Saturday, July 5, 2014

Day 3 Part 1. San Rafael Pacifics: Old Timers, Young Interns, and Putting Our Feet up on the Couch

On Friday we set out to become the Vallejo Admirals' first ever groupies. The Pacific Association has all of four teams, so it was perhaps not surprising that San Rafael was hosting Vallejo when we went to see them. San Rafael is in their third season, and the extra year of work actually showed. More on that in the highlights.

Friday’s promotion was a “vintage baseball” game, so we had high hopes. And boy did they ever deliver.

Only one umpire (“the Sir”), standing off to the side of the batter, in a three-piece suit and a bowler hat, smoking a cigar. A cigar! We could smell it from the grandstand. The stadium is non-smoking in 2014, but this is 1884!

We arrived partway through the first inning of a full seven inning game of vintage baseball between the San Francisco Pacifics and the Bay Area Vintage Baseball All-Stars, part of an honest-to-God vintage baseball league (because San Francisco). We were all very impressed with the level of detail, from the pillbox caps and barely-more-than-a-plain-leather-glove gloves, to the 7-ball walks and batter’s-choice high-or-low strike zones, to the terminology of “hurlers,” "strikers", and “pilfered bases.” It was, as they say, a hoot.

As baseball, it was not a bad game. The dead balls kept most of the action in the infield, and the fielders made some fine plays, particularly given they were barely wearing gloves. A bit more offense developed in the later innings, we saw multiple lead changes, and the bottom of the final inning started with the All-Stars leading 6-5. The Pacifics rallied and “Cha-Cha” Ackerly delivered a walk-off single to win the game. The BAVBB has their own entertaining write-up as well. If you look carefully your journeymen can be seen in the background of the official photo.

  • The Pacifics play in a public park, but one which has seen quite a bit of love. The roofed and netted wooden grandstand seemed pretty pleasant and also felt very period-appropriate for the vintage game.
  • We did not sit in the grandstand, however, because we got seating in something called “The Living Room,” a collection of couches, tables and umbrellas parked along the third-base line under the scoreboard. Because it was a living room, it had a very nice wooden door and a window. Also it was sponsored by a local door and window company.
  • We also had our own personal beer window (different window).
  • The scoreboard we sat under was manually operated, which was a nice touch and also gave us a chance to chat with the scoreboard operator / intern.
  • Several interns and team staff spent over an hour before the game - and many hours before this, apparently - trying to get their new radar gun to display pitch speed beneath the manual scoreboard using Bluetooth. This was the first day they got it working, so good for them.
  • Another intern confirmed for us that the July 12th promotional items listed as “rally thongs” were indeed ladies’ undergarments, and that he had personally bought the two boxes of thongs to give away. Tragically they do not have the Pacifics logo on them (San Rafael, we hereby endorse an all-night thong-logoing session for your interns). We know our source is reliable because his alter ago is Sir Francis Drake, a 6-foot tall duck.
  • We were moderately disappointed not to be killed by and foul balls, but we did see several fly over our heads and out into the street, a couple of which nearly found their way into the windows of local houses. 
  • The game experienced a 45-minute delay due to parade conditions. The start time was pushed from 1:15-2:00 because Vallejo was busy in a 4th of July parade.
  • In the fourth inning, San Rafael hosted a hot dog eating competition, featuring Pacific Northwest hot dog eating champion Chris Resnick, who for all we know is a real person who won a thing. Zach was alternately very upset with himself for not entering and very pleased with himself for not filling up on hot dogs. The winner, we later learned, consumed 8 hot dogs in 90 seconds, an achievement that speaks for itself.
  • The Pacifics' mascot is Sir Francis Drake, who is of course a duck in a cape. Drake covered the usual mascot bases, in particular losing a race around the, er, bases, to an adorable child, and swapping his cape for a section of star-spangled bunting.
  • An on-field game of musical chairs went horribly wrong when one child, who perhaps felt he was unfairly pushed, threw himself down on the field and threw a tantrum after losing.
  • One Pacifics player to another: “Hey, where’s Devin? Drake is looking for him.” Drake, the 6-foot tall duck.
  • Not only was the stadium PA clear and audible, the park announcer provided ongoing enthusiastic commentary on both the actual game and the vintage game.
  • At least two players had his own local sponsor, who was announced every time he came up to bat.
  • At the beginning of the game, the entire crowd was asked to shout “Play ball!” in unison. Nice touch.
  • HEALTHY FOOD: A selection of gluten-free and vegan snacks were available, along with pasta salad and a quinoa wrap, all from the same stand. Zach was going to pay me to eat a "three-seed gluten-free granola bar,” but alas, they had run out. Which means someone else ate them, presumably.
  • Non-health food included bundt cakes, a chicken park sandwich, chili cheese dogs, and chili cheese spaghetti, because we were secretly in Cincinnati. In a more Californian vein, there was a tri-tip sandwich that paired quite well with BBQ sauce and sriracha mayo.
  • Programs were free and chock full of ads for local sponsors. As a promotion, certain programs had signed pages that were worth prizes. Your journeymen received gift certificates to a local Indian restaurant and credit union (note: these were two separate businesses).
  • The team staff had a full A/V setup broadcasting the game to a local access channel, Marin TV. Really impressive broadcast capabilities for an Inde-Pro team.
  • Intra-team heckling: on one Vallejo pop-up, the San Rafael catcher lost track of the ball and the third baseman came in to make the play. Afterward, the shortstop shouted at the catcher, “Hey, you want him to call pitches, too?”
  • The dugout boxes were sponsored by “Hospice by the Bay," which pleased Zach and his boss to no end. Good marketing and community outreach on both sides.
  • Our first real live MiLB groupies of the trip - they were crushing on the Vallejo boys somethin' fierce.

CRAPPY Metrics
  1. Beer: two craft IPAs in addition to the usual ballpark beers. $6/12oz. for the baseline stuff, $7 for the IPAs --> 2/10 points.
  2. Most caloric concession item: possibly the personal-sized bundt cake? 4/10 points. Bonus points (below) for the healthy food contrast.
  3. Crowd: not especially large, but fairly enthusiastic on a holiday when many people leave town or have other plans. 6/10 points.
  4. Funniest Name: Not counting the vintage players, Mike Orefice won this going away. Some claim it’s pronounced “oh - ra - FEE - chay”, but we know the truth. Honorable mention to “Driver” Phillips (as in screwdriver) in the vintage game. 6/10 points.
  5. Bathrooms: 3 urinals in a trailer outside the park, but it was a very nice trailer. Faux marble everywhere. 7/10 points.
  6. Promotions: vintage baseball and competitive eating in one day? 10/10 points.
  7. Biggest Celebrity: Zach and Ben had seen Maikal Jova, the Pacifics’ hitting coach / OF, on a previous trip. Plus the hot dog guy. 3/10 points.
  8. California Bingo: This seemed like a pretty normal crowd, despite the eclectic reputation San Rafael has among some parties. We just don't have any points to award here. 0/10 points.
Bonus Points: +3 for unique seating area, +1 for personal beer window, +3 for sitting next to scoreboard and intern chats, +2 because RALLY THONGS, +1 for on-field promotion tantrum, +1 for local sponsors of players, +1 for simultaneous play ball, +1 for comically healthy food, +1 for hospice sponsorship, +3 for extensive local access broadcast capabilities, +2 intra-team heckling, +1 for good local IPAs, +3 for MiLB groupies

Total: 61 points on our totally arbitrary scale. This was a fantastic stop. From the promotions to the unique food and seating options, San Rafael has a real team identity and personality. Any baseball trip to California must include this team. Get them on one of their awesome promotion days to maximize the experience - that's virtually any game this season...we still have no idea how they're getting Jose Canseco to come and do a home run derby, but we're pissed we're missing it. And rally thongs! 9.5/10.

1 comment:

  1. You should set this up so links open in separate tabs. My right-clicking finger is getting tired.