He Does It All!

The 2022 Oklahoma City Dodgers are a vibe.

They are the most exciting team I’ve seen in a while with an energy that makes it easy to understand their record coming into this series in Sacramento. From the nonchalant too cool for school attitude of Omar Estevez, the slick laid back demeanor of Andre Jackson, the swagger of Miguel Vargas, or the cool professional leadership of veteran Kevin Pillar, it creates an energy in the dugout that is making baseball fun for this team and exciting for their fans.

Eddy Alvarez, shortstop for the OKC Dodgers had this to say about what he feels creates the ball club’s energy,

“I think the roles that a lot of us have, [as] a lot of us are…veterans now, [with] a lot of big-league experience in our clubhouse, and we’ve taken the roll as it comes. The big-league team is obviously a video game kind of lineup, we understand that. I think the Dodgers on their end have done an unbelievable job in just getting and meshing a great group of guys together; if you can tell what its like as an outsider, it only gets better once we’re in the clubhouse”.

The last time the OKC Dodgers played in Sacramento was in 2018 with a team that featured the likes of Alex Verdugo, Tim Locastro, and Donovan Solano. This year the Dodgers roll in with an 8-4 record and atop the Pacific Coast League East. The River Cats, at 7-5, are in a three-way tie for second in the West.

Game 1 featured a pitching matchup between Sean Hjelle of the River Cats, and Andre Jackson for OKC. While the River Cats would lose by a score of 10-4, which included a six run eighth, the fireworks started early on when Dodgers’ second baseman Eddy Alvarez knocked in a run in the first, and then blasted a monster solo homerun in the third.  

After rounding the bases and giving high fives to his teammates lined up across the front of the dugout, OKC Dodgers pitching coach Dave Borkowski said, “He does it all”, and that is no exaggeration, as Eddy indeed, does it all.

Eddy Alvarez is not your typical professional baseball player. A native of Miami, Florida, Eddy was born to Cuban immigrant parents, and while baseball was in his blood, he fell in love with another sport, inline speed skating. Eddy learned that to compete on the international level he needed to be skating on ice. That decision, determination and hard work led to Eddy being selected for the 2014 U.S. Olympic Short Track Speed Skating team which earned him a Silver Medal in Sochi.

I mentioned earlier that baseball was in Eddy’s blood, and that was manifested in his brother Nick, thirteen years his senior, who spent seven years in the Dodgers’ organization making it to Triple-A. Nick was a power hitter, and unbeknownst to me until recently that the two were brothers, I actually followed Nick’s career for a time. I live and write about baseball in San Francisco Giants and Oakland A’s country, but on the inside, I bleed Dodger blue through my Red Sox. After the 2014 Olympics, Eddy decided to hang up his skates for cleats due to the punishment his body was taking and the surgeries he needed to maintain at just 24 years of age.

Signed as an undrafted free agent, for nothing more than a chance by the White Sox, Eddy toiled in the Minor Leagues for five years before being traded to his hometown Miami Marlins in 2019. Eddy made his Major League debut on August 5, 2020 for the Marlins and would go on to get his first Major League hit off Jacob deGrom a few days later. Eddy credits his brother Nick in helping him transition to baseball.

“Nick’s career was kind of a steppingstone for me. He passed a bunch of information down to me when I made the decision to transition to baseball. He was the first one that I went to, to ask for help. Now he has three kids, two boys that are heavy in the baseball world. He has his own baseball academy…his own training facility that he runs the academy through; 25,000 square feet and that place is booming. He’s doing good, he’s doing really well, and the kids are doing extremely well, and we know he’s a basher right? He hit some far home runs that probably haven’t landed yet but he’s an unbelievable dad now, and it’s incredible to watch”.

In May of 2021, Eddy was named to the roster of the 2020/21 United States National Baseball team at the Summer Olympics in Tokyo, and would once again wear the Red, White, and Blue on the international stage. Eddy’s experience in Tokyo was much different than Sochi.

“It was a lot different, the 2020 Olympics, compared to the 2014 with everything being shut down with Covid, and no crowds in the stands. The 2014 experience was my first taste of accomplishment, something that my whole life I sacrificed for, but either way, I was so honored to be named one of the flag bearers, next to Sue Bird, and to be able to walk out the Flag, knowing that it’s a symbol of liberty and freedom. It’s something that my family came over to the United States in search of, so I waved that Flag proudly for them”.

Team USA Baseball would fall to Japan in the Gold Medal game, which earned USA Baseball, and Eddy Alvarez the Silver Medal. This would be Eddy’s second Olympic Medal, in a different sport, making him one of six athletes, and only the third American, to have medaled in both the Winter and Summer Olympics. He is also the first Winter Olympian, and first non-baseball Olympian to have played Major League Baseball since the great Jim Thorpe in 1913, after getting Gold in 1912.

Eddy isn’t the only Olympian on the OKC Dodgers roster; he is joined by Team Israel infielder, and U.C. Davis alum, Ty Kelly. One thing I was dying to find out though was about the beds in Tokyo. All over social media last summer, athletes from around the world shared videos of the beds as they were tried, tested, and sometimes destroyed for views. The one thing that none of them ever mentioned, was how comfortable they were, so having the opportunity, I asked Eddy and with a laugh he said,

“They weren’t bad; they were a little stiff, the cushions were a little hard, but I slept really good. Then again, it was like sleeping on an arts and crafts model of a bed frame, but it was perfectly fine. [They were] really easy to move, and really easy to clean under”.

Its hard not to root for Eddy and wish the best for him. Eddy is also known for his backflips, and one of his goals is to bring the backflip back to the game of baseball a la Ozzie Smith, which he says he’s saving for when he’s back in the Major Leagues. So, a tip of the hat, and a raise of the glass to Eddy’s success in making it back to the Majors, so that we can see that flip.

The six-game series would end with a split between the teams but was much more meaningful for Giants and River Cats fans as the Dodgers were knocked out of first place in the East, and the River Cats would take sole possession of first place in the West.

Key highlight of the series included a Game 4 pitching matchup between Michael Plassmeyer for the River Cats and Ryan Pepiot who is the Dodgers’ #2 pitching prospect. The Dodgers would beat the River Cats by a score of 1-0 with the Dodgers lone run coming in the first off a double by Andy Burns that scored Miguel Vargas. From then on out it, it was lights out. Plassmeyer, and reliever Wei-Chieh Huang combined for 15 strikeouts in the loss. While Pepiot struck out eight in five innings of work.

The tables were turned in Game 5 when the River Cats exploded for 12 runs against the Dodgers. Heliot Ramos went oppo-taco, newly assigned Luke Williams continued his hot streak by going 3-4, and LaMonte Wade Jr started his rehab assignment, but the story of the night was Austin Dean. Dean went 3-5 with two runs score, and four RBI, as he fell a double short of the cycle. Things got so bad that infielder Ty Kelly came in to pitch just to save the bullpens arms. Kelly was really zipping them in there as he even touched the low 80’s on his fastball.

The River Cats are off to Albuquerque next for a series against the Isotopes, the Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. If you’d also like to know more about Eddy Alvarez, and in his own words, check out Episode 8 of the podcast Sax in the Morning, hosted by five-time Major League All-Star, and 1982 National League Rookie of the Year, Steve Sax. Sax in the Morning can be found wherever you listen to your podcasts.

Launch Codes Activated

I am going to be honest; I am a little disappointed with myself this week because I did not fully think through how my plan for the blog this year was going to work. Initially I was planning to write a piece every Monday talking about the River Cats series from the previous week and keep you posted about other things around the league; and while I still plan to do that, I think I must change things up a little. I think focusing on the River Cats while they are out of town simply is too much for me to take on this season with my own personal schedule. Yes, I can regurgitate the nightly re-cap of games, but you too can read a box score, and there simply is not any passion in me to do that. I wrote a book this way, and I love it and hope that you will too, but my goal has always been to grow, and bring you more.

Going forward I will write my posts in the following manner. During the weeks in which the River Cats play in Sacramento, my stories will focus on that series and the players. Yes, there may be a story that comes up that I feel is a more relevant story to write, but in general that is the plan. The weeks in which the River Cats are not in town, I will write a more special interest story in which I try to merge life with baseball, because what is baseball, if not a metaphor for life? Each week I will still try to have updates about the River Cats and other goings on in the Pacific Coast League as the focus of the blog is the Pacific Coast League with a River Cats slant.

The River Cats end their series against the Reno Aces with a record of 7-5 after splitting the six-game series. Game 1 saw the River Cats take a loss in a game that included a controversial grand slam that broke it open for the Aces in the bottom of the fourth. Aces second baseman Camden Duzenak hit a ball that appeared to the umpire to have hit above the yellow line on the outfield wall that constitutes a home run. River Cats manager came out to discuss the call and would end up being ejected from the game. Video replay would later show that the ball did in fact hit below the line, but there was nothing that could be done. 4-0, Aces. Matt Davidson would also hit two home runs in the game for Reno as they beat the River Cats 11-4. Davidson, some of you might recall, is one of only four players to have hit three home runs on Opening Day when he accomplished the feat in 2018 for the Chicago White Sox.

In Game 5 of the series on Saturday night, it was like watching a home run derby as the River Cats unloaded for five of the eight home runs hit on the night. David Villar, and Luis Gonzalez each hit two for the River Cats, and Matt Davidson hit his seventh home run of the season, which is the most in all of baseball at the time of this writing, in a game that ended with a River Cats victory by a score of 18-8. The Cats were 22-50 (.440) at the plate with 18 RBI, five doubles, five home runs, and six walks.

The River Cats could only muster up three hits on Sunday’s series finale after last night’s hit parade and would drop the final game of this series by a score of 1-0 on a home run by Arizona’s #1 prospect Alek Thomas. Thomas has a six-game hitting streak going right now and has hit safely in 10 of 12 games the Aces have played this year. Sunday was also Heliot Ramos’ return to the River Cats lineup after a brief call up to the Giants last week, and he goes 0-4 on the day.

Around the league we see River Cats third baseman David Villar sitting second in the PCL leader board with five homeruns behind Davidson, and third in the Minor Leagues behind Memphis’ Nolan Gorman who has six to lead the International League. Villar’s 16 RBI also lead the PCL but fall second over all in Triple-A behind Worcester’s Franchy Cordero who has 18. Bryce Johnson, who led the PCL in steals in 2021 has five on the season, just one behind the stolen base leaders Bubba Thompson and Forrest Wall. River Cats’ pitcher Matt Carasiti is tied for most wins in the league with a record of 2-0, and Raynel Espinal leads the River Cats with 13 strikeouts in 7.2 innings.

The Dodgers have most of their best prospect talent in the lower levels, but come in to this week’s series against the River Cats with three of their Top 30 on the Oklahoma City roster who are #5 Miguel Vargas, a power hitting corner infielder who is the son of longtime Cuban star Lazaro Vargas, #6 Ryan Pepiot a right handed pitcher whose change up is considered the best in all of the Minor Leagues and is among the leaders in the various pitching categories in the PCL. The Dodgers #11 prospect Andre Jackson, who made his debut with Los Angeles last season will be on the mound to start the series for Oklahoma City on Tuesday and is scheduled to pitch against Sean Hjelle for the River Cats.

The OKC Dodgers also have players who River Cats/Giants fans will be aware of starting with outfielder Kevin Pillar, pitcher Reyes Moronta, and coach Emmanuel Burriss who played for the Giants from 2008-2012. While there are other players of note on the team, U.C. Davis alum and Olympian from Team Israel baseball, Ty Kelly has come out of retirement and is playing for OKC, as well as Eddy Alvarez, Olympic silver medal winner in both speed skating and baseball has been leading off for OKC this season. Alvarez is only the sixth person ever, and third American to medal in both the Winter (2014) and Summer (2020/1) Olympics in different sports. This will no doubt be an exciting week of baseball in Sacramento as the Giants and Dodgers affiliates face off against each other accompanied by the same intensity and rivalry by their fans at any level of the game.

Some people call us the Space Cowboys, Some still call us the Skeeters

Maurice has left the building.

The first series of 2022 is in the books and the River Cats start their season 4-2. This series marked the debut of the Sugarland Space Cowboys, formerly known as the Skeeters since their inception back in 2012 while they were a part of the independent Atlantic League. While the Skeeters did come into the Triple-A West/Pacific Coast League in 2021 as part of Major League Baseball’s realignment and management plan, the deal also involved the Houston Astros purchasing majority ownership of the team. The name change, and rebranding was announced after the 2021 season to better align the team with the Astros, Sugar Land’s proximity to the Johnson Space Center, and of course, cowboys because Texas.

People keep talkin’ about me, baby.

Game 1 started with Sugar Land first baseman making history as he hit the first home run in Space Cowboy’s history. A two-run blast off Sacramento starter Jakob Junis, and yes, it was reported that the ball made is safely back to Sugar Land when it landed. J.J. would end the six-game series hitting .313 with two home runs, and five RBI, with a 1.200 OPS.

Heliot Ramos and David Villar have been the talk of the series because of their bats, and for Ramos’ call up this weekend, but it all started on Opening Night. The River Cats jumped all over Sugar Land starter J.P. France on Opening Night. After walking leadoff batter Luis Gonzalez, France gave up a two-run home run to Ramos who knew it was gone as he shuffled hopped a few steps down the first base line enjoying the moment. France would last only 0.2 innings before the River Cats chased him to the clubhouse.

In the second inning, David Villar would crank out a three-run home to put the Cats ahead for the night, and then walk it off with a single in the bottom of the ninth to seal the Opening Night victory for the River Cats. Villar would end the six-game series only batting .188, but his two home runs, and seven RBI over the series were literal game changers.

On the pitching side, Sean Hjelle was almost perfect in his 2022 debut going 3.2 innings having only given up a walk, with no-hits, and five strikeouts. Raynel Espinal who put in 3.2 innings on Saturday night where he scattered three hits, allowed zero runs and struck out seven. The performance kept the River Cats in the game in the pitchers dual, but Sugar Land’s Chad Donato was just too much and he handed the River Cats their first loss of the season. Other notable River Cat performances were put in by former Texas Rangers top prospect and first round draft pick Luis Ortiz, as well as Wei-Chieh Huang.

Well, don’t you worry, don’t worry, no, don’t worry, mama.

Sunday’s final match of the series was all Sugar Land, and J.P. France who simply dominated the River Cats and redeemed himself for the poor outing on Opening Night. The Cats would take their second loss of the season on a windy Sunday afternoon by a score of 8-1. Matijevic would hit his second home run of the season, and France would throw four complete no-hit innings and strike out eight, until allowing two hits and one run before being taken out in the fifth.

The River Cats begin their second series today with a 1:05pm start in Reno against the Aces who come into the game with a 3-3 record after opening the season in Las Vegas. The Cats will be seeing some familiar faces as Caleb Baragar, and Braden Bishop who have played with the River Cats in 2019, and 2021 respectively and are now with the Aces.

Mondongo

I wasn’t planning on writing about mondongo today, but life happens, and you adjust accordingly. Mondongo is a stew made from tripe and vegetables with different variations throughout Latin America. Growing up in a Mexican household I knew it as “menudo”. While I’m more of a pozole guy myself, I was looking forward to trying a Columbian style mondongo until the San Francisco Giants ruined my plans.

Heliot Ramos, one of the Giants’ Top 5 prospects started the season in Triple-A Sacramento as the 2022 season got underway this past week, and today he made his Major League debut. So, how does any of this have to do with mondongo? Well for that let me take you back to last weekend…

I had the opportunity to talk to Heliot last week about his Spring, and what his goals were for 2022. We got a little sidetracked and as usual with me the topic food came up, and he was telling me about who a group of the guys would go out to eat mondongo before every game. He couldn’t remember the name of the place, and said that he would get back to me. Well, I guess that’s not happening any time soon because after his debut performance in San Francisco, I don’t think he’ll be putting on a River Cats jersey any time soon.

Heliot said that when he’s at the plate he tries to keep his mind clear, stay patient at the plate and look for the best pitch he could hit and put his best swing on. That patience paid off five days later for the 22-year-old. Originally drafted with the 19th pick of the 2017 Major League Draft at just 17 years old out of Puerto Rico, Ramos quickly ascended through the Giants’ minor league system and reaching Triple-A Sacramento at the end of 2021.

Over the last two Spring Trainings, Ramos continued to show the Giants’ brass that he would be an impact player, and when he started this season in Triple-A, it was on his first swing of the season that he unloaded on a 3-0 pitch that was sent over the left field fence for a two-run home run. In just four games this season Ramos had one home run, four RBI, and a .950 OPS, impressive enough for the Giants to call and he came out of Saturday night’s River Cats game after the third inning.

Today’s River Cats and San Francisco Giants games both were scheduled for 1:05pm start times which really put a damper on watching Heliot’s debut, but thankfully cell phones were tuned into the Giants’ game all around; including inside of the River Cats dugout where in a touching moment of humanity the entire bench circled around to watch Heliot get his first Major League hit, in his first Major League at bat against Marlin’s ace Trevor Rogers. I don’t know Heliot on a personal level, but he seemed to be a nice and humble young man, but to those who know him, he must really be special. In a cutthroat business like professional baseball, to have your very professional Triple-A manager, Dave Brundage, and your teammates, break concentration and take a minute away from their jobs to cheer you on 90 miles away speaks volumes about Heliot’s character.

Ramos was given a standing ovation by the Oracle Park crowd as he came to bat for the first time in the bottom of the second wearing a pair of leopard print orange and black cleats given to him by Brandon Crawford to which Ramos said, “I got flow now papi”. Ramos shined in his debut going 2-3 with a run scored. After the game Giants’ manager Gabe Kapler said,

I don’t think you can draw up any better. A hit in your first at-bat kind of creates a little bit of confidence and swagger. He maintained that swagger throughout. He’s been driving to this moment his entire life. He got here and took advantage of it.

(AP)

As of his own performance Ramos said,

Best moment of my life. It was great. After I got the first hit, I was more relaxed and it was pretty good, honestly. I’ve been waiting for this moment, so I just went out there and played and do what I do.

(AP)

Yes, keep doing what you do Heliot, you got the flow now, and I can’t wait to watch you pimp those home runs in The Show like you did on Opening Night in Sacramento.

Anyway, you didn’t think I’d leave you without giving you a recipe for mondongo did you? Enjoy!
https://www.mycolombianrecipes.com/mondongo-colombiano-pork-tripe-and-chorizo-soup/

Hot Diggity Dog!!

Happy New Year!! No, you’re not in some alternate universe, for me the new year starts on baseball’s Opening Day, and that time has come for the Minor Leagues. The green freshly cut grass, the bright white uniforms, the smell of hot dogs and beer lingering in the air amid the hustle and bustle of the fans, yes, this indeed is another happy new year.

While I patiently waited all off-season, and even endured the 99-day lockout imposed by Major League owners, there’s one thing I’m looking forward to the most this year, and it’s not watching the best prospects. Yes, I’m still excited to watch Heliot Ramos, Sean Hjelle, and Michael Plassmeyer work their way to the Majors, and there will be veterans like Carlos Martinez trying to make it back for one more run, but this year, this year is different. This year I’m looking forward to hot dogs.

The ever famous $2 Dog, Dinger Dogs, Green Chili Queso Dogs, the Diablo Dog, and my oh so favorite Greek Dog. These specialty dogs use locally produced Miller’s Hot Dogs who are based in Lodi, California, and topped with an amazing combination of flavors that will keep your mouth watering, your wallets thin, and you belly bulging. Here’s a quick description of the three gourmet dogs:

Green Chili Queso Dog, topped with white cheddar queso, hatch green chiles, and hickory smoked bacon. It’s a south of the border twist on an American classic that goes well with a Modelo beer.

Diablo Dog, smeared with cream cheese and topped with a house-made jalapeno relish, raspberry jam, and bacon. Its sweet, salty, with just the right amount of kick from the jalapeno relish. Oh, and the raspberry jam goes surprisingly well, so come with an open mind, and an empty belly because your tastebuds will thank you for it.

Greek Dog, topped with Tzatziki, tomatoes, cucumbers, and feta. You get a piece of the Mediterranean at Sutter Health Park, and make sure you class it up with a glass of wine from Bogle Chardonnay. Yes, this is what I’m having for dinner tonight.

If you’re not a hot dog fan, don’t worry, Sutter Health Park has a wide array of food options from ballpark classics, pizza, barbeque, tri-tip, and Mexican just to name a few. You’re bound to find something no matter what you’re craving. Of course, Sutter Health Park has more than food to offer, it is a Triple-A baseball park too.

The start of the new season brings opportunities. Opportunities to try new food, opportunities to watch the stars of tomorrow today, the opportunity to make new friends, and more importantly create memories. Those memories are not just for the fans who come out to the games, but players make their own memories as well. Heliot Ramos reflected on his time in Sacramento and the memories that he created for himself last year. From going out to eat “mondongo”, Columbia’s version of what many of you might know as “menudo”, every day with coach Jolbert Cabrera to playing against his brother, and 2019 River Cats alum, Henry Ramos in a professional game to which he said,

“Honestly that was one of the best experiences. I’ve watched my brother since I was like ten years old play professionally, and I look up to him a lot, he’s my role model. So, seeing him and playing against him, he hit a lot of homers playing against us, so its cool seeing him play like that. To me, he’s a superstar”.

Of course, not every athlete has a chance to play with or against their brother at the professional level, and their memories can be as pedestrian as the ones we make at work every day. Bryce Johnson shared his memory about when Mike Tauchman joined the team last year in early August,

“Mike Tauchman, came to us in Salt Lake, and he ended up coaching first base over there in the box, and [the pitcher] picks off over there [at first base] and I kid you not, like 45 seconds after the ball was already thrown back to the pitcher by the first baseman, he screams, “Back”!! telling the runner to get back. Of course, the runner’s already standing back on first base, but Mike Tauchman has a bunch of memories I can take from, I love that guy. He’s a character and he’s always got some trick up his sleeve that makes everyone laugh; he’s a great guy”.

What memories are you looking to create this year? Or what are some of your favorite memories from the past 22 seasons of River Cats baseball? I’d love to read what you have to say in the comments. If you’re looking for more memories from the Sacramento River Cats, check out my new book, “Let’s Get It All”, a memoir of the amazing 2019 River Cats run to the Triple-A Championship. Part One is available now for FREE on this website at https://dugoutblog.com/lets-get-it-all/

56-71

Minor League baseball is a bit of a weird animal. While one would expect a Major League team to be good or bad based on their previous season, Minor League teams never know what their rosters will be like from one day to the next. So, when the River Cats were introduced as “Your Tiple-A National Champions” before each game, it always was a little weird to me as only a handful of players from that 2019 Championship were still on this year’s team. That said, the River Cats ended their season last week with a record of 56-71, which includes their 4-6 record in this weird playoff thing that Minor League Baseball decided to do this year. It was a far cry from 2019, but so much in the world has changed since 2019, hasn’t it?


There were some good times and some bad, but worldwide pandemic aside, I should have taken my tweet from February 4th as a sign of what was to come. In response to the Minnesota Twins tweeting out the announcement that they had acquired Shaun Anderson from the San Francisco Giants for Lamonte Wade Jr, I replied, “You got the better deal I think”. While Wade would start the season with Triple-A Sacramento, he would become a valuable part to the Giants lineup this year, and even was named winner of the Willie Mac Award, awarded annually by the Giants to a player for their individual achievements, as well as competitive spirit, and leadership. Anderson found himself bouncing up and down with four different Major League clubs and a total of eight teams in eight months. While I was hoping for more of a season like Wade’s, my year ended up a lot more like Anderson’s.


I opened the 2021 Minor League Baseball season in Las Vegas. After writing about the River Cats 2019 championship season, I decided that it would be important to write about the first game post pandemic. Minor League Baseball had lost a season, teams were lost, but baseball endured. Game 1 of the 2021 season brought the return of Tyler Beede after undergoing Tommy John surgery the previous Spring, it showcased a piece of the future of the San Francisco Giants with Joey Bart hitting a homerun in his Triple-A debut. The Ballpark was electric, and although it was opening night and the first game since 2019, the game played second string to the return of Las Vegas native Drew Robinson, making his return to professional baseball a year after his attempted suicide which cost him his right eye. Drew had a rough night going 0-4 with four strikeouts in front of his hometown crowd, but the weird part for me was heading out to the Vegas Strip after the game and every channel had something to say about the River Cats and Drew Robinson. Robinson would have a memorable moment in front of his friends and family when in the final game of the series in Las Vegas, he hit a home run and the crowd erupted. Robinson didn’t find much success and saw his playing time dwindle until he ultimately retired during the year to take a new position with the Giants organization as a mental health advocate with their End the Stigma program.


Memorial Day marked a special night as local boy Sammy Long made his Triple-A debut and out of the blue we had a star. Tying a Major League record of striking out the first eight batters he faced, I couldn’t find a Minor League record, but I feel safe in saying this set the mark. Long, who had just a couple of years earlier been contemplating giving up his career now found himself on the fast track to the Majors and would spend the rest of the season going up and down with the Giants.


Sacramento was also the beginning of another Scott Kazmir comeback. After being out of organized baseball since 2017, although he did pitch for a Sugarland Skeeters developmental team Eastern Reyes del Tigre last season prior to Sugarland’s promotion into Triple-A baseball. Kazmir made his was way back to the Majors with the Giants as well as being a member of the Silver Medal winning USA Baseball Team at the Tokyo Olympics.


In 2019 the River Cats celebrated their 20th anniversary, and 2021 would mark 20 years since the last River Cats no-hitter, a 7-inning gem pitched by Micah Bowie. There had never been a 9-inning no hitter in River Cats history, but that changed in front of 4,458 reported fans on a warm summer night in September. Four pitchers combined their efforts to accomplish the feat, most notably with Norwith Gudino who started the game by striking out the first 7 of 9 hitters. He would end the night with a career high 9 in four innings. Tyler Cyr, Connor Menez, and Trevor Gott would round out the relief pitchers for the rest of the night who shut down the Salt Lake Bees offense.


2021 may not have been the season River Cats fans were hoping for, but the future looks bright with up and coming stars like Marco Luciano, Luis Matos, and Hunter Bishop. For now, let’s be grateful that we have baseball back in the City of Trees and let’s look back at some of the players that brought smiles to our faces as the River Cats released their annual player awards.


Press release from the Sacramento River Cats by Maverick Pallack
The Sacramento River Cats, the San Francisco Giants’ Triple-A affiliate, finished off an exciting season on Sunday with the reveal of their team awards. Seven different River Cats were named the winners of eight awards, which were voted on by their teammates and coaches.
Offensive Player of the Year and Team MVP: Infielder Jason Krizan
Infielder Jason Krizan was a constant presence in the River Cats lineup, finishing the season as the Triple-A West hit king with 136 in 2021. Krizan hit .316 while leading Sacramento with 67 runs, 26 doubles, 73 RBIs, 38 multi-hit games, and 18 multi-RBI games. He was also second on the team with 16 home runs, and even threw 1.1 scoreless innings on the mound.
Pitcher of the Year: Right-Hander Kervin Castro
In his first season above Single-A, 22-year-old Kervin Castro forced his way to San Francisco with a great Triple-A debut. After a quick adjustment period, Castro impressed going 6-1 with a 2.86 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, a .197 opposing batting average, and 60 strikeouts over 44.0 innings. He also had Triple-A West’s longest streak of consecutive games with a strikeout, punching out a batter in all 30 games before his promotion.
Defensive Player of the Year: Outfielder Bryce Johnson
It’s one thing to make a full-extension diving catch, it’s another to do it twice in the same game, but outfielder Bryce Johnson did it on back-to-back batters twice this season. The speedy outfielder consistently flashed the leather and made highlight plays for the River Cats. He also had a great season with the bat, hitting .286 with 65 runs, nine home runs, 44 RBIs, 48 walks, and a Triple-A West leading 30 stolen bases.
Most Exciting Player: Infielder Thairo Estrada
Prior to his promotion to San Francisco on June 29, infielder Thairo Estrada was arguably the best hitter in Minor League Baseball, leading Triple-A West with a .385 batting average and a 1.057 OPS. Estrada continued to impress with the Giants, hitting .273 with 19 runs, seven home runs, and 22 RBIs in 52 games. Estrada is the second straight infielder acquired from the Yankees organization to win the Most Exciting Player Award, with Abiatal Avelino taking it home in 2019.
Most Versatile Player: Infielder/Outfielder Will Toffey
Will Toffey has done everything the team has asked, playing left field, right field, first base, second base, and third base. He even caught some bullpens when the River Cats were in need. Despite the many different gloves worn this season, Toffey had a .988 fielding percentage. The midseason trade acquisition from the Mets hit .270 with 15 runs, two home runs, and nine RBIs in 31 games for Sacramento, his first year at Triple-A.
Most Improved Player: Infielder Peter Maris
Infielder Peter Maris excelled when on the field for Sacramento. During his end-of-season call-up in 2019, Maris was 2-for-35 (.057) in 12 regular season games. In 2021, despite sporadic playing time, Maris became a force at the plate, hitting .289 with 23 runs, nine home runs, 29 RBIs, and a .847 OPS.
Best Teammate: Catcher Ronnie Freeman
If you don’t like Ronnie Freeman, you don’t like people. Freeman is absolutely beloved by his teammates and has played a major role in the River Cats’ success each of the last two seasons. Over his final seven games, Freeman had four runs, three home runs (including the Sept. 30 game-winner), and five RBIs. This is Freeman’s second Best Teammate award, having shared it with catcher Francisco Peña in 2019. (End)


Now the only questions left for the 2021 season is whether Ronnie Freeman retires and if a certain person I know says “yes” to a date with him?? Come back in 2022 for the answer. Until then, Claws Up!

Nada, Nada, Nada, Not A Damn Thing!

I’m able to keep the fangirling to a minimum when I am at games. I even try not to show much emotion when my team makes a great play or comes back to win it in the bottom of the ninth, but just below the surface I still have my moments. In 2018-2019 I was fortunate enough to be a part of post game interviews with then San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, and although I’m not a Giants fan I knew that I was speaking to one of the best Major League managers of all time. Growing up, I watched Barry Bonds live his best life on a baseball field, so the day I walked right by him within arm’s reach in the bowels of Oracle Park blocked off to the public, I stiffened up and strained the limits of my peripheral vision staring as he walked by talking on his phone. Now, if this is how I feel at the times when I am lucky enough to be around and have access to professional baseball players on almost a daily basis, I totally understand how fans can get a little too excited around their favorite players. Getting excited is one thing, so when a “fan” is just rude to players, or feels entitled to their time thats when I feel there is a problem

Players understand that they are entertainers, celebrities, or anything else that you want to call them, but at the end of the day they’re just another person doing their job. Fans need to recognize that they are still humans with real lives, families, emotions and concerns like everyone else. Fans also need to realize that the event that you came to see are these players jobs. They worked harder and are better at what they do than either you or I to get where they are, which is why we watch them from our seats. It is this dedication and their work ethic that separates them from the beer league heroes who feel they can do better and don’t mind telling you how much these players suck. Players have boundaries and it is absolutely okay and necessary to maintain them. Players don’t want to be stalked and swarmed by people outside of their hotels because that’s their time to be alone and have some privacy, and as fans I feel that is something that needs to be respected. It can be argued that its a public place, but for these players on the road, its the only homes they have for half the season. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have a problem with someone approaching another person walking down the street or something like that, but it irks me to see people post online about how rude players are for simply turning down an autograph request even if they are kindly told that the will gladly sign at the ballpark.

On June 19th the Sacramento River Cats posted a photo of Jaylin Davis and Justin Bour on their Instagram with the caption “MANNERS”. According to a fan who witnessed the incident, there was a kid incessantly shouting to Bour to throw him a ball. Bour stopped and turned to the kid and said, “Hey could you at least say please”? The kid said please, and Bour and Davis continued to warm up a little longer. Once they were done Davis threw the ball to the kid who quickly turned and ran with his prize. As he left Bour called out in vain, “A thank you would be nice”. A similar incident happened to Joey Bart. Bart got frustrated at a bunch of fans being rude while trying to get autographs. While Bart was singing he said, “How about a thank you or hey how are you doing”? He signed a few more items in silence as no one said a word, and then he left. Eric Sagara, a lifelong autograph hunter told me, “I’m glad Bour said something. The amount of people asking for autographs and not saying thank you was horrible or maybe I’m just old fashioned”. Is he old fashioned or are we as a society that have forgotten what manners are? Is it oppressive to be polite now? “Don’t tell me what to do”, “You can’t talk to my child that way”; Judith Martin would have an aneurysm out here. It isn’t just how rude someone is that is turning off players, but also the intentions of many of those “fans” who are asking for the autograph.

Players get turned off by autograph seekers who continue to come back for more, so if you think you’re not being noticed, fear no more because you are. Having collected baseball cards for over 30 years, and having done my own share of autograph hunting, I’ve sadly watched the hobby I love turn into a cutthroat business. I’m not naive to the fact that there has always been a market for sports memorabilia and I don’t know if its just the openness on social media that we see the ugliness of it all now but its like we just forgot how to act as we come out of 18 months of lock down because of the pandemic. I was told by one collector that Joey Bart asked if the fan was from Sacramento because he won’t sign for those who are from out of town. After signing the card he told them, “Don’t sell it”. The same fan told me that not too long after that incident Bart told him “no”, that same day he was also snubbed by Tyler Beede, and Mauricio Dubon asked him how much he was selling his autographs for online. For those fans who cannot attend the games many collect their autographs through the mail (TTM).

Fans who don’t have access to live baseball games will send cards, baseballs, jerseys, or whatever they want to autographed to players homes, or to ballparks in hopes that their favorite players will sign them. Some players return your items in a couple of weeks, while others may take a couple of years depending on the amount of mail they get, and sadly sometimes you never see your item again. Sutter Health Park in Sacramento is notorious among collectors for not having TTM requests returned. Although this practice is risky for various reasons, fans who I’ve spoken with at the ballpark have said that they never have gotten an item returned by a player. A quick look at http://www.sportscardforum.com, a website that tracks TTM autograph requests, also failed to confirm any players returning items sent to this ballpark. I reached out to the Sacramento River Cats and asked the protocol for fan mail. I was informed that all mail is delivered to their On Deck Shop (team store), separated, and then a team representative comes and picks it up and must sign for it daily. What happens after that is still a mystery but according to a former River Cats player the items sent to him were never distributed and that he had to ask if he got any mail before he got it.

In my own personal experience, I limited how many times I asked a player for his autograph. I probably never asked anyone for more than 2-3 in a season. My main focus was getting a team ball signed, but if there was a card I really liked then I’d also try to get that signed. I made it a habit to only ask for one autograph from any player on any given day. I’ve had pretty good luck with my approach and was able to get team balls from the 2001-2007 Sacramento River Cats. Having the ability to speak Spanish once got me Felix Hernandez while he was standing in the outfield, and learning a bit of Japanese helped me get the attention of former Japanese star So Taguchi. Maybe that was a little extreme on my part but it worked. I will say that most players, regardless of how famous they are, are willing and grateful to sign for fans. I know that some will mainly sign for kids, but at the end of the day they’re still signing. So next time you don’t get an autograph just remember that this is their job, and they’re taking a moment of their time to give back to their fans. Maybe you get passed over when someone next to you got an autograph, but it was probably because the player was trying to give as many people as they could along a long line of people shoving things in their face without so much as a please or thank you. Appreciate the experience, be polite, respect their time, and always remember that they owe you nada, nada, nada, not a damn thing.

Home at Last – A River Cats Round Up

Its been over 600 days since Sutter Health Park in Sacramento hosted a professional baseball game that mattered, and back then it was still called Raley Field. The 2021 season started with two weeks on the road for the River Cats that took them from Las Vegas to Oklahoma City. Coming into their first series at home with six games against the Reno Aces who are first in the West Division with a 9-2 record while the River Cats find themselves with a 6-6 record with four of those wins coming against OKC. Fittingly tonight’s starter for the home opener is Tyler Beede. This is his fourth rehab start since his Tommy John surgery back in the Spring of 2020. Beede has been looking really good in his outings, and although he is still on a limited pitch count he has a 3.18 ERA, 1.11 WHIP, with 10 strikeouts and two walks in 5.2 innings.

The Aces come into this series with only two of the Arizona Diamondbacks Top 30 prospects on the roster with Seth Beer (13), and Jon Duplantier (22) who will pitch game two of this series. The Aces also bring in a couple of familiar faces as former River Cats Ryder Jones, and Henry Ramos are on the team and playing in this series.

The River Cats were able to get on the board early as Jason Vosler put them on the board in the bottom of the second with a solo shot to make it 1-0. Beede would then come out after going 2.2 innings throwing 53 pitches. He looked good through the first 45 when the Reno team started to make some contact. I could not tell you the speed because the radar gun was stuck at 82 on the board all night.

The game was a bit ho-hum and as nice as it was to be back at the ballpark, something was missing. The crowd wasn’t bad considering it was a Thursday and there are still some Covid restrictions that are being dealt with but I’m still missing the energy of the game; maybe its just me.

The River Cats got their first home win of the series in Game 3 of the series and they did it with Bryce Johnson’s speed who after stealing third, took home after an errant throw to win the game. Johnson is the guy I think you need to keep an eye on this year. I’ve watched him play a few times in previous seasons during his time in San Jose, and I found him to be a pretty good fielder, and fast. Nothing really stood out to me though, but he has me taking notice this year. A sixth-round pick in 2017 out of Sam Houston State, Johnson is hitting .358/.476/1.013 with two homeruns, 10 RBI, and 7 steals.

The highlight of series was Game 5 when the River Cats broke out 14 runs in beating the Aces by a final score of 14-9. 22 of the games 23 runs were all scored before the bottom of the fifth. It was a seesaw battle until Jason Vossler capped a five run third with a three-run shot, and Drew Robinson added a solo shot in a four run fourth.  

The final game of the series was a day game, and it was pretty hot. Tyler Beede was on the mound and took the loss. He only lasted two innings and threw 53 pitches, giving up one and striking out three. It was probably his worst outing so far, but I wouldn’t call it bad in any way. He was getting squeezed by the home plate umpire on plenty of pitches, and his fastball was sitting around 95-96 on the day. Tyler’s overall consistency has been great in my opinion, and will be a huge asset to the Giants once he returns to the rotation.

Not going to lie, I don’t remember much of the rest of the game except for the Aces pulling Henry Ramos in a double switch after he half assed a ball that allowed the River Cats to score two. The only reason I even remember this was that those around me were joking about how poorly Ramos would misplay the ball during his tenure with the River Cats, and here we are. Ramos’ misstep aside the River Cats still lost and are now 8-10 going into their next six game series with Las Vegas which starts tonight.

The River Cats will be playing six against Las Vegas with Jesus Luzardo taking the mound for the Aviators, and the Cats counter with Shun Yamguchi (0-2, 5.65). The Cats went 2-4 against Las Vegas to open the season, but they are both 8-10 coming into the series.

Jason Vossler was also called up after the last game, and by doing so was unable to enjoy a day off on Wednesday like the rest of the River Cats did since he had to be in Phoenix for a game against the Diamondbacks. Apparently, Jason didn’t seem to mind as he hit his first Major League homerun. I think he’d skip a day off for that any time; congrats Jason!

I have to say that I’m really disappointed with the new configuration of Triple-A West and its scheduling. Six-game series, and then a day off followed by another six-game series. I don’t think that this would necessarily be that bad, but there are only 10 teams in the League, and the River Cats only play eight of them. Sugarland and Albuquerque don’t play Sacramento this season.

On a side note, I’m thinking about doing a review on ballpark food. It will probably focus around the food in Sacramento and Stockton as that is where I intend to attend most of my games, but I hope to give you a little insight on what they have to offer. I need a cool hashtag though. Well, that’s all for this installment, see ya at the ballpark!

Viva Las Vegas!

The last time the Sacramento River Cats took the field was in September 2019 when they defeated the Columbus Clippers for the Triple-A National Championship. I wasn’t there for that game because I happen to be watching from the right field seats at Fenway Park, watching Mike Yastrzemski hit a historical homerun in the ball park that his grandfather played in, as well as being seated right next to the Giants bullpen. I watched the Championship game on my phone, while former 2019 River Cats, Shaun Anderson, Sam Selman, and Enderson Franco were in the bullpen. Probably the highlight of that season for me was being able to tell them that they were all National Champions.

This would be my first trip to Vegas since Covid, and I was excited to be back in Vegas. I got into town a day early; aside from just being a less expensive flight, it was also Cinco de Mayo so I was ready to partay!!! Caesar had other plans. While Vegas is 80% open, the crowds large, and social distancing more of a catch phrase out in public, the Vegas vibe was missing. Think of that TikTok trend from a little while back that said, “I’m alive, but I’m dead”, and that’s Vegas right now. It wasn’t all bad though as I finally took the time to try out the Taco Bell Cantina. If you don’t know about it, it’s a basic run of the mill Taco Bell with alcohol. I order my usual Crunchy Tacos and a Crunch Wrap Supreme, but I washed it down with a Tequila Twisted Freeze; it tasted just like a cherry Slurpee with tequila. I walked along the strip for a bit and then just spent the rest of the night in my room. Not very exciting but I overlooked the strip right across the street from Caesars so it was nice.

Opening Day was finally here! It had already reached 88 degrees by 10:00 am so it was going to be a hot one. Luckily, Summerlin, where Las Vegas Ballpark is located is usually a little cooler than out on the Strip. I started my day with a breakfast burrito, and was sadly disappointed. It was more Pico de Gallo than anything else so it was simply kind of gross, but the Mimosas more than made up for it. Later that day I grabbed my Uber and was off to the ballpark.

Las Vegas Ballpark is beautiful. If you ever get the chance to go I highly recommend it. For those local to the greater Sacramento area, think of Banner Island Ballpark in Stockon, but bigger and in Vegas. A 360 degree walk around park with a pool in centerfield, and the view from along the first base line and into the outfield is spectacular as you look on to a backdrop of the Red Rocks.

I had learned earlier that day that James Kaprielian was starting for Las Vegas, but still didn’t know who was throwing for the River Cats that night. When I got to the press room, and saw that Tyler Beede was set to make his first appearance since Tommy John surgery I was elated! I got to watch him pitch so many games up close in 2019, and I was at his final outing against the Rockies that year where he had a no hitter until he had to be taken out of the game due to an injury. If he’s anywhere near or better than he was in 2019, the Giants’ next ace is coming right around the corner.  

Although excited to be at Opening Night, it was still a little humdrum since the Giants Alternate Squad had been scrimmaging the A’s Alternate Squad this past month, and both teams are heavily filled with players from those teams; but at least these games mattered. The games batteries had a bit of River Cats past, present and future as Fransico Pena, the hero of the River Cats Championship run in 2019 was the starting catcher for the Aviators, while Beede would be throwing to Joey Bart who would be making his Triple-A tonight.

Tyler was limited to a 20-pitch limit and threw 17 before being relieved after two thirds of an inning. He managed to strike out two while walking one, so I would say that’s a good start. Aside from being Opening Night, there was an extra buzz in the air as Drew Robinson, local boy from Las Vegas, was making his first professional appearance since his attempted suicide last season which resulted in the loss of his right eye. The loudest cheers of the night though were for Robinson as the ballpark erupted like a rock concert. The clapping, cheering and standing ovations for every at bat were emotional. Sadly, Drew would go 0-4 with 4 K’s but it’s truly an amazing story that he was able to come back and play ball at this level. I even saw the highlights of his at bats on ESPN in the casino bar afterwards. I will leave Robinson’s story for others as its not my story to tell. Although it brings awareness to the necessity of mental health services and suicide prevention, I feel dirty exploiting his trauma. It took hard work and determination to get back, and it’s a moment for his family and friends to cherish and be proud of, but after this story I don’t expect to write on it again.

The Cats put a fairly good beat down on the Aviators tonight with a final score of 8-1 highlighted by Joey Bart’s first homerun, which was a two run, opposite field shot of about 350 feet. Thairo Estrada would follow that with a three-run shot in the eighth to cap off the River Cats production for the night. Overall, the team looked pretty good. Anthony Banda picked up the win working four and one third innings, while Kaprielian who really did look good took the loss. I feel like all those years of hope of Kaprielian’s potential might start to pay off.

While the River Cats looked good on Opening Night, they would end the six-game series with a record of 2-4. Tyler Beede would make a second appearance, pitching two innings, and striking out four. Bryce Johnson who is in his first season of Triple-A is the team’s hottest player hitting .565 with 2 homeruns early on in this season, not much of a power hitter in his previous seasons, he has definitely been an exciting player to watch when he was with San Jose. And James Kaprielian? Well he made his first Major League start on May 12th and beat the Red Sox for his first Major League win.

Only time will tell how these River Cats will fair this season, but they get their first look at another team who isn’t affiliated with the A’s starting tonight as they take on the Oklahoma City Dodgers. Claws Up!

Stone to Mayeux to Nakken

The love of baseball spans generations and with that ethnicity, social status, and gender. Alyssa Nakken was added to the San Francisco Giants staff in January 2020 making her the first woman to be named as a full time coach for a Major League team. She further made history on July 20, 2020 when she replaced Antoan Richardson as the first base coach for the San Franciso Giants becoming the first woman to coach on the field of a Major League Baseball game. This is the most recent chapter for women in baseball as women have been playing baseball for years, but it feels like no one seemed to notice until Penny Marshall made, “A League of their Own” in 1992.

The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (AAGPBL), which is featured in the film, existed from 1943-1954 and came into existence during World War II when men were being sent to war, and Major League team owners were looking to try and replace their lost income by keeping baseball fresh in the public’s eye.  The AAGPBL paved the way for women’s professional sports, but the Negro Leagues turned out to be much more progressive as the boys came back from the war. Two years prior to Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier, Toni Stone suited up for the San Francisco Sea Lions of the West Coast Negro Leagues, and in 1949 the New Orleans Creoles until before finally getting a break in 1953 to play second base for the Indianapolis Clowns of the Negro League, who interestingly enough featured a man by the name of Henry Aaron as their second baseman the year prior.

Twenty years after the AAGPBL, and Toni Stone played their last professional games, the Little League Federal Charter was amended in 1974 to finally allow girls to play Little League baseball. Many women have come through the Little League system, and while most seemed to be steered away into fastpitch softball there are a few who kept pushing forward such as Victoria Roche who in 1984 became the first girl to play in the Little League World Series (LLWS), Krissy Wendell who also played in the LLWS and went on to Captain the U.S. Women’s National Hockey team to Olympic Silver and Bronze Medals.

There of course have been other trailblazing women in baseball such as the Colorado Silver Bullets who played from 1994-1997 barnstorming against men’s amateur and semi-pro teams. The team was managed by baseball Hall of Famer Phil Niekro and included Julie Croteau who was the first women to play and coach at the collegiate level. Ila Borders would go on to become the first woman to pitch in a Men’s NCAA/NAIA game, as well as one of the first women to pitch in professional baseball after Mamie “Peanut” Johnson who also played in the Negro Leagues. Justine Siegal would get the honor of being the first woman to throw batting practice for a Major League team as she did for the 2009 Cleveland Indians, and in 2015 the Oakland Athletics hired her as a guest coach for two weeks during the Arizona Fall League. Justine’s accomplishments would not be the only major accomplishment for women in baseball in 2015.

Melissa Mayeux a 16 year old girl from Trappes, France burst onto International headlines by becoming the first women to earn a spot on Major League Baseball’s International Registry and becoming eligible for the Draft. Growing up playing baseball, Melissa first caught the attention of Major League baseball scouts while playing in a showcase tournament in Barcelona, Spain. “The first time I got noticed I was playing in Barcelona, and I got a base hit off a pitcher who was throwing 91…I hit the ball hard, but I was just being me. I wanted to be a smart player and try to hit in the hole all the time”, Melissa said. Ultimately the International Draft came and went, without Melissa being selected by any team. She continued to play baseball for the next two years and even spent time at International Baseball Camps organized by Major League Baseball for elite prospects abroad.  Looking back on the experience Melissa said of the attention that she got, “I was just playing with the guys. For me it was just like too many people talking about it when it really wasn’t a big deal”. Melissa is grateful for her experience, but she feels that women still have a long way to go in breaking into baseball and being accepted as equals, “I think (women have) come a long way but there is still a long way to go in baseball. I remember when I was in the academy no girls were allowed to play baseball at first but with the advancement that we have seen with American women, in France we now have a Woman’s Baseball National Team”. Melissa discovered how hard it was to break into baseball as she looked for scholarships in the United States, “I had always wanted to come to the United States when I was done with high school, and I was looking for a scholarship in JUCO (Junior College) Baseball and a lot schools told me that they couldn’t give me a scholarship because I was a girl. So my goal since I was young was to always come to the States and the only way I could do it was by getting interest through softball”, which is what brought Melissa to Miami-Dade College.

The transition to softball did not come easy for Melissa as she and her coaches worked for days on end teaching her how to properly throw and catch a softball, but she never gave up. After spending two season at Miami-Dade the time had come for Melissa to transfer, and although she was having a good season with the Sharks, and there were plenty of teams showing interest in her playing for them, she wasn’t happy with the offers that she was being given. Luckily she had an in with Louisanna-Lafayette, “We had an American coach for the international team one year and he was a good friend of the coach at Louisiana and he just showed him videos and that’s how I came here”. One of Melissa’s teammates on the Rajin’ Cajuns softball team was also no stranger to baseball. Sarah Hudek, daughter of former Major League pitcher John Hudek, has been a member of the United States Women’s National Baseball team and won Gold at the 2015 Pan American Games.

Melissa came out swinging in her 2020 debut with the Rajin Cajuns going 2-2 with 3 RBI including a homerun against Texas-San Antonio during a nationally televised game, she showed everyone that the hype around her was real. Unfortunately, the pandemic shut down the season, and like so many of us she is left in limbo, “Right now its hard because all the fields are closed, so my roommates with me at the house are trying to stay healthy and in shape but its really hard because we just don’t know, we’re waiting for something, anything”. Melissa lost more than her softball season as the worldwide pandemic forced the Tokyo Olympics to be postponed until 2021, and the qualifying European Championships which Melissa had intended to participate in were also cancelled.  

Melissa will be a senior next year and decisions will need to be made about her future, “I want to keep playing after college” Mayeux says, “but it all depends on the opportunities that I’ll be given. Its hard for several players here and its getting harder, the level of play is just much better than in Europe. You have to get better every day if you want to be on the field. I know if I don’t have any opportunities, I’ll go back to Europe and find an opportunity there, but I would really like to stay in the states because I would really like to make my life here”. The difficulties that all college students face have been compounded by Covid-19, but even more so for student-athletes like Melissa who are here on visas. Early in July the Trump Administration required that International students must take classes in person to stay in the country legally this fall despite the global pandemic, and schools opting to deliver their classes through online video services. This would cause an extraordinary hardship on Melissa, “Its stressful because we don’t know what’s going to happen. I have been here since before the virus started and I don’t understand why, it just doesn’t make sense to me. So basically when school was cancelled, I thought about going back home straight up, just to do something, but then the whole virus got crazy, and the school wanted me to sign some paperwork that said if I’m leaving, I’m willing to leave my scholarship, and I couldn’t do it”. Luckily for Melissa, and the thousands more like her, after this interview had been conducted the Trump Administration has walked back its controversial decision to force International students to take at least one face to face class to remain in the country.

Melissa’s story is just one woman’s experience with baseball, but day in and day out young women are fighting to show that they belong in baseball, the board rooms, and the front office. Women continue to make strides in baseball, yet when they suit up to play ball, the resistance faced by early pioneers like Toni Stone are still faced today 70 years later, and girls are told that they can’t or shouldn’t play baseball solely based on their gender. On the subject, Melissa shared part of a discussion she had with Sarah Hudek, “I asked her what she liked better (baseball or softball), and she said, softball because she wasn’t looked at like an object”. Society needs to change how girls are seen in the game of baseball especially as they continue to excel on the field. A new generation of women playing baseball has arrived, and the U.S. National team has stars in Kylee Lahners, Danae Benites, and Megan Baltzell, among others who blaze the path and face obstacles head on. These obstacles don’t phase Melissa either as she looks ahead she sees herself, “Living in Miami Beach, playing in a professional softball league, and maybe training people in baseball and softball, but I was thinking about this the other day, and I’d love to get into MLB and be a coach”. Well Melissa, you’ve been knocking on the door for 5 years, and Alyssa Nakken has just opened it.