Watching “Moneyball” at the Site of Jeremy Brown’s Famous Home Run

Years ago, when I first read the book Moneyball, I had never been to a game at Rawhide Ballpark.  So during the portions of the book in which events at the then home of the Visalia Oaks were depicted, I could only paint my own internal picture of what the scenes looked like. Years later, I found myself working for the team formerly known as the Oaks — now Rawhide — and could finally see with my own eyes, the actual locations that these events occurred: the home run that landed in the skate park behind the left-field wall and, of course, the infield on which Jeremy Brown — the Oakland A’s 240 pound catcher and 2001 first round pick — rounded the bases after hitting his now famous home run, the one he thought was nothing more than a double that needed to be legged out.

As depicted in the movie version of “Moneyball”, Brown hits a drive to center field that he believes will result in a double if he runs hard around first and into second. However, as he rounds first he slips, falls and scrambles desperately back to the first base bag. His first base coach along with players from the other team, excitedly motion to Brown to get up and head to second base. Brown is confused. He didn’t realize that the ball he had just struck landed 60 feet over the centerfield wall.

This season, the Rawhide have set a new promotion in motion, playing a postgame movie after select Friday home games. Last night was Moneyball Night, which included the postgame showing of the movie on a giant two-story inflatable movie screen. Though the majority of the movie has nothing to do with Visalia or it’s baseball team, there are a couple of scenes where Visalia gets a mention, including the scene in which the characters of Billy Beane and Peter Brand are viewing footage of the Jeremy Brown home run. One couldn’t help but feel a sense of time and place during that scene. After all, the event depicted in the movie actually happened on that very field roughly ten years ago.

With the movie screen set on the grass just beyond freshly dragged dirt behind first base, I had a unique view of both the movie and the exact area in which Brown slipped trying to leg out his perceived double turned home run. In a way, it was like watching two movies at once. One on the screen and one created by my imagination: imagining the flight path of the ball (it must have been a low line-drive, given Brown’s reaction), imagining Brown scrambling on the dirt, imagining him getting up and trotting around the bases with the opposing team reacting to the unique moment. What was the crowd like? How did his teammates razz him in the dugout?

How often can you watch a movie at the very sight of one of it’s scenes?

Categories: Ballpark, Jeremy Brown, Moneyball, Rawhide Ballpark | Leave a comment

Tipper Visits Fresno for Parker’s B-Day

Though Tipper and Parker might have their differences, mascots have to stick together. Tipper was kind enough to giddy-up to Fresno this past Sunday to wish Parker a happy birthday. Soon, Tipper will have a birthday of his own! Head on out to Rawhide Ballpark this Saturday and wish Tipper a happy birthday!

Categories: Rawhide Ballpark, Tipper | Leave a comment

Working Hard, On and Off the Field

It’s been a while since the last post here on the Giddyup Gazette, but that’s only because I — along with the rest of the front office staff — have been immersed in our work for the past four homestands. My days include handling group sales, event coordination, the writing of the daily PA script, preparing Tipper, on-field games and pre and post-game ceremonies. That’s the short list at least.

On May 12th, we hosted our first ever high school prom at the ballpark, which was a huge success. Not having organized such an event at the ballpark before, and knowing how picky high school kids can be — I was a substitute teacher for about a year — I was anxious as to what the reaction would be. As it turned out, the students were great and seemed to be enjoying the experience from the moment they arrived (having the Lakers game on in the Hall of Fame Club seemed to be a big hit too).

A few days after the prom, the Choices after school program held their annual awards event at the ballpark, utilizing the right field concurse, the Kids Corral and the grandstand for the awards part of the evening. About 1000 kids and parents roamed the ballpark that day with about 40 vendors providing food and entertainment. Jesus Romero and myself helped out with the event alongside the Choices staff. Were we busy you ask? I think the pictures speak for themselves…

On the field, your Visalia Rawhide have won eight out of their last 12, scoring 86 runs in the process and, despite the hot streak, they refrain from taking any detail for granted. The ‘Hide took two-of-three from the San Jose Giants, though the team struggled mightily against submarine southpaw Jack Snodgrass. The next day, a couple of us front office staffers went out to shag fly-balls during early batting practice. During this session, the Rawhide coaching staff set up the pitching screen so that it stood almost behind the left handed batters and underhanded the ball to create a similar pitch path like the one they would see from a submarine lefty. They would repeat this drill pitch after pitch after pitch after pitch. The hitters were forced to sit back, track the pitch deep into the zone, and take it to the opposite field.

The coaching staff saw a weakness, even if it was one that would only be exposed a few times per season, and set out to fix it.

The team continues to work hard on and off the field and the front office staff continues to grind away, making sure that when the fans enter the park the’re experience is nothing short of a 10 out of 10.

Categories: 2012 season, Ballpark | Tags: | Leave a comment

Fresno State Alum Garrett Weber Joins the Rawhide

At 8 A.M. this morning, I left Visalia headed for Fresno Yosemite International Airport. The promotion of power-hitting first baseman Yazy Arbelo to Double-A Mobile left an open spot on the Rawhide’s roster and I was on my way to pick up their new teammate.

For a ballplayer, there has got to be an overwhelming feeling of comfort when you come home to play the game you grew up loving. For the vast majority of professional baseball players, especially at the minor league level, home can come to mean a clubhouse, a cheap apartment or a host family house. While each of those shelters certainly hold their own merit, they are far too often void of family and close friends.

The life of a minor league ballplayer is not an easy one. Long bus rides, a meager paycheck and the ever looming risk that you can be shipped in or out of any level, or franchise for that matter, without little more than a moments notice, leave little room for comfort or stability. For the newest member of the Visalia Rawhide, however, a promotion from extended spring training in Arizona to the comfy confines of Rawhide Ballpark is a welcomed move.

Visalia’s newest addition, Garrett Weber, had spent just about all of his baseball career in the Central Valley. He was drafted by the Kansas City Royals in the 35th round in 2007 after graduating from Clovis High School in Clovis, CA, but chose instead to attend Fresno City Community College before transferring to Fresno State for his Junior and Senior years. In 2010, as a junior, Garrett hit .387 with a .422 on-base percentage for the Bulldogs. In 2011, Garrett was drafted by the Arizona Diamondbacks in the 22nd round of the amateur draft and played in 64 games for the Low-A Yakima Bears where he hit .292 with a .346 on-base percentage.

“It feels great, obviously…this was one of my short-term goals, getting a call-up to High-A Visalia,” said Garrett, whose family still lives in the Fresno/Clovis area. “Being close to home is a huge bonus…My parents and my brother are coming down tonight. I haven’t seen them in a while, so it will be nice to have them here regardless of if I’m in the lineup or not.”

Hopefully that sense of familiarity and warmth will help Garrett smoothly transition into his new baseball surroundings. Though he grew up only miles north, and played  baseball against College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Garrett had never been to Rawhide Ballpark. He’s here now and hopefully he stays for a while and enjoys a little slice of home. Then again, hopefully his stay isn’t too long, because the ultimate goal of making the major leagues means yet another move forward to Mobile and beyond. I have a feeling such moves, though further away from home, would be a welcome ones.

Categories: 2012 season, Garrett Weber | Leave a comment

An Enlightening Home Opener

There’s nothing like the faces of co workers as they walk by you with a big smile and say, “Are you ready? (as in: Are you ready for this awesomeness!)” and “Happy Opening Day!”

The work that started immediately after the final game of the 2011 season was all for this, the home opener for the 2012 season. There was a threat of rain, but the baseball gods were smiling upon the Visalia Rawhide on this beautiful April evening — that and the fact that our grounds crew worked tirelessly to make the field game ready from hours before the game all the way up to the pregame ceremonies.

Not only were the gods smiling down on Rawhide Ballpark, but our players played like gods within its confines. Starting pitcher Andrew Chafin was nasty, allowing only three hits over six innings while putting away nine opposing hitters via the strikeout and walking no one. The offense exploded for three runs in the seventh and another two in the eight. There were defensive gems and hustle around the bases that would inspire Charlie Hustle himself.

For those of us working behind the scenes, this day was nerve-racking and exciting all at once. The pressure of not knowing how communication will work, or what glitches will spout up out of nowhere, was a little unnerving at first. However, by the second inning — though it felt like the eighth inning already to some of us — everything started to fall into place. While the Rawhide players couldn’t have done what they did without the help of their teammates, neither could the front office and gameday staff. It was obvious from the moment we all arrived at the ballpark at 8:30 am, we rely on each other and we pull for each other. We don’t just want our team to win, but we want the aesthetic and sensory portions of the ballpark experience to encapsulate fans from the moment they even think about coming to a ballgame. That can only happen if we give our best. We gave that tonight. We will do the same tomorrow, and the next day, and the next day.

We have talent on the field to make a run at a league title. We have the people working behind the scenes that can make watching their performance an enlightening experience.

I can’t wait to go to work tomorrow.

Categories: 2012 season, Andrew Chafin, Opening Day | Leave a comment

Rawhide Named The Cal League “Team to Watch” by ESPN

Prospect guru and ESPN author, Kevin Goldstein, has named your very own Visalia Rawhide as the Cal League “Team to Watch” for the 2012 season. The article is a subscription piece, but Goldstein names the starting rotation and return starters (Bobby Borchering, Chris Owings) as key factors.

Categories: 2012 season, Bobby Borchering, Chris Owings | Leave a comment

Rain, Rain Cleanse Us Today…Then Go Away

People associate baseball with bright green grass and sunny skies, not rain, a dampened infield and grey skies. Alas, mother nature will have her way, Opening Day or not.

We’re keeping our fingers crossed that Thursday’s home opener will go on without any interference from the atmosphere, but one thing is for sure, our grounds crew won’t rest until they have depleted any and all resources. As I write this, our head groundskeeper is on the phone making emergency preparations just in case the rain lingers longer than it’s welcome.

While rain is served in a negative connotation, we can look at Wednesday’s events (rain, thunderstorms, tornado warnings!) in a positive light. This is just the baseball God’s way of cleansing our beautiful ballpark so that it is as crisp as possible for our Opening Day.

Let the rain fall, wash away the few remaining blemishes and leave without a sound as to symbolize a minty fresh start to the 2012 season at Rawhide Ballpark!

Categories: Ballpark, Opening Day, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Final Push Toward Opening Day

Working for a minor league baseball team is a unique profession. We’re salesmen, media relations gurus, marketing experts and more. We spend the offseason working with clients, booking groups, reinvesting in our facility, coming up with new ideas and keeping in touch with our fan base, among other things. However, as the days tick down toward the home opener, we transform. We no longer wear polos and slacks. We’re no longer office workers. We become painters, carpenters, gardeners and cleaning experts. We start working at 8 AM and don’t stop until we get the job done.

We don’t do this for ourselves, though it is certainly a pleasure to come to work at a beautiful ballpark. Our ballpark is for the fans and the city of Visalia. The ballpark in and of itself deserves to be the sparkling gem of the city; a gathering place where families, friends and business associates can come and spend an evening or a day enjoying the baseball on the field as well as the all-around entertainment confined within the walls of Rawhide Ballpark.

As our team is on the road putting together a terrific start to the season, we — the front office staff — have been busy making sure the ballpark looks amazing and that our players come home to the best playing surface in the Cal League.

The last and most important ingredient, of course, is the fans. While there is already a buzz about the ballpark — with our new signage and brand new kids corral wiffle ball field ready for action — the real buzz doesn’t start until the fans fill the stands and we can see with our own eyes the smiles and delight in the faces of both young and old. That’s when all of the things we have been working on all offseason come to fruition.

The 2012 season has a chance to be a special one, but it’s nothing without you. Come on out to the ballpark and spend a season with us. We’re ready for some Rawhide Baseball.

Categories: Ballpark, Offseason, Opening Day | Leave a comment

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