Cal League Tour 2004: Phase IV (continued)

Another great weekend of baseball at Petco, eh? Add Carl Pavano and Juan Pierre to the list of guys who like hitting here.

Anyway, we never did finish up our last phase of the Ducksnorts/Syntax of Things Cal League Tour 2004. So without further ado…

Recreation Park in Visalia

The story so far…


Syntax of Things

Expectations of Visalia weren’t particularly high, which made for a pleasant surprise as we drove through downtown. The main street was clean and appealing, in the mode of many Southern California coastal towns between, say, Ventura and Santa Cruz.

The stadium, housed within Recreation Park, is one of the smallest in all of professional baseball, holding fewer than 1700 occupants per game. It is so small that it actually does not have a name.

That said, the park has a certain charm. For starters, it sits directly across the street from Shirley’s Wig and Breast Prosthesis Salon.

Shirley's Wig and Breast Prosthesis Salon

It would be possible to hit a foul ball directly into Shirley’s parking lot. More likely, however, are balls landing in the front yard of any of several houses off the right field side of the stadium.

Put simply, the park is directly in the middle of a neighborhood. This is in dramatic contrast to facilities in, e.g., Lake Elsinore and Adelanto, which are fairly well isolated from their surroundings.

As for the game, it was delayed 10 minutes at the start due to some overzealous watering of the field:

Sprinklers set to 'stun'

Once the contest started, we were treated to a spectacular, if unexpected, pitching peformance from Rancho Cucamonga right-hander Jean Toledo. His ERA now is a cool 5.11, but at the time of this start it sat at a whopping 6.68.

Toledo proceeded to throw one of the best games I’ve ever seen from a professional pitcher, possibly even better than the no-no Mario Ramos carried into the eighth a few years ago. Toledo allowed a two-out single back to the mound to Ryan Spilborghs in the second, and a one-out single off the bat of Bernie Gonzalez that scooted under the glove of third baseman Greg Porter in the eighth. Spilborghs also reached on an error in the fifth, scoring his squad’s only run of the game. The two singles were very makeable plays. It’s no small exaggeration to say that Toledo was a few inches from a no-hitter. His final line:

9.0  2 1  0  2  5

On the offensive side of things, Rancho shortstop Erick Aybar was the big star, homering twice and knocking a double. Aybar, best known for his speed, showed surprising pop from the left side of the plate, with all three extra base hits being driven to right field.

That's the ball game, folks

Our final stops of the year are San Jose and San Bernardino over Labor Day weekend. Meantime, here’s hoping the Padres can start winning again and claw their way back into the playoff race.

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