Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Checking Back In...

By: Spenser Smith

Just how quickly has this season gone by?

Quickly enough that nearly a month has passed with no blog post! Busy road trips, late-night dinners and game write-ups, and now a two-credit online Geography course--such is the lot of a West Coast League broadcaster straight out of college. But make no mistake, this summer has been a remarkably fun experience.

Since the last post, we've seen an all-star rainout in Klamath Falls, two series faraway in southern Oregon, a trip to the Kitsap Peninsula where we got back on track with a sweep of the Bluejackets in Bremerton, and our final day off of the season yesterday.

It's a bittersweet fact that our final home series of the season is now upon us--we are looking forward to a fun and eventful three-game set against Victoria, with a house packed full of loud and supportive fans, but therein lies the disappointing side--those are exactly the things I will miss as this season comes to an end. The fan support has been stellar, and the Sweets are going to do everything within their power to make sure that the end of the regular season does not mean the end of their season--folks, we're still in the hunt for a playoff spot! After these three games at Borleske against Victoria, we'll head up north of the border to face the Kelowna Falcons for the final series of the season, hoping to increase our playoff chances.

Join us these next few nights at Borleske Stadium, as Matt Walker, Cody Carroll and Spencer Hobson have drawn the starting pitching assignments for our last three home games! And don't forget that it's $2 Tuesday, 6 for 36 Wednesday, and Fan Appreciation Night--which means a homestand full of friends, fun and (at the end) fireworks. Hope to see you out there!

Go Sweets!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

What a Weekend!

By: Spenser Smith

Hey fans, Spenser here. Sorry about the blogging hiatus last week--lots going on with the six-game road trip to Bend and Yakima, plus Fourth of July weekend back here at home!

The Bend series clearly didn't go the way we wanted, but the boys bounced back to take two of three from the Pippins in Yakima, including a 5-3 win in 11 innings in their very first matchup on June 30. Yakima County Stadium is looking great by the way; I remember when the Northwest League's Yakima Bears played there, when the walls were blue and that big, black netting still hung from the poles on the third base side. But the Pippins' staff did an incredible job of giving that park a revitalization, and the new colors of "Legends" green, Pippin green and baby blue bring a fresh new feel to the formerly vacant venue.

After the short drive home, we took on those same Pippins in another three-game set at Borleske because, you know, they liked us so much after that first series! We proceeded to take two of three from them again, and at this writing we are waiting for a hopeful series sweep of Cowlitz.

You know those warm summer days when it's nice to take a dip in the pool, sip a lemonade on the porch and enjoy America's national pastime on the radio? Well folks, those days are officially here. After a rough start, the Sweets have become just as hot as the parking lot pavement at Borleske Stadium, winning four straight games, and six of their last eight. And much of it is thanks to you, the fans! Because of you, they have someone to cheer them on at home games, and even occasionally on the road. Because of you, they have nice places to stay for home-cooked meals and a home away from home. And because of you, the Walla Walla Sweets are still the biggest summer entertainment draw in the valley!

So tonight we look to Cody Carroll, the right-hander from Elliston, Montana, for dominance on the mound as we aim for the sweep of the Black Bears. His parents, Dave and Lisa, have stated their appreciation for the hospitality that the organization has shown and we are certainly happy to have him as a part of the Sweets family this summer. I've also heard positive feedback from other players' parents and relatives, and I won't list them all because there have been so many!

The fun continues as we move deeper into July, and our boys of summer have less than two weeks to go before the WCL All-Star game in Klamath Falls. Thank you all for the kind words about the broadcasts--it is my job to let you know how your boys are doing on the field, and I can't think of a better way to spend summer afternoons and evenings across the northwest than to describe the action of a sport that I have loved since childhood.

More next week. Go Sweets!

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

No Place Like Home

By: Spenser Smith

Although the series didn't end the way we had hoped, our trip to Wenatchee this past weekend was one to remember.

We took the classic route, technically the only route from our direction--driving right around the edge of Pasco and making our way past the endless farmland that covers the landscape. Which reminds me, nowhere else besides just outside of the little town of Quincy have I ever seen roadside crops actually labeled for the sightseer's convenience! "Timothy," "Peas," and a variety of other signs stand as helpful visual aids to those less familiar with the area and its chief exports.

And then, of course, after winding through a clump of apple orchards for which the region is known, we found our way into Wenatchee. There, you find yourself amidst an incredible valley, intricately carved out by the Columbia River. Trees dot the hillsides here and there, and fittingly enough, this picturesque city houses a very nice ballpark.

Paul Thomas Sr. Field sits on the campus of Wenatchee Valley College, whose baseball program shares the facility with the Applesox. Visiting broadcasters must work outdoors here, but aside from the heavy wind gusts on the first night, the weather was actually quite pleasant for outdoor broadcasts. I set up my equipment on a folding table located atop a riser next to the Applesox main press box, and thoroughly enjoyed the sights and sounds of the game, as well as some brief interactions with fans of both teams between innings.

We rallied to beat the Applesox 15-5 in the first game on Friday, backed by three men hitting their first home runs of the season: Jarod Gonzales, J.J. Robinson and Mark Contreras.

In the final two games, though, the Sox showed exactly why they sit atop the standings this season, allowing the Sweets a combined four runs while scoring twelve of their own to take the series.

Now that we're back home, our boys of summer were able to hold down the Thurston County Senators in non-league play last night with a 3-2 win. It may not count in the standings, but it's a good morale-booster as we inch closer to our six-game road trip to Bend and Yakima, beginning Friday.

As much fun as these road trips are, there really is no place like home. Two more games to go against the Senators, and then a day off before we hit the road again.

It's been a great summer so far thanks to you fans, and we're still just getting started. Come on out to Borleske Stadium and catch as many games as you can, we can't wait to see you!

Go Sweets!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Road Trips, Rain and Turf

By: Spenser Smith

Well, Sweets fans, it appears that fall has arrived early in the Walla Walla Valley. Or so it seems, right? Gloomy, gray skies and some rain have suddenly replaced the signature warmth that we have all come to associate with the month of June.

It caused us to (reluctantly) call our first rainout of the season yesterday, prompting a doubleheader set to begin at 4:05 today, with the second game to start thirty minutes after the first game's conclusion.

But the Sweets and I also experienced another first recently--the first road trip of the season. We hopped onto the team bus at 8 AM Saturday and headed to Corvallis. The wind howled and swirled through the Columbia River Gorge all throughout our drive, but the scenery was eye-pleasing as usual. Rolling farmland shifted to steep cliffs and sagebrush as we passed the turn to Hermiston, which in turn gave way to pine trees and a distant snow-capped peak while leaving The Dalles after a quick stop for lunch.

By late afternoon, we reached Goss Stadium in Corvallis, which houses one of the most successful NCAA Division I college baseball programs of the past decade, the Oregon State Beavers. I could feel the history sink in as I gazed across the green, natural-grass outfield, to the point where it met the brown infield turf.

Oh, that's another thing...many of you folks reading this post probably remember watching baseball on turf: the groundball triple, the rug-burn diving catch...they all came to life while players sporting uniforms of powder blue, bright orange, and even bumblebee patterns battled it out in cookie-cutter stadiums built to house every professional sports team in town under one roof.

But Goss Stadium is a different animal entirely. Here, the turf combats the steady rainfall that the region typically receives, and infielders often remark at the clean, predictable hops it offers on groundballs. The wind consistently blows out toward left field, making it a very friendly park for right-handed pull hitters--special shout-out here to Parker Osborne, who hit his first two home runs of the season on this trip!

In the end, the Knights got the best of us in the first two games, but the Sweets hammered out 13 runs in the final game to end the series on a more positive note.

So for those of you worrying that we brought that western Oregon weather back with us on the bus, fear not, friends...sunshine is just around the corner.

Go Sweets!

Monday, June 9, 2014

Happy Monday!

By: Spenser Smith

Hello again, Sweets fans. I'm sure you are all well aware that this past weekend didn't quite go as planned, as the Sweets dropped the season-opening series against Bellingham, two games to one.

We did, however, see plenty of positives: Jesse Houser persevered on the mound in his Saturday start, pitching very well under pressure with runners on base. Players up and down the lineup are consistently putting together good at-bats and making solid contact. Also, Andrew Mendenhall and Jordan Frabasilio hit the first Sweets home runs of 2014, which brought the Borleske Stadium crowd to its feet in the first and third games of the series, respectively.

Speaking of Frabasilio, I had the chance to speak with him prior to Sunday's game. He joins us from Chandler, Arizona, and says his favorite thing about Walla Walla so far is the weather, enjoying a break from the already-high summer temperatures in his hometown. He's also longtime buddies with outfielder and teammate, Parker Osborne--the two met as kindergarteners, grew up together and even attended the same high school, then went on to play ball against each other in junior college. So as most others on the team get to know each other for the first time, the Arizona natives Frabasilio and Osborne are happy to have ended up on the same team once again, and both will look to contribute to a winning effort this season.

As the season goes on, I look forward to getting to know each of the players from an off-the-field standpoint, as well as (hopefully) connecting with their families and/or host families, who I'm sure are cheering them on with every pitch. Building friendly working relationships is very important for a baseball organization over the course of the 60-game West Coast League season, and despite the end results of two of our first three games, the team is already well on its way to becoming a more cohesive unit.

The Sweets will play a non-league game against the Central Oregon Bucks today at 7:05 PM and regroup before taking on the division-rival Kelowna Falcons in a three-game series beginning tomorrow. So join us this week, we can't wait to see you!

Go Sweets!

Monday, June 2, 2014

The Final Countdown

By: Spenser Smith

Don't be alarmed. If the title of this post frightened you into thinking that you were about to encounter a cheesy, nostalgic '80s pop culture piece, think again.

It's the final countdown to Opening Day! As I walked up to the front door of the Sweets Shoppe this morning, I froze in my tracks upon realizing that the big day is now just three days away, as proudly proclaimed by our sidewalk sandwich board. Where had the time gone? Had I spent too much time soaking up the sun's powerful UV rays? Spending my evenings watching the Mariners on TV? Tweeting about every single #sunnyday #beautifulday #sunset and #sunburn as it occurred?

Not exactly. Though I've watched plenty of my beloved Mariners' games this season (cheers to being a .500 team again!), I've spent the bulk of my time, along with the rest of the front office and team staff, in enthusiastic preparation for the upcoming season. Playing around with the layout of the Borleske Bulletin, updating player information online, working the social media front, physically prepping Borleske for the big day...it's been a wildly busy first leg of the summer, but it all boils down to the excitement of the fast-approaching season.

Now, with Saturday's wildly successful Battle of the Badge in the rearview mirror (if you missed it, the firefighters won 10-2), it's time to take care of some last-minute details over the next 72 hours. This Thursday, the 2014 Sweets will takes the field for Opening Day against a potent Sweets alumni team, featuring a variety of players you've seen at various times over the past four years here in the valley. Grab your tickets now, they're selling quickly!

And finally, it's time to prepare for the regular season as well. The Bellingham Bells will come to town for a three-game series beginning Friday at 7:05 PM. Looking forward to seeing you fans out there, and I wish everyone a great first week of June. Go Sweets!

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Our Heroes

By: Spenser Smith

Who are your baseball heroes? Some of the more "seasoned" folks who read this blog may have fond memories of seeing Mickey Mantle, Sandy Koufax, Johnny Bench and other legends take the field in baseball's "Golden Age." Younger readers of this post have had the pleasure of watching players such as Mike Trout, Yasiel Puig and Felix Hernandez in the present day, often on high-definition television. And perhaps in between, there are some "Generation X" baseball fans out there who still own VHS copies of Kirk Gibson's 1988 World Series Game 1 home run.

But this Saturday at historic Borleske Stadium, we will see heroes of a different caliber take to the turf. In the second annual Walla Walla Battle of the Badge, members of our local fire department will square off against a number of those from our law enforcement in a fun exhibition game that will focus on honoring the true heroes of our community.

This will be a charity game in which the law enforcement team will be playing to support the Impact! Life Transitions Program, while the firefighters will be backing Girls' Council. Community heroes, a ballgame, and plenty of fun for a good cause--what's not to like?

If you haven't already, stop by the Sweets Shoppe downtown to buy your tickets--we are nearly sold out!

Will local law enforcement be able to defend their title after their big win in the inaugural contest last summer? Find out Saturday at 7:05 PM!

Also, don't forget to buy tickets for Opening Day on Thursday, June 5 to see this year's Sweets squad take on a team of Sweets alumni--a variety of familiar faces who have called the Walla Walla Valley home at some point over the past four summers. We can't wait to see you out there!

Monday, May 19, 2014

Summer Is Here!

By: Spenser Smith
Voice of the Sweets

Hello Sweets fans!

Spenser Smith here, and I'll be your radio broadcaster for all road games this season. It's been a long wait, but the fifth season of your Walla Walla Sweets is just around the corner.

To share a little about myself, I was born and raised in Walla Walla. I played baseball for coach Kim Cox at DeSales High School just behind Borleske Stadium's left field fence, and was a part of the 2B-11 Washington State Championship team in the spring of 2008. I have followed the Sweets since the team's inception in 2010, and have spent the past two seasons as the play-by-play broadcaster for the baseball team at Northwest Nazarene University in Nampa, Idaho. My broadcasting aspirations stem from years of watching Seattle Mariners games on TV and listening on the radio to the voices of Rick Rizzs and the late Dave Niehaus, who always made me feel as if I had the best seat in the house.

This season, we've got a talent-laden roster and a highly experienced coaching staff to lead your 2014 Sweets. From local heroes such as Walla Walla Community College's J.J. Robinson and Jarod Gonzales, to acquisitions from afar including North Dakota State's Jay Flaa and Southern Illinois' Parker Osborne, your 2014 Sweets are ready to come together as one tough competitor in the WCL East division.

For the fifth consecutive season, head coach J.C. Biagi is at the helm for the club. Two fellow Walla Walla CC assistant coaches, Rob Holtzinger and Cesar Lopez will join him in the dugout, along with WWCC softball coach Mark Michaud.

As the summer season approaches, I want to see this whole town decked out in red, white and blue to support this exciting ballclub. This community is built for baseball, and I'm anticipating a packed house at Borleske, day in and day out. And if you can't make it out to the ballpark, be sure to tune in to 1490 AM or 100.1 FM to catch the action on air!

It's my pleasure to bring the action to you fans from behind the mic, along with returning broadcaster Howard Hoffman, and I look forward to another exciting baseball-filled summer in the Walla Walla Valley.

If there is anything I can feature that will make this Sweets blog a more enjoyable read, please let me know at spenser@wallawallasweets.com.

Go Sweets!