After the wrap, I'll give my impressions of Sam Lynn Ballpark in Bakersfield, CA.
Game one starter Guillermo Moscoso improved his record to 3-5 after he allowed four runs on seven hits, including two home runs, over six innings. Moscoso walked two and struck out five.
Michael Bowden threw a perfect seventh inning for his second save. He struck out one.
The I-Cubs hit three solo home runs in game one. Second baseman Logan Watkins hit the first one to lead off the bottom of the first inning. Watkins also doubled in a 2 for 3 game. He scored twice.
The third baseman Junior Lake hit his first home run of the season in the fourth inning. Lake went 1 for 3. Finally, first baseman Brad Nelson clubbed home run number 13 an inning later in the fifth. He was also 1 for 3.
Catcher J.C. Boscan went 2 for 3.
Jeffry Antigua got the start in game two. He gave up four runs, on a solo home run and a three-run shot, in the fourth inning before getting pulled. His final line was 3.2 innings pitched, allowing four runs on only three hits. He walked one and struck out five.
Marcus Hatley allowed another two runs in the fifth inning, but got the win when Iowa retook the lead in the bottom of the fifth. Hatley pitched 1.1 innings and allowed two runs on three hits. He walked one and struck out one.
Casey Coleman pitched the final two innings for his third save. Coleman gave up two hits, but no runs. He didn't walk anyone and struck out two.
After hitting three home runs in game one, the I-Cubs hit four more in game two. Once again, they were all with the bases empty. They came in four consecutive innings.
Shortstop Donnie Murphy hit the first one, his seventh of the season in the third inning. Murphy was 1 for 2 with a sacrifice fly and two RBI.
Center fielder Brian Bogusevic hit his tenth home run in the fourth inning. Bogusevic was 2 for 4 and scored twice.
Next up were the repeat offenders. Junior Lake hit his second home run of the day (and the season) in the fifth inning. Lake also had a two-run single in the first inning for three total RBI. Lake was 3 for 4 with the double and the home run. He scored twice.
Finally, Logan Watkins provided an insurance run in the bottom of the sixth inning with his second home run of the day and seventh on the year. Watkins was 2 for 4.
Right fielder Tim Torres, recently promoted from Tennessee, was 3 for 3 with a triple. He had an RBI single in the first inning.
With the wins, Iowa gets their record back to .500 at 38-38. On top of that, Memphis lost again so Iowa pulls out to a two game lead in the division.
The Tennessee Smokies couldn't hide from the Chattanooga Lookouts (Dodgers), 8-7.
Kyle Hendricks proved mortal tonight as he allowed five runs on seven hits over five innings, the main blow being a three-run home run by Joc Pederson in the fifth inning. One of the five runs was considered unearned. Hendricks walked four batters and struck out only one. Hendricks had only once before this season issued as many as three walks and only gave out five free passes the entire month of May. Hendricks was 1 for 2 with two RBI at the plate.
The loss went to Yeiper Castillo who allowed three runs, one earned, over two innings of relief. Castillo was touched for three hits and one walk. He struck out two.
Shortstop Arismendy Alcantara went 2 for 5 with a solo home run in the fifth inning, his tenth of the season. He did make a critical error in the sixth inning, however.
Right fielder Matt Szczur was 2 for 5 with a double and an RBI.
The Daytona Cubs were done in by the Dunedin Blue Jays, 3-1.
It was a solid start for Ben Wells, but he got his sixth loss anyway. Wells allowed two runs on four hits over six innings. Wells struck out three and didn't walk anyone.
Daytona only managed four hits. First baseman Dustin Geiger was 1 for 4 with an RBI double in the fourth inning.
Kane County Cougars
The Kane County Cougars were burglarized by the Quad City River Bandits (Astros), 4-2.
Tayler Scott scattered eleven hits, leading to only two runs, over the five innings he pitched. Scott walked two and struck out two.
Lendy Castillo took the loss in relief. Castillo pitched three innings and gave up two runs, one earned, on four hits. He walked one and struck out three.
Both Kane County runs scored on back-to-back hits in the top of the fifth inning by catcher Carlos Escobar and second baseman Gioskar Amaya. Escobar was 2 for 4 with an RBI and Amaya went 2 for 4 with an RBI double.
After two starts, Paul Blackburn has yet to allow an earned run. He did allow one unearned run on three hits over five innings. Blackburn walked one and struck out four.
Carlos Martinez-Pumarino with three innings of no-run, no-hit relief. He walked one and struck out three.
Michael Hamann pitched the ninth inning and got his second save. He did allow one hit, but no runs. Hamann struck out the final batter of the game.
All the Boise offense came via two home runs. The first was a solo home run off the bat of center fielder Kevin Encarnacion with the bases empty in the sixth inning. Encarnacion was 2 for 4 and scored twice.
The other three runs came off the bat of right fielder Yasiel Balaguert, who connected for his first home run with two on in the eighth inning. Balaguert went 1 for 3 with a walk.
Jacob Hannemann and Cael Brockmeyer both got their first professional hits for Boise tonight.
It was a shock when the Cincinnati Reds announced that they were renewing their affiliation with the Bakersfield Blaze for another four years this past off-season. Previously, teams had tried to get out of Bakersfield as soon as possible because of Sam Lynn Ballpark, built in 1941 and woefully antiquated for professional baseball today. But the Reds move made sense when the Bakersfield owners announced construction of a new ballpark, set to open in 2014. It was an unusually cool night for June in the Central Valley last night, so I decided to take that opportunity to see this relic of minor leagues past.
Sam Lynn Ballpark is the only baseball stadium in professional baseball that faces west, into the setting sun, as you can see from the photograph above. As you can also see, they have a 120 foot batter's eye that blocks the sun eventually. They couldn't start the game until 7:45 last night because of the sunset.
What you can't see from this picture is that it's only 354 feet to dead center field. I was really hoping to see someone bang one off that batter's eye, but it didn't happen. I did see a tremendous blast by Reds prospect Kyle Waldrop, but it went over the trees in right field. (As an aside, there were some college kids, apparently playing in a local summer league, sitting behind home plate and heckling everyone. They were mocking Waldrop pretty badly when he crushed that one. I thought that was a nice touch.)
According to Wikipedia, at least, Sam Lynn Ballpark faces west because it was built on the remains of an older horse racing track, and the grandstands were partially reused. That might also explain the 354 to dead center as well.
Obviously there have been some improvements to the park in the past 70 years, and the seats were the same standard minor league seats you see everywhere and there were some picnic tables and a beer tent. But the guts of the old park was still there. The park itself is made of cinderblocks and the stands are concrete, except down the line where they have risers like you'd find at any high school. The dugouts aren't really dugouts at all: they're more like plywood lean-tos painted green. In any case, they were too small for the teams and most players were sitting on folding chairs outside the dugout.
There weren't any bullpens and the pitchers just warmed up in foul territory next to the dugout. The scoreboard just listed the linescore, the number of the batter, the count and how many outs there were. It was electric, not manual, but it was the kind that you'd see everywhere in the sixties or seventies.
I don't want to get too nostalgic about this place, but this is the look of the minor leagues of the Bull Durham era and before. There were few events in-between innings, although I'd imagine there would be more if it was a weekend game. But there was very little to distract anyone from the game, and that was nice. It was just a bunch of kids playing in a crappy stadium and chasing a dream. The paid attendance was only 699, and I'd guess the actual number in the house was probably closer to 400. The paid staff were attentive and helpful, which is always a nice thing to see.
The music choices on the PA system were nice, as they were heavy on the "Bakersfield Sound" of country music of the 1950s and early 1960s. Well, maybe not heavy. They did play some, including some Merle Haggard. When the Blaze won, the team exited to the Buck Owens classic "The Streets Of Bakersfield." They really didn't play a lot of Bakersfield music, but when they did, it was pretty jarring because you normally hear the same music choices at every ballpark. So whenever they inserted the local giants of country music, it was appreciated.
Sam Lynn Ballpark has to be replaced. Minor league kids trying to become major leaguers don't need to work with all these disadvantages, and the fans in Bakersfield, like fans everywhere else, want more than just a spartan place to watch a game. Attendance for the Blaze is the worst in the California League, despite it being the second biggest city (after San Jose) with a booming population. That's why the California League didn't want to leave Bakersfield and why they had to have a new ballpark. This isn't a jewel of history like Wrigley Field or Fenway Park. It's an old, spartan, ballpark, inadequate for the demands of the modern minors. It has to go. But I'll still miss it.
I look forward to the new ballpark, and I'll try to check that out next season. But I'm glad I got a chance to see Sam Lynn before it, and the era of minor league baseball it represents, fades into history.