Saturday, March 9, 2013

March 9- Stockton Ports

It’s quite amazing the friends I’ve made this season, and I truly have the MLB Fan Cave to thank for it no matter how sarcastic they may think I am to say that. It’s really the truth. Before last season I went to an average of seven Oakland Athletics games a season, and for every game I attended I either sat with the friends I came with or the few people that sat around me. Without the MLB Fan Cave I wouldn’t have known or met the most passionate, dedicated fan base in Major League Baseball, the right field crew. You know who they are, the bunch of raucous die hards who wave their flags, Bernie Lean, Bacon Tuesday and Balfour Rage for every home game on the A’s schedule. For the past few seasons I had seen them at work anytime I made my way south for a game, and every time I saw them I would sit and admire their craft. But I never walked over and sat with them.

During my time in New York I was finally able to establish a dialogue with the most of the crew trough Twitter. Since I was watching every A’s game I’d always see them on TV; and every time I saw them on the screen I couldn’t help but think about how much I wanted to be there with them. The Fan Cave was great and all, but the craving to be at a live game, watching my team was always at the forefront of my mind. I don’t want to go into too much detail right now, as I have a more explicit tribute to my friends in the future. But I will say, without them, my summer, and my baseball experience would not have been the same.

This hat was a gift from my friend Will MacNeil, a long-time member of the right field crew at the Oakland A’s Fan Fest which was held on January 27th of this year. For a while Will had promised me a Stockton Ports hat as he had a friend who worked in the front office for the team. As it turned out, Will gave me their red game style AND this one. The amount of generosity I had received over the past few months from everyone in the crew was absolutely endearing, but this act went beyond that. As an avid hat collector I had always turned down the offer of freebies, especially when member of the executive staff of MLB had offered them to me in the Fan Cave. My response to them was always on the lines of, “if I didn’t earn it, I don’t deserve it.” Not once in the Fan Cave did I ever ask for something for free. I suppose I have my upbringing to blame for that one. So when Will offered me a free hat it took quite a bit of convincing on his part to get me to accept it. When we met in the parking lot at the end of Fan Fest I didn’t really have the words to express how I felt. I was truly moved that someone would do something so important, out of the kindness of their heart for me. I’ll never be able to say it enough, but seriously, thank you so much Will.

Doing research on this hat proved to be a bit of a challenge. I didn’t know much of it, other than the fact that the Ports had obviously worn for at least one game over the last few years. I hit up Will and asked as good of questions as I could to help get to the bottom of it. When was it worn? Who wore it? Did anything significant happen while the team wore it? I didn’t have an internet connection on my bus back to Eugene this afternoon so our conversation was broken up quite a bit throughout the day. By the time I got to Max’s Tavern to start my shift at 4:00 PM, Will had the answers. This hat was only worn once on June 20, 2009 in an unfortunate 6-5 losing effort against the San Jose Giants on their “Go Green” day at Banner Island Ballpark. As a kid I had seen quite a few Ports games when I lived in Stockton in 1986-1988, but that was when they were playing their games at Billy Hebert Field as an affiliate of the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Since they became an affiliate of the A’s in 2005 I have yet to see them play. I really need to change that by this next season.

Since the team only wore it the one time I had to revolve my numbers around that day.

#3- Jemile Weeks was the up-and-coming star for the Ports during those days. A first round draft pick (12th overall) in the 2008 amateur draft, Weeks played in 50 games that season, going .299/7/31. His most notable accomplishment during the season was an impressive 22-game hit streak he had amassed in his first 22 games as a member of the club. During that stretch he batted .400 with five doubles, a triple, all seven of his home runs and 23 RBI. With numbers like that it wasn’t much of a mystery that he only hung around for 50 games. By halfway through the 2011 season Weeks was called up to the Majors where he continued to eviscerate pitchers with a .303 average and 22 stolen bases.

#19- Scott Mitchinson was the starter who received the no decision for the Go Green game. That day he got tagged for two runs off of three hits and no strikeouts. Despite making five starts previous to the 20th Mitchinson’s record was a dismal 0-1 with a 4.29 ERA. I don’t mean to knock the guy or anything, but these are certainly the breaks of playing in the pros. You take your lumps and move on to play another day. As I mentioned before, this hat was worn only one day, so I had to give it up for Australian-born right hander. His most notable moment in his career was as a member of the 2009 Australian World Baseball Classic team as a replacement for Ryan Rowland-Smith after he opted out. Unless you’re an avid A’s or Ports fan, you probably had never heard of him, which is the most important reason I added him to my hat.

Everyone has their day, and so with that, I tip my cap to you Scott.

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