Minoring In Baseball
To take my mind off the first time the Rangers had been swept all year, it was time to clear my head and check out some minor league action. The boys seemed to respond to my absence, taking two of three at Atlanta to finish the ten-game road trip at 3-7. Disappointing, yes. This, however, ends a stretch of 17 road games in a 20-game period. If you had told me at the outset of the season the Rangers would come out of this three week period with an overall 9-8 mark on the road against Cleveland, Tampa Bay, Minnesota, New York (Yankees) and Atlanta, I would have accepted it gladly. So, despite a losing three of four to the Twins and all three to the Yankees, overall I can’t complain too much. Plus we’re still in first place!
So on to the weekend. I couldn’t help but notice the Rangers’ AA affiliate, the Frisco Roughriders, were going to be in Corpus Christi to take on the Hooks Father’s Day weekend. Seeing as Corpus is only a 2 1/2 hour trip from us, Mrs. Mariner Fan-Rangers Fan, Rangers Mother-In-Law and I took off Saturday morning for that night’s game at Whataburger Field.
For those who don’t reside in Texas, Whataburger is to Texans what In and Out Burger is to Californians. It is THE fast food chain of Texas (not that it’s really FAST food) and the very first Whataburger was opened in the 1950’s in Corpus Christi. The original Whataburger still stands down by the bayfront.
The field has great sightlines for fans. Look over the left field fence and you can see oil tanker ships going in and out of the harbor. Look over the right field fence and the majestic Harbor Bridge dominates the skyline.
Our last three outings to Rangers Ballpark In Arlington, we’ve been in the left field or 3rd base/left field seats, where the sun can be brutal looking towards home plate as sunset approaches. Knowing this, and seeing that the visiting Roughriders would occupy the first base dugout, seats were procured three rows behind the first base dugout. So, of course we discovered quickly that Whataburger Field is constructed the opposite way of RBIA, so we had the sun right in our eyes from the start of the game until about the 5th inning!
Having seen the Rangers rookie league club, Spokane, in a game last year, I went into this game expecting even higher caliber play than the well-played game I’d seen a year ago. So much for that, too. I honestly don’t remember the last time I’d seen such a poorly played game, by both sides. Starting Frisco pitcher Jake Brigham had a brutal first inning, giving up three runs on four hits and a wild pitch. Brigham would settle down to throw three no-hit innings after that before Emerson Frostad (who I believe was in the Rangers system last year) hit a 5th inning home run.
The Hooks weren’t playing much better. The top of the 2nd opened with Frisco’s Mike Bianucci (who won the game in the 13th with a 3-run HR) popping up harmlessly right in front of the plate. Pitcher, catcher and first baseman all converged….and watched as the ball fell harmlessly to the ground in front of all of them.
The Roughriders battled back, eventually tying the game at 4 in the 6th. In the 8th, they went ahead 6-4, but the Hooks came back to tie it with two of their own in the bottom of the inning. We actually left the game when it was tied 6-6 in the bottom of the 9th. We were all hungry and wanted to get to a decent restaurant before they stopped serving for the night. Frisco ended up winning the game in 13 innings, 9-6.
Defense was brutal. Centerfielder Engel Beltre, at one time a hot prospect for the Rangers, badly misplayed one ball for an error and got a horrible read on another that should have been caught but ended up as a ground rule double. Catcher Jose Felix, who I’d met at the Rangers FanFest in January, had a couple of hits, but he also had, officially, one passed ball. I think he should’ve been charged with three passed balls in the game, but one was ruled a wild pitch and another wasn’t ruled anything at all, even though runners advanced on the play.
I had also been looking forward to seeing the Roughriders’ Tommy Mendonca. He’s been one of the Texas League’s hottest hitters of late and considered a plus defensive 3rd baseman. Mendonca’s first at bat? One pitch, one fly out. Second at bat? One pitch, another out. Third at bat? One pitch, another out. Three pitches, three outs. Mendonca finally took a few pitches in his fourth AB and got a double, his only hit of the night. Defensively, there was one hot smash he didn’t field cleanly, but it was a tough play and was ruled an infield single.
Lastly, I was hoping to see Tanner Scheppers. The fireballing pitcher was announced to be rehabbing for Frisco for a game or two before going to AAA Round Rock. Scheppers is being talked about as an option for the Rangers’ pen by the end of the season. Friday night, he didn’t pitch, so I was hopeful to see Him Saturday. Nope. In fact, Scheppers wasn’t officially activated until today.
To sum it up: the players I wanted to see either didn’t play or didn’t play well, neither team played well, the sun was in our eyes for half the game. Even the field ump badly blew a call, calling a Frisco runner out at second when he was clearly safe. Even a Hooks fan sitting in front of me agreed it was a terrible call. Yes, all these things were part of the evening. But you know what? It was a night at the ballpark, my team won in the end and we all had a great time! I do love this game.