Tagged: Stockton Ports 2016

On the Road: Asparagus, and much more, in Stockton

To see all posts from my August 2 visit to the Stockton Ports, click HERE. To see all posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all “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).

Joel Zamora and his son, Fernando, are Stockton natives. Joel is a union organizer now based out of Washington, D.C., while Fernando, an avid fisherman, works at a local Loew’s hardware store.

img_0082Joel and Fernando have attended Ports games for years, and have many memories based around their time spent together at Banner Island Ballpark. But on this particular August evening, they were able to enjoy a brand new experience. Joel and Fernando were designated eaters (the individuals recruited to eat the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits).

As was the case three years ago, Nick Jackson of Ovations Food Services oversaw the designated eating experience. We began with Sriacha Fries, Baked Potato Fries and, for me, a gluten-free Chicken Caesar Salad.

img_0083The Zamoras began with the Baked Potato Fries, topped with bacon, sour cream, cheese and chives.

img_0084Have at it, father and son.

Joel praised the Baked Potato Fries as “very rich and flavorful” while Fernando said they were “filling, with good bacon flavor.”

Next up were the Sriacha Fries, topped with Parmesan and the titular hot sauce.

img_0085Fernando said that he could taste both toppings equally but that, all in all, these were “more of a snack.”

“Yeah, these were more a snack,” Joel responded. “The Baked Potato Fries, they were more of a meal.”

My Chicken Caesar Salad, enlivened by lemon and Parmesan and generous strips of chicken, was easily a meal in and of itself. In the below photo, the girl sitting behind me is like, “Who is this idiot?”

img_0088As mentioned in my previous Ports posts, Stockton is the asparagus capital of the world. Thus, the Ports often offer asparagus-centric concession items. Deep-fried asparagus is available on a nightly basis and, on occasion, one can get an Asparagus Dog. It’s an Alpine Meats eight-inch hot dog, with an asparagus spear on each side.

The above tweet got an immediate reaction, almost all of it negative.

The Zamoras were undaunted, however.

img_0089“I can’t really taste the asparagus, and I’d prefer to have onions,” said Joel. “But I’ve been all over the country, just like you have, and Alpine is the best hot dog. And they’re made right here in Stockton.”

Fernando was all for the asparagus, saying that it gave the dog “an extra kick.”

“I must have liked that hot dog, because I finished it pretty quick,” concluded Joel.

Well, then how about some Pulled Pork Nachos?

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“This is the first time I’ve had nachos,” said Joel. “I’m trying to get into it, but I’m more traditional. I think that the pulled pork takes away from the chip.”

This was, therefore, the lone item to result in a generational divide.

“I understand the concept,” replied Fernando. “I like it. The pulled pork is very flavorful.”

“See, I like the old stuff and he likes the new,” said Joel. “When it’s just cheese and jalapenos, you can taste the chips. You can taste the cheese.”

While father and son were bickering about nacho preference, I laid in to a gluten-free cheeseburger that had been presented to me like a gift from the gods. Never have I looked better.

img_2240Joel and Fernando moved on to the Naan Pizza. There was a bit of kitchen confusion regarding just what was in the Naan Pizza, and whether it was gluten-free, so I don’t feel comfortable going into any specifics. But here’s what it looks like. It’s all about the visuals anyway.

img_0093“The bread’s good, it’s not overcooked and it has a perfect crunch to it,” said Joel.

“Yeah, and there’s not too much sauce. It tastes homemade,” added Fernando.

Once again, Joel and Fernando were able to present a unified front. The great nacho argument of 2016 was already a distant memory.

img_0094As the Zamoras finished their pizza, I obtained a Volcano Splash drink. These are available at the aptly named Volcano Splash stand, provided by an outside vendor. It’s really amazing what dry ice can do to a beverage.

While I was lost in a fog, Joel and Fernando moved on to a dessert of their own.

img_0095As you can see, Fernando’s a chip(wich) off the old block.

img_0096“I’d highly recommend the Baked Potato Fries, the Sriacha Fries, the ice cream and the pizza,” said Joel, summing up his experience.

“My favorite was the the Naan Pizza, the hot dog and the Pulled Pork Nachos,” said Fernando. “I definitely found some new favorites.”

Joel had to leave before the ballgame was over, but Fernando stuck around. It’s a good thing he did, as I remembered that I was in possession of my brand-new official designated eater t-shirts. Fernando became the first recipient.

I’d write Zamora if I could, but that’s all I’ve got. Thanks to Joel and Fernando.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: Song and Dance in Stockton

To see all posts from my August 2 visit to the Stockton Ports, click HERE. To see all posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all “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).

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.)

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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.

img_0100I have no record, and barely any recollection, of my stint as a Knockerball emcee. Just know that I was proudly following in the footsteps of Jerry Springer.

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.

img_2249 This bit of concourse signage explains what, to me, seems like a really good deal.

img_0105As the game wore on, I took the long view.

img_2256While 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.

James Naile: Well-traveled

James Naile: Well-traveled

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.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

On the Road: Splashing into Stockton

To see all posts from my August 2 visit to the Stockton Ports, click HERE. To see all posts from my August 2016 “Out West” road trip, click HERE. To see all “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).

AUGUST 2 (part one) — After spending Monday evening in Sacramento, I spent my Tuesday in Stockton. The two cities are a mere 50 miles away from one another, so it was the logical thing to do. Or, maybe it was the least illogical. I had visited the Stockton Ports a mere three years ago, in 2013, but had little to no compunction about a return trip. There’s always more to see, more to learn and more to see. Redundancy is sexy.

The Ports play in Banner Island Ballpark.

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Even though more than a decade has passed, there have been (read my lips) no new California League ballparks since Banner Island Ballpark opened in 2005. It is still the newest in the league. One thing I hadn’t realized is that “Banner Island Ballpark” is an “unofficial” name. Per Wikipedia, “The City of Stockton owns the naming rights of the ballpark and until the rights are sold the stadium is officially known as Stockton Ballpark.”

Banner Island has a long professional baseball history, as the Ports website points out:

The Banner Island area is allegedly the home of the Stockton baseball team which played in the late 1800s, in an area known as “Mudville” along the San Joaquin River. Banner Island was once an island in the San Joaquin River delta. Although the area is no longer an island, the name remains.

Yes, Stockton’s 19th-century baseball team played in the “Mudville” area. Some have speculated that Ernest Thayer’s classic poem Casey at the Bat” takes place in Stockton, and I found this theory intriguing. So much so that, immediately upon arriving at the park, Ports general manager Bryan Meadows and I took a field trip to the local Haggin Museum to find out more. You can read about that visit HERE.

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archival materials

Upon our return to the ballpark, I took a nice late afternoon stroll around the concourse. The Stockton Arena can be seen looming beyond left field; that evening, the arena would be playing host to comedian Kevin Hart.

img_0068Moving down the first base line, this was the view.

img_0069The area directly behind the ballpark has yet to be developed.

img_0070After rotating my body 180 degrees, I was presented with the following view:

img_0071Stockton is the self-proclaimed “Asparagus Capital of the World.” At the team store, I obtained a t-shirt featuring the Ports’ alternate “Five O’Clock Dock” asparagus logo.

img_0072The Ports’ “Asparagus Night” promo is one of the 10 nominees in this year’s “Promo of the Year” MiLBY category. In 2011, the team won “Promo of the Year” for their Dallas Braden bobblebelly.

Braden, a Stockton native and former Port who pitched a perfect game as a member of the Oakland Athletics, remains a ballpark hero. His number 50 has been retired by the team, though it looks like some big jerk of an outfielder scuffed up this tribute to Braden via inconsiderate spike usage.

img_0074In the Ports bullpen, there has been a long tradition of writing the names of each season’s occupants along the walls. The 2012 team must have been the first in history to feature two relievers named “Doolittle.”

img_0075As the gates opened, I paid a visit to my pal Splash.

In the press box, I met PA announcer Mike Conway. Mike, who has held this position since 2008, proudly displayed his wide gum selection. He always has an ample supply of gum.

img_0079One of Mike’s PA announcer highlights was reading this marriage proposal. Unfortunately, Becca was a no-show at the ballgame.

img_0080As game time drew near, I returned to the warm embrace of my buddy Splash.

img_1844As is often the case, I had been asked to throw out a first pitch.

img_1868With the fond memories of a perfect strike whizzing across the plate (and subsequently fending off the entreaties of scouts interested in signing me), I’ll end this blog post. Of course, there’ll be much more to come from Stockton.

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz

About Last Night: Stockton Ports, August 2, 2016

This season, when I’m on the road, I’ll write a quick blog post about each Minor League ballpark that I visit. Then, when I return home, I’ll provide the multifaceted blog coverage that you have come to know and perhaps even love. On Tuesday night I visited Stockton, California, the second stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip.

August 2: Stockton Ports (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Oakland A’s)

Opponent: Rancho Cucamonga Quakes, 7:10 p.m. game time

Banner Island Ballpark, from the outside: 

IMG_0076Banner Island Ballpark, from within: 

IMG_0068Culinary Creation: Stockton is the apsaragus capitol of the world. Thus, the Asparagus Dog.

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Ballpark Character: Greg “Kool Papa” Bell, Ports fan turned #1 Ports salesman.

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At Random: Truly, I can do it all.

Your Groundbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

August 3: Modesto Nuts (vs. Visalia, 7:05 p.m.)

August 4: San Jose Giants (vs. Modesto, 6:30 p.m.)

August 5: Visalia Rawhide (vs. Inland Empire, 7:00 p.m.)

August 6: Las Vegas 51s (vs. Fresno, 7:05 p.m.)

August 8: Reno Aces (vs. Salt Lake, 7:05 p.m.)

August 10: Boise Hawks (vs. Hillsboro, 7:15 p.m.)

August 11: Tri-City Dust Devils (vs. Spokane, TBD)

August 12: Spokane Indians (vs. Eugene, 6:30 p.m.)

***

benjamin.hill@mlb.com

twitter.com/bensbiz

instagram.com/thebensbiz