Tuesday, May 29, 2007

All Things Baseball

On Friday afternoon in Bakersfield, John Hollett's Selma Bears capped off an amazing run through the Division III Valley Baseball playoffs, knocking off South 5-1. Saturday's Fresno Bee had a great article, highlighting the game and the difficult year it has been for John: first brain surgery, then the tragic passing of his mother. The team dedicated the season to their coach and now they all enjoy the fruit of their hard-work, determination and focus.

Click here to read the excellent article about John and his championship team.


Mandy and I were blessed to spend our Memorial Day evening in the Bay Area as we watched the Oakland Athletics and the Texas Rangers. Brandon and Laura Nutt from Kelseyville invited us to take in the game with them and we had a wonderful time reuniting with some dear Christian friends.

Anyone who has read this blog much in the past knows my affinity for Rangers' baseball. I love the Rangers...but they are brutal to behold this year. Following last night's loss to the A's, the Rangers now find themselves tied with Cincinnati of the worst record in baseball (18-33, .353), 12 1/2 games back of Anaheim for last in the AL West, and owners of a 6-game losing streak.

Having now watched the Rangers in person, I can honestly say the product is no better in person than it is via television. Many of the go-to guys, i.e. Michael Young, Mark Teixeira, Kevin Millwood, Vicente Padilla, etc. do not resemble themselves.

It's painful to watch.


After last week's stop in San Diego, where John Etherton and I enjoyed the Cubs/Padres game, I have now been privileged to catch a game in each of the five Major League ballparks in California. One of the real blessings of living in California -- as a passionate fan of baseball -- is all five ballparks are closer to Fresno than any Major League ballpark was to our former home in Arkansas.

So, here's how I rate the California ballparks:

#5 -- McAfee Coliseum, Oakland

Since the Raiders returned to Oakland and imposed the massive upper deck in the outfield, blocking the view of the Oakland hills, this ballpark has to be one of the worst in the big leagues. The concourses are old. The concession venues are old. Everything is just...old.

#4 -- Angel Stadium, Anaheim

The reverse of Oakland. The Angels took out the outfield bleachers and put in a clever, rock-like landscape beyond the outfield fence. The proximity of the park to all the great Orange County offerings is a plus, but the park itself is dated. Plus, Angel Stadium is home to the Rally Monkey. Enough said.

#3 -- Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles

The stadium oozes tradition and for an older ballpark, it maintains a lot of character and charm. Like Yankee Stadium, one feels as though they are on hallowed baseball ground inside of Dodger Stadium. Our trip there included seats in the all-you-can-eat section and while the Dodger Dogs are good, I found them to be overrated (sorry Steve). Also, the access into and out of Chavez Ravine is extremely difficult, i.e. time consuming.

#2 -- Petco Park, San Diego

The newest ballpark in California is an asymmetrical marvel. From the playing field to the grandstands, the asymmetrical design of the stadium is genius, especially the design of the stadium around the nearly 100 year old Western Metal Supply Building. The setting in downtown San Diego, with the high-rise buildings for a backdrop, is gorgeous. I must say the concession staple, Fish Tacos, are out of this world!

#1 -- AT&T Park, San Francisco

Still my all-time favorite ballpark (with PNC Park in Pittsburgh a close second). The view from the upper deck of the Bay and the Oakland hills is breathtaking. And the setting on the Embarcadero is incredible. The concessions are great, the concourses are wide and spacious, and the views are unmatched.