Tagged: Visalia Rawhide 2016

On the Road: Nachos, Corn and Pickles 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).

If you live in the Visalia area, then you might know Chad Stafford and Mike Pesto. They’re local celebrities.

img_0230Specfically, Chad and Mike are local radio celebrities. Chad is a longtime DJ with KJUG 106.7, a Rawhide media partner, and currently does traffic reports for KJUG as well as three other local stations in the same ownership group. Mike recently switched to one of those stations, My 97.5, which plays Hot Adult Contemporary.

“We’ll play Usher, Maroon 5, Nickelback, then switch to some old ’80s songs like Madonna and Cyndi Lauper,” he explained.

Mike grew up outside of Chicago, and his resume reads like a Minor League Baseball player’s transaction roster. He started in Salinas, then went to Las Vegas and then back to Salinas and then back to Las Vegas and then back to Salinas and then Peoria and then back to Salinas and then, finally, Visalia.

Chad is a homebody by contrast, having spent 32 years in the Visalia area.

So why are Chad and Mike being featured on this blog? You guessed it — they had been recruited to serve as my designated eaters, eating the ballpark cuisine that my gluten-free diet prohibits.

Chad is that rarest of creatures: a repeat designated eater. He performed the task back in 2013, when I first visited Visalia. In 2013, Chad had no hair.


Chad Stafford, circa 2013

When Chad served as designated eater in 2013, it was a quiet night at the ballpark and the team put together a formidable spread for him. This time around, things were different. It was a fireworks night and the place was filled with fans and assistance from the team in assembling a culinary sampling was minimal. That, combined with the exceedingly speedy pace of the ballgame (it finished in two hours and four minutes), led to a comparatively rushed and improvisational designated eating experience.

But, hey, we’re all professionals. We can adjust. We were in the Rawhide’s Hall of Fame Club, and we procured two orders of nachos. But not just any nachos. Nachos that were served in a full-size helmet and topped with pulled pork, nacho cheese, barbecue sauce, “regular” cheese, peppers, onions and jalapenos.

img_0229A closer look.


Alright, guys. Do your thing.

“I love these. It’s a perfect thing to share with friends,” said Chad.

“Or not. You can just say you’re gonna share them,” replied Mike. “I love that there’s pulled pork, that they switch it up from beef.”

“You can wash the helmet and wear it out the next day,” said Chad. “I’ve got one at home. It fits perfectly.”

Okay, so what to do next? I’m always looking to highlight that which is “unique,” and as far as I could tell the most unique thing we could obtain was “Spicy Corn Nuggets.” They were available at this stand located behind home plate. It was practically deserted down there, a stark contrast to the bustling environment of the Hall of Fame Club.

img_0239These were the Spicy Corn Nuggets which, like most fried food, look rather unremarkable from the outside.

img_0234But within lurked a world of corn-centric color and flavor.

Also pictured: fingernails

Also pictured: fingernails

The Spicy Corn Nuggets came with a triumvirate of dipping sauces: barbecue, mustard and ranch. Mike and Chad were psyched to try them.

img_0236Mike: “They ain’t so hot.”

Chad: “But there’s an afterkick. I like it with the ranch.”

Mike: “I do it with the barbecue. It’s sweet, and counteracts the spicy. It’s perfect.”

Chad: “I’ll try the mustard. [Tries mustard] It’s pretty good, but I like the ranch better. It’s basically like jalapeno poppers, but with a fancier kick.”

And that was not at all. This particular food stand also had Fried Pickles.

img_0233 Mike then demonstrated the proper way to eat one.

img_2402“I miss the juiciness. I need juiciness from a pickle,” said Chad. “I don’t know, there’s just something about a hot pickle.”

“I don’t think I’ve had a pickle in any way, shape or form,” said Mike. “But I had to go to Walgreens at three in the morning to get pickles for my wife when she was pregnant, so now I’m having flashbacks.”

After careful consideration, Chad said that the best sauce to accompany the pickles was, once again, ranch. Mike agreed.

On this note of agreement, Chad and Mike then said goodbye. They’re professionals.

Thanks, Chad. Thanks, Mike.





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.

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.


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


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


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.





About Last Night: Visalia Rawhide, August 5, 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 Friday night I visited Visalia, California, the fifth stop on my sprawling 10-team California-Nevada-Idaho-Washington road trip.

August 4: Visalia Rawhide (Class A Advanced affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks)

Opponent: Inland Empire 66ers, 7:00 p.m.

Recreation Park, from the outside: 

IMG_0214Recreation Park, from within: 

IMG_2405Culinary Creation: Spicy Corn Nugget, an inside look.


Ballpark Characters: Rawhide general manager Jennifer Pendergraft with her two and half week-old son, Maverick.

IMG_2399At Random: Team history painted on a slab of gunite that forms the base of the grandstand.

IMG_2394Your Grounbreaking and Subversive Ballpark Joke of the Day: 

Up Next: 

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, 7:15 p.m.)

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