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!