River Cats Recap: May or Maybe Not 2019


April showers bring May flowers, but they didn’t bring baseball. Come to think of it, I really don’t remember any rain in April. May certainly had it’s wet days here in the Sacramento valley; that is until it got so hot to melt the butter on your biscuits come memorial day.

Writing a baseball blog is difficult when you don’t have any baseball to write about. There are plenty of stories to share but the excitement isn’t the same. The feeling to me is like being away from your family and friends when the only way to communicate with them is through pen and paper. Keeping in touch is nice, sharing stories of old brings a smile to your face, but none of that is like actually having them there with you creating new memories. When I sat down to write this week’s blog my intention was to recap the River Cats’ month of May 2019. I went through my notes picking out the vest highlights, and some of the low ones, that best captured the moments that made up May 2019. The month started with fans begging the Giants to bring up Mac Williamson’s powerful bat, but the Twitter storm began when Mike Gerber was selected instead. Days later Mac would force the Giants’ hand with a terrible three-homer game while Gerber struggled. There were also the Major League debuts of Shaun Anderson and Mike Yastrzemski.

Anderson’s debut was highly anticipated but prior to the first pitch the attention was on the Blue Jays lineup that featured baseball’s top prospect Valdimir Guerrero Jr. On the mound that day for the Jays would be veteran Edwin Jackson who with his very first pitch set the Major League record for the most teams played for, and amazing 17 over his career. None of that seemed to bother Anderson as he pitched like a veteran, and even collected a couple of hits.

Mike Yastrzmeski also blossomed in May and put the River Cats on his shoulders, yaz raised his batting average 115 points from May 1 to May 20 to .345 while batting over .400 during that span and earning his first promotion to the bigs. Mike continued his hot hitting in San Francisco leaving Triple-A behind.


Tyler Beede was the talk of the River Cats rotation, and if it weren’t for New Orleans’ Zac Gallen he would have been the talk of the entire Pacific Coast League. In Beede’s shadow emerged Sam Selman out of the bullpen with a 50% strikeout rate through May. Enderson Franco, after a horrific five weeks to start the season blossomed with two magnificent starts at the end of May. The River Cats, the fans, and even the Giants had just gotten a glimpse of the dominance Franco would have out of the bullpen for the playoff and championship run. The biggest story of the month came May 31, when Chris Shaw, the prodigal son returned to Sacramento after starting the year at Double-A Richmond. Chris went 0-4 that day while sporting a hideous mustache for “Mustache May”, sorry Chris, but with his return he brought a sign that things were about to change.


May 31, 2019 was a hot and muggy night in Sacramento and the Cats would be playing game 3 of a 5 game series against the Red Hot Las Vegas Aviators. Coming into the game the Cats had started the season 0-8 against Las Vegas. Enderson Franco got the ball that night and shut down the Aviators through three while striking out three and allowing only two hits to the powerful lineup. Sacramento would get things going to start off the bottom of the third with a solo homerun off the bat of Mike Gerber to put the River Cats up 1-0. Leading now, the Cats were about to take the field to start the fourth when it happened; the lights went out on Raley Field. During the delay I said to Chris Shaw, “Nice welcome back to town don’t you think?” To which he replied “I brought a power outage.” After a one hour and seven minute delay the game would continue. The gerber homerun was all the Cats would need to claim their first victory of the season over the Aviators, and set the tone for the rest of the year.


The River Cats ended May with a win and roll into June with a record of 28-28. This puts them in a tie for second place with the Fresno Grizzlies as they chase the Tacoma Rainiers who are on a four game win streak, and lead the Division by one and a half games. The Cats’ batting leaders were Mike Gerber and Mike Yastrzemski even as Yaz had settled with the Giants. Gerber’s .344 batting average ranks 7th in the Pacific Coast League, and his 11 home runs puts him one back of Yaz, but the most on the active roster. The inconsistent pitching that the team shows as relievers Steven Okert and Pat Venditte are tied for the team lead in wins with only three a piece; which is about half of what the rest of the league leaders have. Now that both Beede and Anderson are up with the Giants, Ty Blach leads the team with a 5.96 ERA and 1.68 WHIP, ouch! May also marked the end of an era as Mac Williamson elected free agency once he cleared waivers.


I didn’t think that this post would actually end up as a recap, but that’s the life of this baseball blogger who still longs for the day we hear “play ball” one more time. P.S. I wrote this blog at 3:30am after being inspired by Ricky Bobby overcome his demons and become “El Diablo”; It’s like spanish for a fighting chicken. Thank you sweet baby Jesus.

Mom

Mom died 14 years ago this past April. Born in what is now the heart of the Sacramento Delta wine country, Clarksbourg, CA on August 8, 1939. I don’t know what Clarksburg was like at the end of the Great Depression or as World War II rolled in, but the wine grapes were in their infancy as Bogle led the way during my childhood. Clarksburg was surrounded by sugar beets, tomatoes, corn, and alfalfa as well as the great pear orchards of Courtland  across the river.

Mom was the second of five children which included three sisters and their baby brother. I don’t remember stories from Mom’s childhood except that she loved to play volleyball and softball in what sounded like a church league at St. Joe’s and graduated from Clarksburg high school in 1957. A few years after Mom graduated Clarksburg High School would be renamed Delta High School. Mom’s childhood home was maybe 200 yards from my childhood home. I can barely remember it from my youth as it was torn down in the early 80’s to make room for a horse corral.

Mom’s life was difficult as she spent over thirty years with Dad and his textbook machismo, and later in life diagnosed with scleroderma. Mom had five boys and sadly buried one shortly after birth. I was the last, it was a difficult birth, and I arrived eight years after her last child. Mom hoped that I would be the daughter she had longed for, and was planning to name me Hope; as it turned out my name is David for my dad’s best friend.

Being the youngest, I don’t know exactly when Mom was diagnosed with scleroderma or how bad her condition was. That was just like Mom to keep things to herself so that she wouldn’t be a burden. Mostly Mom suffered in silence. This is what made Mom so special; though she dealt silently with her own pain she bent over backwards for her children, especially me. I was told that Mom almost died during my birth, but I was lucky enough to have her for 31 years: sadly I didn’t appreciate her as I should have. The scleroderma was hard on Mom and I still remember the last meal we had together at the Olive Garden. She didn’t suddenly die after that meal but swallowing food became more difficult as her condition worsened. As an aside, as we were pulling up to the Olive Garden, Mom noticed the Hooters across the street and suggested maybe we go there. Luckily she settled for Olive Garden. Can we say awkward??

Fourteen years is a long time and I’m saddened to have taken Mom for granted. I can barely remember her voice but I’ll never forget her laugh. Mom thought she was funnier than she actually was but that’s what made her laugh wonderful. It was a dorky laugh, if you will, and a little high pitched but soulful. My oldest daughter has her laugh and Mom would have loved that.

Mom always wanted a daughter and the “Hope” she had for me paid off on July 4, 1998. Mom was right there when her first grandchild was born; a girl. I always thought it fitting that her last son, who she hoped would be a daughter, finally gave her the little girl she dreamed of. I can still see Mom’s joy as she held her granddaughter for the first time.

My oldest memories of Mom are oddly the ones that drove me crazy about Mom. After a long day at work, and also being a mom, Mom would fall asleep on the couch, head tilted back, and begin to snore while we watched TV. As a child I would feel offended and wake her up to tell her she was snoring or ask why she wasn’t watching TV. She never got upset with me for doing this and would simply reply with, “I’m just resting my eyes”. It’s only now that I know parenting is hard, she was tired, and it was love, not boredom that kept her there instead of going to bed. Mom is getting the last laugh now as I often fall asleep and start snoring on the couch while watching TV with my daughters. They’re not as “nice” as I was to Mom; they poke, prod, and try to balance things on my head, or put things in my ear while taking embarrassing pictures. Damn smartphones, but Mom always did have a great sense of humor and she is finally getting me back.

My favorite memory with Mom took place in May 2004. I don’t remember the exact date but it was the Tuesday or Wednesday following Mother’s Day. I was working as the mascot for the Stockton Ports, Single-A affiliate of the Texas Rangers at the time. Living in Sacramento, Mom had never seen me perform so I treated her to a day at the ballpark. Upon arriving at old Billy Hebert Field in Stockton she was whisked away to her VIP box seats behind home plate but a little down towards third base, right in front of the Ports’ on deck circle. I checked in on her before the game to make sure she had her hot dog, nachos, and drink, and asked if she liked her seats. She was content but Hebert Field was an old ballpark with hard seats, no shade, and it was a hot day. After checking on Mom, I suited up in the walk-in fridge beneath the third base bleachers, and then started up the ATV that I would make my entrance on. The voice of the Stockton Ports introduced me at 6:50pm, fifteen minutes before game time. I shot out onto the field just past third base, raced around the outfield warning track, and sped up coming down the first base foul line and coming to a stop just in front of the Ports on deck circle, and Mom. I jumped up on the seat of my ATV and waved to Mom and the crowd. The PA system started to play my intro music, “Just Because” by Jane’s Addiction, and on cue I jumped off the ATV doing the splits in mid-air before landing on my feet and going into my dance routine. My performance ended with a cartwheel and then running the line giving the Ports players hgh-5’s. While they threw gatorade and bubblegum at me. Mom watched it all while laughing and smiling. Mom was proud. Her “baby boy” was dressed as a smelly wharf rat, but she was proud. I stood shoulder to shoulder with the team during the National Anthem, and Mom was proud that I was doing what I loved.

Mom is gone, my memories are fading, but it’s funny how my love grows stronger. So whether you bred them, bought them or stole them, whether they have two legs, four legs, or no legs, Happy Mother’s Day.

For Mary Lucy Espinoza (nee Davalos)

8/8/1939-4/12/2006

Darth Dinger

May the fourth be with you… and also with you. Wait, are we in a galaxy far, far away or at church? Nevermind that, Happy Star Wars day everyone!! Who else agrees with me that Episode IX, The Rise of Skywalker, was the best film of them all? Pew! Pew! I’m glad your shooting is as good as a stormtroopers, that was close. Really though, I love Episode IX.

One month of what would be 2020 baseball season is in the books, and virtual baseball games just don’t cut it for me. This week I decided to turn back time to what was April 2019 for the Sacramento River Cats.

Opening night 2019 would start the season with a wild extra inning game. It would be the first time in River Cats history that the home opener would go into extra innings, and ended with catcher Aramis Garcia sliding head first into home to just beat the tag and walk-off the game! Little did we know that this would be the making of an amazing season, especially as the Las Vegas Aviators would dominate the entire Pacific Coast League in April.

The first homerun of 2019 would come the next day off the bat of Stephen Vogt, and Carmichael native Zach Green, who came in to replace an injured Ryder Jones on opening night, would get off to a blazing start by hitting .500 with two home runs in the first four games. April would also start to put the name of some guy named Yas… Ya… Yaz… Uh… Yastrzemski in the minds of River Cats fans, and although many could say it, not a whole lot could spell it… for now.

Despite the hot offensive start in all of baseball, River Cats pitching was ice cold. Six of the first seven starting pitchers would fail to pitch more than four innings. Then there was Tyler Beede whose dominance was overshadowed by a bullpen that couldn’t hold a lead, and players who couldn’t field or throw a ball.

Halfway through the month of the River Cats were a dismal 6-7, and four of those losses were to the Aviators who were an amazing 10-2 at this point of the season. April would also mark the return of Mac Williamson to the River Cats lineup after being sent down early by the Giants to make room for Kevin Pillar. Williamson was a favorite of manager Bruce Bochy and barely made the Giants roster out of Spring Training. Although the writing was on the wall that the front office no longer wanted Williamson, Mac would go on a tear that would force the Giants’ hand to bring him back to the big leagues.

Saturday April 20, 2019 was one of the most memorable nights of the young season. The River Cats celebrates 20 years of baseball with throwback jerseys which featured the classic pinstripes they wore from 2000-2002. This was also the first locally televised game of 2019 and the fans in the stands and at home were treated with a total of eight home runs between the two teams which included six River Cats home runs between five different players. This would be the most homeruns the River Cats had hit in a game since June 17, 2009 when they hit eight! The best catch I’ve ever seen at Raley Field happened that night as Mike Yastrzemski climbed the wall in right centerfield on the run and extended his body halfway over the fence to rob Salt Lake’s Matt Thaise of his second home run of the night. It was a catch that should have been on sports center. The fans also got their first look at Sam Selman who worked two innings and struck out four. 2019 would become a dream season for Sam that would include a Triple-A all star game appearance and his Major League debut later that summer.

There were some promising moments in April, but there was also a lot of bad. How bad you might ask? On April 27, 2019 the River Cats FINALLY ended a 10-game streak in which they committed at least one error, which included a game with three errors, and a league leading 30 errors. The game on the 27th was only the fifth time that season in which the River Cats had not committed an error. To make matters worse, the River Cats were 4-1 in those games.
The River Cats ended April 2019 atop the Pacific Coast League Pacific Northern Division, two games ahead of the Fresno Grizzlies, with a record of 13-12. Tyler Beede was without a doubt the team’s best pitcher as he was 7th in the league in both ERA with 1.99, and WHIP with 1.06. Mac Williamson was the team’s hottest hitter and ranking 10th in the league with a .373 average, and leading the team in both home runs and RBI.

I hope you enjoyed our little trip down memory lane. It was a tough start to 2019 but in the end it was a dream season. On a side note I attended the May 4, 2019 game as both a journalist, and a fan. My Aunt Francis, and cousins Florence and John came out to enjoy the game with me as the River Cats took a no hitter into the fifth inning. It was an interesting insight to view a game from both perspectives in the same night. Look for my book in the fall to see how it all played out.

Pigskins + Cowhides: A Tale of Two Drafts

I don’t care much for football, I never really have. If you were to ask me who my favorite football team was though, I would quickly tell you it was the Denver Broncos. The reason for this is simple; my oldest brother attended Cal during the years John Elway played for Stanford and the rebellious five year old in me became a lifelong fan of the Cardinal. I would later find out that Elway spent a summer with the Oneonta Yankees so in a way my fandom still was rooted in baseball.

We are now in early May and there is still no sign of baseball, and out of desperation I decided to tune into the NFL’s “virtual draft” last week. There was Roger Goodell live from his basement, virtual boos and all, announcing the picks. I tuned in mainly to see who would go #1, and also to see who the Raiders, and 49ers would select. The lowly Cincinnati Bengals, who at 2-14 the previous season, had the first pick and selected LSU quarterback Joe Burrow. Burrow was considered a no brainer after the amazing season he had in 2019. Prior to the season, Burrow was considered a fringe player and Mel Kuiper had slotted him as a potential 6th round pick after a very pedestrian 2018 campaign.

Now a senior, at age 23, he became the fifth oldest player ever selected #1 overall. Burrow’s story is one that dreams are made of: but what about the nightmares? Although still going in the first round, and still a very respectable #5 overall, Alabama’s quarterback Tua Tagovailoa who was the long time favorite to go #1 slipped to the Miami Dolphins. Injuries over the past year gave teams something to worry about but the Dolphins gambled at #5 based on what he could do when he is healthy. To be clear he has been medically cleared to play football now. It will be interesting to see how both of these players’ careers unfold. Honestly I’m more intrigued with the #2 overall pick, Ohio State defensive end Chris Young. The commentators couldn’t say enough about Young and labeled him a “generational player” who can change the Redskins defense. It was also fun to see his teammate Jeff Okudah go #3 to the Detroit Lions. This pick made it the first time in history that the top 3 picks had all been teammates as Burrow played for Ohio State prior to transferring to LSU. I’m still not a football fan, but as a sociology major these stories fascinate me and the draft kept our mind off of the real world for a few hours, and although it didn’t cure the suffering, it allowed us to feel normal.

The Major League Draft is scheduled to start on June 10th, just a little over a month away. I don’t know if the world will be back to “normal” by then, but I hope that Major League baseball takes a page from the NFL Virtual Draft. I found it much more exciting and natural to see the player’s reactions when their names were called and the real emotions they shared with their families. Yes, you see that during the MLB draft, I vividly remember watching Tyler Beede, Kyle Tucker, and Brady Aiken celebrate their selections with friends and family but those moments are spoiled a little for me by those who attend in studio. An exception goes to the 2009 draft when Mike Trout was the only player to attend the in-studio draft in which was also the first year of MLB network. Honorable mention should go to Courtney Hawkins and his backflip in 2013.

The draft is the realization of one dream, and the beginning of another. One thing that this NFL draft has over the MLB draft is that due to the pandemic, the 2020 amateur baseball season has come to a grinding halt. Where as in college football Joe Burrow went from a potential 6th round pick tp #1 overall in his senior year is remarkable, but baseball players, especially college seniors didn’t get that opportunity. These”fringe” players may have had their careers come to an abrupt end, especially as Major League Baseball is considering reducing this year’s draft to only five rounds.

So what about Spencer Torkelson? Going back to before last years draft, the Arizona State outfielder was considered the hands down #1 overall pick for 2020. During the MLB season I even saw fans of losing teams hope that their teams would “tank for Torkelson”. Will Torkelson still go #1? Who could have stepped up in 2020 and changed their destiny? No matter who goes #1, I’m excited to hear Rob Manfred say… “with the first pick of the 2020 Major League draft. The Detroit Tigers select…”

Bubble Gum Baseball

Doctor, doctor, give me the news! I’ve got a bad case of loving baseball! Well there’s nothing much to say I guess as it’s just the same as all the rest, and I’m trying to wrap my mind around a summer without baseball as we know it. May is just around the corner though and that gives us some hope of a baseball in a bubble.

Major League Baseball has considered holding baseball in a bubble of the Cactus and
Grapefruit Leagues Spring Training Facilities to help stop the spread of COVID-19. Can
baseball be played safely in a bubble? Dr. Fauci thinks it just might work… if we aren’t there.
The idea is simple. Teams would play in empty stadiums, players would be restricted to the
ballparks and their hotels, and the fans can’t be there to watch. This move should open
everyone’s eyes to the fact that baseball is a business. Professional baseball is not always run
for the love of the game, but for paychecks and profits. There is nothing wrong with that, and
there is nothing wrong with loving the game. Would baseball in a bubble be worse than no
baseball at all? Are my hopes for baseball in a bubble just selfish? Maybe so.

Players appear to be in favor of the baseball in a bubble idea, as I’m sure they are anxious to get paid, I mean play. Yet this plan gives no mention as to what to do with the players’ families if they are on a strict lockdown? Talks have not determined if families would also be put up in the players hotels and there is no telling how the body of players would respond to the situation. Justin Turner of the Los Angeles Dodgers said it would be easy for him because although he is married, he and his wife Kourtney do not have any children. He sees how difficult and lonely it would be for single players, as well as the additional burdens the players with children will carry if they are gone for so long. Turner’s teammate Clayton Kershaw said last week that if his family were not with him, he wouldn’t play. Kershaw’s reasoning is that their 3 month old child has done so much in that time that he would hate to miss out on all he would do in the 4 months that he would be away, and he simply wouldn’t do it. How many more players feel that way, and what would the game look like without superstars like Kershaw? Having children myself and having spent some months away from them even as young adults is difficult, and it’s much worse for everyone when they are younger

I miss baseball. I want to watch baseball games, and I want to go to baseball games; but I don’t want to be selfish. I would watch baseball in a bubble, but I would think of the players and coaches if they are left without their families and friends. No, their lives would be far from those serving in the military, or anyone serving time in jail; but anytime your freedom is taken from you that burden wears on your spirit, and would ultimately change the game.

Who’s On First?

In a perfect world tonight would be the home opener for the Sacramento River Cats as they would start a seven game homestand against the Tacoma Rainiers, and the Reno Aces. They would be 5-0 coming into tonight’s game and the excitement from a Triple-A national championship would bring a sellout crowd to Sutter Health Park.

The River Cats look good, and the fans would have the hopes of back to back championships on their mind. Fan favorites Steven Duggar, Chris Shaw, Shaun Anderson and Sam Selman would be set to return, and the up and coming Heath Quinn. Joey Bart could be in the cards as Aramis Garcia recovers from hip surgery, and Heliot Ramos wouldn’t be far behind. Yes, the 2020 River Cats were looking good. Sadly this isn’t a perfect world, and if anything it’s a much scarier world than we are used to thinking about on a daily basis.

President Trump said last week that we are looking at this generation’s “Pearl Harbor moment” with the potential of thousands of Americans losing their lives to the COVID-19 pandemic in the upcoming weeks. It’s a terrible thought, and with 24/7 coronavirus coverage in the news, it’s one we can’t escape from with baseball. Baseball saved us after 9/11, and as a country we embraced the game. This time around we sadly face not having baseball at all!

A year without baseball is a nightmare I have to imagine, but a nightmare that takes a back seat to what we are facing around the world. There is one thing that is here for us every day, even more than baseball, and that is “family”. ’m lucky, in so many ways. I’m old enough to have enjoyed many years with my parents although they both passed over ten years ago, it’s one less thing I have to worry about during the crisis. My children, two beautiful daughters, are both healthy, young adults who took head early to the stay at home orders, and social distancing. My fiance, the rock of this family and my soulmate, is also lucky enough to work from home; so we are very lucky and fortunate. (Sidenote: the office to get a marriage license is closed, so apparently its not essential…Oh My!!)

This good fortune does not mean our hearts are not heavy. We both have loved ones near and dear to our hearts who are vulnerable to this pandemic and our hearts go out to them, and to you and yours. We may not know you, but we think about you. We may not be blood, but we are “family”; a baseball family. Take care of yourselves, cherish and look after those you love, and know that if you feel there is no one else who is, I am thinking about you.

So who’s on first? Family, but baseball is on deck.

Happy Birthday, River Cats!

“It was 20 years ago today.” The River Cats officially turn 20 as their first game was played April 6, 2000 which started a month-long road trip of 37 games in 40 days as Raley Field had not been completed due to bad weather.

The Cats were scheduled to open their season this Thursday in Reno against the Aces; unfortunately the COVID-19 pandemic has put baseball on hold. While we await to hear “let’s play ball” for the first time at Sutter Health Park, here is a look back at opening night 2019.

The River Cats started their 20th season under an overcast sky. The crowd of only 8,820 was cold, and the energy was low and gray like the clouds above them. Prior to the game there were rumblings from the fans about the extended netting to protect people from foul balls, and how it took away from the atmosphere that made Raley Field great. It’s Opening Night. Yet it felt like no one wanted to be in Triple-A.

Andrew Suarez was given the ball and would be making his second opening day start for the River Cats. Tacoma’s Eric Swanson, one of Seattle’s top prospects, would keep the Cats quiet with a strong start as the Rainiers took an early 2-0 lead. The crowd finally came alive when Carmichael native Zach Green hit a stand up triple in the bottom of the sixth, and then knocked in by Henry Ramos to finally put the Cats on the board. The Rainiers would add a run in the eighth, and the score was 3-1 Tacoma, going into the bottom of the ninth.

The Cats were down to their last three outs and the fans started to file out of the ballpark anticipating a loss, and in hopes of making a quick exit from the parking lot. Mike Yastrzemski had other plans. The Cats had two runners on when Yaz came up clutch with a double scoring Henry Ramos and Breyvic Valera; game tied. This would be the first time in River Cats history that Opening Night would go into extra innings.

This would also allow everyone to see the newly implemented “inherited runner”, better known in softball tournament play as the international tiebreaker rule. The object was to speed up extra inning games in Minor League Baseball by having a runner at second base at the start of each half inning. Having raised two daughters who spent over 20 combined years on softball fields, I was familiar with this rule. I found it to be exciting, and it proved to be just that on Opening Night.

The Rainiers would pull ahead to make it 4-3 in the top of the 11th and it felt like a punch to the gut; but the few remaining fans who stayed saw some exciting baseball in the bottom half of the inning. Henry Ramos would start the inning on second base, and Aramis Garcia knocked him in with a double to tie the game and bringing up Breyvic Valera. All eyes were on Valera, and the anticipation was high, but Valera stayed focused at the plate and hit a ball hard to the outfield.

Garcia, with the speed of a catcher, raced home and as the ball came in from the outfield, Garcia dove headlong into home scoring the winning run! The team rushed the field in celebration on what became an electrifying Opening Night! Little did we know that it would be the first sign of things to come.

I miss baseball and the 2019 River Cats season was a dream come true. Opening Day has come and gone without a single pitch in 2020. I miss the game, the players, the fans, and the friendships that develop over the course of a full season. Most of all I miss the stories that the game creates. We may be without baseball this year but it’s not gone forever. The memories remain, and the hope for the “next year” will always be alive. World Wars, strikes, and now the coronavirus have stopped baseball, yet the game endures.

Stay safe out there, and I hope to see you all at the ballpark this summer.

Beede Spurns Blue Jays

Ever since the debacle that was Matt Harrington, I’ve been fascinated with baseball players who decide not to sign after being selected in the first round of the MLB draft. So in 2011 when Tyler Beede decided to attend Vanderbilt over signing with the Blue Jays, it instantly piqued my interest and I started to follow his career. Opting not to sign as any draft pick, let alone one selected in the first round, comes with many risks. See Matt Harrington, and even more recently Brady Aiken. Beede gambled on himself, his ability, and his health during his three years with the Commadores; but his gamble paid off.

Beede would have a stellar career at Vandy which led to the San Francisco Giants to select him with the 14th pick overall pick of the 2014 draft. This selection would actually be higher than when the Jays selected him in 2011. Beede’s career was a mixed bag between 2014-2017 when he earned his first promotion to Triple-A Sacramento. There were some setbacks in those first few years but he continued to progress steadily through the Giants’ minor league system.

Beede would start 2018 in Sacramento for his first full season in Triple-A. Although he would make his major league debut, 2018 was nothing short of a nightmare for Tyler. After two starts with the Giants, Beede was sent back to Sacramento and relegated to the bullpen. Tyler’s new role suited him well. His second half showed much more promise as he was used in the middle innings by manager Dave Brundage as a stopper. Beede had appeared to
make a slight adjustment to his delivery and revamped his arsenal. The transition to the bullpen looked like a success. The changes and newfound confidence looked like the Giants had found his niche for 2019 and beyond.

When Opening Day 2019 rolled around, Beede was back in Sacramento and in the starting rotation; he would dominate the Pacific Coast League. Beede’s eventual return to the Giants was disastrous and he would last less than two innings against the Reds. Tyler would go up and down between Sacramento and San Francisco the remainder of the season with mixed outings for the Giants, and continue to dominate the River Cats in Triple-A. Beede would eventually earn his first Major League win on June 17, 2019 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. This was bittersweet for me as I was so excited for Tyler, but I’m also a Dodgers fan.

I was lucky enough to be on hand to see Beede’s final outing of 2019. Beede got the ball on a beautiful sunny afternoon in San Francisco against Nolan Arenado and the Colorado Rockies. It was a big weekend for the San Francisco Giants as they were honoring Bruce Brochy’s retirement at the end of the season. Tyler would make it memorable as he was literally perfect that day.


The dominance he had shown in Sacramento, and the reason he was a two-time first round pick was on full display for all to see; unfortunately something happened after one pitch to Trevor Story to start the fifth. Beede would be pulled from the game because he felt some discomfort. He would later say that it was a precautionary measure, and that with a little rest he would be ready to go for 2020. The Giants had a star who was ready to shine.

The stars were not aligned for Beede in 2020. He would suffer from a strained UCL and a strained flexor in Spring Training. He is potentially looking at Tommy John surgery and will visit Dr. Neal Elattrache on Monday March 9th. 2020 is all but done for Beede; he will return in 2021 at the age of 28 in hopes to regain the dominance he showed in 2019.

Cheers Tyler, you got this!

And now we wait….

It’s the Most Exciting Time Of Year.

If your mind went anywhere other than pitchers and catchers reporting to spring training then there is still hope if your next thought was realizing it’s baseball season again!

Buy me some peanuts and cracker jacks because spring games have begun in Arizona and Florida. Prospects are getting their first taste of big league camp, vets holding on for one more year, and everyone else who isn’t named Mike Trout or Garrit Cole trying to remain relevant enough to stay employed somehow, somewhere. Young stars like Washington’s Juan Soto even recognize that this is a new season and world series, heroics aside, he was signed to
be replaced.

Playing professional baseball is hard. The few who have the luxury to do so and succeed are athletically gifted, extremely driven, and focused. Having just the opportunity to play this game for a living is a dream of many, including myself, but it’s far from just fun and games.

I have been fortunate enough to cover the Sacramento River Cats day in and day out the past two seasons, and have gotten to know a handful of players along the way. One of the things I took away from these encounters was how normal many of these players’ lives are during the season. The money at the Triple-A level isn’t horrible, but most of these guys aren’t making the millions or even hundreds of thousands of dollars many assume that they do. Yes there are some “Bonus Babies” out there that allow some to indulge from time to time, but the reality is that most are just young men doing their jobs, enjoying themselves when they can, and then going “home” at the end of the long day like the rest of the world.


Players are pulled in so many directions simply for being a professional athlete, that it’s difficult to open up easily to others and it’s mentally and physically draining just to be in the public eye. How difficult it must be to try and figure out someones intentions and if they just want to use you. I even recognize as a writer and photographer that in some way, I’m using them too. Over time though we each get to see the person behind the mask or the lens, and that’s how the magic happens and the story develops.


The original concept of my book was to write a retrospective of the Sacramento River Cats as their 20th season approached. I had an outline of what I wanted the book to look like. I reached out to past players, including Sacramento’s first superstar Barry Zito, and asked them to share their memories about their time in Sacramento. I knew exactly what my plan was, but even the best laid plans of mice and men…


The 2019 season unfolded exactly like I dreamed but never how I expected. Part way through the season I slammed the brakes to the story I was writing, for the story taking place right before my eyes. 2019 was a magical year so I don’t know how much I planned in 2017/2018 will end up in the final book as real life is filled with uncertainty.


The plan was to release my book in the spring of 2020 to coincide with the new season, but life happens, and I’ve been forced to lay this book down for a few months. What is a personal nightmare may have just become a blessing in disguise for my story. I had been so caught up in editing that I lost track of what I wanted to do, and that was to write a piece that captures the excitement that River Cats baseball has provided for 20 years.


I hope you enjoy this blog as I handle life’s hiccups and finalize “Let’s Get It All.”

Introduction

I’m passionate about baseball. It’s in my blood. As far back as I could remember, I wanted to play baseball. Before I ever owned my own bat, I used to saw off the handles of broomsticks and hit rocks in the fields behind our home. There were electrical wires running across a small canal, and if I could hit the rock over them, it was a homerun. This was before we talked about launch angles so let me tell you, its pretty hard to elevate a rock about the size of a shooter marble 40 feet in the air, when you’re about 100 feet away and using a broomstick. Yes, baseball is my passion but I never dreamed of writing a book or blogging about it, yet here I am, with a concept born of frustration in the Summer of 2017.

My life is somewhere between Charlie Brown and Homer Simpson.