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AUGUST 2 (part two) — Could August 2, 2016, possibly go down in history as the most entertaining and action-packed day in the history of Stockton, California?
“Yes,” I would humbly submit. “Yes.”
Kevin Hart may have slightly outdrawn the Ports on this Tuesday evening, but it was nonetheless a very enjoyable night at Banner Island Ballpark. The Ports were taking on the visiting Rancho Cucamonga Quakes — the only Minor League team in all of California that I have yet to visit. (Since they’re the Quakes, I’m sure they’ll find “fault” with my scheduling priorities.)
After spending a few innings with my designated eaters — that, of course, will be documented in the following post — I returned to the press box and logged time on the air with Ports broadcaster Zack Bayrouty.
I don’t know why I look like such a moron in this picture of Zack and I.
Zack was modeling what is known in the business as “broadcaster casual” apparel. His colleagues took note.
There was rarely a dull moment, on the air with Zack or during this Tuesday evening in general. Shortly after taking my leave from the airwaves, I emceed a “Knockerball” contest. These, for the record, are Knockerballs.
My subsequent stint as a t-shirt slingshot artist is also lost to time. My attempt to “Dance for my Dinner” has been documented for posterity, however. This was easily one of my top three moments of the 2016 season.
Later, I led the crowd in singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame.” I feel like, all things considered, I am a more talented man than Jerry Springer.
When not participating in between-inning shenanigans, I engaged in the usual: idle wanderings and random conversations.
This is Greg “Kool Papa” Bell, who first spent time at Banner Island Ballpark as a fan. He took an interest in the operation, one thing led to another, and now he’s the Ports’ leading salesperson.
While I was in the outfield, a young man walked over and said that he recognized me from MiLB.com. This young man was the Ports starting pitcher, James Naile, who had allowed two runs over 5 1/3 innings of work and was now watching the game in street clothes. He described himself as “an innings eater” who “moves around a lot,” and expressed a genuine love for the fact that Minor League Baseball allows him to meet people from all over the country and all walks of life. In my notes, I wrote that Naile is “a real positive guy.”
And he certainly isn’t in any one place for long. In 2016, Naile opened the season with Class A Beloit, where he made nine appearances. He then went to Triple-A Nashville for one start, then back to Beloit for one start, then back to Nashville for another start, then to Double-A Midland for two starts, then back to Beloit for five starts, then up to Class A Advanced Stockton for eight appearances before, finally, returning to Midland for one last start. All told, he went 9-11 with a 3.39 ERA over 28 appearances (26 starts). His ERA climbed along with the level of play (2.66 in Beloit, 3.76 in Stockton, 4.66 in Midland and 5.73 in Nashville). And this was all in his first full season! What a whirlwind.
Despite the sparse Tuesday night crowd, a positive energy prevailed at the ballpark. Between Naile, Kool Papa, blog readers Brian Bice and Pat King, designated eaters Joel and Fernando Zamora and, really, the entire Ports front office staff, I met a lot of friendly and interesting individuals. Despite the fact that it had only been three years since my last visit, it felt eminently worthwhile to be back in Stockton.
Once the game was over — a 3-2 Ports victory — and the fans had filed out, I still had one more thing to do. That thing, of course, was to write and disseminate a Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke. This particular joke references the Ports’ long-standing celebration of asparagus, as Stockton is the asparagus capital of the world.
Good night, Stockton.