Monday, July 7, 2014

Day 4. Redding Colt .45s: Glory Holes, Groupies, and HOLY CRAP THIS IS A DESERT

After that grinder of a doubleheader and a close-fought (well, except for Ben, who got crushed) impromptu Uno tournament at our new friend-of-the-Journeymen Mike's place (thanks, Mike! And Anna for hooking us up with Mike!), we grabbed a few hours shuteye planning for a nice leisurely morning before jaunting 20 minutes down the road to Oakland for the Walnut Creek Crawdads day game.

Instead, Zach did what he does so well and audibled away all their carefully crafted plans. Instead of a 20-minute jaunt down to Oakland, we decided on a 3-hour jaunt up I-5 to Redding, CA for the Redding Colt .45s that night (members of the same collegiate summer league as Walnut Creek). The night game would leave us some time for a nice hike in the nearby and tastefully-named Whiskeytown Lake National Recreation Area, we thought.

We booked a hotel in Redding and, upon arriving there, Zach went nside and asked the check-in clerk about good places to hike around there. Her response was a look of abject horror. "You want to go hiking? In this weather?" she asked, dumbfounded. We considered for a moment and decided well, yeah, we guess it felt a little warm on the way in, but it's been so nice out! It was 69 like three hours ago. We then checked the weather and discovered a decidedly fierier reading of 105. Oh, right. Inland California is chaparral and desert.

That said, 105 dry heat in northern inland Cali is nothing next to even 93 and humid in Atlanta. Very tolerable heat, even in the sun. There were some people by the beer tents at the game later complaining about the 5% humidity that day (to be fair, by game time it had risen 20% to 6%). Oh to hell with these desert-dwellers.

Bowed but not defeated (what are we if not scrappy, after all?) we swung by the 7/11, grabbed the 3 largest water bottles they had, and spun out for Whiskeytown Lake. Our first stop on the circuit around this beautiful piece of carefully-engineered-and-dredged-for-power-generation-and-irrigation nature? Well, none other than the Glory Hole.

Pat and Zach posing around the Glory Hole. SHUT UP, it's a 260-foot deep spillway that acts as a last-minute desperation place through which to blast your liquid into a willing receptacle that can handle the load when you can't take it anymore without cresting over the edge. Penis.

"Stay Alive by Staying Out." Truer words ne'er were written.

We then drove an at-times ill-advised 5.5 miles over a "well-manicured" (the ranger's term, not ours) dirt road in our rented Corolla before seeing a big-ass hydroelectric power station and needing to zip back toward Redding. Where we watched a baseball game. Which is what you're ostensibly here to read about. So here we go!



Highlights:

1. Minimalist concessions - burgers, dogs (with chili and/or cheese), nachos, candy, and ice cream. The beginning and end of our snacking options. There's something to be said for sticking with the basics, but...

2. This did lead us to jog across the street to Gene's Hamburgers, a shady-looking and minimalist-in-its-own-right shack near the field. The menu included a slew of obscure, non-descriptive names for various burgers that required a legend on a plaque in the grubby window to decipher. It resulted in Pat getting a burger with pickles and what can only be described as a heapin' helpin' o'Mayo, two things of which our man "is not fond." The burger was tossed in the back of car for safekeeping, but Zach decided against eating the Mayo-slathered, hours-old Trunkburger(TM) back at the hotel. It was ceremoniously disposed of in the room's trash can.

3. While the food selection could've been broader, the beer selection was OUTSTANDING! Featured were 2 local IPAs from around Redding (Liar's Dice and Hexagenia) and at least one more from Eugene, OR. These people are West Coast IPA fiends. They are our people.  Did we mention all of these were $4 for a 16 oz pour? Forget about a good ballpark price, that's a decent bar price!

4. South City Park, home of the Colt .45s, is quite small, fully general admission except for a handful of reserved seats held by local businesses and the like. We snagged some comfy plastic seats just to the right of home plate, along what we found out later was the de facto visitor's section (!?).

The park was your standard-issue municipal field, with really quite excellent seating. A mix of bleachers and regular seats provides something for all tastes. The crowd, however, was not standard-issue municipal (SEE Below).

5. The park was quite deep, however: 406' to dead center. A pedestrian but very acceptable 326' to right and left fields.

6. Shout out to the spirited announcer - good enthusiasm and intonation. Zach eavesdropped on the radio crew broadcasting on (we think) KIXE (yes, the team broadcast their games on a legit local radio station!), and they also had excellent voices. Enough that Zach almost fetched his headphones from the parking lot to stream the game on his phone. Anyway, we hope they will kill Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, nuke their hearts and bury the ashes in Yucca Mountain, wear their skins for suits, and perhaps also take their jobs.

7. There was a ballboy for the Colt .45s, but for the visitors? That'd be your on-deck and in-the-hole hitters. Yay home field advantage!

8. The Colt .45s also gave their players walk-up music. Good to see college players get that kind of respect, even if one of them did choose a remix of Crazy Train (and you, sir, have not earned the right to use Chipper's walk-up music).

9. An amusing sequence early in the game from Sterling Champagne (surprisingly not a stripper, but a ballplayer for the visiting Novato Knicks). He fouled a ball off straight into his third baseman's gut, then fouled a pitch off himself, and then finally ended the at bat by getting hit by a pitch. To his credit, he did later homer.

10. Despite the name, the team sold no gear with guns on them. A missed opportunity, for real, albeit perhaps a consciously missed opportunity by these godless California hippies.

11. Real life fans of the visitor! We thought they might be host families or families of the players (who come from college all over the U.S.) come in for the holiday weekend, but we're assured fans routinely make the 3-hour treks between towns to watch their favorite teams. That's real dedication, especially for such a low level. Good for them.

12. Brandon's fan club. One of the Novato players had a group of raucous young ladies behind us who repeatedly cheered him on in ways including but not limited to complimenting the shape of his ass. But Brandon, you should know - these ladies were complimenting your fellow players, too. Don't worry though, they promised (threatened?) they'd "See you toniiiiiight!"

13. Along similar lines, a group of middle-aged-ish women behind us were having a very loud extended conversation about one of their friends' male acquaintance's Viagra prescription. And at one point one woman whipped out - we think, but were too afraid to look - a taser that she and her friends kept lighting off just behind our heads. Welcome to Redding, everybody?

14. Zach and Ben couldn't help but heckle Brandon's fan club. After shouting "WOOOO!" and "Do a good job!" and other insipid things when he came up to bat, Ben would sometimes yell "Yay Brandon! Oh wait, no, no, wrong team. Boo Brandon!"

15. Zach at one point advised Brandon to "WOOOOO BE ADEQUAAAAAAATE!", whereupon his fan club responded with "That's a big word! Is that a baseball word?" Swwwwwwwiiiiiiiing and a miss.

16. At another point Zach advised Brandon that "WOOOO YOU ARE A BRANDOOOOOON!" to which the (lone?) male member of Brandon's fan club perplexedly responded "And you are a douchebag." I was just calling his name like you were. All. Game. Long.

17. A sponsorship from "Shameless O'Leery's" bar. What? We all gotta eat.

18. In the same vein, a cryptic ad banner in the outfield that just read "Rob's Mom" and then in sparkly pink "Missy MacArthur." We are hopeful this is an elaborate and expensive Your Mom joke, but we didn't get it.

19. After the ump missed the runner at 2B leaving early before scoring on a deep fly ball to right, we could overhear the offended visitors' coach's reaction to the ump's explanation: " *Laughs* You're so wrong! THAT'S what you came up with to tell me?! That's the best you could come up with!? That's just wrong. *Laughs*."

20. The "Frozen 5th." If the Colt .45s hold their opponents to no runs in the top of the 5th, all ice cream is $1 off in the bottom. We've seen these kinds of promotions before, but not in this exact permutation of holding the opponents to no runs in an inning.

21. They sang God Bless America, which is bad. The girls singing it did it at double speed, which is good. Then they sang it a second time, which is bad. And the song didn't even come with our choice of toppings.

22. Zach and Pat had a wonderful conversation with one of the beer vendors, Bonnie, and the wife of the Colt .45s manager (and, it turns out, mayor of Redding and former MLBer), Pattie. We learned that just 3 or 4 years ago their average attendance was only about 40, but on this Saturday night there were several hundred people through the gate. Really great crowd for that size town; we couldn't be happier for Redding's success and their ongoing attempts to rehab the area around South City Park.

23. The announcer - praised above - also sang Take Me Out to the Ballgame himself. It was rough, and that was awesome! Redding doesn't believe in outsourcing its traditions, and we support that.

24. A college player with a mouthful of dip and the can in his back pocket. Tony Gwynn would be proud, if he weren't dead from (probably) chewing tobacco. Lose the dip, kid. Sunflower seeds or Big League Chew.

25. The energetic ball boy. Little kid energy all night long, hustling out for balls and bats. Big League performance, kid.

26. The teams traded sidearmers out of their bullpens. This was the first time we'd seen one, much less two! The latter was practically a submariner.

27. Netting all the way around all the seats. C'mon, where's the fun? Where's the DANGER, Redding?!

24. The "Lose Your Shoes" race. We couldn't figure out the rules exactly, but it involved a comical number of kids (20-ish?) running in from the OF fence, putting on random shoes, and running some more. It was unique in our travels and fairly amusing as these things go.

CRAPPY Metrics:

1. Beer prices: $4/16 oz --> 6/10 points. Bonus points for the incredible selection!

2. Most Caloric Concession Item: Not much to choose from, but Pat's chili cheese dog was figuratively swimming in chili. 4/10 points.

3. Crowd: The crowd was really into the game, including the visiting fans as noted above. Of course, those spirited visiting fans (and the ladies behind us talking about Viagra and playing with tasers) did get irritating at times, but have we not been guilty of the same? 7/10 points.

4. Funniest Name: Sterling Champagne. Again, somehow not a stripper. Honorable mention to the closer, who we thought was "Big Bad" Doug Beef (actually Beath). 7/10 points.

5. Men's Room: 4 toilets without doors, which we counted as urinals (there were no others, but no troughs for the full 10 points). 6/10 points.

6. Promotions: There was nothing in particular the night we were there, but we know they have them other nights. The programs cost money, which isn't great but at the college level we totally understand. The Frozen 5th was cool, though. 3/10 points.

7. Biggest celebrity: The mayor of Redding is their manager, so we guess that counts? 3.5/10 points.

8. California Bingo: Valley girls (and/or middle-aged women? We couldn't bring ourselves to look) behind us. Otherwise it seemed to be mostly a country crowd, at least around us. 2 points.

Bonus Points: +3 for real live MiLB groupies (even if Brandon's Fan Club didn't like us very much), +3 for ridiculously good beer selection, -1 for full netting, +3 for multiple sidearmers in the same inning, +1 for deep park, +2 for spirited announcer and dulcet radio crew, +1 more for announcer singing TMOTTB, +1 for ball boy disparity, +1 for walk up music, +4 for visiting fans of any stripe, +1 for Shameless O'Leery's, +1 for Rob's Mom, +3 for Bonnie and Pattie being rockstars and taking the time out to tell us a little about their team and its history.

Total: 61.5 points on our arbitrary scale. We had a great time, and while it's out of the way if you find yourself in Redding, CA on a summer night when the Colt .45s are in, we give our ringing endorsement to go spend your evening hours after the mercury drops in the increasingly-friendlier confines of South City Park. Our only suggestions, really, would be a signature concession and perhaps a unique seating area (a la the Pacifics' living room) to draw more people to the park. 8/10.

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