Thursday, July 3, 2014

Day 1. Vallejo Admirals: Paying the Toll Troll, Wearing Hoodies in Oakland, and Calling for an Ejection

As we pulled back from the gate in Atlanta, the pilot announced we were having mechanical difficulties. This, oddly, did not send the Southwest plane full of passengers into a fit. Ben and I, being the degenerate gamblers we (at least I?) are (am?), set an over-under on our delay at 2 hours. Ben took the over so "either way I would win." He's learning. Turns out, though, it was 15 minutes, so actually Zach won.

So, we get to SF in about 5 hours. And it takes us approximately another 5 hours to get from SF to our lunch destination in Oakland. Holy frozen shitballs, Bay Area, your traffic SUCKS. And this is coming from two guys born in Atlanta. Also, you have a lot of tolls. And they're in one direction over bridges. You're weird.

 Just the most Oakland sign ever. This payphone will not dial pagers and will not accept incoming calls. Please do not use for drug deals.

Anyway, we finally had lunch at an awesome Chinese place (Shandong) in Oakland, per our man Alan's recommendation. We also recommend it. Get the Shandong *insert meat here*...delicious spicy gingery sauce. Then we hit a BevMo (for the uninitiated, if Costco were a liquor store) for the first time in our apparently miserable and unfulfilling lives, though we did not take advantage of their nickel wine deals. 

Then, it was off to Vallejo!


1. The Admirals play in a public park that advertises its Babe Ruth League events on equal footing with its Admirals games.  This gave the place a very kid-friendly and community-focused feel.

2.  In the same vein, our map skills were put to the test and, after missing a turn, we accidentally found a back way in via dirt goat path.  There are fewer things more scrappy or journeymanlike than trekking up a dusty back alley to watch baseball.

3.  The local pride continued with wall of local boys who made it big.  CC Sabathia was apparently a little league star in the area.  Bobby Billy Buckner came up in the area, too.

 Ben hopes to join them one day.

Better late than never, Vallejo proofreaders.

4.  This sign:  SPIT SEEDS IN CUP! They're not our mothers cleaning up after us, apparently.

5.  The public park has very few accommodations for the professional athlete.  Players and umpires milled around the snack and restrooms.  We're not entirely convinced they didn't get dressed in the restrooms, either.

6.  An Admirals player wearing a team jacket.  This wouldn't be unusual, but that it was a Giants jacket.  A man can dream, can't he?

7.  Snacks looked promising at first, as they had an actual charcoal grill and it all felt like a big picnic.  But the choices were limited and the actual foodstuffs did not inspire much enthusiasm.

8.  Everything is very close to the field and the action.  So close, in fact, that when a warmup toss goes rogue, it flies straight at Ben's chest and crashes into the fence two feet from him, causing him to flinch.  The player apologizes and Zach, amused, starts to jot down notes.  This leaves him oblivious to the poorly aimed longtoss that would have decapitated him if the fence had been two inches shorter.  If the player hadn't shouted out "GODDAMMIT" he might never have known how close he was to death.  Shoutout to Ricky Claudio for giving us a new look on life.

9.  Scorecard in program.  Always nice.  Nice program overall, in fact, for a club that doesn't have the resources of many others that we've seen.

10.  Speaking of going above and beyond, they broadcast game on their youtube channel for the Bay Area to see, complete with radio commentary.  This seems to be a good example:

11.  You can hear players and coaches yapping throughout the game.  All the "Go Go GO"s during a wild pitch, all the "Let's get right back in here" as a team goes out to field, all the "That's Bullshit" from the runners called out at first base. Our favorite was the Admirals goading a Mettle player from 2nd to run to 3rd on a wild pitch when he obviously would've been gunned down. The runner, to his credit, didn't bite.

12.  The game was an out and out shellacking.  The visiting Pittsburg Mettle had 6 runs before the 2nd out of the game.  Final score 12-2.

13.  Pittsburg starting pitcher Fuzzy McMumblename (the loudspeakers weren't optimized for the people sitting in the grandstand) warmed up in the bottom of the first, called his manager out, had a quick meeting, and was promptly replaced.  At least his name (whatever it is) is in the record books.  Much like poor Larry Yount.

14.  On field activities in between innings were scarce and didn't seem to promote any local businesses.  They made do with what they had and had some kids do an egg race, and stumble around in adult clothes and the like.  Honest competition, too, with no mascots running in to trip the leader.

15.  Full PA/radio and walkup music.  They have dreams of being in a more stadium-like place with actual seat numbers and whatnot.

16.  Foul balls to the parking lot sponsored by a local auto repair.

17. Huge variation in play quality and skill. We saw the left fielder try to get a ball back into the infield only to have it fly almost straight into the ground and get eaten up by the crappy groundskeeping, but then we saw a center fielder make an amazing catch and rainbow gun-down at first for a double play. That's what the Minors is all about.

18. While we're on Minor-level play, we saw another double play that started with the SS booting a fairly routine grounder. Luckily he booted it directly into the 2nd baseman's glove. He's the next Andrelton Simmons!

19. The guys behind us, though irritating at times, did tell an unprovoked Ty Cobb anecdote: he was once asked by a sportswriter when he was in his 60s how he thought he'd hit in the game today. He said maybe .300, .305. The sportswriter asked, "That low?". Cobb says "Well, I am 65 now."

CRAPPY Metrics
  1. Beer: At first, we didn't actually see whether they sold beer; the menus were rather hidden. Finally we peered over the counter and saw the buckets of ice-cold beverages, $4/12 oz of the cheap stuff + a little bonus for differential pricing on the better stuff → 5/10 points.
  2. Most Caloric Concession Item: They didn't have their chicken burrito that night, so they're a little handicapped. Best I found was the chili cheese dog, 4/10 points.
  3. Crowd: Ben and I were debating, but we think this is probably the smallest crowd we've seen. Still, they were spirited at times, had a couple hecklers, and were very supportive of their hometown Admirals despite it being only their second year of existence. Several told us the unsettlingly-common backstory of the team almost folding last year (their first year!), finding a new owner, etc. Adjusting for a weeknight game and the age of the team: 6.5/10 points.
  4. Funniest Name: Tillman Pugh (PEW! PEW PEW!). Honorable mention for Michelangelo Guzman, who we're not 100% sure was at the game last night because team websites leave something to be desired here in the Pacific Association. 4/10 points.
  5. Men's Room: only 2 urinals, but it had the smell of 22. Very public park-y. 8/10 points.
  6. Promotions: This falls in with the general theme of them trying so hard but just not quite being there yet. A few inter-inning games for the kids – which for a team this small really is notable – and a spin-the-wheel for $1 game that netted Ben a bag of chips and me a combo meal at a local BBQ restaurant that everyone seems to love (we did not fly 2,000 miles from the LAND of BBQ to eat BBQ. WHERE'S MY BURRITO!?). On Sunday they're apparently playing a team of local all-star-ish high schoolers, though, which is awesome. Go high schoolers! 5.5/10 points.
  7. Biggest Celebrity: Aaron Miles, he of the L.A. Dodgers from 2003-2011 (among other teams), is a 2nd baseman and coach on the Mettle. 4/10 points.
  8. California Bingo: This was a surprisingly non-stereotypical crowd. Seemed like any small town game we went to in the south or Midwest. The only thing we can really give points for is Valley Girl – which we construe to be the use of any California style slang. A black fellow in the crowd complimented one of the players with “That N—ga hella fast!”, and a grandfather referred to his grandson as “Dude”. 2/10 points.
Bonus Points: +1 for dirt road, +1 for Ty Cobb anecdote, +2 for foul ball auto repair, +1 for booting into a DP, +3 for continuously audible yapping from players and coaches, +1 more for the Admirals goading an opposing runner, +1 for scorecard, +3 for live video broadcasts of the game, +3 for both Ben and Zach almost getting beaned during warmups, +2 for general proximity of players and fans in such a tiny, crappy park.

Total: 57 points. Our general view is that they've done well with the resources they have (did we mention this is only their 2nd year?) and are on their way to becoming a strong minor league experience, but they've got some work to do with building a fanbase and making "The Admirals" a unique brand people are excited to go see (an outlandish signature dish, wacky promotions, a mascot, etc.). We'll be happy to consult! 6/10 points.

1 comment:

  1. I ran into an acquaintance of yours Tuesday. You still owe him a Rusty Venture.