Saturday, July 19, 2014

Day Last: Sonoma Stompers. Beer Batters, Tennis Ball Wine, and a Red Bull

Sorry for the delay in getting this one out.  We have all returned to our normal lives:  Zach has finished his twelve allotted days of sentience and returned to his job as a mannequin at the Lenox Macy's for the rest of the year.  Ben continues to sit in his typewriter repair shop Mon-Sat 10-6 just knowing that when he gets a customer they will be so grateful.  And Pat... well this is a family blog so let's just say he does something with computers.

After an uneventful morning, our heroes set back out the same path as yesterday, bound for Sonoma, home of the Stompers.  Many thanks, however, to Andrew and Lexi for driving us there.  For the past twelve days, we had either been in traffic or driving along vast quantities of nature, so our knees were a little weary.  It was also remarkable to see someone drive in San Francisco who actually knows what he's doing.  In time we might get used to it, but for now we are still perplexed and daunted by the "roads that temporarily become stairs."

After the game, we visited the HopMonk Beer Garden in Sonoma where we tasted many tasty beverages.  Surprisingly, throughout the entire course of the trip, despite driving through some of the most famous wine country in the, uh, country, none of us had a single sip of wine.

Anyway, The Game:


1. Another public park sort of place.  It looks like the players use the same parking lot as us mortals (this would become key later) and the proximity of players to fans was close at all times.

2.  Odd dimensions.  Only 311 at the corners but a staggering 435 to dead center.  There wasn't even really a center field wall, either, as the whole field was rectangular in shape.  The left field and right field walls just converged at an angle 435 feet from home plate.

3.  Grandstand, bleachers, and the Cline Cellars Club seats.  The club seats had tables and umbrellas and were right next to the visiting dugout, but we couldn't work out what exactly justified them being twice as expensive as the grandstand seats.

4.  The outfield bleachers pulled double duty as the K board, too.

5.  Operatic National Anthem.  Not quite as good as the Humboldt singer, but it's still nice to hear a voice that's not generic pop.

6.  I'm sure you know this already, but the Stompers hold the distinction of having the only perfect season in their league.  1997 20-0!  Even the 1972 Dolphins only won 17 games.

7.  PA Announcer was really pumped up and snarky, too.  Frequently got the crowd riled up and shouting with "Are you ready for some Stompers Baseball!!??" and the like.

8.  We could hear the radio broadcast as well, when the crowd was quiet.  It only dawned on us halfway through that we were hearing the visiting Pittsburg broadcaster, as he kept referring to comebacks that the Mettle had made recently.

9.  The fans were pretty enthusiastic, too.  They had their clear favorites and called nearly the whole team by their first names, suggesting some degree of familiarity.

10.  Another Beer Batter, though only 20% off this time.

11.  However, the crowd cheering against the beer batter was so fervent that, when he struck out, he seemed to accuse the umpire of giving in to the fan's cheering and calling a foul tip an out.  Cue a puzzling series of events that saw another player get ejected.  He left an inning later with his phone to his ear, suggesting that he had to actually call a ride before he could fulfill his ejection.

12.  Two innings later, the Beer Batter comes up again.  This time he gets called out on strikes.  He loses it at he umpire, gets tossed, flips the crowd the bird, and cusses out the usher who addresses him on his way out.  On the plus side, this allowed Pittsburg to insert Ricky Claudio into the game.  If you're just joining us, Ricky nearly killed Zach at our first game this trip.

13.  We were surprised when we saw the football field in the outfield at Healdsburg, but Sonoma took it another level and actually had a goalpost in deep right center.  At least Healdsburg had it in foul territory!

14.  There was also a cross up on the mountain facing the ballpark.  Probably about 800 feet from home plate, not even counting the vertical difference.  Nevertheless, we have to assume that if any player hits the cross with a batted ball, then Jesus comes and plays on the team for at least an inning.

15.  We've seen a few dropped third strikes go poorly for the defense this trip, but we'd never seen the throw to first hit the batter, resulting in him being awarded 1st base and the runner from 2nd scoring.

16.  Scoreboard was as bare bones as it gets.  Just score and dot lights for B/S/O.  That and a H/E light for hits and errors.  They seem to really expect people to score their own game here.

17.  Another theme we've picked up recently has been the differential bullpens.  Sonoma got a nice patch with a mound to warm up on whereas Pittsburg had to leave the playing area, walk behind the tool shed, and work in a roped off section of the concourse.

18.  The warning track consisted of a little dirt sprinkled in front of the wall.  Not that this would ever be a factor in dead center, it still seems like not a lot of warning before one runs headlong into a wall.

19.  Three (3) balls lost in the sun that led to a runner reaching.  We're not sure if it was just the day or the Pacific Association's standards.

20.  Mascot was Rawhide, an orange bull.  He danced with the crowd every inning or so, always to comments by the announcer about how much water weight he was losing.  It was a rather warm day.  We're not sure what the bull has to do with Sonoma, so he may have just been reappropriated from the Island of Misfit Mascots

21.  On field promotions were the standard fare.  Dizzy bats, races, etc.  But there was something called the Grape Stomp which allegedly involved grapes and big aluminum tubs.  Unfortunately, due to the drought, they could not procure grapes, so they had to use tennis balls, which they threw into the tubs for points.  We wonder if the rules are different with actual grapes.

22.  Kids got to lead the crowd in Take Me Out to the Ballgame.  This isn't unusual, but when it got the the "buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack" line, one of them interrupts with "But I'm allergic to peanuts!"

CRAPPY Metrics

1.  Beer:  With the Beer Batter (despite his bad attitude), we have $4.  6/10

2.  Most Caloric Concession Item:  The Meatball subs were at least new, even if they were cold.  Ice cream and Nachos are in the running as well.  4/10

3.  Funniest Name:  JoEL caRAAAAANNNNZAAAAA! if only for the announcer's fun in saying it.  Manny Ramirez (nephew of the famous one) is also on the roster.  And a shoutout to Yuki Sakama for coming over from Japan for the Stompers.  5 points.

4.  Most Famous Celebrity:  Us?  Rawhide?  The buckets for grape stomping?  Manny?  2 points

5.  Promotion:  Kid's Day.  We support getting kids into baseball at young ages and giving them something to do when they inevitably get bored, so this is alright.  4 points

6.  Men's Room:  Just 1.  9/10

7.  Crowd:  Pretty spirited for their size.  Seemed to know the team and there were some accomplished hecklists as well.  Some folks brought tents to set up in the outfield bleachers where the sun was the worst.  7 points.

8.  California Bingo:  Nothing that we noticed.  Either there were none or we were immune to the signs at the end of the trip.  0 points

Bonus points:  Proximity to players +2; K board in bleachers +1; exuberant announcer +1; rectangle field +1; two ejections +4; goal post +1; cross +1; visiting radio broadcaster +1; grapeless grape toss +2; perfect season in 1997 (if we'd done a tour then, we'd have given points then) +1; indie ball defense +3; peanut allergies +1

Total:  56 points on our totally arbitrary scale.  Not a bad experience, though we have to think that San Rafael wins the Pacific Association as far as entertainment goes.  But these were some energetic fans passionate about striking out Beer Batters and winning ballgames.  Worth a look if you find yourself in Sonoma for more sommelieristic purposes.  7.5/10

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