Saturday, July 12, 2014

Day 8. Rancho Cucamonga Quakes: The Young, The Old, and the Earlybird Special

On Wednesday we set out to do something no Journeyman has ever done: watch baseball in person before 11am local time. We knew this would require certain sacrifices: namely, getting up before 8am to drive 2 hours from San Diego. It was “day camp day” at Rancho Cucamonga, and game time was 10:35am. Not without trepidation, your three Journeymen and our gracious (but, in his own way, despicable) host JC piled into the Journeymobile 2.0 and set out for the Rancho. After negotiating substantial but manageable LA-region traffic, we pulled into the parking lot of LoanMart Field behind approximately 47 white buses.

These buses were full of, as you may have inferred, day campers. The crowd for this game was about 90% youngsters in color-coded T-shirts indicating which day camp or summer program they were enrolled in, and their associated counselors, chaperones, minders, and other ostensibly responsible adults. As a result we felt somewhat out of place, and there was, on occasion, a hellish cacophony of screaming. But still, there was baseball to watch.

After the game we decided we needed some old people to offset those campers, so we went gambling. The Sycuan tribe was not as generous as they were last time. Though Zach did see an 8-card bust in blackjack, which paid out at 250:1 as a side bet on the blackjack tables. One guy walked away with $2,500 on that one hand. Ridiculous. On to the highlights:



Highlights

  1. The stadium itself was quite nice. This was another two-level stadium a la San Bernardino, with deep seating along both baselines and a second tier behind home plate and the infield area. Access to seats was well-laid-out and helped to give the park a professional feel.
  2. Further down the lines the seats gave way to open standing areas with tables and access to concessions. These areas came right up to the field along the bullpens, putting us within literal spitting distance of the players as they were warming up.
  3. On the left field side, the batting cages were situated just behind the open plaza area, offering another opportunity to watch the players warm-up. Kudos to the Quakes for having a largish park that still offers a lot of access to the field and players.
  4. Our upper-level seats were shaded by a large overhanging roof, for which we very grateful. The Journeymen are somewhat pale and unaccustomed to the light of the cursed daystar.
  5. It’s a fairly deep park, at 401’ to dead center and 330’ at both foul poles.
  6. LoanMart Field is not-unexpectedly sponsored by LoanMart, aka 1-800LoanMart, a California-based title lending company. This is by far the sketchiest business we’ve seen sponsoring a stadium. Keep in mind our previous stop was sponsored by an Indian casino.
  7. Concessions, especially beer, weren’t operating at full capacity due to the unusual start time and crowd, but there were several compelling food options. Specialty burgers topped with beer cheese and bacon, Dodger and “Doyer” dogs. The latter is a pseudo-Mexican concoction featuring chili, nacho cheese, salsa and jalapeños.
  8. Zach ordered a “Jalapeño Popper Burger” which, though prominently advertised, the ballpark staff didn’t seem to know how to make. Instead of the expected beer cheese and jalapeños, he received a burger topped with actual jalapeño poppers, which he hastens to add was also a fairly good combination. Desert options, which we sadly were not able to sample, included a very impressive-looking funnel cake sundae.
  9. Though the selection was limited for this game, beer was available from 10am onwards. We salute the Quakes for their dedication the needs of the inveterate alcoholics in the crowd.
  10. As you might expect from the Dodger Dogs, the Quakes are a Dodger affiliate, and they had a nod to Dodger history by naming their clubhouse after Tommy Lasorda.
  11. Things got off to a rough start with the national anthem, which the visiting team had to scramble onto the field for. The music cut out a few times, and the singer, a local eighth-grader, was by far the worst we’ve seen on the trip. While she is no doubt a wonderful person in other ways, she had a lot of trouble staying on-key, had to strain to hit the high notes, and made it worse of herself by trying to embellish the melody. We’re getting a little worried about the state of California’s music education programs.
  12. The Quakes’ mascot was Tremor the Alligator, whose jersey number was 4.8. We’re not exactly sure what an alligator has to do with earthquakes, but we appreciate a good Richter scale reference.
  13. We strongly suspect that the on-field promotions announcer was hungover, or at least not used to being awake before noon. It took him a few innings to round into form.
  14. Choice heckles by the Journeymen:
  15. [Mallex Smith comes to bat] JC: “With Mallex toward none and charity toward all!”
  16. [James Baldwin comes to bat] JC: “Go tell it on the mountain!”
  17. [Lake Elsinore Storm fail to score] Pat: “More like the Lake Elsinore DROUGHT!”
  18. Now, about those kids. We brought this on ourselves, but having a crowd that was mostly children did create certain problems. Notably, because children are automatons who do anything the Jumbotron tells them to, and because “Get Loud!” translates to “scream like a banshee,” well… we ended up needing to cover our ears whenever the game got interesting.
  19. We’re not sure if this is a regular thing or a way of pandering to the campers, but some of the between innings promotions spilled over to the following inning and distracted from the game. In particular, when Tremor went around spraying members of the crowd with water, every single kid wanted to be sprayed, so he spent the next full inning methodically working through the stands. The kids who got sprayed, of course, screamed.
  20. Similarly, the stadium PA frequently played music not only between innings, but between pitches of a single at-bat, with same song cutting in and out repeatedly, to the detriment of both the music and the game. It was worse when it was a song that the day campers really liked, because they would start singing along and would continue for a few seconds after the music stopped.
  21. Then “Let It Go” came on. Little kids really like “Let It Go." They shouted along with the whole song straight through.
  22. When Zach attempted to use the men’s room, he found it occupied by a squadron of tykes attended by a female camp counselor. Rather than go in with them, this counselor decided she would send them in and then blockade the bathroom entrance so that no adult men could be in the bathroom with them. There was probably a better solution that didn’t involve treating every guy in the ballpark as a probable sex offender, particularly given there was only one men's restroom.
  23. The particular kids sitting in front of us for most of the game were from the “Bright Futures Academy,” which demanded the Simpsons quote, “Come now, Edna, we both know these children have no future.”
  24. The Quakes pull off a 3-0 win against the visiting Storm, aided by some of the Storm’s hitters (we’re looking at you, Mallex) insistence on bunting at every opportunity.

CRAPPY Metrics

  1. Beer: Just Bud, Bud Light, and a couple different flavors of Shock Top for today’s game. Anheuser-Busch is really going all out to promote Shock Top around here. $7/$8 for 16oz of crap/slightly-less-crap. 3.5/10
  2. Most caloric concession item: let’s give this one to the funnel cake sundae: 6/10.
  3. Funniest name: several good candidates this time. Mallex Smith, who is clearly the Chiefs QB wearing a false mustache; Alberth Martinez;  and acclaimed author James Baldwin. Mallex Smith takes the crown. 7/10
  4. Men’s room: 8 urinals. 2/10
  5. Crowd: admittedly enthusiastic (about everything), but flawed as detailed above. Understandably for a weekday morning game, there weren’t many non-campers there, and the seats were maybe 1/4 full at most. 4/10
  6. Promotions: we’ll give a few points back here, because we insisted on coming to day camp day. We got our early game, and the Scrappy Journeymen theoretically support getting kids interested in baseball. Just keep them the hell away from us. 6/10
  7. Biggest Celebrity: Dillon Moyer, son of implausibly durable MLB pitcher Jamie Moyer, played shortstop for the Quakes and went 0-for-3 at the plate. 4/10
  8. California Bingo: Is overprotective chaperoning a California thing? 2/10 for the bathroom blockade.

Bonus points: +2 for unique start time, +1 for second deck of seats, +2 for general slickness of stadium, +1 for shade during a day game, +2 for spitting distance, +2 for batting cages, +3 for 10am beer sales, +1 for Lasorda Clubhouse, +1 for improvised burger, +1 for earthquake joke mascot jersey, +3 for hungover promo announcer, +1 for erudite heckling opportunities, -1 for bathroom blockade, -1 for between-pitches music, -1 for hellish wailing and/or letting it go.

Total: 51.5 on our completely arbitrary scale. We had a good time overall and were happy to cross off seeing a morning game form our checklist. The Quakes have a very nice park, solid concessions, and will give Dodgers fans a nice taste of their home field. We cannot recommend attending a game with small children, and we’d really like them to rein in the promos and PA music a little, but Rancho Cucamonga is a good place to watch a ballgame. 7/10.

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