This time at least I have some pictures. Last year, I went to a Chihuahuas game with my co-workers, Jacob and Chuck. We were looking forward to the opportunity to go again this year. Chuck suggested tonight because of the Cody Decker bobblehead giveaway. Decker, while no longer playing for El Paso, was a beloved character for the first two years of the team’s existence. I’d even say he was one of the reasons for the current popularity of the team, thanks to his various Youtube videos. The current team is playing and drawing really well, but there’s no replacing Cody’s charisma.
We took off directly from work at 4:00, figuring we needed to get there good and early for the 7:00 game with the best promotional giveaway of the year. Jacob and Chuck were getting off early. I was essentially just putting in an appearance at work for a couple of hours, as my backup, Mike would be taking over for the night shift. Ron, my Aggies co-fan and the reason I got to see the Rockies and the Giants in person, was meeting a friend from out of town and declined on this trip. Through reasonably light traffic on the way, we took the Porfirio Diaz exit downtown and took a right at the stop sign. The stadium and a parking garage were on the left. The parking garage fee was $7, which is less than the $10 we paid last year. It might be because we arrived before 5:00. Chuck wanted to try the parking meters on the street since it seemed to be cheaper, but Jacob wasn’t eager to risk his truck finding out.
There were only a few hardcore fans and a few kids in baseball uniforms outside at 5:00. Of note, it was also 100+ degrees outside the stadium with no breeze and no shade and no water. Jacob had suggested taking an umbrella, which we didn’t take, but I did lather up with sunblock before we left just in case. I only almost passed out once. (I was told I looked a bit pink later, but I didn’t get burned somehow.) As we stood baking in hell’s waiting room, we chatted with the friendly regulars in line for about an hour. At about 5:30, I could just see through the gate tonight’s opponent, the Albuquerque Isotopes, taking batting practice. By about 6:00, before the gates finally opened and we paid Charon to ferry us across the River Styx to our final destination, I noticed a tremendous crowd had formed up behind us. We may have been a bit too early, but coming early was a real good idea.
Inside, and God bless, in the shade, we each received a foot-high box. This seemed like way too much packaging for a little plastic novelty. I was glad I brought a bag to put our boxes in to carry, otherwise it would have been awkward portage. I left it in the box, but saw some other fans unpacking theirs. Oh my goodness, it was love at first sight. Expecting a cheap, little plastic toy, I was completely unprepared for how big and detailed this heavy ceramic statue was. This was a hell of a giveaway. Cody tweeted that it was the “handsomest” bobblehead ever. It’s hard to disagree with that. I found myself carrying it around work with me for two days, showing it to everybody. Jacob and Chuck would, more wisely, put theirs on display in their offices. We all made sure Ron got a good jealous look at them.
An usher was asked if Cody would be there. He said “No,” but he’d wanted to come. From listening to Tim Hagerty on the radio call, Decker is currently with the Portland Sea Dogs, the Red Sox Double AA team. He even hit a homer in his first game with them. In the 2nd, Cody’s mom joined Tim in the booth. She told him how, after getting a major league call up last year, this was her son’s proudest moment playing professional baseball, getting a booblehead. She was impressed with the likeness. In the 3rd, they showed a video of Cody’s highlights on the stadium big screen, including pranking teammate Jeff Francoeur. The crowd gave him a big hand for his time here, even in his absence, or maybe they were just happy with their awesome bobbleheads.
After scouting out the menus on the website, I visited the Hua Hua concession. The staff there was very friendly. I got a large wedge of pepperoni pizza, an order of garlic fries, and a medium drink for $15. The pizza was pretty good, so were the fries, although I was still feeling the effects of them into the next evening. They didn’t seem that garlic-y at the time. The stadium is unfortunately a Pepsi only facility, so I didn’t get my usual Coke Zero. They didn’t even have Cherry Pepsi. I ended up with a Sobe something sweet something. Here was my main mistake, not getting a large, or at least the larger souvenir cup. I didn’t want to have to go to the bathroom during the game, but didn’t realize how dehydrated I was at the time. After finishing the pizza (I nibbled at the garlic fries for several innings) and still having a half hour till the game, I got up again, looking for something else to wet my whistle.
I ended up at the slushie stand and ordered a large cherry. It was a bit pricey, but was completely delicious and necessary. Vendors would come around the seats during the game selling slushies, lemonades, and some drink in a pineapple, which they didn’t identify. As much as I wanted something else to drink, I decided the water fountains I found on the way back were much more economical. I swung by the teamshop and was disappointed looking for a 2016 Chihuahuas team set of baseball cards. They only had cards from previous years. Maybe they come out later in the season. I wonder if the PCL Stars pack from last year has a Trevor Story card in it? I’m good with my shirt and hat for now, and didn’t have anyone to buy any other souvenirs for, so no purchases there this time.
Jacob returned from his trip to the concession holding a hamburger and fries and angry. He’d come to try the stadium’s famous nachos in a souvenir dog bowl. After waiting in line for 10 minutes at Monchi’s, they told him they were out of cheese sauce. (Before the game even started!) Jacob kicked up a fuss and got a deal on a hamburger instead. While he was grumbling, I looked at his burger and commented that it looked big and good. After Jacob finished complaining, he took a bite, and then another, and was quiet until he quickly finished it. “How was that?” I asked. “That was great,” Jacob replied with a smile. That was a pretty good service save for the vendor. Meanwhile, Chuck, from chatting with a fan outside, decided to try his luck at taking advantage of the Wednesday “Seniors Eat Free” special. He came back with a free hot dog and soda and was very happy.
Later in the game, I finally couldn’t hold out any longer. When Chuck got up to get kettle corn, I handed him a $10 bill and asked if he could find me some ice cream. Chuck returned with a plastic dish with two scoops of vanilla and gave me back a dollar. This $9 ice cream was not Haagen-Dazs, nor Frusen Gladje, nor Ben & Jerry’s. It wasn’t even Blue Bunny. It was store brand, carton vanilla. Actually, the Wal-Mart brand chocolate fudge brownie is excellent. This was well below that. I was okay with the $22 ticket, the $15 meal, and even the $8 slushie (mostly because I was hot and dehydrated), but this was a rip-off. (That didn’t stop me from quickly consuming it anyway.)
As you can see, our seats were nice and close. We were sitting behind the really good club seats right next to field. Those were close enough that you could reach out through the netting and touch the players in the on deck circle (and get ejected). The attendants there were waiting on people there hand and foot. One of the girls there had a short, messy haircut, big glasses, and was wearing little rabbit ears, like a Playboy bunny with a geek-fetish. There was a young couple all but making out in front of us early on in the game. They were there with what I’m guessing was her father and her uncle. The girl looked just like a girl that I used to work with that I had a crush on. I was jealous. The guy was explaining the game to her as she hung on every word. It was cute. They left after a couple of innings, and I could then concentrate on the game. Later, I mentioned to Mike that the girl was a dead-ringer from his cousin and our former co-worker. He told me that she had a bunch of younger sisters at home. It could be one of them. (“You mean there’s more like her at home!”)
What else? The anthem was performed by an unassuming-looking girl in t-shirt and shorts. She belted out one of the best versions I’ve ever heard. Sorry I didn’t get her name. The video board was advertising for a soccer match to be held at the park. I didn’t get any of the details, since it involved soccer and I don’t care. A couple of jets flew over the park and in the background. Again, the stadium is nowhere near the airport. I don’t know why they’re coming over. The Wells Fargo building across the street was lit up like an American flag with the lights on it (too bad Ron wasn’t with us to complain about our rival bank again). The flags at the stadium were also at half-mast. Finally, fair warning, dangerous foul balls flew into the stands all night, sometimes hitting the roof and dropping into the crowd. The PA repeatedly told the crowd to pay attention.
The scoring started in the top of the first with a home run by #7 Stephen Cardullo for the Isotopes. In the bottom of the 3rd, the Chihuahuas answered with two runs via a fielder’s choice and two singles. I’m still trying to figure out how a single can bring in a runner from first without an error being committed. The Isotopes threatened in the 4th, but a double play more or less killed the rally. The Chihuahuas were able to manufacture a run in the 5th. In the 6th, Cardullo took a walk, stole a base, advanced to third on an error, and was driven in on a single. In the bottom of the frame, #23 Jason Hagerty was doubled in by #5 Casey McElroy. So after six innings, our score is 4 to 2 Chihuahuas. Are you all with me so far? It’s about to get eventful.
In the 7th, Chico walked by, going through the box seats. I yelled, “Chico!” He waved. More accurately, he put his paw up without looking, but I’m going say he was waving at me. I’m determined to get a picture with the pooch at some point. The grounds crew came out to drag the infield with an elaborate dance number. The young couple also returned this inning after being gone for five innings. I won’t speculate on where they went. #55 Leonel Campos came into the game to pitch for the dogs. He appears to be a fan favorite. After a strikeout and a hit, #9 Austin Hedges threw out the runner attempting to steal. An error brought on another runner, who would later score. 4-3 Chihuahuas at this point. The crowd itself still seemed pretty jazzed. They were in great voice for Take Me Out to the Ballgame.
The bottom of the 7th proved decisive for the Chihuahuas and destroyed my scorecard in the process, but that’s a worthy sacrifice. The Isotopes brought in a new pitcher, #33 Brian Schlitter, who promptly surrendered three straight hits. But on that third hit, things got weird. Since it went to shallow center, coach Rod Barajas held #4 Manuel Margot at third. Unfortunately, #2 Carlos Asuage overran second and got into a rundown. Margot broke for home and then he was in a rundown. This ended with two Chihuahuas at third. Margot ended up taking the out. Runners on second and third. Tim on the radio didn’t even try to give the full scoring at the time.
Then it got weirder. #30 Alex Dickerson was given an intentional walk to load the bases with one out, perhaps hoping for a double play or a force at home. Hedges came up and hit what should have been an inning ending double play. Dickerson was forced at second, but the throw to first went wide. From there, I’m at a loss to explain what happened, and I was there watching. After the play, even Tim seemed to be scratching his head. The ball went all over the infield, runners were going everywhere, and when the dust settled, two runs had scored. The official scorer even seemed confused. Two errors were charged to Isotopes first baseman, #17 Ben Paulsen, although that decision was made in between innings. I'd noticed Paulsen was featured in the Rockies programs I bought on my trip to Colorado. I hadn't realized he'd been sent down or why. After all that, we are sure of the score, 6-3 Chihuahuas.
In the top of the 8th, Campos left the game after retiring the first batter. He came off to loud applause and ritually touched the dirt by the foul line as he left. #45 Keith Hessler finished the frame. Isotopes #10 Jordan Patterson accidentally tossed his bat into the netting, swinging at strike three to dramatically end the inning. Schlitter came back out for the bottom of the inning and showed no ill effects from what happened last inning, striking out the side. #32 Jabari Blash came in as a pinch hitter in the 8th for the Chihuahuas. He’d taken a head injury in the last game and didn’t start. I’d heard his name a lot this season over the radio. He’s good and also has what is probably the coolest name in baseball. In person, wow, is he a large, well-built physical specimen. I’m sure the Padres really hope his playing skills can match his proportions.
In the 9th, I was surprised that much of the crowd was still there watching. From previous experiences, I’ve seen the dog pound crowd show up by the 3rd and leave by the 8th. Between the bobblehead promotion and how quick the game was going, they were there from start to finish. The Chihuahuas would end up winning 6 to 3. Chico ran on to the field, waving the victory flag. I stuck around for a few minutes hoping to see the final stats on the scoreboard, but they were only doing promotions for upcoming games. Chatting with Jacob and Chuck, I didn’t even try to listen to the radio and ended up getting the final stats over the Internet later. Time of game was a very tidy 2 hours 35 minutes. As I’ve said before, the fan “happy zone” for a baseball game is between 2 ½ to 3 hours. Our attendance was 8,200, 6,200 of which were highly disappointed they didn’t get a Cody Decker bobblehead after they saw them. I think the baseball capacity is 9,000 something, but since the crowd was there for the whole game, it felt full. I even remarked to Chuck, after going up to get a drink of water during the game, “There’s a lot of people here.” Sitting up front, you don’t get a good sense of the crowd.
Our obvious player of the game is #2 Carlos Asuaje, going 4 for 4, scoring twice, with two runs batted in. #10 Hunter Renfroe also had a great game, going 3 for 4 with an RBI. Chihuahuas’ pitching did a good job, lead by #27 Carlos Pimentel, only giving up two runs over six innings. For the Isotopes’ part, they got hits, and their pitching at least kept the score close. Either team could have been undone by their fielding today. Manuel Margot had the best catch of the day with a great diving catch in the 4th. Our stat of game came via Chuck, noticing on the scoreboard that the Chihuahuas’ lineup is mostly hitting .300+, even .400. With any sort of decent pitching, this team should expect to win most of the time.
We arrived back work quite a bit later thanks to several road crew blockages. Mike was still there working. I thanked him for filling in and told him about the game. Upon request, he took the picture of me with the bobblehead. Well, this is the second year in the row that I’ve gone with Chuck and Jacob to a game. We do this again, it’ll be a tradition, and I think we’re all for that. Minor irritations and inconveniences aside, we had a great time. It was a great game and a win, which will make up for just about any problems at the ballpark. I’m hoping to go a couple more times this year and looking forward to it.