(AKA: Cal League Playoffs with Daisy)
The week after that minor league game in Rancho Cucamonga, it was a tumultuous week as I sustained a bad injury. As they say in hockey, I suffered a “lower body injury.” With my mobility dramatically reduced, I spent time writing, doing a baseball podcast, reading some math and/or baseball books, and looking up possible Angels games to attend. In addition, I was trying to find a good time to make a trip to the Bay Area to see two more ballparks, which would make fifteen stadiums in one season. Finally, I was also keeping track of my local minor league teams in the Cal League playoffs. While the previously featured Quakes did not make the playoffs, the Inland Empire 66ers (Angels) not only made the playoffs, but they won their first-round series. This would set up a South Division championship series against the Lancaster JetHawks (Astros). Game three of that series fell on a Monday, which is their usual “Man’s Best Friend Monday” promotion. I thought about going to that game anyway since it was a big Cal League playoff game, and a friend of mine was working at that game. With the added bonus of being able to bring my dog, I thought, “why not?”
The ballpark: San Manuel Stadium, elevation about 1020 feet.
The game: JetHawks @ 66ers on September 8, 2014
This is one of my favorite minor league ballparks, and this is easily Daisy’s favorite park. The 66ers are known for their dog-friendly promotions, and they usually get a good amount of dogs to come out for games, but I’ll get to that shortly. The Inland Empire 66ers are named because Route 66 runs through San Bernardino, which is where the team is located. Their home stadium is less than a mile from the famous road, and features an awesome view of the San Bernardino mountains. The 66ers are currently affiliated with the Angels and frequently see MLB players making a rehab assignment start through the season. The last player I saw make such a start was Dan Haren two years ago… he got roughed up that night.
This time around, though, it was game three of the South Division finals. So far, Lancaster had won their two games at home. Thus, Lancaster was one win away from sweeping the series and ending the 66ers’ season. This must-win game not only brought out a few Inland Empire fans, but it brought a slew of JetHawks fans hoping to see their team move on to the Cal League finals. My family had brought Daisy up to the stadium since I had work right before the game, and they were sitting in the home run grassy area just beyond the left field fence. Not only is this a perfect place to watch a game with dogs, but it’s in a prime area to catch home run balls.
Sadly, there was only one home run hit in the game, and it came off the bat of Ronnie Mitchell (Lancaster). That home run actually went out of the entire park going over the high wall in right field. Since the elevation is higher than the average ballpark, the baseballs tend to fly a bit further here. While that doesn’t automatically mean more home runs, there are also more doubles and triples hit here. The stadium, itself, has excellent concessions at a very reasonable price. Sadly, they no longer serve flavor-shot ice cream anymore, but their regular prices for food are among the best in the Cal League.
As far as dog-friendly ballparks, this is one of the best in the region. First, their “Man’s Best Friend Monday” promotions are popular and have been for a number of years. Ever since I got my puppy, I’ve taken her to a game there at least once every season. The mild summer temperatures are perfect for most dogs wanting to get out of the house and enjoy the excellent night weather.
The expansive grassy areas (and picnic areas) beyond the regular seats provide plenty of room for dogs to roam around and enjoy the stadium and the game. Finally, the staff there has usually been great to the dogs that attend these games and provide treats for the four-legged friends. However, if you are going to bring your dog, and s/he likes fetching balls, make sure you keep a good hold of your pet! I speak from experience when I bring this up because a couple years ago, Daisy went after a foul ball in the right field grassy area… yanking me along with her. She caught up with the ball and fetched it… she still has that ball…
The game turned into a nail-biter in the end as Inland Empire had a couple chances to tie the game with men in scoring position, but that never occurred in the middle innings. One of the bright stars of the game was Victor Alcantara who pitched 5.2 innings of relief, struck out six, and only gave up the one run off a late home run. He kept the game close for much of the evening, and could be a great major league pitcher down the road… his stuff is pretty good. With a slim two-run lead in the 9th inning, Inland Empire had a couple great chances to tie the game, but it was simply not meant to be. Lancaster won the game, 4-2, and swept the 66ers right out of the playoffs. The JetHawks fans in attendance were going crazy, and the home town fans couldn’t help but applaud their 66ers for making it this far.
After the game, I hung out with a great friend of mine and just talked about my travels and the upcoming MLB playoff picture. His name is Taylor, and he has supported me throughout this entire trip. I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention him on here and say “thank you” for the immense support. As for the stadium, itself, this is still one of my favorite minor league parks in the state, and still has the best dog-friendly days baseball has to offer. With the minor league season drawing to a close, I decided to focus my attention on finishing this baseball tour for the season and make plans for one last leg on my journey towards all thirty stadiums. Until then, thank you all for reading!