On the Road: A Heads-Up Approach in Sacramento
To see all posts from my August 1 visit to the Sacramento River Cats, click HERE. To see all my posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all my “On the Road” posts, click HERE. If interested in seeing posts covering a visit to a particular team, search for that team’s name in the blog search bar (it’s to your right).
Welcome to the second of three posts concerning the Sacramento River Cats, who play at Raley Field.
I visited the River Cats on a Monday night. Teams hate when I visit on Mondays, as they want a man of my vast influence and prestige to witness them at their best (read: fullest). Some of my Monday evening victims accept their fate. Others, like River Cats marketing manager Emily Williams, resort to blatant acts of censorship when I attempt to document the surroundings.
To be fair, the River Cats have been at or near the top of Minor League attendance rankings ever since their 2000 inception. In 2015, the first year of their affiliation with the Giants, they drew 672,354 to lead all of Minor League Baseball.
And, regardless, it was a beautiful night in a beautiful ballpark. The game time temperature was 84 degrees, the skies were clear and there was a slight breeze in the air. Fans seeking additional shade had the option of sitting beneath what I believe are the biggest berm trees in Minor League Baseball.
Beyond the berm, there lurks a city skyline view. That’s the Tower Bridge on the left, whose two golden towers combine to form an “au” pair.
My wanderings, at this stage in the evening, didn’t last very long. The River Cats have a nightly “Heads of State” race featuring a triumvirate of California governors: Gray Davis, Ronald Reagan and Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Davis may not be as memorable as the other two, but you may be able to recall him).
I was invited to participate in the race, and chose to run as Ronald Reagan.
As the above tweet describes (albeit with a typo), I won. Here’s the proof (you can also see how close I came to losing my head).
The race itself was tiring, given how top-heavy the costume is and the fact that I’m maybe not in the best shape. But what was really difficult was the race’s aftermath. We entered the stands at the home plate side of the ballpark, trodding up the stairs and then on to the concourse. Thus began a long, slow walk back to our outfield changing area (aka “the groundskeeper’s shed”) during which we were accosted by fans for high-fives and photos. At first I enjoyed this, the way I always enjoy being in a mascot suit of any kind. It’s a surreal feeling, knowing that the “you” that people are interacting with is different than the “you” that is in the suit. It’s a liberating, and exhilarating, sensation, this transformation into a larger-than-life figure who people want to see, know and touch.
But I don’t have the stamina for it. As our walk progressed, a deep, dizzy fatigue set in and along with it an increasing desperation to no longer be Ronald Reagan. If the stands had been a little more crowded, or the weather a little hotter, I think I would have passed out. And, believe me, no one wants to see an unconscious Ronald Reagan sprawled on the concourse of a Minor League Baseball stadium.
Finally, after what seemed like hours but was only minutes, we were able to leave the public eye. I no longer had to be Ronnie. The only thing trickling down was the sweat on my brow.
I soon met with River Cats president Jeff Savage, whose late father, Art, bought the Pacific Coast League’s Vancouver franchise and relocated it to Sacramento. The Savage name is synonymous with River Cats baseball. Susan Savage, Jeff’s mom, is the team’s CEO and majority owner. Brent, his brother, works for the team as well. Brent is confined to a wheelchair, and Jeff said that one of the reasons his dad wanted a team in Sacramento was so that Brent “always had a place he wanted to be.”
Raley Field, a privately-owned facility, was built in just nine months and opened in May of 2000. Jeff said that, prior to the stadium’s opening, its West Sacramento location was a desolate industrial area.
“No one in their right mind would come to West Sacramento,” he said. “You just didn’t do it.”
In this ceiling mural, Art Savage can be seen in the top left, wearing a green shirt.
This mural, titled “Here and Now”, has an interesting concept. Sacramento baseball greats are seen mingling with their younger selves.
Prior to the River Cats, Sacramento had hosted a team in the form of the PCL’s “Solons.” Solon is an archaic term for a politician, coined in honor of the Greek lawmaker who went by that name. The Solons’ farewell occurred in 1976.
Since the 2000 opening of Raley Field, the ownership group has made improvements whenever they’ve had the means to do so. A fairly recent upgrade is the Legacy Club, a premium group area which opened in 2015.
In the Legacy Club, you can turn your back to the game to watch the game.
There’s always room for more improvement, such as this undeveloped area deep behind the outfield. Currently, it is a picnic table graveyard which, truth be told, I found very appealing.
They can’t all be winners.