Now Batting…Morgan Wallen?

The River Cats come into Tuesday’s home opener against the El Paso Chihuahuas with a record of 1-2 from their opening series in Salt Lake. Opening Day was scheduled for Friday, March 31, but a blanket of snow on the Smith’s Ballpark field postponed the game until Saturday which turned into a midday doubleheader. Due to the weather, Opening Day now fell on the shoulders of Tristen Beck in game one. The final score was 2-0 with both runs being charged to Beck who gave up a solo homerun to Chad Wallach in the third, and got into a bases loaded jam in the fourth where reliever Ryan Walker did just that, and walked in a run before retiring the inning.

The River Cats would pick their first win of 2023 as they split the season opening doubleheader by defeating the Bees by a score of 7-4. The River Cats used Mauricio Llovera as an opener for one inning before handing the ball over to Sammy Long who would pick up the win. The River Cats offense was lead by Ricardo Genoves and Michael Gigliotti who combined for five RBI on the night. Cole Waites would bring his deceptive fastball in to close out the game and earn his first save. The River Cats closer has topped out at 100.6 in his career but normally sits around 95-98 which appears much faster watching him through from behind the plate as he bores into right-handed batters.

The River Cats would close out Opening Day weekend with yet another loss to the Bees. The Bees took advantage of 14 walks issued by River Cats pitching on their way to reaching base 21 times in the game and defeating the River Cats 8-3 after an outstanding performance by pitcher who shutout the River Cats through five innings and striking out six.

Sacramento’s home opener on April 4th, brings the Triple-A debut of San Francisco Giants’ #1, and MLB’s #18, prospect Kyle Harrison who averaged 14.8 strikeouts per nine innings in 2022 is getting the ball for the River Cats as they face the El Paso Chihuahuas, Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres, and the reigning Pacific Coast League East Division Champions. Look for former Red Sox 2016 first-round draft pick Jay Groome to take the mound for the Chihuahuas during this six game series, but the bigger story is that Fernando Tatis Jr is expected to play for the Chihuahuas this series. Tatis who is coming off an 80-game suspension for testing positive for a banned substance last August, is eligible to return to the Padres on April 20th. A little fun fact about Tatis is that when he suits up for the Chihuahuas for the first time, it will also mark the first time he will play at the Triple-A level having jumped from Double-A to the Majors in 2019.

The 2023 Minor League Baseball season is just a few days old, and before the River Cats started their three-day series in Salt Lake City against the Bees I had a chance to get to know some of the players on this year’s team.

One of the more interesting players to watch this year will be Ronald Guzman who is starting 2023 on the injured list after suffering a pronator strain in a Spring Training game against the A’s. Guzman, the 6’4” former Texas Rangers slugger has now converted into a relief pitcher whose fastball reaches the mid-90s will be playing with the River Cats when he returns in 6-8 weeks to the field of play in 6-8 weeks. I am curious to see if the Giants organization plans to utilize his bat still or if he will put 100% of his focus into pitching.

The San Francisco Giants have also signed two time Major League All Star Gary Sanchez to a Minor League deal and have assigned him to the River Cats. Sanchez will first report to the Giants Spring Training facility in Scottsdale, Arizona for an undisclosed amount of time before joining Sacramento which should be fairly soon as his contract allows Sanchez to opt out if he isn’t on the Major League roster by May 1st. It will be interesting to see how this all plays out as the Giants options behind the plate do not appear to be making any lasting impressions on the front office.

The fans will have many familiar faces returning in 2023 as Heliot Ramos, Casey Schmitt, Cole Waites, Tristan Beck, and Isan Diaz, just to name a few, will once again wear the River Cats jersey. This team is a good mix of guys who are already familiar with each other and will be spending another season together, but while they are a team, they’re still their own individual selves.

Kyle Harrison spent time in the Dominican Republic at one of the baseball academies where the culture shock hit hard. Kyle visited an orphanage and had his eyes open to how people live there in the DR, and he also saw the difficulties that Dominican baseball players face as they try to climb up the organization ladder. While he thought it was a cool experience to have, he discussed having to live eight to a room in bunkbeds at the baseball academy which gave him the appreciation for what players in the United States have.

Will Wilson had a busy off season by moving from North Carolina to Florida where you can go to the beach without freezing during the off season. Will also just started to golf, and admitted has a way to go having only broken 90 once thus far.

Giants fourth ranked prospect Casey Schmitt, the recent winner of the Barney Nugent Award given annually to the player who best exemplifies the spirit of the San Francisco Giants is an avid UFC fan who likes to bring the joy of wrestling into the clubhouse. I was surprised that all hell didn’t break loose during this interview as Schmitt and Wilson went back and forth about the the number of pins Schmitt has suffered at the hands of Wilson, who claims four while Schmitt argues that they are “unconfirmed”; River Cats manager Dave Brundage was unavailable for comment on the matter, but as you can tell by this picture, it’s pretty obvious to see who Daddy is.

Casey Schmitt & Will Wilson

The teams’ musical tastes was far less diverse than expected but a few stood out such as Kyle Harrison and his love for rap artist Gunna who I had to look up, but now I wish I could have asked Kyle what his thoughts were on Gunna cutting a deal on a case and snitching on YSL? Considering Harrison has spent time in the DR he should talk to Heliot Ramos about his musical choice Eladio Carrion a Puerto Rican rapper and reggaeton singer.

Pitcher Ryan Walker an accomplished guitarist who has played since he was eight years old, and can shred along to the best rock solos, or slow it down and fingerpick his way through a ballad confessed to strumming his guitar to Lainey Wilson’s “Heart Like a Truck” while sipping on whiskey these days.

The one thing that many of the players had in common was their love for pop country singer Morgan Wallen. In case you don’t know, Wallen is the hottest thing since sliced butter on the country charts, but he’s also the guy who casually dropped the “hard R” in 2021 when Wallen was 28 years old. The use of the word was justified by fans as Wallen trying to be a tough guy, and after some sensitivity training Wallen apologized and saw the error in his ways, but was he contrite? Money and a number one hit song will erase a lot of sins, but there is no doubt in my mind how Wallen truly feels because he showed us, and the fear of being “cancelled” is a powerful thing, and that power is where the true danger really lies. Cancel culture doesn’t resolve anything, but just makes it worse by driving the ignorance and hate underground, while the resentment is buried and grows deeper within. Let a person show their true colors, and accept them for who they are, the good and the bad, but own the reflection of yourself as well. Anyway, anyone who listens to Morgan’s music knows he’s not much of a tough guy anyway.

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