Cal League Tour 2004: Phase III — continued

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After convincing the front desk that we did not, in fact, spend $20 at the bar Saturday night and shouldn’t be charged for someone else’s drinks, we headed off to China Buffet. Oh yeah, sjfanboy set us up real good. It lacked the Mongolian barbecue that the place in Rancho had, but after a long day of driving, and with another such day ahead, it hit the spot.

From there it was off to Starbucks and then down SR-99 to Modesto. As in Stockton, the ballpark in Modesto is located within a city park. John Thurman Field, built in 1952, sits directly opposite Modesto Municipal Golf Course. You can actually watch golfers from the concourse (this is similar to the Epicenter in Rancho, where you can watch folks play softball).

For the first time on our trip, we didn’t sit behind home plate. Instead, we sat right on top of the third base dugout. Great seats, but two caveats:

  • Don’t talk a lot during innings, especially when a left-hander is up to bat; there is no netting, and reaction time is almost nil.
  • If you go to a day game, bring a seat cushion. Even though the seats are plastic, they don’t fold up so the sun beats down on them and gets them nice and toasty. Even on a pleasant day such as the one we had (mid-80s, decent breeze), you don’t want skin or clothes to make contact with the seat.

Looking out over the third base dugout toward right field

We actually missed the very start of the contest. By the time we reached our seats, the bases were loaded with nobody out in the top of the first. Three walks. Next batter smokes a grand slam. Welcome to Modesto.

After seeing the home team lose in our first two games, we were now on a streak of three straight victories. And sure enough, a couple innings later the A’s had scrapped back and pulled to within one.

Then in the fifth, A’s skipper Von Hayes got tossed for arguing with plate umpire Brandon Cooney over a pop foul that saw Cooney get tangled up with Modesto’s catcher, resulting in the ball harmlessly falling to the ground. [Side note: I once had to physically leave the room during a Roto draft at UCLA when Hayes' name was put up for bid; he had been one of my favorite players and burned me badly the previous year.] As Hayes was walking back to the dugout, Cooney grabbed the baseball and tossed it so that it would roll past Hayes.

Unidentified umpire steps in to moderate recipe exchange between Modesto manager Von Hayes and home plate upmire Brandon Cooney

Von Hayes is a big dude. Cooney, not so much. Hayes turned around, got into Cooney’s face and proceeded to kick dirt all over his shoes. Now we here at Ducksnorts don’t condone this sort of behavior, but it was hilarious.

The A’s then scored seven times in the bottom half of the inning and ended up winning, 14-6. Not a lot of memorable performances on either side. Modesto shortstop Omar Quintanilla, the A’s #7 ranked prospect, looked okay but not great. The right fielder for Bakersfield, Luis Mateo, had an absolute hose. Man, he made some nice throws.

We weren't the only ones anxious to see the game end

With the game well in hand, we left after the seventh. My enduring memories of John Thurman Field are the two friendly locals who sat next to us, and the noise generated by folks stomping the bleachers to rally the home team. The facility is hardly state of the art, but for the overall experience, it has been one of the better stops to this point.

The drive home was mainly a quest for decent coffee. Carls Jr. in Fresno? Blech. Thanks to Jeff’s cell phone, which has Internet access, we were able to find a Starbucks in Bakersfield. Got there just as they were closing for the night.

Coffee in hand, it was back down SR-99 and then I-5, past the Staples Center (where the Lakers had just been thwacked in Game 1 of the NBA Finals), through Orange County, and finally home. We had completed another successful journey. And tired as we may have been, we were ready for the next leg of our tour.

Next up: Bakersfield, July 10; Visalia, July 11.

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