Tuesday, 24 August, 2004
A night in short season A

I went to see the Everett Aquasox play the Boise Hawks last night. Ostensibly I wanted to take a look at two Mariners prospects -- Matt Tuiasosopo and Asdrubal Cabrera -- but in reality I couldn't justify a Mariners ticket (what with my pair to the bum fight between the M's and the Royals later in the week) and didn't feel like driving all the way to Portland to catch the Rainiers, so Everett it was. In a strange way I was looking forward to this game more than I am looking forward to Thursday and Friday, mostly because it was a different kind of baseball.

Everett Memorial Stadium kind of sneaks up on you as you come off I-5; it's tucked into a small corner of the town, and I was totally unprepared to run into it. For reasons not yet fully understandable, I kept driving most of the way down Broadway before turning around and heading back to the park. But I took the opportunity to poke around the town a little bit, particularly the neighborhood around the hospital (big surprise, huh?); the presence of the naval station is hard to ignore, and an understandably large number of cars have DOD stickers on them (and more than an average number of houses have American flags sticking out). Everett's a neat little place.

Memorial Stadium is part of what looks like a high school athletic complex; the fact that there are multiple references to a school district lead me to conclude that it is a high school field at least part of the year. I'm told there's a college-level league that plays there as well, but have no information on them. It's a nice park: Not as nice as Burns Stadium, where I used to watch the Cannons play AAA ball (with Edgar, back when they were still a Mariners affiliate, before they defected and ended up in the Marlins organization), not as nice as Peoria or Maryvale from Arizona, but those parks are spring training facilities for major league players, and we're in short-season A ball in the Northwest League. The best feature about Everett Memorial Stadium is the huge field behind the stands on the first-base side -- more than enough room to hold a regulation soccer match, room for people to lounge around, play catch, chase each other around.. it really is a park-style park. I was a little surprised at how much I liked this feature.

Added bonus: I found free street parking within rock-throwing distance of the gate, meaning I didn't have to pay the $6 for parking at the stadium. It wasn't even hard.

1,711 people showed up to see the game, and I believe that count, though 2:59 later I think maybe only 400 were left. For a Monday night, in the low, low minor leagues, that seems about right -- lots of families, lots of older folks. There were a large number of high school students there, the result of having four local cheerleading squads in attendance, and I guess I'm just getting old because these kids looks really young. Then again, a bunch of them sat behind me for four or five innings before taking off, and it turns out that cheerleaders are still as vacant and snobby and dumb as they were when I was in high school, so maybe things don't change that much. (In fairness, I will say that Everett High's squad's performance was really good.)

The park staff is incredibly friendly. "All the cool kids are wearing them," the hat vendor teased. I ended up on the wrong side of the park (my ticket was at the south gate; note to self: use the north gate window next time), and the dude at the north gate wrote me a pass and said, "Head on over." There really was nothing stoping me from going into the stands and parking my butt in a seat at that point, so I doubt you'll see that happen at Safeco anytime soon. The ticket collectors gaped over my hair ("oh my god! what color is that!?!! it's so pretty!") and made me feel like a 15 year-old girl. Everyone I talked to seemed to be having a genuinely good time, or lying really well. The fans were relaxed and many of them really knew their baseball. Matt Tuiasosopo got the biggest cheers, but it was nice to see other players getting warm welcomes. Even Terry Forbes got a good round of applause when he walked off the field in the ninth after losing it for Everett.

The team really hams things up, in a family-friendly way. "First ten kids to the third-base gate get to participate in the opening ceremonies!" (Much running ensued. What they didn't mention was that these kids were later handed trash bags and paraded through the park collecting garbage from fans.) There are "contests" (one of which involved water balloons thrown at a fairly attractive mother in a white t-shirt by her daughter, which raised my eyebrows more than a couple millimeters) every half-inning until the seventh. It was $1 night, so hot dogs, chips, and pop were.. $1 each. I bought a $2.50 program and got handed more stuff that I've received after spending $6 at Safeco. The hat and logo is a lot funnier than anything you'll see in the majors. The quality of the dogs is OK, but the Polish sausage rules. The Aquasox have a thing where, later in the game, they'll announce some kind of silly promotion on the food to thunderous pounding of feet (the stands are of that aluminum type that make a satisfying thunk when you stamp your feet). In the ninth, the vendors started coming around pimping 50-cent hot dogs. One guy, sitting a couple rows behind me, said, "Well, I've got 40 cents." "That's good enough! Sold!" Mmm! Dinner! (I didn't think I would get a chance to eat on my way south, and it turned out I was right.)

What I really wanted was someone to announce a run on the beer. Then again, given the fact that it started pouring rain almost the instant I left the stadium and I had an hour and a half drive down I-5, in the dark, to Olympia, maybe it's better they didn't.

Oh yes, the game: Nobody goes to a SS-A game expecting to see good baseball. I scored five errors on the two teams (Everett 3) in what was ultimately an 8-4 loss for Everett. Terry Forbes was unable to hang onto a two-run lead heading into the top of the ninth, and coughed up four runs before being pulled in favor of Roman Martinez, who came in with the bases loaded and no outs. My scorecard at this point gets a little fuzzy, since I wasn't really paying attention to the pitching, but after the pitcher got fried the defense folded and went home. Cabrera, notwithstanding the two errors I charged him with, looks really good for a 19 year-old shortstop; Tuiasosopo has a sweet swing and did OK for himself last night, too. One look is not a complete understanding of ballplayer makeup, but it's a start.

I had fun. If I lived around here I'd be a regular visitor to Everett.

Epilogue: As of this writing, Asdrubal Cabrera is the starting shortstop for the Tacoma Rainiers (AAA). Matt Tuiasosopo is starting at short for the Inland Empire 66ers (A+). Terry Forbes and Roman Martinez do not appear anywhere on the Mariners depth chart. (11 April 2006.)