April Showers Bring May Flowers

The River Cats stopped their six-game losing skid after taking the second game of a double header to close out their road trip against the OKC Dodgers (20-7) and come into May with a record of 11-16 and trail the Reno Aces (15-11) by 4.5 games in the PCL West, and trail the Dodgers by 9 games in the League. The River Cats are tied for last in the League with the Salt Lake Bees.

The River Cats simply took a beating by the Dodgers, no ifs, ands, or buts, about it. They were also tasked with facing top pitching prospects Bobby Miller, and Gavin Stone for OKC who easily handed losses to Sacramento. Stone was also called up to make his Major League debut days after facing the River Cats, but didn’t fair to well in his Major League debut and was swiftly sent back to Oklahoma City. That move is not a knock on Stone, he was called up for a quick start against a very dangerous Philadelphia Phillies lineup, and I’m sure we’ll see him back in the Dodger’s rotation soon enough, along with Bobby Miller.

The opt out clause that Gary Sanchez holds on his contract was set to expire on Monday May 1, which prompted the promotion of Giants 2020 #1 pick Patrick Bailey to Triple-A who made his debut on Sunday night. Sanchez is hitting only .164 with one double, no home runs, and 19 strikeouts in 55 at bats with Sacramento so it would be a miracle to have the Giants call him up. The Giants would officially grant Sanchez his release on May 2nd.

There is no wonder that the River Cats are having such a woeful season as no River Cats player is in the Top 10 of any offensive categories, but Clint Coulter is 15th in RB with 20, and Casey Schmitt is #20 in batting with a .301 average. The only bright spots on the mound continue to be Ryan Walker and his all-around pitching performances this season, as well as Kyle Harrison and his 15.51 strikeouts per nine innings average which places him third in the league. Harrison continues to have control issues though, but his stuff is fantastic.

Around the league Phillip Evans and Buddy Kennedy from the Reno Aces are still tearing up the league as Evans has an amazing .431 average, and Kennedy is second in the league hitting an even .400. Salt Lake’s Jo Adell leagues Minor League baseball with 10 home runs, and Mike Ford leads the league in RBI with 39.

Cody Bradford of Round Rock continues to dominate on the mound and ends the month with a 5-0 record, 0.64 ERA, 0.74 WHIP in 28.1 innings, which is only one third of an inning behind the league leader.

The weather and my other interest, concert photography, kept me away from the ballpark much of this week as the Oakland Athletics Triple-A affiliate Las Vegas Aviators came into town but the River Cats seemed to have right the ship a bit as they take four of six this week including two back-to-back walk offs on Thursday and Friday night.

The series started horribly with a loss to Las Vegas by a score of 2-1 where the River Cats left 14 on base and went 0-15 at the plate with runners in scoring position. The highlight of the night would belong to Patrick Bailey who doubled for his first Triple-A hit.

Both of Las Vegas’ runs were driven in by Turlock’s own Tyler Soderstrom who knocked in Zack Gelof on a double and single in the first and third innings respectively.

The River Cats would win the next four games in the series that included a five run fourth inning in Game 2, and Kyle Harrison’s strongest performance of the season on Saturday night, Game 5 of the series, where the lefty showed what the hype is all about. Harrison pitched four shutout innings striking out seven, while walking none. Harrison’s strikeouts per nine improved to 15.56. Harrison’s performance earned him the Pacific Coast League’s Pitcher of the Week Honors for May 1-7.

The River Cats ended the series going 4-2 against the Aviators this week, putting them at 15-18 on the season and in a three-way tie for last place with the Aviators, and this week’s opponent the Salt Lake Bees. The Bees come into town with hot hitting Jo Adell and his Minor League leading 12 home runs and I’m curious to see how many he has at the end of the series here in Sacramento.

While OKC and Round Rock are running away with the best records in the PCL, both teams are in the East Division, while Sacramento and Salt Lake are in the West, and both are only 3.5 games behind Division leading Reno. A good week by either team could put them right back in the mix for a chance at a post season berth as the first half of the season ends on June 23rd.

The big news which was just announced today is that Casey Schmitt was just called up to the Giants to make his Major League debut. Schmitt is batting .313 with 10 doubles and 22 RBI. In corresponding moves, the Giants Designated for Assignment, Darin Ruf who had been rehabbing in Sacramento, and optioned Cal Stevenson to Sacramento.

Astropops or Taco Bell?

Allergies have been brutal in the Sacramento valley this week and River Cats bats are being affected as they appear to be allergic to barreling baseballs. After averaging 59 runs the first two weeks of the season, the River Cats found themselves scoring only 24 runs during this six game homestand against Round Rock during which they lost four. Credit is due to Round Rock who are the second-best team in the Pacific Coast League behind the Oklahoma City Dodgers who the River Cats face this upcoming week in Oklahoma.

Since we last saw the team two weeks ago, the River Cats headed into their series against Reno with a record of 4-5 but won their first series of the season by taking four of six games against the Aces before returning to Sacramento. In Reno, Aces first baseman Phillip Evans continues to tear up the league with his .439 batting average, and teammate Buddy Kennedy is second in the league with a distant but still amazing .393 average. Reno has four batters in the top 10 in batting average as they sandwich the rest of league at one, two, nine and ten.

The Express came into Sacramento with Pacific Coast League’s best pitcher at the moment, Cody Bradford, who pitched game three of series and went seven innings allowing one run on five hits while striking out five and walking two. The lone run was only the second run that Bradford has allowed all season and came off the bat of Gary Sanchez who knocked in Austin Slater for the River Cats only run of the game in the bottom of the third. Bradford’s ERA and WHIP are both 0.77, as he improved to 4-0 on the season and leads the PCL in all three categories. Combined with Cole Winn, the Express really have some tough pitching, and their lineup is stacked with both former Major Leaguers such as Clint Frazier and Yoshi Tsutsugo, as well as Texas prospects, Jonathan Ornelas, and Justin Foscue the Rangers’ 2021 first round draft pick selected 14th overall. Foscue had a good series going yard twice. I’m not sure what to expect from the River Cats this year, but for as much of a hitter’s league that the Pacific Coast League historically has been, there is an amazing crop of young pitchers in the league right now that are challenging that notion.

River Cats third baseman/shortstop Casey Schmitt was honored this past weekend by receiving his 2022 Minor League Baseball Gold Glove Award, and then continued to shine at the plate. He is tied for most hits in the PCL with 30, and second on the team in both average and RBI but has also been prone to striking out this year.

Clint Coulter continues to lead the River Cats offensively and is top 10 in the PCL with his 25 hits, 19 RBI, .352 average, and .465 on base percentage.

Giants’ top prospect Kyle Harrison is starting to look a lot better having his best outing of the season last week, but Ryan Walker continues to be the most effective pitcher on the staff with 13 strikeouts in 13.2 innings and an ERA of 1.32, and WHIP of 0.88. He also leads the team with a 2.6 strikeout to walk ratio.

Opening Day starter Tristan Beck also got the call on Tuesday the 18th and made his Major League debut two days later pitching 5.1 innings of relief and striking out five against the Mets and their powerful lineup. As of this writing, Tristan hasn’t appeared in another game and will most likely make a return to Sacramento for the time being, but overall, a good debut.

Mitch Hanigar made his Giants organization debut this week starting a rehab assignment with a home run in his first game with the River Cats and blasting another later in the series. Austin Slater also finally got to see some playing time as he too returns from injury and spent the past week with the River Cats.  Both players were activated and made their 2023 debuts yesterday (April 24) in the Giants lineup. During the game, Joey Bart did leave Monday night’s game with a groin tightness after hitting a double in the seventh inning against the Cardinals. Depending on how serious the injury is, this could be the opportunity that Gary Sanchez needs to make the roster before May 1st. . This must be a hard decision for the Giants because Gary is not only not hitting in Sacramento, but he doesn’t even look like he wants to be there. I get that he, along with everyone else, would much rather be in the Majors, but he’s not producing, and he looks horrible behind the plate and shows little to no effort. While Patrick Bailey is having a hot start in Double-A Richmond, I don’t think the Giants pull him up to the Majors at this point so if necessary, it seems the job goes to Sanchez if Bart goes down.

Hello Cal Stevenson, and after two years, goodbye to Sacramento native Sammy Long. Having burst onto the scene back in 2021 with the River Cats when he struck out the first eight batters he faced setting a new record to start a game, Long has been traded to the A’s for cash consideration. Although Long and Stevenson were each traded to each other’s team for “cash”, it turned out to be like a Stevenson for Long deal didn’t it? Its great that Sammy will have the opportunity to stay with a local organization, but you can’t really beat playing in your backyard.

The River Cats debuted two new alternate jerseys this past week. The first was a revamp of the Dorados uniforms that remind me a little of the Astropop uniforms the Houston Astros wore in the 80s or maybe a Taco Bell box. Either way I actually like them a lot.

This is the third incarnation of the uniforms that I can remember going back to their inception in 2018. Originally a black body with yellow sleeves, the previous jersey consisted of the light blue with yellow of the Ukrainian flag, having alternating triangular shapes pointing inward toward blocked letters that read “Dorados”, and the uniforms looked horrible. The new jersey still has a primary blue and yellow design but darker with added orange and white. The upper half is the blue and now the bottom half has the orange, yellow and white go around the body of the lower half and on the lower portion of the sleeves.

The River Cats also debuted their throwback uniforms to commemorate the Sacramento Solons who were one of the original teams of the Pacific Coast League back in 1903 and were in the league on and off until 1976 with its longest stretch from 1918-1960. The Solons were the last professional team in Sacramento until the River Cats moved from Vancouver for the 2000 season.

And Its Only Just Begun

On a day that 2022 Cy Young Award winner Sandy Alcantara pitched a complete game shut out over the Minnesota Twins with exactly 100 pitches in one hour and fifty-seven minutes, the River Cats took to the field for their home opener and stayed there for three hours and nineteen minutes in a loss to the El Paso Chihuahuas.

The night was cold and overcast and yet 9,548 fans, one of the biggest I’ve seen at the park in years, showed up to cheer on the River Cats as they faced off against the El Paso Chihuahuas. Not only did baseball return to Sacramento for 2023, but it did so with a rush of excitement as Fernando Tatis Jr. Tatis, a two-time Silver Slugger Award winner, and 2021 All Star, is on a rehab assignment with El Paso as he finishes off the last two weeks of his 80-game suspension after testing positive for the banned substance Clostebol. Tatis said at the time that he took medication for the treatment of ringworm without realizing that Clostebol was in the medication. Yes, it was dumb that a player with such good care could have made such a mistake, but I believe him because unlike most other players who get popped, he didn’t just leave it at the generic I don’t know how it happened, or that he “tried endlessly to find the answer”, no he just accepted it and said he messed up.

Game time was now upon and aside from Tatis, the biggest news of the day for San Francisco Giants fans was that Kyle Harrison, the Giants’ top prospect was making his Triple-A debut. Harrison had an amazing 14.3 strikeouts per nine innings last season, which was an increase from the year before. Harrison’s first pitch, ball one, to none other than Fernando Tatis Jr. Harrison would walk Tatis in that first at bat, which would be the first of twelve walks the River Cats gave up that evening on their way to losing the home opener by a score of 10-8 and would end his night pitching two-plus innings, striking out four and walking four. Tatis would end his night going 1-2, with and RBI, and two walks, which pale in comparison to the excitement Tatis would produce just twenty-four hours later.

The River Cats came out swinging in the second game of the series and scored five runs in the bottom of the second to take the early lead over El Paso. The Chihuahuas would start to fight their way back as soon as the top of the third when they scored their first run when Kade McClure came into the game to relieve Ryan Walker.

Fernando Tatis would lead off the fifth with a 406-foot home run to left centerfield. This was Tatis’ first home run in only his second game back after having not played in a game since 2021 due to injury and suspension. The game went all down hill from there as the Chihuahuas tacked on six more runs including a four run sixth inning that had ten batters come to the plate and scoring four more runs, and eventually the game would end by a score of 8-5 on a night where the River Cats pitching woes got worse as they walked fifteen on the night.

Social media was abuzz with highlights of Tatis’ homerun, and Kade McClure got a little annoyed to say the least. McClure decided that it was a good idea to tweet, **Cheater hits a home run on a rehab assignment during a steroid suspension** after seeing a Padres writer Darnay Tripp write, “Kade McClure will be telling people for years about the time he gave up an absolute nuke to Fernando Tatis Jr”. McClure would double down the next morning with “Man woke up to some juiced up Padres fans”. The irony is that the San Fransico Giants ace pitcher Logan Webb was suspended for 80 games for testing positive for steroids back in 2019. Kade’s tweets have since now been deleted but McClure was raked through the coals by not only fans but also his peers. Old tweets were found, reprimands were given, and he has not pitched for the River Cats since that night, which I can only imagine is a move to let this die down for a bit. This story blew up so much that even Tatis’ mom jumped in on the action and said, “A player with 7 years in minor league just wanted a minute of fame, that was the reason he use a super star player name to obtain visibility” on her Instagram story. No one involved in this craziness is in the wrong, but to use another one of McClure’s tweets, “If you don’t like it, do better”.

Joe Musgrove of the Padres was announced as the starting pitcher for Thursday night’s game for a rehab assignment. After training 4-2, the River Cats clawed their way back and knocked Musgrove out of the game in the fifth after going 4.1 innings, allowing five hits, two runs, and six strikeouts. The River Cats resorted to small ball and found themselves taking their first win of series by a final score of 10-5.

Friday night’s match up was the one I was looking forward to all week as the River Cats would send Tristen Beck to the mound and face Jay Groome for the Chihuahuas. Groome who is still one of San Diego’s Top 30 prospects was originally drafted in the first round by the Boston Red Sox but came to the Padres last season in the trade that sent Eric Hosmer to the Sox.

Groome did not fair to well giving up six runs off five hits in five innings and walking four including a 385-foot to Will Wilson for his first homerun of the year.  I’m superstition so I feel like I should be taking some of the blame for this one. The first time I ever saw Groome pitch was in the Pacific Coast League Championship game against the Reno Aces last fall in Las Vegas. Groome was lit up that night giving up four runs in 1.2 innings pitched which gave Reno the Pacific Coast League title. Tristen Beck picked up his first win of the season going five innings, giving up two runs, and leading the River Cats to their second win in a row as they defeated the Chihuahuas by a score of 9-4.

Melvin Adon, who is pitching for the River Cats for the first time since 2019, and the last remaining player from the team that won the Triple-A National Championship that year, closed out the game for the Cats. Adon looked typical to say the least, 100 miles an hour rockets coming out of his hand, but you never know where they’re going to end up.

This homestand has to be one the most star-studded series I’ve seen at Sutter Health Park in recent memory. Outside of Tatis, we’ve seen Joe Musgrove, and now tonight you can add Joey Bart who is on a rehab assignment, and former Yankees and Twins catcher Gary Sanchez to the mix who will be making his debut for the Giants organization after signing a Minor League deal last week. I wonder if that “I jus’ wanted to see a Yankee” guy from last year has come to these games? This is a very weird situation in my eyes. Bart, a former number two pick overall by the Giants, has seemed to lose favor with the team as they continue to bring in catchers looking for the right fit. While both of these players realize that this is a business, and that there is someone always looking to take away your job, I can only imagine how taxing it is when your bosses’ every word in reported on, and the guy looking to take your job is more experienced and sitting right next to you in the dugout. Don’t get me wrong, Bart is the guy for now, but those breathing down his neck are right there waiting for their chance. In Sanchez, a two time All Star, also has a stipulation in his contract that states if he is not promoted to the Majors by May 1, 2023, he can walk and sign elsewhere. That too is an interesting situation as Sanchez was sitting there with no other offers when the Giants came knocking so we will see what happens come May 1st.

The River Cats would roll over the Chihuahuas by a score of 12-4 for their third straight win with help from a big bottom of the third inning the team would bust out seven runs which started when Michael Gigliotti doubled down the right field line scoring two. Bart and Sanchez would also add to the excitement by knocking in a combined three RBI in the inning. River Cats pitching would have their most dominant night of this young season as Walker, Waites, Marciano, Hildenberger, Guzman, and Dabovich would only give up two walks on the night, a far cry from earlier this week.

The River Cats had won three straight coming into Sunday’s final game of the series and they would be looking to Kyle Harrison on the mound once again to keep the winning streak alive. The Chihuahuas started Julio Teheran on the mound who made quick work of the River Cats as he looked like the Teheran of old allowing one run in six innings while striking out eight.

Harrison started the game with ten straight balls and would not make it out of the first inning throwing thirty-five pitches of which only twelve were thrown for strikes. Harrison couldn’t help but look amused at himself in disbelief as Dave Brundage came out to take the ball from him.

That look pretty much sums up the final game of the series, but the cherry on top was when right fielder Clint Coulter came into to pitch to Taylor Kohlwey in the top of the ninth with two outs and the River Cats trailing by a score of 8-1. Kohlwey would fly out to Coulter’s replacement in right, Shane Matheny, on the first pitch to end the inning. This would be Coulter’s professional pitching debut after having played in the Minor Leagues for eleven years as he became the first position player to pitch for the River Cats in 2023.

While the two teams split the six-game series evenly, it was not pretty and I’m writing that off as still being early spring. Ryan Walker has quietly been the pitcher to watch early on this season as he has not allowed a run in his three appearances and has six strikeouts and two walks in 6.1 innings of work. On the other side of the coin, Will Wilson finds himself struggling to start as he is dwelling in the cellar with a .138 batting average with 11 strikeouts in 29 at bats. The River Cats look to bounce back from it all as they start a series against the Aces tonight in Reno.

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.

Touched by an Angel

The 2023 World Baseball Classic came to an end on Tuesday night with a matchup between Team USA and Samurai Japan with an ending that was so perfect the games almost seemed scripted. Two outs, and down by one in the bottom of the ninth, Team USA’s Mike Trout came to bat to face his real-life teammate Shohei Ohtani in a show down that garnered 6.5 million viewers in the U.S. alone, and roughly 67% of the televisions in Japan were watching the game.  

I’ve always been a fan of international sports such as the Olympics and soccer’s World Cup, so when the World Baseball Classic was introduced in 2006 because baseball was dropped from the Olympic games I was all in. While I did watch some of the games from 2006, 2009, and 2013, it wasn’t until the 2017 games that really hooked me and had me watching baseball from Japan or Korea at 3:00 a.m.

Ohtani was unable to play in the 2017 Classic due to an injury to his ankle. He was already a superstar in Japan, and this was to be his introduction to the world. Baseball fans knew about the second coming of Babe Ruth, and it was a major blow not only for the Japanese team, but also for those waiting to see what the hype was all about. Japan would reach the semi-finals in 2017 and their opponents were none other than Team USA. There was no Mike Trout, Mookie Betts, Trea Turner, or Kyle Schwarber, as a matter of fact only Nolan Arenado and Paul Goldschmidt are hold overs from that 2017 team, and they both had not so stellar performances that year. Team USA was the underdog as they prepared to take on Japan on an overcast and rainy night at Dodgers Stadium.

I had only purchased tickets for the Championship game in 2017 because I wanted to be there. I had no clue which teams would be in it, it was just a matter of being at the Championship for a historical event, and little did I know how historical it would be. Somewhere along I-5 south, we stopped at a rest area where I saw another fellow traveler and asked if he was going to the game. He said he was going to that night’s semi-final only between the U.S. and Japan. We spoke for a few a minutes and then went our separate ways. While our journey continued, I decided to check to see if there happened to be any tickets left for that night’s game and there was, so I was able to pick some up for the nose bleeds along the right field line.

When we got to L.A. our AirBnb was only about a mile and half from Dodgers Stadium so we decided to walk. I’m a huge Dodgers fan, and this would be my first trip to Dodgers Stadium so I was doubly excited to be going. The first thing I did was buy a Dodger Dog and drink. Sadly, the Dodger Dog was very underwhelming. It was a cold and grey sky as we took our seats but luckily, they were covered as a night steady rain came would come down throughout the night. The crowd buzzed when it was announced that the first pitch would be thrown out by both legendary Dodgers manager Tommy Lasorda, and Dodgers’ hero, Japan’s own Hideo Nomo.

Japan’s Tomoyuki Sugano, who tied with teammate Kodai Senga with 16 strikeouts to lead the 2017 tournament, started for the Japan and made quick work of the U.S. team through the first three innings only allowing a single to Buster Posey in the top of the third.

The U.S. would draw blood first in the top of the fourth when Christian Yelich reached second on an error and scored off a base hit by Andrew McCutchen. The Samurai would tie the game up when second baseman Ryosuke Kikuchi would hit a homerun off reliever Nate Jones who had come in after Tanner Roark had pitched four amazing shutout innings for Team USA. The homerun was a punch in the gut for Team USA and their fans as Kikuchi wasn’t even the biggest threat in Japan’s lineup, but then in the eighth Team USA scrapped its way back. Brandon Crawford singled with one out, followed by a double by Ian Kinsler to move Crawford to third which brough up Adam Jones. The rain continued to come down steadily and the playing conditions were getting worse when Jones took the first offering from Kodai Senga and chopped it to the third baseman Nobuyuki Matsuda who slipped on the grass and couldn’t handle the ball cleanly which allowed Crawford to score and giving Team USA a lead, they would not let go.

So, as we went into the 2023 matchup, where once again Team USA would face Japan, I was hoping that lightning would strike twice. In 2017 not only did they beat Japan in the semi-finals, but they easily routed an undefeated Team Puerto Rico by a score of 8-0 in the championship. This time Japan was their opponent in the championship, but also undefeated.

I was excited to see Team USA take the early lead off Trea Turner’s third home run in as many games, but that lead was quickly erased in the bottom half of the second inning when Japan’s superstar Munetaka Murakami took the first pitch he saw from Merrill Kelly and deposited it 432 feet into the right field stands. That’s when the sinking feeling began for me. Pepper shaking Lars Nootbaar would drive in Kazuma Okamoto after two, and two innings later Okamoto would hit a home run that make the score 3-1. The only real highlight left for Team USA was a ten pitch at bat by Kyle Schwarber in the eighth that ended with a solo home run and Team USA getting to within one, and a guarantee that Mike Trout would have one more at bat in the ninth.

The at bat between Trout and Ohtani will go down in history as one of the most exciting moments in baseball as the two best players in the game today came head on with the best they had to offer. Ohtani would come out ahead striking out Trout on an 88.2 mph sweeping slider after having thrown four fastballs, the last of which hit 101.6 mph, to give Samurai Japan the World Baseball Classic title.

That Championship game didn’t end up how I wanted, heck, if it wasn’t for Mexico’s bullpen, I could have easily seen them being crowned the champions, but my heart was still in it for Team USA who were simply beat by a better team all around. I was surprised to see them make it as far as they did on the backs of those bats.

As exciting as that game was, and the memories from the entirety of the tournament had been, there is nothing like watching Ohtani play in real life. No matter how many times you watch him play on TV, that will never compare to seeing him play in real life, and if you can get inside the ballpark as soon as you can to truly enjoy the experience. The swarms of photographers who follow his every move, the legions of fans who shout out to him in hopes that he will just look in their direction and wave. If you’ve ever seen an old clip of how the fans reacted with The Beatles, that’s the only way I can describe the scene around Shohei Ohtani. I was fortunate enough to be at Ohtani’s Major League pitching debut against Oakland in 2018, and then again in 2022 I witnessed him hit career homerun number 101, but it was in the middle of the game as Ohtani returned to the dugout from the clubhouse where he brushed past and with that, I will never forget the day that I was touched by an Angel.

“I jus’ wanted to see a Yankee…”

A couple of weeks back I got into this phase where I kept saying, “How can you not be romantic about baseball”? The quote made famous by Brad Pitt in his portrayal of Billy Bean in the 2011 movie Money Ball. It’s a line that rings true for me whenever I’m told how boring baseball is, because to me, baseball is much bigger than the players on the field, and the game between the foul lines. Baseball is life and touches the lives of so many whether they hate it, or love it, many of us have some memory about baseball.

I was feeling very unmotivated during the last River Cats homestand against the Salt Lake Bees, and this past week while they played in Las Vegas. I wasn’t finding any inspiration in the games themselves and had a hard time capturing moments with my camera to tell a story. I then decided to turn my attention toward the fans, and that’s when the excitement came back. I remembered why I loved baseball, and I smiled.

Looking into the stands I saw children screaming for baseballs, arms outstretched, faces pressed to the netting to keep them safe from foul balls. Families sitting together with popcorn, and hot dogs, wearing their River Cats shirts, and San Francisco Giants hats, glove in one hand and a souvenir cup in the other. Grown men shoulder to shoulder with kids, baseballs and cards, and pens in hand asking, “sign mine”? There were couples on first dates, and couples of forty years; how many games had they been to? What memories do they have? Which players have they seen? Drunken frat boys, and screaming sorority sisters, laughed, and cheered creating lifelong friendship through baseball. Then there was one thing that really struck me, and humbled me, and reminded me to be grateful for the easy access that I have to baseball.

Baseball is America’s Pastime, but it is played around the world and in 2020, roughly 31% of Major League players hailed from Latin American countries. Most of us see baseball and its high salaries as a luxury, but to the Latin American players, it’s a way out of poverty for not only themselves and their families, but many times for those in their community who benefit from the charitable acts that the few players who do make it give back. While today’s stars of Latin America are known to us who follow the game, those players weren’t just born with the desire to play. They were influenced by generations of players who we never heard of, and by stories of those who were legends both here and overseas; Babe Ruth, Mickey Mantle, Jackie Robinson, and Willie Mays, all superstars who helped spread the game around the world. Yet even if those names did not resound themselves, there was one team that did. The New York Yankees, owners of a record 27 World Championships, you’d be hard pressed to find many families around the world who had not heard of the New York Yankees.

The crowd had just finished singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” in the middle of the seventh inning on this Friday night, and as usual people were coming down the aisles of the stadium seats, many milling around by the photo well trying to get a peek and the attention of their favorite players, and as the inning was about to start, one gentleman remained. A Latino, probably in his mid-thirties just stood there staring toward the batter’s box while Salt Lake’s pitcher Ty Buttrey was finishing up his warmup throws to catcher Austin Romine. The man got my attention and asked me as he pointed to the box, “Is that Austin Romine”? to which I replied in the affirmative and went back to what I was doing. I knew that he would be asked to take his seat once the game began, but it wasn’t my job to do, and I remember what it’s like to be on that side of the railing.

Austin Romine

Security came up to the gentleman and kindly asked him to take his seat, to which the man did not argue, but just before he left, he said the most authentic thing I’ve heard all season. In a heavily accented voice, and speaking of Bees catcher Austin Romine, “I jus’ wanted to see a Yankee. He played for the Yankees” as he pointed to Austin Romine behind the plate, then turned around and left. He returned to take his seat, wherever they may have been, but I was instantly moved by the power of his words. Austin Romine hasn’t played for the Yankees since 2019, and Salt Lake City is worlds apart from New York, yet this man with the look of excitement and joy on his face said in his heavily accented voice, “I jus’ wanted to see a Yankee, and he used to play for the Yankees”, that statement was all I could think about the rest of the night. This man’s wish, his dream for who knows how long, had probably been going to New York, watching a Yankees game, and fulfilling a dream, but the desire for that was so strong in him, that he was in awe of a man, who simply had put on the Yankees uniform.

Immediately after the game, without even considering that Austin had just caught nine innings of baseball, sorry about that Austin, I approached him and said I had a story to tell. Reluctantly Austin gave me a look like whatever, just say it. I could see the boredom and tiredness in his face as I gave him a quick background as to what had just happened, but when I said those words, “He just wanted to see a Yankee”, Austin’s demeanor changed, you could see he was touched, and said, “I wish I could have met him to say hi, thank you for telling me that, that’s really special”. How can you not be romantic about baseball?

A Dugout Tale with Jessica Kleinschmidt

May is Asian American Pacific Islander Heritage Month and like the various heritage and Pride months that are celebrated in the United States I find it to be both a celebration of cultures and big neon sign that says we live in a society that is so backwards that we still must remember our diverse communities and force ourselves to think about what they have endured and continue to endure in some ways. Let us first look at some reasons as to why we celebrate, and how we can do so respectfully.

Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) Heritage Month is set aside to acknowledge the contributions that members of this community have made to the United States and all over the world. The need to remember the contributions of the AAPI has reached a point of urgency as the anti-Asian hate crimes have seen a spike over the last couple of years since the start of the Covid pandemic.

May was chosen as AAPI Heritage Month because long before we cared to remember the first Japanese immigrants arrive in the county in May of 1843; and just over 25 years later, the transcontinental railroad was complete and worked out by roughly 200,000 Chinese immigrants under some of the worst conditions.

The United States would finally acknowledge AAPI in 1979 when President Carter signed a proclamation if the first AAPI week, and another thirteen years until Congress would pass an amendment that created AAPI Month. Through these political actions, May is now use to celebrate and amplify AAPI voices and concerns as the uptick in violence toward the community was up 150% in 2020, even when overall hate crimes were down according to a study done by the group Stop AAPI Hate.

While this is a time for AAPI to celebrate, the rest of us must consider taking the time to understand and educate ourselves about a culture other than our own. I took this opportunity to sit down with Jessica Kleinschmidt, multimedia journalist for the Oakland Athletics of Major League Baseball, and speak to her about baseball, her Filipino ethnicity, and what AAPI Heritage Month means to her.

Sitting down with Jessica made me realize that I have never really given much thought about my Mexican ethnicity. I have a background in sociology, so I know what I am supposed to know about my ethnicity, but I never really considered how I learned about who I was or where my family came from. Jessica shared a story of how she first discovered that she was different through a bowl of rice, and pizza.

“When we would make food, we would always have rice, and I spent the night at a friend’s house, and I was waiting for us to eat, and we had pizza…I was waiting while they all started eating, and my friend’s mom asked, “what are you waiting for, aren’t you going to eat?”, and I [asked] when is the rice going to come”?

Jessica shared that when she got home the next day and told her mother about what took place at her friend’s house her mother took the time to share her family’s background and culture and it was from there that she began to see and understand her life in a different way.

What does AAPI Heritage Month mean to you?

It’s about awareness and about embracing the fact that we’re different. Understanding there’s a lot of stereotypes and racism out there so when people meet me, they’re like, “Well, you don’t look Asian”, and that’s where it kind of stems from. It was actually Tony Kemp, one of the players here who taught me about how racist things are; he would be told, “well, you don’t sound black… you sound educated”. For me, it was the same thing. I was like, what does an Asian look like to you? Don’t ever ask that to people, because, of course, that adds to the stereotypes, but it was also about the fact that’s what I wanted to learn, like why am I different and to embrace the fact that I’m different. There are a lot of shitty things going on in the Asian community, there’s a lot of violent crimes and hate crimes that I wasn’t even aware of, especially living in the Bay Area where that population is so significant. I want to know what’s going on, and there [are] ways to help and to show people that being Asian doesn’t mean you have to look a certain way and or act a certain way and we’re still here, and we’re so proud of our lineage. My family worked really hard to come to America and I love that for them. So being able to celebrate how hard we worked to make a better life for ourselves is just phenomenal.

What do you think people can do to raise awareness about the important issues that impact your community?

Its just starting with asking the right questions, it doesn’t even have to be the right question, just be curious, and instead of saying, “you don’t look Asian” [ask], “tell me about your background” or “do you still practice the culture that you grew up having”? For us, it started with food, and then that turned into asking, “When did you guys come over to America”? “What was it like being raised in the Philippines”, and online has tons of stuff you can look up, take classes, and my DMs are always open. Tony and Michelle Kemp’s DMs are always open because they want to teach about the +1 Effect [and] systematic racism, racial injustice, and police brutality.

Jessica is now proud of her ethnicity, but it took time to grow, understand and accept who she was at first.

That bowl of rice reminded me how different I was and how much we just marched to the beat of our own drum. When I was little, that was weird. It was weird to have rice with everything and that turned into me embracing the fact that this is what I like to do, this is what my family likes to do and it’s okay to be different, if anything it’s way more beautiful to be different. When you’re so young, learning that is difficult because you want to be like everybody else. You don’t want to be the last one picked in dodgeball. You want to be the first or the second and not have to stand there waiting and now it’s like, you want to be proud of who you are, you’re going to rub people the wrong way. Also, just the fact that knowing that I did have a different background than a lot of people, that immediately made me know I was going to handle my career and personal relationships differently. It is just really cool to know that I was able to say I’m different than everybody else, and it all has to do with my somewhat insane Filipino mother.

Having been raised in a Mexican household, I very much could relate to having rice with every meal, coupled with beans of course. Thanksgiving meals were always, turkey, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and a side of rice and beans.

I began to cover the Bay Bridge Series back in 2019 when I started writing my book about the River Cats because of the ties that both teams have to Sacramento. In 2021 I had the opportunity to meet Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle, who I have been a fan of since her days at the Sacramento Bee in the 90s. I’ve enjoyed her work and her career for not only what she’s accomplished in this profession but how she went about doing it. It was an awkward moment for me as I stumbled over my words and shook her hand. Susan was ever so gracious and humble throughout the whole thing and I’m grateful for the time she gave to me. In preparing to meet with Jessica I discovered that Susan has also been an inspiration in her career as well.

Susan Slusser certainly does [inspire me], and I feel like it’s because she taught me just to stay true to who I was…I remember watching her and she stayed true to who she was. She also asked the questions she was genuinely curious about and watching her ask questions, from a journalistic perspective made me ask questions from a personal perspective, and whether it’s, “Hey, can you help me with something”? and seeing how she carries herself with confidence helped me with my career.

It was at this point in our conversation that I thought back to just prior to sitting down with Jessica today during A’s Maganger Mark Kotsay’s pre-game interview. I happened to be standing behind Jessica during the media conference and while I stood there with my voice recorder, I could see Jessica with her recorder in hand, and an old-fashioned pen and notebook, jotting down quotes, and seamlessly asking the right questions. Watching her in that interview was a work of art, and she inspired me, humbled me, and made me think of the day I first met her.

I introduced myself to Jessica before the final game of the Bay Bridge series in Oakland last year. I had just started to follow her on Twitter and Instagram earlier in the year because of her podcast with Rachel Luba called Cork’d Up. While it was a brief encounter I was surprised when Jessica said that she recognized my username on Twitter and gave me a hug when we met as though we had known each other for years. I was a bit shocked that she had even known that I existed and taken aback at how forward she was with the hug, but I’ve learned since then, that’s just Jessica; honest and real to herself. While my first interaction is not as significant, I can see the similarities in Jessica’s story of meeting Susan Slusser for the first time.

I saw her [Susan Slusser] at A’s FanFest 2018 And I just walked in front of her and said, “nice to meet you”, and she goes, “you do a really good job”, and for somebody that does a phenomenal job to say that was sensational. At the time of course we worked together on the A’s beat, and now not only do I look up to her as a mentor, she is one of my closest friends.

In a 2021 interview with Nevada Sport Net, Jessica said about her journalism style as wanting to “Think about these guys as the heartbeats underneath their uniforms”, and I felt that. Having studied sociology I try to focus on more of the human element of a story than I do the numbers when writing my own work, so I wanted to know what Jessica felt was the most difficult part of this journalistic style for her.

I think it’s developing the relationships and even that’s not necessarily challenging, but I have to remind myself that that’s the reason why I’m so different, people are going to embrace that in a different way. You’re used to a game story, you’re going to get the slash line, you’re going to say this is how Paul Blackburn did, and that’s fine; but I want to talk about the fact that he got a little emotional talking about how he shares an ERA group with Justin Verlander, or how he talked about Shohei Ohtani’s numbers being like that of a video game. [James Kaprielian walks by us] There is James Kaprielian and he emulates what Kobe Bryant does because he looks up to Kobe Bryant. Tony Kemp, I talk to him as a dad and a husband. People are going to want to know about the curveballs, and I can still talk about that, but I want you to know who these people actually are. Yes, they are superstars, but they go home to their families, and I think it’s the normal things that can be the challenging part.

I fell ass backwards into writing about baseball through a fit of desperation, and the Sacramento River Cats allowed me to cut my teeth with their organization and its been full speed ahead ever since. I studied sociology in college, took one journalism class on mass media as an undergrad just for the transfer units, and while I could write a good research paper, I lacked the experience in writing a gripping story, or being able to ask the right question, or even how to just get in there and ask any question. I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way, but I was starting to feel like I was beginning to make some progress as a freelance journalist this year. Sitting down with Jessica made me realize that she just gave me a Master’s course in twenty minutes.

Having been at this now since 2018, I still like to take a step back and take in what I get to experience every summer, and last week after a game in Sacramento, I asked a cohort who has been on assignment, if she ever does the same. We reminisced of when we used to sit in the stands, and to those thoughts of wishing we could walk on the field with the players, and here we were, doing just that. Looking up into the crowd from the field is a different feeling. Whether it be at Banner Island Ballpark in Stockton, California for Single-A ball, or in Sacramento’s Sutter Health Park for Triple-A, or seeing the massive stadiums in the Majors, the feeling always humbles me, but this isn’t my livelihood. I don’t rely on what I’m producing to pay my bills, so I asked Jessica if she as a professional has ever taken the time to reflect on where she is in her career.

That’s a great question. I need to do that more often because I ask the players that a lot. I just asked Paul Blackburn last night, “You’ve come a long way, do you have a chance to think about that”? He’s like, “No I haven’t”, and not in a bad way, I’m jealous of him because he just doesn’t over think things, and I’m like, oh that must be nice; but every now then sure. I need to do that more though because I also know that when I do interviews with people, I do like to have that connection with them, and I do get to step back and think about it. Overall, though, no. Every now and then I do need to just sit in the crowd for fun because at the end of the day, I grew up a baseball fan. I grew up playing baseball.

Jessica wasn’t only a baseball fan, but she was an A’s fan, and her dreams began here at the Coliseum when she was 12 years old.

What I’m most proud of about my career is the fact that I was 12 years old at this exact stadium watching Eric Chavez hit a homerun, and the moment I got home I told my dad, “I’m going to be the A’s reporter one day. I’m going to do it” and the best part was he just said, “Ok, lets do it”. Unfortunately, it was the last game that he and I ever went to, Major League Baseball wise, but it was the fact that I said I wanted to do it, and I did it. I also know that a lot of girls and young women are looking up to me, and to give them advice has been phenomenal. I keep it real, and as many mentors as I possess, I’m mentoring a lot of people, and I think that’s something that I’m very proud of.

The Oakland A’s have been managed by Bob Melvin for the entirety of Jessica’s professional career until this season when Mark Kotsay took the reins, and I was curious about the changes she has seen with the new skipper at the helm.

Its really interesting that you ask that because A’s managers seem to have a specific vibe about them, and that’s laid back. For Bob, he was my manager for four years and I learned so much from him. I just saw him recently when the A’s were playing the Padres right after the Sean Manaea trade, so everyone was emotional. Not just the fact that Bob was returning to the A’s Spring Training facility where he was for a decade, but he gave me a big hug, and I didn’t even know he was a hugger. For Kotsay, he worked under BoMel, and he was able to learn so much from him but also his managerial style is very Kotsay, its very So. Cal guy and he’s fine. He’s easy to talk to and he’s still trying to figure it out which I understand…but the best part of the two, and the most imperative for the A’s is they let the players be themselves, and that’s beyond the playing field.

Jessica is well aware of the heartache that every A’s fan goes through during the off season when one of their favorite players is traded away for young talent. This past off season, the fans were dealt some hard blows when Matt Olsen was sent to Atlanta, and Matt Chapman was shipped north of the border to Toronto. Trades that sent ripples through baseball, but at the same time were par for the course here in Oakland. Having a finger on the pulse of all things A’s I asked Jessica about the fans reactions and how they are accepting the newest members of the organization.

We can’t really make an assessment on them until they are in the Bigs because they’re all playing in the PCL, which I joke that I’m hitting .300 in the PCL, because the balls fly there. I’m a Reno Aces girl and I hated interviewing the pitchers after those games, but I also know that you have to give them the benefit of the doubt. You look at Christian Pache, when Olson was traded, a lot of baseball fans who are Braves fan said, “you got so spoiled”, not one person said you guys overpaid with Matt Olson. With Langeliers who you mentioned, the guy is just solid. I’ve watched him hit, and I think he can do a really good job with transitioning. With Pache, his defense is second to none. He’s a lot like Ramon Laureano where if the ball is near him, runners are not going to run. His offense hasn’t been great, but I talked to Kotsay about it yesterday and the ones that stood out to everybody were his hard-hit balls. He’s getting unlucky, hitting them where everybody is, which is difficult, but at the same time, when it comes to that he’s going to figure it out. He’s still young, he’s so important to this organization, just from a flashy player perspective, and that’s the diving catches, and the fact that he’s very approachable, and he loves the young fans. He’s very imperative to the success of this place.

Kevin Smith has been doing a fabulous job as well. He was acquired in the Chapman trade, and I think he’s trying to get a feel for the actual foul space right now, and I asked Kotsay about him today and he said he’s becoming a more natural third baseman, he’s usually a shortstop so its good to see him transition from that. His hitting has been really good…and he carries himself well. I think the [fans] just need to have faith. The front office always knows what they’re doing with the budget that they’re given, and I’ve been very impressed so far.

The Oakland A’s did their part in celebrating Asian American and Pacific Islanders Heritage Month this weekend but it was extra special in that Shohei Ohtani and the Los Angeles Angels rolled into town. Jessica tells of the Saturday double-header that included a walk off home run by Luis Barrera in Game 1, and Shohei Ohtani’s 100th career home run in Game 2.

From a journalistic perspective, it was great, but in a different way. Like I love a walk off and I love the Shohei home run, but one of our communications assistants, Sergio, it was his time to shine. He went on TV and got to be the interpreter for Luis [Barrera] and that made me like a happy big sister. I’ve been covering Luis Barrera for years, he got his big-league debut last season, so it was emotional to see him not only do well, but he had a crappy couple of innings…and we forgot about that because he had a walk off home run. That’s the beauty of baseball is that you get a chance to redeem yourself every time. I try to look at that from both a career perspective and life perspective. You can fuck up, but you’re going to have another chance to make it better. Then of course there is Shohei Ohtani who I think every home run he hits is a big deal but for him to do it here is great and I love how even the fans embrace how much of a superstar he is because he is so important to the game. A two-way player is going to help kids too…and I think that’s important as well. He’s done amazing things, and I love to see the culture he brings, he’s an international superstar and that’s important to the game.

Sitting down with Jessica was an amazing experience. She talks about wanting to connect with the players, and with her audience, and I can attest to that during my time in the dugout with her. On a superficial level, she comes off like your best friend that you can sit down with to enjoy the game and eat nachos while sipping on your favorite adult beverage, but Jessica’s like an onion, she has layers. She is an advocate for understanding diversity and ending hate, she’s a role model to women, she’s Filipina and she’s proud; but at the end of the day, and for as much as I’ve hyped her up, Jessica Kleinschmidt is still a human who embraces her “silliness” and “stupidness”, and once accidentally said “fart” live on the air.

So, what’s next for Jessica Kleinschmidt? She loves being in front of the camera, on the radio, in podcasts, and producing content, and wants to be, in her own words, “The Mike Trout of baseball media”. She’s no longer wet behind the ears in her journalism career, but her star is only beginning to shine. You can follow Jessica on Twitter @KleinschmidtJD or Instagram @jessicakleinschmidt.

Grow A Mustache…It’s Better For Your Health

Mustaches and baseball go together like mustaches and 70’s porn. There have been some great mustaches in the history of the game especially with the Oakland A’s of the early 70’s and most notably Rollie Fingers and his beautiful handlebar mustache which to me sets the standard for a quality baseball mustache. There have been a multitude of mustaches around baseball, but I think Dennis Eckersley, Rich Gossage, Don Mattingly, and Rod Beck set the bar pretty high when it comes to everyday mustache grooming standards; and of course, who can forget the “Mad Hungarian” Al Hrabosky’s mutton chop-like horseshoe mustache which had a life of its own.

Facial hair in general seemed to start to make a powerful comeback in baseball right around 2004 with the Boston Red Sox, but as of late I really see the mustache becoming the go to, especially in May for Mustache May. In my opinion the best mustache for current players hands down goes to Daniel Mengden of the Omaha Storm Chasers of the International League and Triple-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Mengden who pitched in the Major for the Oakland Athletics sports a classic handlebar mustache a la Rollie Fingers. Runner-up in the category would have to go to J.P. France of the Sugar Land Space Cowboys who also uses the handlebar.

Okay, okay, so why are we talking about mustaches? Well, because its May, and May is “Mustache May”! What’s Mustache May? Its basically a bunch of guys sitting around getting bored with nothing better to do besides be lazy and look for an excuse not to shave while giving the finger to “The Man”. That’s the simple version of it really, and too the best of my knowledge, that’s how it started back in 2001 when a group of river guides in Moab, Utah were annoyed that their employer required them to stay clean shaven. The loophole though was that they were allowed to have mustaches, and so, Mustache May was born.

While Movember was designed to specifically raise awareness for men’s health issues during the month of November, Mustache May was just a thing to do. Mustache May appears to have less of an impact than Movember, but it continues to follow suit for the last decade, and that is that reason that I will be participating in Mustache May this year.

I have selected “Beauty 2 The Streetz”, an organization run by Shirley Raines who provides makeup, showers, and hair color for the homeless women of Skid Row in Los Angeles, California. Shirley was named the 2021 CNN Hero of the Year for the work that she does for her “Queens” and “Kings”. Shirley has been able to expand her services beyond the hygiene needs for those who lack resources and provides food, clothing, and safety to thousands each week. For more information and to donate please go to Beauty 2 The Streetz

As a bonus, for anyone who donates between May 1-31, 2022, please take a screenshot and DM me a receipt to be entered into a drawing for a special prize which will be announced later. The winner will be announced with my post on Monday, June 6, 2022.

There are so many good causes to choose from that I was overwhelmed, but grateful for Ella Stone-Kerr who is an advocate for the marginalized, unseen, and unwanted populations in our communities who pointed me in Shirley’s direction, so a big thank you to her for this inspiration.

Wearing a mustache means something different to everyone who participates, but for those who do, celebrate that fine ‘stache by taking a stand for something and wearing it proudly.

Where it started……
Mustache May – Day 1


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.


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.


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!

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/