JD’s Ballpark Tour, Bottom of the Fourteenth Inning (San Bernardino, CA)

(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?”

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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.

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Continue Reading the Bottom of the Fourteenth Inning

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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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Continue Reading the Top of the Fourteenth Inning

JD’s Ballpark Tour, Bottom of the Seventh Inning (Wilmington, Delaware)

(AKA: Back to the Minors)

    To my friends who know me, it’s no secret that I enjoy the occasional minor league game. Originally being from southern California, I would always take in a game for one of the many California League teams there are, the Quakes, the 66ers, the Storm, and even the Mavericks (one of my loyal readers and friends has announced for them this season). I’ve been to three alone this season, so what’s another game, right? As I was leaving Baltimore heading north on the I-95, I happened to see some lights in the distance. I peered towards the east right off the freeway, and saw that those lights belonged to a baseball stadium! After slowing down, I saw a game was in progress. After about a minute of debating, I decided to get off at the nearest off-ramp and make my way there to see what this place was all about.

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The ballpark: Judy Johnson Field at Frawley Stadium, elevation is about 20 feet

The game: Frederick Keys (Orioles affiliate) @ Wilmington Blue Rocks (Royals affiliate) on August 2, 2014

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    There I was entering Wilmington, Delaware as the day was drawing to a close. I figured I would get near the stadium and take a look around. Since the game had already started and was maybe an hour in, there were no parking attendants, so I didn’t have to pay for parking (although upon further review, they offer free parking there). I walked around the perimeter of the stadium and just enjoyed it. No score book, no plans, just baseball in its purest form. I took a few pictures of this ballpark entering the sunset, and even made my way around to where the Delaware sports Hall of Fame is. Unfortunately, it was closed, but I’m sure there are some great exhibits in there.

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    One of those exhibits features the man depicted in a statue outside of Frawley Stadium. That statue depicts William “Judy” Johnson, one of the greatest players of the Negro Leagues. To me, this was pretty cool since he’s one of the few black players to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. While he wasn’t a power hitter, he consistently batted over .300 spraying singles all over the outfield. He was also an exceptional fielder and on the plaque by his statue, it says Johnson was considered one of the greatest third basemen of the Negro Leagues. He grew up in Wilmington, and lived his life mostly in Delaware. As I was admiring the statue and reading the plaque, I noticed one of the Blue Rocks staff members and asked about the stadium and the team.

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    This gentleman’s name is Andrew Layman, who is the assistant general manager of the Blue Rocks, and he was very kind to me while I was there. What he told me was that this stadium is named Judy Johnson Field because of his importance to the community, and the game of baseball. He also told me that the Blue Rocks are a high-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals and have been their affiliate since the early 1990s. After asking where I was from (because I guess it was that obvious that I was an “out-of-towner”), I told him that I was currently touring as many MLB stadiums as possible, and that seemed to spark an interest with him! After telling me more about the stadium and the team, he invited me to watch the last few innings of the game since it was so late and didn’t have to buy a ticket.

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    With its brick facade and old buildings across the street from the stadium, this place felt similar to Camden Yards. To me, that is a big plus. The stadium is built in the classic style that became popular in the 1990s, with plenty of space for parking all around. As I walked around the interior of the stadium, I took a gander at the concession prices, and boy were they awesome! Four and a half bucks for a jumbo hot dog is actually a pretty decent price. Most minor league parks charge anywhere from five to six bucks for a jumbo hot dog, so this was definitely on the lower end of prices. Maybe other minor league stadiums should take note!

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   After enjoying a couple hot dogs, I sat down and watched the home town Blue Rocks put up three runs in the seventh inning. Every time the Blue Rocks score, two things happen. First, a jet of water will spray upwards beyond the outfield wall, and it shoots out of what looks like a big Coke bottle in the outfield wall. Also, their secondary mascot, a stalk of celery, will come out and “CELE-brate” the run being scored. Ha! I love a good pun, and that one won me over.

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    The Blue Rocks went on to win, 6-0 in a quick game. While I usually get myself a hat from every major league stadium, that rule doesn’t apply for minor league parks. Thus, I didn’t buy anything from that park. However, the prices are great for memorabilia there. If I find my way back out there, I may pick up a hat if the park is still open during the winter.

    Overall, a great place to watch some minor league ball, and a great staff all around. A huge thanks to the assistant GM, Andrew Layman, for showing me around the park and allowing me to watch a few innings. I extend my deepest thanks, and while it’s not knocking out another ballpark, this does add something to my list. I got to watch a baseball game in another new state, and I’m grateful for that. After saying goodbye to Delaware, I made my way back up the freeway and on to get some rest. I would need the rest for I would be heading to New York City the very next day. Until then, thank you so much for reading! The next updates will be from my visit in the Big Apple. In real time, though, I am flying out tonight for two more stops… in Texas!

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-JD