Category Archives: 2012 Season
I watched the Giants win the World Series last night, and I have to say that I am sad.
Not because the Giants won. Truth is as a Northern Californian I am okay with it, especially considering the economic impact that a World Series can have on an area. No, I am sad because it’s all over for the year.
Or… is it???
For the first time ever I am interested in and following the Arizona Fall League. Most because my favorite Ports player, Max Stassi, is playing there along with several other Ports.
So count me in as a Phoenix Desert Dogs fan for the next couple of months. Let the baseball continue!
The first batter hit a screaming,diving fly to right center, which the right fielder went all out for and had it skip off of his glove for a… three base error????
Not a great start when it was followed by the shortstop leaving the ball on the ground for what might have been (you cannot assume) a double play. Before we were comfortably in our seats at Banner Island, it was 1-0. Over the first five innings the deficit grew to 4-0 and to make matters worse, my beloved Stockton Ports were being no-hit.
My wife and I were spending one of our precious “Date Nights” at Banner Island Ballpark (on the banks of the Stockton Deep Water Channel) for the finale of the 2012 season, a year that wasn’t really the greatest – at least in wins and losses – for the Ports. One year after going to the California League Championship Series, we suffered though an early season seventeen game losing streak, a bunch of close game losses and just a general frustration that the team seemed so much better “on paper” but nothing was seeming to come together.
And Game 140 started out for the first half of it to be just like most of the season.
Then, a weird hop led to a two base error and suddenly we had a man on 2nd Base. Our shortstop, Cabrera crushed a pitch to left field and just like that, the no-no was gone and we were only down 4-2 in the 6th.
In the seventh, we added another home run, when after a small kerfuffle, Dusty Robinson homered to Center and flipped his bat as if to say, “Take that!” Now it’s 4-3
The bottom of the 8th saw Stockton add another home run that tied the game. Visalia goes in order in the top of the 9th. The score 4-4 into the bottom of the inning.
The whole season has really been a lesson. A lesson that tough times are just that, an opportunity to show what you’re made of, win or lose. For me as a fan, there were times when I wanted to just quit. After all, the Ports weren’t going back to the playoffs, it’s just a developmental league, right? Winning isn’t as important as other things, right? We’d seen a sit-in manager shit-caned by the league in July for seeming to have that attitude, (see game of June 24, 2012) but really, is that what he had done?
Of is it possible that he was trying to teach the same lesson? That winning and losing does matter, but it’s a bigger picture? That the breaks eventually even out, and it’s taking the opportunity when you see it that is the biggest difference between winning and losing?
With one out in the bottom of the 9th, our catcher hit a towering pop foul towards first base. The only question was who would get it, their first baseman or right fielder? Or even 2nd basemen as oddly, the three began to twist and turn as if the ball, clearly a foul pop seemed to be drifting fair. In that moment of opportunity, it was suddenly clear that the ball was fair and that all three of the Rawhide players were unprepared to catch it. One made a valiant attempt, another ran him over. The ball popped to the ground and rolled away.
When the play ended, our catcher, Ryan Ortiz was standing on 3rd Base with what was described as the ugliest triple of all time.
An intentional walk set up the double play, and our second baseman, Michael Gilmartin stepped up.
When everything is said and done, 2012 may go down for me as one of the best seasons ever. Sure, we lost more than we won, but it was clear that the young men on this Ports team learned about how to be men, how to always try you hardest even when things seem to go against you.
What the really learned, was how to be winners.
Gilmartin singles to center. Ryan Pineda, pinch running for Ortiz scores.
Ports 5 Rawhide 4.
Season over. Lessons learned.
Looking forward to next season…
I wish that I had time to just be a baseball writer. As I have gotten older I have come to realize though, that being a full time baseball writer would still be a job. Sure it looks good from here, but to baseball writers maybe being a chat show host looks fun and easy and relaxing.
Still, as the All-Star Break winds through it’s last day here in the Minor Leagues, I have to take a few minutes and reflect on the season so far.
Like most seasons, it started with great hope and optimism. My Stockton Ports were coming off of a California League Championship Series appearance, and with the departure of Frank McCourt, the Dodgers couldn’t help but be better. I had planned to blog weekly (at least) and quickly cranked out the first of my own pithy thoughts about how much I love baseball.
Somewhere in the midst of a sixteen game losing streak for the Ports the writing dropped off. Between work, trying to exercise more and just being tired, things sort of slipped away. And when I looked up, my two year old was able to use my iPhone – to watch his favorite train videos while I worked in the kitchen – without my help.
The First Pitch
As the final weekend of the first half of the season chugged into the station, I found myself for the first time ever setting foot onto the playing surface of a professional baseball diamond. The Ports had invited me to throw out a what I now call a “pre-game pitch” since they really aren’t the “first pitch” anymore, now they are a set of multiple pitches by people and causes being honored before a game. Kind of like carrying the Torah on Yom Kippur. Yeah, it’s an honor, but after the first one, who’s really paying attention to who it is anymore?
So after Jeffrey the Giraffe (yes, from Toys-R-Us) threw the first “first pitch,” I went to the mound for my chance. I did take a moment to look around and enjoy it, but then to business. I looked in and the only thought in my head was “Make a better throw than the damn giraffe.”
“Clear the mechanism,” I told myself, and threw a beautiful strike at the knees. Then I stood to the side as the other honorees took their pitches.
Among them were Alumni of the Ports. It’s one of the great things about baseball the way cities honor their own past and their connections to the game. And on this day, Stockton honored Elijah Jerry “Pumpsie” Green.
Maybe you know him, probably you don’t. But Pumpsie Green did something that no one had done before.
In 1955 Pumpsie Green played for the Stockton Ports, then a minor league affiliate of the (also) minor league Oakland Oaks. his contract was purchased by the Boston Red Sox, who then moved him along through their system until July 21, 1959 he stepped onto the field in Chicago as a member of the Boston Red Sox, the last team to racially integrate and allow African-American players on their squad.
The Losing Streak
The sixteen game losing streak, which also included 19 out of 20, was painful in a lot of ways. Obviously I am not a player or coach or even a broadcaster, but I have a better than average relationship with the team, so I felt like it was me losing. What could I do to help? At one point I took my Ports coffee cup and put it away since I thought that my using it was part of the problem. I sat in one seat while listening, I stood, I did all the things that we fans do in an attempt to influence the Baseball G-d’s in an attempt to do my part to end the misery.
At one point I was about to turn the radio off in one of the games (in Bakersfield) when I thought to myself I wonder how Zack is dealing with this? I can’t abandon him to broadcast this alone. Probably somebody else was listening at that point, but I wanted to make sure, and so I texted him and let him know that I wasn’t going to leave him to this himself.
At least I could multi-task, but that was when I realized that baseball can become work when it’s not fun.
When it more or less ended the team got back on a .500 or so roll, but hasn’t really seemed to shake it completely. Every body seems to agree, we all needed a break, so thankfully the All-Start break arrived, and everybody put it all aside for four days.
Maybe the most pleasant part of the first half of the season has been watching Miles Head do his thing here in the Cal-League. He’s being overshadowed a bit by Billy Hamilton (Bakersfield) and his 700 stolen bases (not really, it just seems that way). Miles has put together an awesome first half than ended Saturday when – in what most expect to be his last Ports plate appearance – he clobbered a home run to center left.
Everybody pretty much figures he’s off to the Midland RockHounds (Texas) and then eventually to Sacramento and I believe that you will see him with the Oakland A’s (or some other MLB Team) someday in the not-so-distant future.
The highlight had to be the opportunity to meet Steve Garvey. A former Ogden Dodger (my quasi-hometown), Steve Garvey is, of course, one of my biggest heroes. You must understand this – I did not see the 1981 World Series. Still haven’t. And yet it was one of the most inspiring things for me ever. In so many ways, that 1981 Dodger team helped me get through Basic Training. If they could keep coming back, keep winning when the odds said to lay down and quit, so could I.
Zack interviewed Garvey on the air during the game and asked him what his favorite career moment had been. Steve Garvey then described the final out of the 1981 World Series and his thoughts and feelings. It was as if I had been transported through time to that moment and was finally there myself. I am not ashamed to say that there was a lump in my throat.
The best part? I got a moment alone to tell Steve Garvey what that team had meant to me personally.
He smiled at me and said, “Isn’t baseball great?”
Yes. Yes, it is.