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Cheney Stadium Grand Reopening

I was at the Rainiers home opener tonight, and had a darn good time. Tacoma lost 6-5, but it was a good game, and in many ways a proper way to kick things off in the renovated Cheney. I will be attending may Rainiers games this year, so Rainier recaps might be a bit of a running theme for 2011. If you'd like more Rainiers coverage, let me know after reading this entry with a comment at the end. Here we go:

  • There are tons of new concession areas (big plus), and one of them features the 2x4 Burger. It's a terrifying combination that emphatically states "I will physically hurt you, but you will be full and then some." It sells for $35, and when I went to get my chowder bowl, another person in line asked if anyone had bought the burger. One of the attendants said they had sold one, to a teenage boy. I asked the worker if they knew whether he planned to eat it alone or not, and to the worker's knowledge (gulp) he did. There is only one place to get the 2x4 in Cheney Stadium, so presumably this teenager purchased and ate the first ever 2x4 burger. It seems so stereotypical that a teenage boy would buy such a thing. I would love to find out who this person is, if they really planned to eat it on their own, and of course I need to know if they finished it or not!
  • The national anthem concluded with a fly-over from a C-17. God bless America.
  • Eddie Fisher threw out the first pitch. He threw the first pitch in the original Cheney Stadium, and went on to have a long and successful MLB career as a knuckleball pitcher. His pitch came up well short of home plate, and so he asked for a re-do. The next one was better, though still short. I'm not here to criticize the man at all, because he is older, and from my seat, it looks like he has aged well. I just thought it was awesome to see a man comfortable enough in his own skin to ask for a re-do on a ceremonial pitch in front of the whole crowd, as if he was some 10-year-old in the backyard.
  • Chaz Roe started for the Rainiers. For the first few innings, until I realized he was going to pitch a pretty solid game, I daydreamed here and there about him, 50 years down the road, getting invited back to new new Cheney Stadium to throw out the ceremonial first pitch.
  • The game featured seven of players I've looked at on my draft watchlists the past few years. Six of them were on the Sacramento side. Here's the full list: Dustin Ackley, Jemile Weeks, Eric Sogard, Josh Donaldson, Josh Horton, Mitch Canham, and Travis Banwart. All but Canham and Banwart appeared (and started) in the game.
  • The weather did not cooperate. It was cold and drizzly the entire game. I'm not sure drizzle is the right name for it, though rain makes it sound heavier than it was. A combo of the words might be best...drain? Drain works nicely, because the conditions kept the crowd from getting as excited as I think it wanted to be. We were all too busy staying warm.
  • I had a friend sitting on the new grass berm, and on a cold, drainy night at least, it's not the best seat in the house. Peering over near the end of the game though, there were still folks out there, even though there were clearly seats available in the bowl at that point. Those are some dedicated fans.
  • On a related note, I wanted to text my friend back, but my thumb was too cold and numb to move nimbly enough. Instead of fumbling around for an inning, I gave up.
  • The field held up pretty well in the weather. There were only a few small puddles on the field, and they developed behind home plate late in the game. Balls died anytime they hit the saturated grass, but they didn't take crazy hops. There also weren't any errant throws. The conditions only seemed to play starring roles on a couple plays, both pop-ups that should have been caught. I looked up into the sky to see what the players were dealing with, and the small little droplets berated my eyeballs. I couldn't keep both open at the same time. I'll give the fielders a pass on the dropped pop-ups.
  • Dustin Ackley didn't have that great of a game. He was ahead 2-0 in the count to lead off the Rainiers half of the first, and hit an infield pop-up. With Ackley's plate discipline and level stroke, it was a really surprising thing to see. The best thing he did all night was run hard on a grounder to hurry Eric Sogard's throw across the diamond. Chris Carter couldn't shovel the throw out (though he should have had it), and Ackley was aboard. Based on what I saw tonight, Ackley's slow start is not tough luck. He didn't square up the ball tonight. It struck me though that his plate discipline and speed still provide some sort of pressure, even when he's in a slump.
  • I came away from the game very impressed by Jemile Weeks. He got on base four times, so take these observations with a grain of salt. I saw him on a very good night obviously. Still, he showed everything that will maximize his ability. He drew two walks, and probably can draw lots of walks in the MLB with how short he is. Weeks is listed at 5'9", and seeing him in person, that might be generous. He won't hit for any power, but he has a level stroke, and can fly. He also has quick wrists, which with the level stroke, give him tremendous plate coverage and the ability to spray line drives all over the field. Late in the game, Dan Cortes had two strikes on him, and threw what I think was a fastball (the radar gun was inconsistent). Even with a defensive two-strike approach, Weeks was able to pull the pitch right down the line - and Cortes is not a soft-tosser. It's easy to see Weeks being a high average, high on-base type of guy with good speed. At second base, that's a valuable player.
  • Leury Bonilla had two nice throws from right field. One was right on the money to third base, and just about nabbed a runner. The other went through to home plate, and did nail a runner to end the eight inning. It wasn't just the strength, but the accuracy as well. I knew next to nothing about Bonilla entering the game, but he's in my peripheral vision now.
  • I freaking love Carlos Peguero. He had a fantastic night. He crushed a two-run homer in his first at-bat that almost cleared the scoreboard in right-center field. It was a majestic, towering shot. Since it was cold enough to see my breath, I blew out a puff, and confirmed that there was a slight breeze blowing in when he hit it too. Peguero also crushed a double late in the game that went off the center field fence on the fly. Remember, center is 425 feet away at Cheney. As if that wasn't enough to intimidate the pitcher (along with his 6'5", 245 pound stature) he smoked a line drive single up the middle, and in his final plate appearance, absolutely shattered his bat on a foul ball, with the barrel sticking deep into the ground maybe five feet or so in front of the pitcher. Gabe DeHoyos, the River Cats reliever on the mound, went up to the barrel and laughed. I wish I could have heard just how nervous the laughter was from my seat.
  • The new Cheney still feels alot like the old one, which I am happy about. I loved the feel of Cheney, and it still feels like the same park from the seating bowl, but now with more modern amenities. Two thumbs up. The only thing that needs some quick attention is the backstop - the padding is at just the wrong level to let baseball get lodged underneath. Two wild pitches got stuck underneath there, though neither played a critical role in the outcome of the game.
  • As awesome as Peguero was, the best power hitter in the game was Chris Carter. He is a Rainier killer though. He hit 4 home runs in a playoff series against them a few years ago. Tonight, he had a home run, and drove in 5 of Sacramento's 6 runs. That included the go-ahead run in the 9th inning, where he took a pitch away from him and drove it to the opposite field all the way to the wall. I know he struggled mightily in a cup of coffee with Oakland last year, but he's got too much power and skill to flail forever.
Overall, it was a successful relaunch of Cheney Stadium, and about as satisfying as a loss for the home team can be.

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