Thursday, July 4, 2013

June 18- Eugene Emeralds

Three days and a year prior is when things really started to kick ass for me. After getting kicked to the curb by Major League Baseball, more specifically the MLB Fan Cave, I was feeling pretty low and did my best for a few days to step away from baseball. That process was not exactly an easy one to accomplish, especially when considering that for two-and-a-half months I did nothing but watch baseball every day. As much as I love baseball, I never want to take it to the extreme of what I had to do in New York City every again. More specifically I mean that I would much rather be out in the elements, watching a baseball in person, rather than having my corneas fried by watching every game on 15 TVs.

I flew back to Oregon on June 8th, and my timing couldn’t have been any worse. The one thing I can pride myself on is that I watched every no-hitter and perfect game from the 2012 season from first to last pitch… except one. I suppose it’s my fault really. I had postponed my flight back to the West Coast for a few days so I could actually spend time doing things in New York as opposed to be voluntarily locked in a glass zoo for the world to watch us watch TV. Kind of sick (literal meaning) when you really think about it. MLB was at least kind enough to send me back first class, something I guess I should have paid more attention to on the ticket as I still waiting in line at JFK to check my bags. It was after the hour-and-a-half wait that this fact was finally brought to my attention by the woman working at the counter. From that point on, I streamlined… or tried to at least. Once I checked my bags and walked to the next terminal to go through security the woman in charge of the lines stopped me as I was going into the express line and asked, “Are you supposed to be going that way?” Keep in mind; this is when I still looked like an understudy for ZZ-Top tribute band. I handed her my ticket, she looked it over and he eyes immediately darted back at mine, realizing she had made a mistake. As she was about to open her mouth to say something I said, “I know, right!” gave her a cheesy smile and grabbed my ticket out of her hand. If there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s people judging others based on appearance; it’s a constant theme in my life. I got through security, boarded the plane, had a few beers (on MLB's dime), had a decent meal, watched "We Bought a Zoo," and touched down in Portland late in the evening.

As I was walking through PDX to retrieve my bags I noticed the tail end of the Seattle Mariners game was on in one of the bars. What I didn’t realize until I got home was that Tom Wilhemsen was closing out the final three batters in route to a team no-hitter. In the end, based on what I had been through over the previous week, it made sense that something as awesome as that would happen at a time when I couldn’t watch it.

Trying to get things back on a positive, I drove down to Eugene the next day to catch the first game of my Oregon Ducks’ Super Regional matchup against the Kent State Golden Flashes. I was only able to stay for a few innings in the Ducks 6-7 loss in Game 1 due to a TV interview I had to give later that night. I highly recommend watching it if you want to see me at my most-candid. I made it back the next day for Game 2, but once again had to get back to Portland in the evening for something, but the Ducks took that match up 3-2. Finally, I went back for the final, deciding game without any interruptions, but alas, the Ducks fell in the final out 2-3 and were eliminated just one win away from going to Omaha.

Two things happened to improve moral a bit though:

1. The Eugene Emeralds had hit me up on Facebook offering up to four free tickets for Opening Day on June 15th.

2. The Oakland Athletics hit me up asking if I wanted to participate in a project they had in mind. The project turned out to be them wanting me to throw out first pitch, which I gladly accepted.

With my Ducks out of the College World Series and four Emeralds tickets in tow, I called up my friends Chris (@MooseandBear69), Scott (@ScottCLandis) and Leif (he doesn’t have Twitter). Another good friend of my, Taylor (@TaylorGelbrich) was in attendance, but he was busy working. Since the Emeralds are a short season-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, I had to roll deep in Padres gear.

Around the second inning the team’s mascot, Sluggo, spotted me in the crowd, came over and gave me a huge hug. I thanked him for everything as he was the person who had messaged me about the tickets. Being a mascot, he didn’t have much to say other than a shake of the head, which I totally understood. As I turned around to go back to my seat the gentleman sitting next to me tapped me on the shoulder and told me to turn back around. As I did, I saw this…

Sluggo had taken the t-shirt graphic my friend Adam Tamarkin and I had made for my Fan Cave campaign and turned it into a tattoo. I was smiling widely on the outside, but underneath my skin I was in tears. Aside from the Athletics, no one had done so much for me since I was let go from New York. I thanked him again and did my best not tremble as I took the photo on account of being of the verge of losing it emotionally on the exterior. Around the fourth inning the Emeralds had one more surprise for me. I looked over to the right and saw my face on the jumbotron in right-center field as they made an announcement that I was at the game. The public address announcer then went on to explain who I was and what I had done, at which the crowd gave me a round of applause. I was even more floored by the fact that my tattoos artist, Felix the Tat, was sitting three rows behind me. Without Felix doing such and amazing job with my tattoos, I doubt very many of you would know who I am. By the time the game had ended I was emotionally deflated. I don’t mean this in a bad way. It had been such a long time since I had felt so appreciated that all I could do was crash… but not before a walk-off RBI single by Clark Murphy, as seen here… WalkOff!!!

The Emeralds rocked this cap from the start of the 2010 season until the end of 2012 when they switched up their colors and logos for 2013 in the thematic-style of Bigfoot. In 2010 the team went 32-44 under then-manager Greg Riddoch who managed his final year with the team that season despite having been at the helm since 2007. In 2011 and 2012 the Emeralds went 46-30 and 47-29 respectively under manager Pat Murphy, who in 2011 led the Emerald to their first Northwest League division title 2008. The other think of note from this hat lies within the stadium. 2010 was the first season in which the Emeralds called PK Park home as they had occupied Civic Stadium, one of the last remaining wooden ballparks in the country from 1969 through the end of the 2009 season. As for marks…

#3- A three-year time frame isn’t much to work with, especially when we’re talking about short season-A baseball; however, there was one name that quickly jumped out: Jedd Gyorko. Gyorko was a second round draft pick by the Padres out of West Virginia University in the 2010 amateur draft. His first stop as a professional came with Emeralds that year, but he only managed to play in 26 with the club on account that he was just a little bit too much of a badass. In 106 at-bats he had 35 hits, good enough for a .330 average. Five of those hits happened to be home runs and he also made sure to knock in 18 runs as well as score 16 himself. Yup! Talent like his is only destined to move fast through the rankings and proved to be true when he made his Major League on Opening Day this season.

#14- This one was a little bit tougher as I could have gone two ways with this. My first option was to roll with Australian-born pitcher Josh Spence, but he’s now a members of the New York Yankees despite playing in multiple games over two seasons in the Majors with the Padres. Buuuuuuuut I decided to go with my second option, up-and-coming pitcher Justin Hancock.

Hancock was taken in the ninth round by the Padres in the 2011 amateur draft out of Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, Illinois. Hancock spent his first year in the Rookie League with the AZL Padres, but found himself moved up to the Emeralds for the start of the 2012 season. In the 15 games he played in he started 14 of them, going 5-2 with a 1.61 ERA and 66 strikeouts before getting promoted to Class-A Fort Wayne on the play with the TinCaps. As far us “under the radar” prospects go, Hancock is looking to be the real deal as he is 7-1 with a 1.15 ERA so thus far in 2013 between the TinCaps and the advanced-A Lake Elsinore Storm of the California League.

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