Monday, July 7, 2014

Day 5. Humboldt Crabs. The Journeymen get Wood, Crabs, and Sheep.


So we rose bright and early from our desert hovel to drive 3 hours through windy mountains to Arcata, CA, home of the Humboldt Crabs.  We encountered several small towns like Del Loma (pop, 36), as well as a few Bigfoot themed restaurants.  We hope they serve Bigfoot.  In both meanings of the term.  We came upon the JC Dump and the Burnt Rich Dump and a couple of stretches of highway sponsored by Families Against Meth.  But mostly we saw 100 miles of trees and hills.  We would say that we pity the school bus drivers and mailmen that have to service these communities, but frankly the drive is gorgeous and there are worse ways to spend a workday than surrounded by this.



No snarky caption this time.  Damn.


Eventually we arrived in Arcata and, after doing a double take at the Tsunami Zone signs around town, ambled up to Arcata Ball Park.  More on that later.

After the game, we took a drive down California 101 and the Avenue of the Giants to see some redwoods.  Our pictures really can’t do justice to the vertigo you feel looking up at them, and the complete change of tone as you enter the dark shady grove out of the perpetual California sun.  We left just as a tour bus pulled up too, so the ancient tree gods must have smiled on us.

I'll give you three sheep for this wood.

Pat and Zach posing around the glory hole.  Whoops, no these are redwood roots.

To round off the day, we made sure to eat dinner at, wait for it… CARL’S JR!!  Well, not everything we do can be iconic.  But Ben would like it known that two nights after being decimated at Uno, he pulled off a sneaky backdoor victory in Settlers of Catan.  My Knights will march your Draw 4’s into the ground!



Highlights:

1. THEY LET US THROW OUT THE FIRST PITCH!  This is the first time since River City that a professional baseball organization has dared let the Scrappy Journeymen on a baseball field.  Props to Kylee and the crew for accommodating the three of us.

2.  At high noon, we heard a jarring emergency siren, but no one around seemed to notice.  We learned that it signals fire and tsunami warnings and has to be tested once a day, always at noon.  At Crabs games, though, it has unofficial status as the moment it’s legal to buy beer.  We think all cities should have beer alarms.

3.  We went out after a bagpipe and drum ensemble played a, uhh, tonally odd rendition of the Armed Services themes.  Then a damn good rendition of the national anthem by Jo, who has sung at other ballparks, such as the Lake Elsinore Storm.  We’ve been conditioned to be thrilled if the singer can just hit all the notes  and not scoop more than four times, so it was it was a treat to hear someone who actually had a well-trained voice and breath control and phrasing and stuff.

4. Heard at the beginning from the announcer: “And here to sing the National Anthem – wait gotta do the lineups first.  Oops.  Sunday Day Game, folks”

5.  He even jumped the gun on the lineups, though, as the umpires needed to meet at homeplate before that.  This led to the field crew trying to text him to get him to stop and eventually resulted in someone turning on another microphone to ask him to shut up.
 6.  As we lined up on the mound to throw the pitch(es), the announcer explained that we were the “Scrappy Journeyman with Hearts who Blogstherghtwy” 

7. We lined up side by side to throw three separate pitches to three separate catchers.  There is surprisingly little protocol to the first pitch, as they pretty much let us dictate how we wanted to throw the pitches.  All of us threw what could generously be called changeups.  Jeff Francouer would have swung at all of them at once.

video


8. Field dimensions were quirky, probably due to the freeway just beyond left field.  LF pole was 307, Left center was 394, Dead Center was only 368 and RF pole was a mere 304.  There were some pretty high nets, but hitting the ball onto the freeway seems less than impossible.

9. Ball park rules were posted around the stadium as drawn by elementary schoolers.  Crusty the Crab would say things like “No Cussing”

10. The announcer booth was the Don Terbush Announcer Booth 1949-1994.  45 years calling games in Arcata, CA is an achievement any of us would be proud to have on our resume.

11. The band.  Oh boy, the band.  The World Famous Crab Grass Band was a 15-20 piece marching band that sat in a section of the bleachers.  They behaved like the snarky organist in Atlanta, but they took up a whole section, shouted heckles, and provided live music in between innings and during mound visits.

12. Examples of their shenanigans included “Ole” for mound meetings, “Na-na-na-na BAT BOY” for the batboy, Sportscenter theme after a great double play, Chicken Dance during an intentional walk, Wild Thing after two non-intentional walks, frequent requests for a Freeway Ball, and numerous others.  The director even seemed to have a whiteboard that listed specific songs for specific game situations.  Due to their presence and enthusiasm, we didn’t hear a minute of canned music for the entire duration of the game.

13. Pretty standard (though tasty ballpark food.  Did include Chicken Caesar Salads and a Vegan  Organic Burrito.  Overheard a woman leave her friend in the snack line with the comment “I won’t be an accessory to you buying meat.”

14. Special camo jerseys for Independence Day.  Even had names on the back, which is rare even for affiliated teams. 

15. The visitors had slightly different camo jerseys.  They also got their picture taken by a professional.  Not sure if this is their official team portrait or something Humboldt makes the visitor do, or a special 4th weekend thing.

16. Field and facilities very well kept.  No mange in the field or janky infield physics.

17. There was a small contingent of Solano Mudcats fans, though not to the level of Novato fans the previous night.  We also saw a man and child decked out in Toledo Mudhens gear.  This may be the first time we’ve seen stuff from a team from a previous roadtrip.

18. For the first time this side of AAA ball, this game was called by three umpires.  No one could tell us if this was standard practice, or if one was in training or what.  Home plate umpire wore a different color shirt, though that might have been a size factor as much as anything.

19. The home plate umpire received a larger than usual amount of heckling.  Some of this had to do with his sizeable girth.  It was to the point where his chest protector literally only protected his chest and he usually opted to just kick the dirt around home plate rather than get down to dust it off.

Let's just say the strike zone isn't the only thing this umpire has in common with Eric Gregg.  1997 NLCS joke?  Anyone?

20, And when he did dust it off, he got a loud, sarcastic round of applause from the crowd, as he had recently borne the brunt of their frustration over some strike calls.  Fan comments included “That strike zone’s liberal even for Arcata!”

21. Crabby the Crab was a mostly unseen mascot, not making an appearance until the 6th inning or so.  The costume was passable, but had a couple of gaps where you could see the performer’s arms.  As Zach pointed out, one should never know the ethnicity of a mascot.

22. Throughout the game, we were offered stake in the 50-50 raffle.  The man who won was handed a giant, sketchy wad of cash from which he proceeded to tip the girl who announced the winning number. 

23. There were a small number of on field promotions or the sort we’ve seen before.  But one competition – throwing a newspaper into a hole – was raffled off using tickets handed out at admission.  We like this idea of giving everyone a shot to play the games instead of just the cutest kid the can find.

24. One promotion that was just for kids was a water balloon home run derby.  We’re not sure how it was scored, but it involved college athletes throwing water balloons at children with wiffle bats.  And splashes.

25. The game was fantastic, going into extra innings.  We, unfortunately, had to leave after the 10th as we had a long drive ahead, but we did get to see two Hit By Pitch RBIs back to back.  Cue the band singing “Hit Two Joints”.  Only in California.

CRAPPY Metrics:

1. Beer: $3.50 for the cheap stuff, but only $4 for very good local brews, so no one was drinking Coors.  6.5 points

2. Most Caloric Concession Item:  Ice Cream Sundaes?  Nothing really struck us, but these did seem to have a lot of whipped cream on them.  Maybe Zach’s burrito, even though it was mostly beans and rice.  3 points.

3. Funniest Name:  Manny Ramirez.  Wish he were our celebrity too, but it’s just someone with the same name.  1st runner up goes to Zach Settles, though his girlfriend might have something to say about that.  Honorable mentions to Ansel Cecil, Beau Bozell, and Kyle Moses, who we hope leads the team in all categories (or at least to the promised land) and will successfully part the Redding sea when they travel there.  This was a good group for names.  7 points

4. Most Famous Celebrity:  The World Famous Crab Grass Band have “World Famous” right there in the name.  Also the “Scrappy Journeyman with Hearts” got a little more famous today, too.  5 points.

5. Promotion:  Everyone got a raffle ticket to play the paper toss game.  They seemed to start handing out cozies after we entered, too.  Not a whole lot else, but a consistently solid show like today can make up for that.  2 points

6. Men’s Room:  3 urinals.  7 points

7. Crowd:  Hell yeah.  They love their crabs, despite the roster changing every year (college summer league and all).  The place was packed without feeling too cramped.  They were enthusiastic throughout and spurred on by the band.  Driving through the sleepy Sunday morning of Arcata made it seem like the whole town was at the game, and truthfully it might have been a full 2% of Arcata that came out to the event.  9 points.

8. California Bingo:  Tie Dye T-Shirt (American Flag, no less), white girl with dreads, woman offended by meat-eating friend, skateboarder.  8 points

Bonus Points:  Kids drawings for kid’s rules +1, broadcast booth dedication +1, possibility of freeway bal +2, fire/tsunami/beer horn +1, band and everything about them +4, excellent singer for national anthem +1announcer not taking himself seriously +1, Toledo Mudhens fan +1, entertaining umpires +1, water balloon derby +1, promotion raffle +1, gambling for Zach +1, multiple fan hecklers +1, good local beer +1, pink hats -1, WE THREW OUT THE FIRST PITCH +4


Conclusion:  68.5 on our completely arbitrary scale.  It’s slightly inflated due to the first pitch, but this was a really fun game regardless.  The crowd and band really make the experience and push it on par with San Rafael.  The Pacifics may have a slight edge in creativity, but the Humboldt area clearly takes a lot of pride in this team and it’s infectious as all hell.  9.5/10

4 comments:

  1. Manny Rameriz Jr Former Crab, current USF Don, son of THE Manny Rameriz!

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  2. Don't forget the Crabs are the oldest summer college baseball team in the country. Going strong since 1945.

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  3. Thanks for the Jeopardy plug! I was one of the hecklers behind home plate. We always have 3 umpires.

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    Replies
    1. You're an American treasure, Tamara.

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