JD’s Ballpark Tour, Top of the Fourteenth Inning (Rancho Cucamonga, CA)

(AKA: Dog Days in the Minors)

After that sad game at Houston, I said goodbye to my good friend near Houston and finally flew back to my home home in SoCal. Right when I arrived back home, I was not only looking ahead to Angels and Dodgers games, but also checking out the Cal League (High-A minors) standings. On the calendar, I saw it was “Bark in the Ballpark” day at Rancho Cucamonga. I decided to take my puppy to her first game of the season and include her on this “BallBARK Tour” Hehe, you see what I did there? Heh, yeah…

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The ballpark: LoanMart Field, elevation 1190 feet.

The game: 66ers @ Quakes on August 27, 2014.

The Rancho Cucamonga Quakes are a high-A minor league team for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Earlier this season, Clayton Kershaw pitched a rehab game there, and all six thousand seats were filled. On this game, they were on the brink of being eliminated from the Cal League playoffs, and there was a decent crowd there. When this park was built in the early 1990s, the Quakes became the new team name. Because of that, the ballpark had one of the coolest names in the minor leagues: The Epicenter. Many folks around the ballpark still call it The Epicenter.

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My dog’s name is Daisy. She loves going to the ballpark. She perks up whenever she hears the sound of a bat hitting the ball. This is her first visit to the Epicenter as they didn’t use to have dog days before. Parking there is only four bucks, and the tickets are $10. Overall, the prices are not too bad, but the food can be a bit expensive, which is why I ate at home.

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Unfortunately, there isn’t a huge grassy area at the Epicenter, so there isn’t much space for Daisy to run around like at other minor league parks. Also, because half of the concourse is blocked off to dogs, the food choices become very limited. At least the super-friendly ushers were giving away free chew toys for all dogs in attendance. Daisy got herself a new toy that she happily chewed on for most of the game.

There isn’t a huge store to buy stuff, nor are there any statues of historical significance. What you do get are amazing views of the mountains and gorgeous sunsets in the distance. Aesthetically speaking, this is one of the best ballparks in the minor leagues. There isn’t a bad seat in that park, and Daisy and I were lucky enough to get front row seats on the first base side. The seats are fantastic, but there is a huge net in front of the first row. The reason for that is because the field is raised above the seats. From that front row, the fans are at eye level with the ground. Daisy had to either sit on my lap, or stand up against the concrete to get a good view.

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What Daisy saw was a three-run home run for the Quakes in the bottom of the 2nd inning. Chris Jacobs hit one deep into the sunset, and Rancho never gave up that lead. Inland Empire got as close as 3-2 in the top of the 6th on a Dennis Raben home run. However, the Quakes tacked on two more runs in the bottom of the 6th inning to make it a 5-2 game in favor of the Quakes. At this point of the game, Daisy and I have moved up a few rows to meet up with a buddy of mine who is a great sports photographer. From here, at least we can see the action perfectly without any obstructions.

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The other big highlight (or lowlight) of the game was every time highly-touted Dodgers prospect Erisbel Arruebarrena went to bat, especially during his third at bat. After striking out on a very questionable call, Erisbel made a gesture to home plate with his bat and had a few… choice words for the home plate umpire. The prospect was quickly ejected from the ball game, and he made sure to get his money’s worth with that ejection. He is a great talent, but his youth and temper showed there.

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The Quakes wound up winning the game, 5-2, and kept their playoff hopes alive, at the time. I said goodbye to people there, and was finally able to walk all around and take Daisy to a grassy area. The Epicenter is a wonderful ballpark that just got renovated with new seats, and they are very comfortable. Having the seats at eye level with the ground offers a very unique perspective not found in many ballparks at any level in the country. After this game, I was finally able to get some good rest and start preparing for the last part of my tour. Thanks for reading, everybody!
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Daisy and me! (Photo courtesy of Dinur Blum)

-JD

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