They travel from far and wide in the hope of someday making it big. With an unyielding belief in their own talent, they leave everything behind to pursue a passion. Some make it and some don’t. Every year, thousands of people come to Los Angeles to try and fulfill their dreams. We did that. So we left.
After robbing Lana Berry of all her remaining dignity, we left the Los Angeles metropolitan area, weaving our way through the hills of Hollywood en route north. With our dreams realized we sped (not really though — don’t worry, mom) north towards a new hope and a new promise: Visalia, California. We arrived at the stadium in Visalia a few hours early so we went to a public park next door to play some catch, flip some bats, and generally screw around. On our way over there, two kids who looked about eight years old approached us. One of the kids, Isaac, saw our gloves and asked, “Do you guys play for the Rawhide?” While most minor leaguers aren’t hanging out at public parks in shorts two hours before first pitch, Isaac didn’t know that. “No,” I said, “We play for the Dodgers.” Oddly satisfied with my ridiculous answer, Isaac biked off into the distance, never to be seen or heard from again.
When you’re 19/20 years old, have a baseball bat handy, and are easily amused by all baseball related things, it’s shockingly easy to kill two hours at a public park. First, we went to the tennis court where Jordan channeled his inner Jo-Wilfried Tsonga and crushed a ball one-handed before unleashing a vicious bat-flip. We then tried doing a layup bat flip, but I struggled with getting the bat to bounce off the backboard and in. Suddenly, I had an idea. I rushed over to the nearest trashcan — which was conveniently empty — and brought it over to the basketball court. I flipped it upside down near the hoop, dropped a bomb, and made bat flip history. Sorry Jordan, Jordan, and Jordin; there’s a new Jordan in town.
After posterizing life, we walked over to the park to buy tickets, assuming there would be plenty left for us. It turned out that Friday nights in Visalia are baseball nights, so the only tickets available by the time we got to the window was something called “pasture seating.” We are huge fans of the minor league stadium berm, so this problem was hardly a problem at all. Upon entering the park, we realized the berm down the right field line was completely packed and there were easily over 2,500 in the park, the most we’ve ever seen at an A-ball game. With the berm no longer an option, we followed the number one rule of minor league baseball: pretend like you’re important and you can do whatever you want. We quickly found a couple open seats behind home plate. Minor league baseball: where a smile, a polo shirt, and khakis can get you anywhere. —Jake Mintz
Game Notes – Visalia Rawhide vs. Bakersfield Blaze
- Left-hander Ryan Yarbrough got the start for Bakersfield and allowed six runs over six innings of work while striking out six and walking two. Drafted in the fourth round of last year’s draft, out of Old Dominion University, Yarbrough went straight to short-season ball at the end of June and decimated the competition – 1.27 ERA, 0.727 WHIP in 42.2 innings pitched, nearly all of which were in the Northwest League. Seattle decided to skip him over Low-A and send him straight to the California League for 2015. While last night’s start wasn’t his best, it was easy for us to see how Yarbrough could dominate at times. The big lefty sat 91-93 MPH with his fastball for his first couple innings before settling down into the 89-91 MPH range as his pitch count rose. Throwing from a ¾ slot, Yarbrough hides the ball well and leans slightly towards first base when he delivers the ball, making it awfully difficult for left-handed hitters to see the pitch. His changeup was easily his best offering; the 78-80 MPH pitch got a whole bunch of ugly whiffs, particularly from right-handers. Unfortunately, this seemed to be Yarbrough’s only way to get right-handers out, as his fastball was routinely squared up by Visalia hitters for several extra-base hits, including two home runs.
- In the third inning, 26-year-old outfielder Stewart Ijames hit his 12th home run of the year for Visalia, tying A.J. Reed for the California League lead. Ijames’ ridiculous surname aside, his professional career thus far has been rather fascinating. In 2013, Ijames played a full season in the independent Frontier League and hit 16 home runs in 353 plate appearances with a .919 OPS. Last year, he played 50 more games in the Frontier League before signing with the Diamondbacks in July, where he went on to post a 1.161 OPS in 125 plate appearances in the Pioneer League. This year, Arizona assigned Ijames to High-A Visalia where he has continued to hit extremely well through the first two months of the season. He’s undeniably very old for the level, but his impressive track record in addition to being named Stewart Ijames should keep up him fresh in the minds of Arizona fans and baseball fans alike. And just so you know, it’s pronounced eye-ums. Not eye-James. Not ee-hahm-iss. Not el-James. Not iJames 6 Plus. Eye-ums. LeBron Ijames.
- During one of Bakersfield right fielder Austin Wilson’s at-bats, a Visalia fan sitting behind us yelled, “Strike that bum out!” While this kind of heckling is usually just accepted and ignored by the fans surrounding said heckler, we couldn’t help but question the fan’s use of the word “bum” in relation to Wilson specifically. The son of two Harvard Business School graduates, Wilson took a break from his season in Low-A last year to GRADUATE FROM STANFORD. What a bum.
- As is the case with most of the Minor League games we go to uncredentialed, Jordan and I wore random baseball hats. Last night we coincidentally both wore our Australian Baseball League hats, Jordan, a Canberra Cavalry hat, and me, a Sydney Blue Sox lid. As we walked towards our seats, a guy dressed in the quintessential minor league front office outfit, Visalia edition, approached us. In a thick Australian accent, he introduced himself as Matt Cooper and asked us where in the hell we got those hats. I told him that in the winter of 2013, I had gone to a few games when I was in Sydney with my family and that I was friends with a few of the front office guys down there. By random chance, Matt used to be the General Manager of the Sydney team and is now the Director of Baseball Operations for the Rawhide. It also turns out that Matt is the first ever Australian to work in a minor league front office. We exchanged cards, handshakes, and a story or two about Home Run King Kellin Deglan. Hats, man. You never know what’ll happen when you wear ‘em. —Jordan Shusterman
-Meals at In-N-Out: 2
-Mexican Food Meals: 6
-Dr. Peppers consumed: Jake – 18/Jordan – 17
-Times we listened to Evergreen by Westlife: 32
There’s a busy day in store on Saturday for the BBQ. Having spent the night in a place called Los Banos (which, if I’m not wrong, translates to “the bathrooms”), we will drive to Cañada College in Menlo Park to throw out the first pitch at Opening Day for the Menlo Park Legends. The Legends are an actual summer collegiate league team with actual good players that plays in an actual collegiate summer league, so we aren’t totally sure why we were chosen to perform what seems like a relatively legitimate task. Expect something laughably nuts, and expect to see it on video. After embarrassing ourselves in front of what will surely be millions of people, we’ll head up to Stockton to watch the Ports take on the Lake Elsinore Storm. So far, we’ve seen three games involving the Padres or Padres affiliates and they’ve scored a total of zero runs. Here’s hoping Lake Elsinore scores 25 tomorrow.
Thank you for reading
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