To say that Tuesday was a VERY long day for the Boise Hawks – lets here the short version of the story. The team bus left Memorial Stadium at 6 a.m. (MDT) – I was up at 4:45 to drive from Caldwell to the yard, heading west for the 400-mile trek to Salem. The team slept probably the first four hours or so of the trip, waking up just as we entered the vast Columbia River Gorge (pictured left) – where guys were asking me about the wind turbines on top of the ridges on the Washington side of the river, about how tall Mount Hood was (which looked amazing against the crystal blue sky), and ooh’d and aah’d when we went past Multnomah Falls.
We arrived at the team hotel around 1:15 p.m. (PDT) – giving the guys less than two hours before they had to board a bus to Volcanoes Stadium (and outside of a Denny’s, the closest food option is over a mile away (having to walk around the lake – pictured right), which the guys did not appreciate). The squad strapped it on, and promptly fell behind 3-0 in the second inning – but fought back, using a season-high 17-hit attack, which included five two-out RBI, to win, 7-4.
What was even more important was the fact it marked the first time since the 2000 season that the Hawks won the first game of a series at Salem-Keizer – a team that they have recorded a mere 15-50 overall record since 2004 (prior to last night).
Jesus Morelli had Boise’s first four-hit game of the season, while Alvaro Ramirez officially extended his hit streak to 12 games (as the scoring change against Spokane was finally overturned) with a three-hit game, Elliot Soto recorded his second game-winning hit of the year, and Micah Gibbs (pictured left) had his first multi-hit game of his career. The story was also Dustin Fitzgerald, who tossed three and a third scoreless innings of relief in his Hawks debut.
NEWS AND NOTES: Prior to the game Tuesday, pitcher Danny Keefe was promoted to the Class-A Peoria Chiefs – advancing beyond short-season baseball for the first time in his career. To take his place on the roster, eighth-round pick, Cam Greathouse, out of Gulf Coast JC in Florida, was promoted from the AZL-Cubs…much has been said about the problems with the Memorial Stadium outfield (which Zamzow’s is working on this week), but similar issues are occurring here at Volcanoes Stadium – which has bigger patches of brown grass than we have in Boise.
LISTEN IN – Tuesday through Thursday, I’ll have a three-part interview with president/general manager Todd Rahr about the proposed new stadium issue in Boise…I asked some tough questions – so tune in to Hawkstown Tonight at 7 p.m. (MDT) all week.
There has been a lot of conversation over the last six months about the possibility of a new ball park in the Treasure Valley – known affectionately as the Treasure Valley Sports and Entertainment complex. It looks to hold the Hawks, along with a possible professional soccer team, host concerts, prep sports, and a possible outdoor ice venue during the winter.
Locations have been pinned down to Boise (possibly including the vacant car lots along the Boise River just down from the Doubletree and Joe’s Crab Shack) and Meridian (multiple sites in the area – including one that was on the Meridian master-plan sheet that was unveiled at a City Council Meeting a couple months back.
The TV stations, the local newspapers, and local radio have all talked about the issue – as the Hawks are looking for some sort of a public-private partnership to fund the 20 million dollar facility…but all anyone talks about is, will people pay for it.
Before I answer that, is the facility needed – well, if you listened to Brian Murphy’s column in yesterday’s Idaho Statesman (which was well written), you’d think no, Memorial Stadium is fine. But, it failed to mention the things that are a necessity for minor league baseball – and things that the Chicago Cubs will look at when wanting to renew their Professional Development Contract.
Are there enough seats…I guess. Are there enough concession stands…I guess. But, is the press box good enough…not even close – it is in my opinion one of bottom two in the league…I’d put Salem-Keizer at the bottom, just because of its design, but Memorial Stadium’s press box is a cramped space that does not have an elevator or a way for a disabled reporter or broadcaster to enter (I feel for Eugene’s Chris Fisher and Spokane’s Bob Robertson, both who would appreciate an elevator)…even the vantage point is limited, as the crowd stands in front of you throughout the night (thankfully, I have a monitor for the video feed). Memorial Stadium is one of only three stadiums in the league without a video board, with it’s message center 1/4 the size of the other two clubs who do not have the LED boards.
How is the clubhouse…substandard at best. There are just two urinals and one toilet for the entire Hawks team (coaches/players/staff) to utilize…there is no team room, no lounge area, and one small television. Even the visiting clubhouses in most of the NWL cities are a big improvement to what the Hawks players and staff must deal with when they go to work. Trainer AJ Larson has the smallest training room in the loop – in fact, his training room in every visiting clubhouse in the league is bigger than his one in Boise.
I am not complaining, Memorial Stadium was a great facility in 1989 and continues to be the home that countless fans have been drawn to over the last two decades. But there is only so much that layers of paint can do – the talent that the Cubs (or whomever is the affiliate) bring to this great city deserve the best – not the worst.
Just last week, the Yakima Bears, who year in and year out rank dead last in the Northwest League in attendance, unveiled renderings to the Yakima Economic Development Committee of their proposed new ball park (and multi-use facility) – hmmm, where have we heard that before.
Let’s think about this – last in attendance, only 60,000 people in the community, a ballpark that is newer than Memorial Stadium, and I am convinced that Yakima will have a new ballpark (pictured at the top of the page and to the right) before Boise.
Being a native Washingtonian, I have been through the stadium issue before…first it was the Kingdome – which, inspired by the 1995 Mariners, helped build Safeco Field (fueled by taxpayer dollars)…Qwest Field, which replaced the Kingdome (fueled by taxpayer dollars), and now, a new Cheney Stadium (pictured left) in Tacoma, which, like Memorial Stadium, was one of the, if not, the worst AAA facility in the Pacific Coast League. Taxpayers have also helped out all of the other professional venues – Everett Memorial Stadium (new video board), Avista Stadium (new scoreboard and seating), Gesa Stadium (scoreboard and million dollar sunshade), County Stadium (scoreboard and seating upgrades), along with improvements at the Spokane Arena, Toyota Center, ShoWare Center, and Everett Events Center – things those ownership groups didn’t have to pony up dollars for.
Would the Boise market, and/or the Idaho legislature offer anything of this sort – NO! I have a hard time believing that people do not even pass their own school bond measures, fire levies, or road bonds – but yet complain about the quality of education deteriorating, roads falling apart, and why it took the fire department so long to get to your house. The conservative nature of the community is something that I have had to get accustomed to in my ten years in the valley – I never really realized how liberal the Seattle-Tacoma area really was until I see it from afar.
So then, how could this new park become reality in the Treasure Valley – I can only think of two possible ways, since there is no chance in my book that any of the cities will pass a tax, nor will the legislature fund it (since they just slashed K-12 and higher education). One would be for one of the municipalities to apply for an Urban Renewal bond from the Obama Administration – which I could see the City of Boise being able to do, which could revitalize a portion of downtown. The other would be for an increase in the lodging tax in the valley – so that visitors to the area would actually be the ones funding the facility.
Is Memorial Stadium my home in the summer, yes. Does it have charm, yes. And I have so many memories at the yard. But, this community deserves a new facility so that it can start resembling like communities across the nation.
For your listening pleasure, here are some of the highlights from the first two weeks of the month of July. Highlights of the Game are sponsored by Les Schwab Tires, with over 400 locations across the West.
July 1 – Pierre LePage hits a 3-run triple vs. Yakima: LePage3R3B7-1.wma
July 1 – Runey Davis hits solo homer vs. Yakima: DavisHR7-2.wma
July 2 – Brandon May hits solo homer vs. Yakima: MayHR7-2.wma
July 5 – Pierre LePage hits solo homer at Spokane: LePageHR7-5.wma
July 9 – Alvaro Ramirez hits 2-run triple vs. Eugene: Ramirez2R3B7-9.wma
July 9 – Danny Keefe closes out Eugene with strikeout: KeefeK7-9.wma
July 10 – Elliot Soto defeats Eugene with walk-off single: SotoWalkoff7-10.wma
One of the things over the years I have to pay close attention to during the season are streaks and trends throughout the Northwest League. After the first four games of the Boise-Eugene series at Memorial Stadium, it seems like this has been a wild, streaky series.
Let’s look at the numbers – Hawks took a four-game win streak and a four-game home win streak into tonight’s game (both fell by the wayside in the 9-4 loss), while Eugene took a six-game losing streak into the game (it ended with the six-run eighth inning rally).
Danny Keefe had not given up a run in his last six appearances, spanning 12 innings, but after getting Chris Tremblay to pop up to start the eighth, promptly allowed the next five men to reach (single, walk, walk, double, single) and his night and his 1.27 ERA was gone.
Then there is the “phantom” streak for Alvaro Ramirez that sits at 11 games…currently, the streak is only six games, as the official box score from July 5 in Spokane lists Ramirez going 0-for-1 in a pinch hit appearance….only problem was, it was Jeff Vigurs that pinch hit in the game, not Ramirez. The scoring change has been submitted to both Major League Baseball Advanced Media and to the Spokane Indians and the Hawks are hopeful that the change will occur on Monday.
If the Hawks would have won tonight, it would have been their longest win streak since July of 2008, when Boise ran off a streak of 11 wins in 12 outings (a five-game win streak, and after a loss, followed by a six-game win streak) – helping the team to a 45-31 overall record – but five games back of Spokane at the end of the season.
And how about my own streak…heading into the season, I had broadcast 359 Boise Hawks games (all 76 in 2003, 74 in 2004, 65 in 2005, 75 in 2008, and 69 last season) and 365 Northwest League games overall (including six Spokane-Boise games in 2007). Tonight was broadcast number 382 for the Hawks and 388 overall – nearing a couple milestones…I need eight more broadcasts to surpass Rob Simpson into first-place on the all-time games called list in franchise history (he called 389 games from 1996-2000, and one game for me last year), while I need 12 games to hit the 400 game mark for my career. So if I sound excited on the 19th of the month against Spokane or the 22nd of the month against Tri-City, you’ll know why.
To say that the Chicago Cubs were busy tinkering with the Boise Hawks over the last 36 hours was an understatement – as no fewer than 12 roster moves were made by the parent club…luckily, not affecting the product on the field, as the Hawks held off Eugene, 5-4, in the series opener at Memorial Stadium.
Of the six moves out of Boise, Corey Martin definitely earned his promotion to the Peoria Chiefs after converting 7-of-7 save opportunities…and hopefully he’ll be used in that same roll in the Midwest League, as Peoria has been struggling late in ballgames to hold leads – blowing another late-inning lead tonight against Kane County.
The injuries to Tarlandus Mitchell and Brandon May have sent the duo to Mesa for rehab work at the Cubs training complex, while news from Mesa is that Marcus Hatley, the third member of the Hawks on the DL has begun to play long toss and may be throwing from a mound soon.
Joe Zeller and Yao-Lin Wang head to Mesa to get more instruction – as the duo has struggled with their command while in Boise. Finally, likeable outfielder Runey Davis was released by the Cubs – unfortunately for him, after having to endure the nearly eight hour bus ride back from Spokane.
A total of six new players head to town – including five 2010 draft picks. The Boise media has already found its latest media darling in outfielder Matt Szczur (surplanting Pierre LePage in that category) – the fifth-round pick out of Villanova, who just like 2006 Hawks alum, Jeff Samardzija, will play his senior football season in college.
Pitchers Brent Ebinger (32nd Round out of Lambuth U.), Matt Loosen (28th Round out of Jacksonville U.), and Dustin Fitzgerald (19th Round out of Hill JC in Texas) have joined the club, along with shortstop Elliot Soto (15th Round out of Creighton U.) – who made his Hawks debut tonight, showing flashes of the glove that may be his ticket up the professional ladder.
Also back for the Hawks today was Eduardo Figueroa, who spent the second half of last season in Boise. The Venezuela native had a great start to the Arizona Rookie League season, striking out 16 men in just 12 innings of work, earning the promotion.
BY THE NUMBERS – Some interesting statistics for the Hawks as we are one game into the second half of the First Half of the Northwest League season (through Game 20 of 38)…the Hawks are a perfect 9-0 this year when leading after the 5th inning and are a perfect 11-0 when leading after the 7th….Boise is a perfect 4-0 in one-run games in 2010…
After a six-hour drive home through the unpopulated high-prairies of Eastern Washington and Oregon last night (dodging drunk drivers, coyotes, and a huge owl), I finally have time to recollect on the fun trip that we had – not only for the Safford family, but also for the Boise Hawks, who salvaged the final game of the series with a clutch come-from-behind, 4-2 win.
Monday was a fun day for the Saffords, as we had the opportunity to head to downtown Spokane and spend the afternoon at Riverfront Park – the site of the 1974 World’s Fair. Liza and PJ had the opportunity to ride a gondola over Spokane Falls, while PJ and I took a train ride around the park – as PJ was so excited to just ride on a “choo choo”. But the biggest thrill for us was at their midway – located inside an outdoor ice rink that is dry during the summer.
It was the first time that PJ had seen rides up close – but he wasn’t shy, even though he was too short to ride most of the rides by himself (so Dad had to purchase a pass for $10, which allowed he and I to go on unlimited rides). So PJ was off on an airplane ride, a pair of bounce houses, tea cups, the tilt-a-whirl, bumper boats, and a dizzying roller-coaster three different times – loving every minute of it with no fear (while Dad, who isn’t the best thrill-seeker, was struggling). It was fun.
Monday’s game was a tough-one, as Brandon May went down with a knee injury after a brilliant stop of a ground ball in the second inning and Tarlandus Mitchell injured a muscle during his pregame workouts. Both will end up on the Disabled List and will have to head to the rehab facility in Mesa to recooperate. Pitching struggled during the game, as Yao-Lin Wang ran out of gas in the fourth inning, walking two, then surrendering an RBI double. Joe Zeller provided no relief, as he allowed five hits in two innings – with every ball hit seemingly hit hard. The Hawks lost despite recording their third 11-hit game of the season, but stranded a season-high ten men.
Tuesday morning was spent in the swimming pool at the Mirabeau Park Hotel and Convention Center – which included a numbing belly-flop that my son loved, but reminded me why I hadn’t done that since high school. But PJ had a blast in the pool – he truly is a fish.
The game featured multiple quality performances by the Hawks – Alvaro Ramirez had a two-hit game, extending his hitting streak to seven games, knocking in two with a third inning single. Richard Jones hit a mammoth homer in the eighth inning that provided insurance. Starter Austin Kirk provided a second-straight quality start, allowing just four hits in five innings of work. Danny Keefe retired six of the seven men he faced, while Aaron Kurcz struck out the side in the eighth. Corey Martin had a tough go of it in the ninth, but got the final three outs for his seventh save in as many opportunities.
STREAK BUSTERS: Jose Guevara saw an 0-for-18 skid snapped on Monday night with a single, while Wes Darvill, who was 2-for-26 heading into Monday, added RBI singles in each of the final two games of the series.
THE DEPOT: The newest addition to Avista Stadium is by far the most unique attraction in the Northwest League. The Depot, situated in right field, is an actual dining car that blends into the surroundings (as the park is situated right in the heart of a rail-yard) – used to host groups. There are seats inside the car with great views of the field, along with seating along the four-foot-high outfield fence – all having an opportunity to catch a home run ball.
WHAT TO DO ON AN OFF-DAY: When you work two jobs during the summer (most know that I am also the Sports Information Director at The College of Idaho), it is rare that I get an off day, even when the Hawks have an off day. Today was the exception – although I tackled a challenge in the backyard, creating a sandbox for PJ out of a free tractor tire from one of the Hawks major sponsors – Les Schwab. I still need a bit more sand, but he absolutely loved it.
What an interesting day for me, my family, and the Boise Hawks – ended with a Boise Hawks 6-2 loss to the Spokane Indians, before nearly 7,000 fans at Avista Stadium in Boise.
Instead of awaking to meet the team in Boise at 7 a.m. to ride to Spokane, my family and I took the family car to the Evergreen State, feeling as if I was the aforementioned Clark W. Griswold in the station wagon, trying to find Wally World.
We saw lots of different things – from the bridges on the Columbia River (including the photo of the US-395 “Blue” Bridge in the Tri-Cities), to PJ enjoying his time in the back seat. Instead of a quick five and a half hour drive, making the trek with a two year old entails patience, as we stopped no less than four times for various things.
Once at Avista Stadium, I had the opportunity to spend time with my great friend and mentor, Hall of Fame broadcaster, Bob Robertson – the Voice of the Spokane Indians and longtime radio voice of Washington State football. While I was in the booth, PJ had the opportunity to check out the scene at the stadium – meeting the Indians mascot, Otto – the world’s only Spokaneasaurus (pictured with PJ below).
Following the game was a postgame fireworks show (pictured below) – lasting about 6 minutes or so, twice as long as the 3rd of July fireworks show in Tri-City last year, but nothing in comparison to the outstanding show at Memorial Stadium last night. The Hawks front office and sponsors should be proud of the job they did last night…A+’s around.
GAME NOTES – Pierre LePage completed a fabulous week in which he may be in line for NWL Player of the Week honors, hitting .400 with four doubles, a triple, and nine RBI…Alvaro Ramirez extended his hit streak to six games with a single in the sixth inning…
Time to play catch-up tonight, as the last 48 hours have been a whirlwind – ending with a rain storm following Friday night’s game (just after the fireworks show at Memorial Stadium ended.
To recap what we missed – Hawks dropped the final game of the series in Eugene, 7-3, despite a three RBI game from Pierre LePage. Following the game, the team left PK Park around 11 p.m. Pacific Time, traveling all night (watching three oldies, but goodies – Sandlot, American Pie, and Old School), arriving in Boise around 9:30 in the morning.
Last night, the Hawks rode the arms of Austin Kirk, Carlos Rojas, and Rogelino Carmona to a six-hit shutout, regaining first-place in the NWL East with a 7-0 win. LePage was at it again, going 2-for-4 with four more RBI, with Runey Davis smacking his second home run of the week.
However, tonight, a rough first inning by Tarlandus Mitchell (reminiscent of an outing by the righty last year in Eugene) – walking four men and allowing two hits in just one-third of an inning, dug the Hawks a 5-0 hole, losing 6-2.
ROSTER NOTES: Micah Gibbs, the Cubs third-round pick in 2010, joined the Hawks on Thursday, recording his first professional hit on Friday night…he will wear #33, while LePage switched to #2. Marcus Hatley, who has been out with a flare-up with his throwing elbow (that had Tommy John surgery on it last year), has been placed on the DL – and sent to Mesa to be looked at by the Cubs surgeons. Hatley told me following the game that they feel it is either a muscle strain in the elbow, or possibly bone spurs.
STREAKS: LePage extended his hitting streak to five games with a fourth inning double, and has hit safely in all seven professional games this season…however, Friday’s game was his first without a multi-hit game…Alvaro Ramirez extended his hitting streak to three games…
SMALL CROWDS EQUAL WINS: The weird statistic of the night – when the Hawks play before a crowd of 2,300 or less, they are a perfect 8-0 this season…when the crowd is larger than 2,300, they are 0-7.