Thursday, July 28, 2005

Game Report: Aquasox vs. Dirt Devils -- Eat your heart out, Joe Mauer

Tonight was quite an adventure.

So today, at 5:30pm, I had the choice upon me: which baseball game should I attend tonight? Shall I take the road most travelled by, and walk down to Safeco to partake of some Midweek Moyer Mojo? Or should I take the 510 bus to Everett and go see Jeff Clement's first professional ballgame? Well... I guess by the time I actually made the decision, I was ten minutes into the bus ride to Everett, and it's a good thing I didn't change my mind, because the next stop was the Eastmont P&R.

For future reference, the 510 bus stops pretty much right across the street from Everett Memorial Stadium, and it takes about 50 minutes to get there from the corner of 4th and Seneca downtown. It's actually insanely convenient.

I had never been there before, so I'm glad I got there early and got to walk around the park a bit. It's smaller than Cheney, obviously, and I wasn't quite prepared to almost trip over some of the Dust Devils players as I made my way around the back of the bleacher sections. I also had never seen the Aquasox uniforms, and holy crap are they crazy! They're like these big bright tie-dye green-navy shirts with white letters on them. I completely regret not bringing my camera with me today, but oh well.

Food at the stadium was not only cheaper than Cheney, but tastier. Heck, they even had $1 hot dogs late in the game, but I was too riveted to leave my seat. (I had a great seat, too. $9 to sit 8 rows behind home plate is just insane. $10 would have you right on the field if you're lucky.)

Today was Bark in the Park day, which means that the official recorded attendance was 1,722 people and 348 dogs. No, this is not a joke. Yes, they played "Who let the dogs out?" at one point. They also gave out these "Bark in the Park 2005" commemorative baseballs, but more on those a bit later.

I ran into Conor Glassey, who seems to go to almost as many baseball games as I do. I also thought I saw USSM's Super Reader Paul Covert lurking in the very very front row right behind home plate, but it's been several months since the pizza feed, so perhaps I forgot. I didn't recognize any of the other USSM guys; I suppose I'm always looking for a tall dude in a Snelling jersey when I think of DMZ.

Speaking of USSM, if you buy an Aquasox program for $2.50, you'll pretty much get a bunch of roster info, a scorecard, and then a whole bunch of articles by Derek and Dave. Whee.

Anyway! To sum up what Jeff Clement did today -- he went 1-for-5, scoring a run, but what I thought was more important was just watching his swing. He has, as described elsewhere, a nice short compact lefty swing that really will do nicely in Safeco. He let the counts get high on him a lot and seemed to choose his pitches carefully. He also has a decent amount of power -- in the 6th inning he hit a ball high and far and we were sure it was going over the center field wall, only to fall a few feet short. It was great that he got a hit in his first pro at-bat, too. Everyone in the stands was abuzz about him -- I'd hear random people saying things like "He's the third-best college player in the country" or "He just signed to the Mariners and they made him come play up here!" or whatever.

As for the rest of the game, it was pretty cool. The Frogs won 11-7. The game started out really shaky, as the Devils' pitcher Patton kept having slight issues with the strike zone -- and I don't mean like, slightly high and outside pitches, but I mean more like, slightly above-the-umpire's-head pitches, or into-the-batter's-head pitches, etc. 3 balls and ninety fouls later, leadoff batter Trevor Heid still managed to strike out; Reed Eastley wasn't about to repeat that mistake and simply watched four balls go all over the place and then walked down to first.

The second inning was the most exciting of the game from the Aquasox perspective, even going a full rally of 10 batters. Prettyman (what an unfortunate name) led off with a single; Jeff Clement came up for his first pro at-bat and singled; Alex Gary, who would end up one HR short of the cycle by the end of the evening, singled; Santin drove in Prettyman with a sac fly and Saunders cleared everyone else off with a nice long ground rule double to right field. Hudson and Heid followed that double with two more doubles, Eastley struck out, Flaig walked, and by the time Prettyman came up again and struck out, the dust cleared with the Frogs leading 5-0.

Two innings later the Devils struck back in full force; part of it could be blamed on Rohrbough, since he put in a run with a wild pitch, but it didn't matter as Pedro Strop hit a home run and cleared the bases, tying the game at 5-5.

The next inning started bleakly with Prettyman grounding out and then Clement striking out, but then Alex Gary tripled and Daniel Santin followed it up with a heck of a blast to center field for another home run; 7-5. They stayed ahead for the rest of the game. The only other runs the Devils scored were back-to-back home runs by Travis Becktel and Phillip Cuadrado in the 8th. Cory Koliscak came out and pitched a flawless 9th, striking out two of the batters. He has a very neat sidearm pitching motion which I enjoyed watching. You will join the Cult of the Sidearm...

Eastley, the Frogs' second baseman, was probably one of the most interesting players to me during the day. He made an error really early on, but after that played pretty flawlessly in the field, including a really nice jump to grab a line drive from Brian Kirby in the 5th, and managing to throw Pedro Strop out by a hair after bobbling the ball in the 8th. His plate judgment was really good too; overall he went 1-for-2, walking twice and getting hit by a pitch once.

Anyway, after the game ended, I had the fortune to get Jeff Clement to sign my ugly awful Bark in the Park baseball, and now it is beautiful and special! He stayed around after the game for a while, signing things and chatting with fans. I think everyone is really happy that he's here, and he seems to be happy to be here as well, and very nice and down-to-earth; he even joked to me, "I have no idea where the heck to sign on these things," when I handed him the ball, and I said "Well, hey, we'll all remember your first day here as Bark in the Park day," and he laughed, and I wished him good luck and welcome to Seattle, and he thanked me and smiled.

Then I embarked on my hour-and-a-half quest to get home by bus, because I had to take the 510 back into the city, then take the 5 back out to where I live. It's okay, though, because I had books to read anyway.

Right now perhaps Joe Mauer is the youngest, studliest, catcherliest catcher in the American League, but I forsee that he's going to have serious competition from Jeff Clement in a few years.

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