On the Road: Time Flies in Visalia

To see all posts from my August 5 visit to the Visalia Rawhide, 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).

On August 5, the evening in which I paid a visit to Visalia’s Recreation Ballpark, the Rawhide defeated the Inland Empire 66ers in a ballgame that took just two hours and four minutes to play. The game’s brevity impacted my experience, in that I didn’t have the time to fully document the ins and outs of the Rawhide experience. The evening zoomed right by, leaving me with a dazed feeling and questioning whether or not I was ever there at all.

Oh, but I was! I have proof.

img_0213Recreation Ballpark is 70 years old and has a capacity of 2468 (who do we appreciate?). It is, therefore, one of the oldest and smallest ballparks in Minor League Baseball. In its original form it was just a modest grandstand built around a mound of gunite,  but a variety of expansions and renovations have slowly transformed it into a far more dynamic environment. This is a topic I covered the first time I visited Visalia, in 2013.

Upon entering the ballpark, this was my view to the right.

img_0216And this my view to the left.

img_0215I headed leftward, to the Visalia Rawhide clubhouse, my meeting point for a pair of interviews that would soon transmogrify into MiLB.com stories. On the lighter side of things, I spoke with Rawhide third baseman Marty Herum about how he was doing. (Spoiler alert: Marty’s doing pretty good.)

img_2391I then spoke with Rawhide pitching coach Jeff Bajenaru and his wife, Alysa, about marriage and family within the context of a professional baseball career. I’ll have to check the stats, but I think that was my most-read “On the Road” story of the 2016 season. You can read it HERE.

Alysa and Jeff and their kids, Leila and Joe

Alysa and Jeff and their kids, Leila and Joe

On the way back from the field I received a gunite mound-based crash course in Visalia division title and championship history.

img_2394
The Rawhide haven’t won a championship since 1978, the second-longest drought in all of Minor League Baseball. The reason they haven’t won since then is because the ghost of Joe Charboneau’s pet alligator put a curse on the franchise. True story. I’ve written about it already.

img_0221

This tree represents the present moment (or at least that’s my interpretation).

img_0222

Many exemplary players have passed through Visalia over the course of the last seven decades.

img_0223

And this is the field they played on.

img_0217Yep, this field. This field right here.

img_2395In the Rawhide Hall of Fame Club, I said hello to Rawhide general manager Jennifer Pendergraft and her newborn son, Maverick. Maverick was just two and a half weeks old at the time, and this was his first time mingling among the fans.

img_2399Maverick was one of four babies born into the larger Rawhide family this season — and all of them wore born during the month of July. This led to a “Red White and Due” promotion.

babiesI wasn’t there, but I assume that this was the highlight of the promo.

As I mentioned at the top of the post, this was an evening that just flew by. After spending time with my designated eaters — that, of course, will be documented in the next post — it was already the sixth inning. My next stop was the press box, to visit with Rawhide broadcaster Danny Angel.

Danny was preceded in the broadcast booth by the great (some would say immortal) Donny Baarns, who is now with the Omaha Storm Chasers. I believe that this would be an appropriate way to honor Donny’s legacy in Visalia:

The view from the broadcast booth:

img_2405My friend Jon Fischer was once again with me at the ballpark. He took the following picture, of a comfortable young fan.

dsc00126I spent the seventh and eighth inning on the air with Danny. Then, shockingly, it was the ninth.

After the Rawhide wrapped up their lightning quick victory, fireworks filled the night sky as classic rock blared in the background.

After that, there was nothing left to do but write and disseminate a Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke.

Good night, Visalia. I hardly knew ye.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

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