Having lived in large cities in Southern California almost my entire life, I have certain preconceptions — mostly negative — about places in the middle of the United States. I am happy to say that San Antonio, or at least what I was able to see of it in a too-short period of time, shattered them almost immediately upon arrival.
One of my very favorite cities to visit along the West Coast is Seattle. If Seattle suddenly up and moved to Texas, it would probably look and feel a lot like San Antonio. The city is clean and well-laid-out, the freeway system easy to navigate, the people friendly, and the ballpark elegant yet unpretentious.
Driving down highway 281, listening to Stevie Ray Vaughn rip through Little Wing, I felt rejuvenated after a lengthy day of travel as I headed toward Wolff Stadium. I arrived just in time to hear a local Boy Scout troop sing, in many keys simultaneously, the Star-Spangled Banner.
I sat in the second row, just off to the left of home plate. Scattered clouds and a gentle breeze made for an idyllic baseball setting. The Missions played host to the Arkansas Travelers. Having mistakenly thought the Travelers were still affiliated with the Cardinals, I wondered at all the familiar names in the lineup: Armando Almezaga, Nathan Haynes, Gary Johnson. Then it hit me. All of them played at Lake Elsinore last year, when it was still a part of the Angels organization. Arkansas, I remembered, was the new Double-A affiliate of the Angels, just as Erie had been before it, and Midland before it.
The game itself wasn’t particularly memorable. The Missions won, 6-1. Shortstop Willie Bloomquist showed good actions, an accurate arm, and an admirable fearlessness in turning the double play; centerfielder Kenny Kelly flew around the basepaths but showed little aptitude or interest at the plate.
But the experience made the trip worthwhile. Good stadium, knowledgeable fans, and one of the strangest mascots I’ve ever seen: Ballapeño. Part ball, part jalapeño, this dark green creature roamed the stadium and kept kids of all ages entertained. Still, I couldn’t help but contemplate, with the big biotech conference going on back home in San Diego, the genetics involved in creating such a beast…
. . .
As promised, thoughts on Tony Batista. Despite hitting 41 homers last year, Batista had become a drain on the Blue Jays. He’d signed a huge contract and then done squat. And when I say squat, I mean squat:
This is what he’s done since last September. Ed Sprague can put up numbers like those in his sleep for a fraction of the cost. Plus you can sometimes get a decent prospect or two for Sprague. This isn’t to say that Batista can’t bounce back; after all, he’s still only 28 (and he certainly enjoyed a fine game last night at the expense of his former team). But there really shouldn’t be much doubt why the Blue Jays waived him when they did. Last year he played like an All-Star; this year he’s played like David Bell. Oh, wait, not a good example. Well, you get the idea…