaged to her standards: it doesn’t have nearly enough scenes of cats being fed.

7/7 – Blaze vs. Giants
Minor league baseball at its best. Perfect weather, excellent seats, and a good game.
One of the beauties of lower-level baseball is the small parks. Sitting close enough to the field that you an read players’ lips after they commit an error gives you a totally different impression of the game than you get from a seat in the upper deck at a major league stadium.

San Jose won the game 9-4. At the same time, the San Francisco Giants beat the Mets to end their seven game losing streak and the Mariners came from behind to win their game against the Tigers in extra innings. So the only team that didn’t have a good time was Bakersfield.

The most dramatic play of the game was Angel Villalona’s long, high home run to center field. Villalona, San Jose’s first baseman, has a body that puts one in mind of Pablo Sandoval, and when he gets it behind a ball, one suspects he could hit it through the fence.

Despite the majesty of Villalona’s home run, the most interesting sight of the day was pitcher Tyler Rogers. He has one of the purest submarine deliveries I’ve ever seen, and he uses it to great effect: 39 strikeouts to 9 walks in 37 innings for San Jose so far this season. I expect him to move up quickly–he had a rough time in a brief stint at AA Richmond (Go Flying Squirrels!) but he seems to be putting the pieces together well, and I expect him to do much better on his next try.

More on Hope

This “hope” thing is tricky.

The Mariners gave some to their fans with a winning road trip (five wins, four losses) that included several games where they remembered how to hit the ball. Then they came home last night and demonstrated how easy it is to score a bunch of runs and still lose the game. Five runs will win a lot of games, but not the ones where your opponent scores twelve. With the All Star Break, the official half-way point in the season, less than a week away, they’re at 38-45, hoping to hang on to a one game lead over last place Oakland.

Meanwhile, over in San Francisco, the Giants have now lost seven games in a row. They’re at .500 on the year, still hoping (there’s that word again) to catch Los Angeles, win the division, and break the Curse of the Odd-Numbered Year.

So how best to celebrate hope for a pair of teams that both expected to be better off than they are? Me, I’m off to San Jose today to watch a game between the Mariners’ and Giants’ Class A (Advanced) teams.

I’ve written about the joys of minor league baseball before, so I won’t rehash it here. I’ll just note that IMNSHO, Class A (Advanced) baseball is the purest baseball experience you can get from professionals. Most of the players have solid skills, though they’re still working to master their abilities. And, by and large, they’re young enough that you can legitimately say they could put it all together and become a star. (For the record, the oldest player on the Bakersfield roster is 26, most are 23 or 24, and the youngest–Rayder Ascanio, a shortstop from Venezuela–is 19. San Jose’s team skews a little older; leaving aside Juan Perez, who was on the major league team last year and is currently on a rehab assignment, they have several 26- and 27-year-olds, and the baby of the bunch is Christian Arroyo*, who just turned 20 a month ago.)

* I find it amusing that the youngest player on both teams is a shortstop. Clearly, I’m easily amused.

As a fan of the Giants and the Mariners, I’ll be cheering for both teams–wearing a Mariners’ shirt and a Giants’ cap–and hoping to get a look at a few of the guys who’ll be leading their major league clubs to titles a couple of years from now.

The weather is perfect and I’ve got nothing riding on today’s game. It’s amazingly easy to ignore the odds that say few of these kids will ever make it to the majors. Maybe hope isn’t so tricky after all.

See you at the ballpark.