July 2011

Final takes from Yakima

Getaway day in the Yakima Valley and the final day of a six-game road swing through Eastern Washington.  After a error-filled 7-2 loss to the Yakima Bears last night, the Hawks face a must win tonight to win the series and to finish the trip with a 3-3 record.

The game yesterday could have been a bit different, as the Hawks loaded the bases with no outs in the top of the first inning, but the RBI guys – the 4-5-6 hitters in the order, each struck out to end the threat.  The follies on the infield then began – an error by Paul Hoilman (though I thought it should have been ruled a hit) brought in Yakima’s first run and Kenny Socorro had a ball roll up his arm, allowing another to score, making it 2-0.  A fielding error by Socorro and a throwing miscue by Willson Contreras helped Yakima push the lead to 7-1 in the fifth, while Wes Darvill added to the parade by booting a ball in the eighth – though a run didn’t score.

It was the most errors by a Boise team since seven miscues against Tri-City on June 20, 2009 – and overshadowed a great pitching performance by Jose Rosario, who allowed just one hit in four innings of work.

WHO’S HOT, WHO’S NOT ON THE TRIP: Two players are hitting below the .100 mark on this road swing, as Yaniel Cabezas (0-for-9) and Paul Hoilman (1-for-17) have hit a rut in the road nearing the midway point of the first half.  Hoilman has struggled with the strikeout bug, have swung and missed for strike three in 12 of his 16 outs this trip.  On the flip side, Reggie Golden (5-for-12), Rafael Lopez (6-for-13), and Contreras (7-for-19) each have swung a solid bat this trip.

TOP WRITERS, PAPERS IN THE LEAGUE: Major props have to go to the beat writers of the Tri-City Herald and the Yakima Herald-Republic for their coverage of their respective teams.  Jack Millikin for the Tri-City Herald does a great job and his online blog gives the Northwest League outstanding coverage, while Roger Underwood of the Herald-Republic has front page news on his squad day in and day out.  In fact, in Sunday’s Herald-Republic – they have a half-page spread with the league statistics, league leaders, and updates on former Yakima players and local players in the Big Leagues…if only we could have that sort of coverage back home.

FAMILY TIME: The trip to Yakima also allowed the Safford’s to have some fun, as my wife and son made the trek up to the “Palm Springs of Washington” on Friday.  Saturday was spent with two long stints in the pool (sunburns are a must), a long walk around the area, and a scouting trip to a fruit stand, where I was able to find two jars of AJs Walla Walla Sweet Mustard (which I fell in love with at Gesa Stadium last season).  PJ got to do something he’s always wanted to do – rode the team bus back to the hotel following the early bus to the stadium, while he got to come on the pregame show with his dad, and promptly told the fans back home that the Yakima Bears were his favorite team.

COMMENTS GALORE: Lastly, there was a lot of buzz around County Stadium yesterday regarding my blog – which focused on my take of the Bears potential move to Vancouver, Wash.  No fewer that six front-office staffers came up to me at the stadium – with all of them saying thank you for the support and appreciated my honesty.

Is it time for the Bears to move to Vancouver?

Since I began calling games for the Hawks in 2003, heading to Yakima has always been one of my highlights of the season.  Everyone thinks I am crazy – since there isn’t a whole lot to do in the smallest market in the league, but from the front-office staff of the Bears to the team hotel, everyone has went out of their way to treat me and my family amazingly.

So when I heard in May that the franchise was exploring an option to relocate next season to Clark County, Wash., and build a new facility in Vancouver – my heart sunk, thinking, not Yakima…

Unfortunately, after returning to town last night – I think that the McMurray family is making the right decision, it is time for the Bears to look for greener pastures.

Just as we have done in Boise for years – everyone has overlooked the obvious, County Stadium is inadequate for the Northwest League.  Folks forget that the ballplayers that entertain fans all summer are working, and most of the work that they put in is done 3-4-5 hours prior to the game.  Two rogue batting cages sit outside the perimeter of the park – with players traversing a dirt trail to get to them, the clubhouses are tiny with no air circulation (imagine sitting in a cubicle at 90 degreees each day), and the playing surface has hit a rough spot as well.

A leak in the sprinkler system in right field has caused the area near the warning track to turn marshy – literally.  If it were a golf course, there would be a painted line around it and “clean and lift” rules would be in place.  The groundscrew has been forced to turn off the water to minimize the leak – which in turn, has caused enormous brown patches in the outfield, which is a thin layer of grass at best.

But the facility is only half the issue.  Most forget that baseball is a business – and that the Bears have to be able to provide for their employees (remember, the players are sent here and paid by their parent club, the Arizona Diamondbacks).  With the lowest ticket and concession prices in the NWL, less than 1,800 fans turned out for a Friday night game on a absolutely perfect night (80-degrees, light winds, crystal clear sky) – and I think that number may have been a bit high. 

Even if the Bears and the cities of Yakima, Union Gap, and Selah were able to come up with a new stadium – how long would the luster of a new yard last?  After a couple years, would 1,800 fans show up for a Friday night game with $1.00 hot dogs?  I don’t think that would be the case in Vancouver – with the ability to draw from a possible fan base of over a million people, instead of 100,000.

I will miss Yakima, I will miss the staff at the Best Western here, it is painful to say, but it’s time to go to the other Vancouver.

GAME NOTES: The Hawks nearly equalled their home run output of the season in the first inning last night, as Rafael Lopez and Ben Klafczynski each launced two-run homers (listen to the home run calls at http://yotestats.i8.com/hawks/Highlights7-1-11.wma )…the duo combined to go 6-for-7 with seven RBI in the win…Luis Liria and Kyler Burke each struck out the side in the victory – the first time this season that a Hawks’ pitcher accomplished the feat in 2011…Boise pitchers combined to strike out a season-high 13 men in the victory…it was the sixth time in nine wins this season that the Hawks have scored 10-or-more runs…

On to Yakima…

After battling fierce winds in the Tri-Cities for three nights, the Boise Hawks are happy to head up I-82 to the northwest this morning, set to open up a six-game, home and home series with the Yakima Bears.

After stranding 10 men on the base paths on Wednesday night – plus two runners thrown out at second base and a third gunned out at home to end an inning, the Hawks allowed a trio of unearned runs to fall behind 4-2, then a Brian Humphries grand slam in the sixth blew the game wide open, as Tri-City took the final two games of the series.

Positives were some arms in the Hawks bullpen – as Hector Mayora went three strong innings and Austin Reed went four solid innings on Wednesday night, while Joe Zeller (in his 2011 Hawks debut) tossed 2 2/3 innings of scoreless relief in Thursday’s loss.  Reggie Golden continues to hit the ball hard – extending his hit streak to four with a base hit on Thursday (and a fly ball out to the wall in left).

Negatives were the start by Jin-Young Kim on Wednesday – completely unraveled by early walks…two hits, three walks two runs in one inning of work.  Also slumping is both Ben Klafcyznski and Paul Hoilman, a combined 0-for-22 in over the last four games they played.

NOTES – Former Hawks Welington Castillo (Iowa) and Russ Canzler (Durham) were selected for their respective AAA All-Star teams – Castillo for the Pacific Coast League team and Canzler for the International League.  The game will be played in Salt Lake City…also, former Hawks hurler Sergio Mitre was released by the Brewers and subsequently picked up by the Yankees off of waivers…another former Hawk, Mike Perconte was signed by the Houston Astros – his third organization during the 2011 season.

FOOD REPORT: 14 games into the 2011 season and one thing that I have focused on is the pre game meal we have received this season – including a wide variety of meals…including lasagne, egg rolls, and french toast.  The best has been the Philly Cheesesteak we got at Boise last week, while we have had hot dogs and chicken sandwiches three times, and hamburgers twice (BTW – here is a look at Wednesday’s spread in Tri-City)

High Heels {and} Highlights

from a woman in BASEBALL . . .

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