A Perfect Week…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI have been with the Boise Hawks since the 2002 – ever since I scored a game between the Hawks and Salem-Keizer that ended during a seventh inning thunderstorm that struck a transformer across the street from Memorial Stadium and finished with managers Fred Stabley and Steve McFarland squabbling with me over the final score (S-K scored two in the top of the inning to lead 7-1, but Mac felt the runs shouldn’t have count – but they did).

The team has qualified for the postseason in 2002, 2004, 2006, 2011, and 2012 – but during that time, the Hawks have had just two perfect weeks…one during the Western Idaho Fair road trip in 2004 (the last time the team won a NWL title, the other over the past seven days.

ZastryznyA streaky team in an understatement for the 2013 Hawks – losing four straight in Spokane, then winning 7-of-8 (including a string of six in a row), before a tough stretch of eight losses in nine games to fall to 12-16 on the season.  But a seven-game win streak, the longest since 2004 has the team back to three-games above the .500 mark – and guaranteeing at least a .500 first half.

The key to the success has been pitching and defense – as the Hawks have allowed just 13 runs in the seven wins (including the four runs allowed last Saturday night in the ninth inning against Vancouver), while Boise has committed just three errors in the seven games (.989 fielding percentage) and no unearned runs.   The trio of Rob Zastryzny (left), Sam Wilson, and Zack Godley have combined for 12 innings in two wins, allowing just eight hits, one walk, and 11 strikeouts.  Corbin Hoffner has been outstanding, allowing just four hits, no walks, and striking out five in six shutout innings – including working out of a bases loaded, no out jam at Hillsboro on Monday.

As a team, the Hawks are hitting .288 as a team – led by 16th round pick Cael Brockmeyer, who is riding a seven-game hit streak.  Brockmeyer is hitting 7-for-14 with two doubles and three RBI during the run, while fellow catcher Lance Rymel is 6-for-12 during the streak and currently has an eight-game hit streak.  Since rejoining the team after spending the Vancouver trip in Mesa, Carlos Penalver is 7-for-17 with three doubles and three RBI, while handling 25 chances at shortstop without an error.

WGThe beginning of the run started with one of the crazier nights of the season – a fireworks night in Vancouver before a sellout crowd at Nat Bailey Stadium.  But what made the night crazier was the fact that Trevor Gretzky’s dad was in attendance – in most instances (like a game he attended in Spokane), it wouldn’t be a big deal.  But in Canada, where he is one of the true icons (right up with the Queen), it was the big thing…in fact, for Wayne Gretzky just to get outside the clubhouse to talk with his son and the Hawks after the game was a chore to navigate the thousands of rabid fans wearing 99 jerseys.  It was almost as fun to watch the Hawks talk with “The Great One” after the game – and saw the players turn into fans, getting autographs and quick photos.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was then to Hillsboro for the first trip into the newest yard in the Northwest League.  For the players who have experienced Yakima in the past – I made sure to ask each of them what they thought.  Early on, players wanted Yakima – because in the “Palm Springs of Washington” there were many food options for the players within a block of the hotel, while in Hillsboro, it was a 3/4 mile hike.

But when the team got to the new “field of dreams” in the West Hills, Yakima was truly in the rear-view mirror.  Hillsboro has the biggest visiting clubhouse in the NWL, and the visiting clubhouse rivals most home clubhouses in the league.  The yard has indoor batting cages – which keeps early work from being in the hot sun.  And the Field Turf surface was true.  Add in three straight loud and excited crowds, and it made for a great series.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFrom my end, the amenities at the ball park were outstanding.  The sight lines were amazing, with a 360-degree concourse that fans can circle the field.  The concessions were outstanding – from a Cobb Salad, to wood-fire oven pizzas, to a thai-pork sandwich that had to be the best meal I’ve ever had in the NWL.  My radio booth was cozy (when the door was open, there was a wind-tunnel), but the best thing was windows on either side of me that allowed to see into the scorers booth for scoring decisions.

Returning home after nine days was a welcomed relief – as was a sellout crowd on a 104 degree day in Boise.  Now, if we could just teach the Boise fans what Vancouver and Spokane masses do in the ninth inning (standing ovation, loud clapping) – maybe it starts with Zombie Nation playing after every strike?

NEWS AND NOTES: Two players have been called up in recent days – as Dae-Eun Rhee was removed from the disabled list and returned to the Tennessee Smokies (tossing three and two-thirds innings of two-run ball in his first start), and Matt Iannazzo made his second trip to Kane County this year.  Up the ladder, former Hawk Robinson Chirinos has been sent down by the Texas Rangers to AAA Round Rock, while former Hawks catcher Micah Gibbs was recently signed by the Kansas City Royals.

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