¡A Huevo!

Look for the ridiculous in everything and you will find it.

Jules Renard

There is a meme out there I recently saw that said, “I do not have a fake social media personality, I am genuinely this ridiculous in real life”.  I am not sure if there has ever been a more perfect description of who I am, and the adventures I have encountered throughout my life.

This past week lived up to that as I fell ass backward into getting my haircut by Fernando Abad, a pitcher for the Tacoma Rainiers who has spent time in the Major Leagues over the past decade with the Oakland A’s, San Francisco Giants, Boston Red Sox, and most recently the Baltimore Orioles.

The story starts innocently enough, I was in my usual spot in the first base camera well of Sutter Health Park in Sacramento on a Tuesday night talking with those around me, and somehow the topic of hair came up. I noticed Tacoma pitcher Daniel Poncedeleon without his cap on and was so jealous of the well-cut high fade, and his brown shaggy locks that bounced on his head and framed his face perfectly. I never took advantage of my beautiful hair until it was starting to get too late, so I am enjoying it now before its gone. Vanity is not lost on me.

The next day I was scrolling through Instagram stories when I ran across Fernando’s story that showed him giving a haircut to fellow teammate Erick Mejia. Jokingly I replied, “I’m looking for a new barber”, never even expecting him to see it, he replied that he was available. In response I said, “Only if you can do it like Poncedeleon”, to which he replied, “Of course”.  Completely in shock I told him that I thought he was just joking, and I left it at that. The day went on without another thought on the matter when Fernando messaged me a few hours later and said, “I’m serious, when you’re at the stadium tomorrow I’ll cut it”.

“Oh My God! listen to this…” or “Dude, let me tell you..” is quite often how I greet my friends; in this case it was, “Something crazy may be going down”.  Fernando and I worked out the details and settled on 4pm on that upcoming Friday.

I arrived at the ballpark around a quarter to four so that I could drop off my equipment and just settle in. I was a bit nervous, and excited because I was still in a bit of shock that it was going down. I messaged Fernando and told him that I arrived and went to meet him outside of the clubhouse. A little after four we met for the first time, and he asked that I come back a little after five because he had to go do team warmups, so I went back to the press box to grab something to eat. A little after five I sent him a message to let him know that I was on my way, and then when I arrived at the clubhouse, I let him know as well. I waited around for about 10-15 minutes and started to feel a little awkward.

The closer it got to game time I threw in the towel and called it a day. I admit that I was a little disappointed as I felt flaked on, because there was a story in here that I wanted to share, but it is what it is. I recognize that my own desire to get a haircut was selfish and not based on actually needing one since it had not even been two weeks since my last, so I dejectedly returned to the press box to prepare for the game myself.

Once the game started, I did what I always do and set up in the photo well adjacent to the visitor’s dugout taking pictures of baseball and looking for a story. It was then that the baseball gods decided this was the story that needed to be written.

Fernando had come out of the clubhouse and into the dugout about halfway through the game and bee lined to me where he asked where I had been. I told him that I was out there but didn’t see him, but not to worry about it. He then insisted that if I still wanted the haircut, we could do it right after the game. I gave him another chance to back out by saying that it would be late, and he probably had to get back for the night, but he said not to worry as it would only be about 15-20 minutes, and the haircut was back on.

The Rainiers would win 2-0 in a game that was scoreless after the third, and Erick Mejia had knocked in the go ahead run in the second with a line drive to right that scored Brian O’Keefe, and then in the third Sam Haggerty would walk but score on two wild pitches by Tristan Beck. When the game ended, I started to make my way around the infield and up along the third base side toward the clubhouse. It was a fireworks night, so the fans stayed in their seats, players brought their families and girlfriends on the field to watch the show, and as I reached the warning track I took a few moments to enjoy the bright lights exploding over the Sacramento skyline.

Fernando was ready for me and met me at the clubhouse door. We walked past the post-game spread and into the locker room bathroom area where to my surprise had already been set up to look like a barber shop. Laid out on the sink where clippers, razors, various barber looking ointments, neck paper and hair products; to top it off, folded over the chair was an actual barber cape. I took my seat with a chuckle to myself as he put the neck paper on and fastened the cape.

While Fernando cut my hair, we had a chance to make some small talk about his time playing for the River Cats in 2019, but how we never met back then, and I also learned that he had been cutting hair for twenty years. His uncle is a barber back in the Dominican Republic and took Fernando under his wing as a teenager. Fernando was proud of his family, and of his own skills to which he uses to cut most of his Rainier’s teammates hair.

Erick Mejia who had just gotten his haircut earlier in the week stepped in to watch what was going on, and the two of them made sure teach me the proper usage of “si-mon” a term of agreement, and “a huevo” which basically means “Fuck yeah”. What else could be said? I was getting my hair done by Fernando Abad, and talking with bronze medalist Erick Mejia, when in walks Roenis Elias, and Billy Hamilton to join the party, a huevo!

The moment of truth came when Daniel Poncedeleon walked into the bathroom to quite literally check out his own hair, so as he walked out, I called out to him and asked him what he thought. Like a little fangirl I said that I loved his hair which is what got me in this spot to begin with. He laughed and said thank you, then gave me a once over, and said, “Nice, now you got flow”. I was dead.

My hair was finally done, and its honestly the best haircut I have ever had in my life; I already have an appointment for a touch up the next time Tacoma rolls through Sacramento. I have gotten so many compliments since that day, that I cannot rave enough about how good of a job he did. We said our goodbyes and I left the clubhouse and walked out to the parking lot.

I have lived my life for just the experience, “fuck it” has often been my final thought before jumping headlong into something, and while I do not recommend that, you can’t deny that this sure has been an experience. While this has all been fun and games, I want to point out that Fernando did not take any payment for the haircut so I wanted to pay it forward; and in doing so I donated to the Ronald McDonald House Charities of Northern California in Fernando’s name so that they can continue to provide housing to families in need while their children are treated for serious illness or injury. To learn more or to donate, please visit https://rmhcnc.org

They Ain’t Just a Stephen King Novella Anymore…

The Langoliers was a novela by Stephen King as part of the Four Past Midnight collection released in 1990. The plot was basically a pilot finds out his wife was killed in an accident, so he flies out to be with her and a bunch of crazy stuff happens on the flight and landing. Turns out these Langoliers are eating everything to get rid of the evidence. I don’t remember how or if the Langoliers are described in the book, but in the horrible movie adaption they’re these horribly done graphics that are like big rock looking things that fly around and have sharks’ teeth. I didn’t say I was recommending the book, I just thought I’d mention because of Shea Langeliers, catcher for the Las Vegas Aviators who is the Oakland A’s #2 prospect behind Tyler Soderstrom,.and to be completely honest, I think that needs to be reversed. I’ve now had the opportunity to have watched Soderstrom and Langeliers play in person, and with all due respect to Soderstrom, Langeliers is my choice as the A’s Top Prosepect.

Coming out of college, Langeliers was considered the second-best catcher in the 2019 draft behind only #1 overall pick Adley Rutschman. The Braves selected Langeliers with the ninth overall pick that year out of Baylor University. Atlanta’s MILB Player of the Year in 2021, and a key piece in the Matt Olson deal that also included Christian Pache. While Pache is already making his mark with the Oakland A’s, Langeliers has been assigned to Triple-A Las Vegas for 2022.

Langeliers and the Las Vegas Aviators flew into Sacramento to begin a six-game series tied for first in the Pacific Coast West Division with the River Cats as both teams are 13-11. This week should be a good week of baseball with the Division lead on the line as well as the River Cats having three Major League rehab players on this roster in Lamonte Wade Jr, Tommy LaStella, and Evan Longoria in the lineup.

The River Cats started the six-game series with a win, and the games were played out with everything you could expect from the top two teams in the division until the River Cats went off the rails over the weekend. Although the series had been split 2-2 through Friday, it was all downhill from there for the River Cats.

There were plenty of highlights for both teams, but Oakland A’s fans were treated with a stellar pitching performance from Parker Dunshee who tossed six shoutout innings, striking out six, and only giving up a walk and a hit, it was Star Wars Day, and the Force was definitely with him. The performance also earned Dunshee Pacific Coast League Pitcher of the Week.

Sacramento finally was also able to see the home debut of Tristan Beck who made his Triple-A debut the previous week in Albuquerque. Beck came to the Giants as part of the deal that sent Mark Melancon to Atlanta back in 2019, and he was the Braves fourth-round pick in 2018 out of Stanford. He had a rough outing in his Triple-A debut but pitched better than the numbers show in the box score this night as he struck out five in 5.1 innings of work in a loss.

On a side note, it was nice to see former River Cats pitcher Sam Selman come into the game for Las Vegas to pitch an inning and say hello. While on the mound Sean Hjelle commented to the Aviator’s dugout, “He’s one guy I don’t understand how we let go”. Unbeknownst to us all, that would be Hjelle’s last night in Triple-A as the Giants called him the next day where he made his Major League debut against the Cardinals in an inning of relief and throwing a perfect 1-2-3 inning and also getting his first strikeout by way of Corey Dickerson.

One of the best pitching performances of the season was also turned in by River Cats pitcher Raynel Espinal on that same Friday night who went a solid five innings, striking out a season high nine batters while the River Cats as a team had fourteen; all I want to know is where did this guy come from??  The Cats would win on a combined 4-0 shutout.

Saturday night was nothing short of a disaster for the River Cats as they lost by a score of 13-0. The Aviators simply dominated behind lefty Jared Koenig and his 10 strikeouts in six innings. Koenig would allow only two hits and one walk in his outing as well.

This series ended on a beautiful Sunday afternoon for Mother’s Day. While the skies were overcast, the weather itself was perfect. River Cats’ pitcher Taylor Williams’ wife even threw out the first pitch as the couple celebrated their first Mother’s Day with their son Nolan. The River Cats would drop this by a score of 3-1 and fall into third place in the Division.

The aforementioned Langeliers really shined and was the highlight of the series where he hit .320 with two home runs and three RBI. He also showed off his catching skills behind the plate which were impressive, and the arm is a cannon. Langeliers now leads the PCL with 11 home runs on the season, and Sacramento’s David Villar sits in second place with eight. While I loved Matt Olson and I know the pain that A’s fans endure as their beloved players keep getting shipped off instead of paid, Langeliers is a star in the making, so enjoy him while you can.

The Aviators took the series by winning four of the six and gained sole possession of first place in the PCL West, while the River Cats dropped to third behind Tacoma.

One common theme during the first three games were the complaints about the pitch clock violations and how arbitrary they appeared to be. There were at least three called during that Game 3 alone. I had one pitcher with Major League experience, tell me that it was “the dumbest rule in baseball”. Another interaction between bench players and an umpire contained comments like, “You can’t just reset it whenever you want”, and “You stopped him! Someone is going to get hurt”! The cohesion on this matter was clear to me when the opposing team’s first base coach who also now has Major League experience commented, “They don’t give a shit about us. If they want to do this, they shouldn’t do this at Triple-A, they’re messing with people’s livelihoods”.

According to Jeff Passan, Minor League games have been shortened by an “average of twenty minutes”, but at what cost to the players? What is baseball trying to do when they don’t listen to the fans who don’t want this and more importantly the players who find it both inconvenient and dangerous? While baseball can be a long game, not knowing when it will end is part of the beauty of it.

This week the River Cats start a series against the El Paso Chihuahuas, Triple-A affiliate of the San Diego Padres. They will be facing a rehabbing Blake Snell in the opening game of the series. The Chihuahuas are third in the Pacific Coast East with a record of 17-13, the same as the Aviators who lead the West. Round Rock has the best record in the PCL as we start the week at 19-11.

Who the Fook is THAT Guy??

I had my mind set for 2021 on making this blog focused on Triple-A West, and Low-A West baseball, but I find myself still focusing on the River Cats. I’ll try to work on that, but for now here is another update on the River Cats 6-game series against Las Vegas where they went 2-4 so there wasn’t a whole lot to get excited about. Joey Bart did return to action after having been out for about a week due to some tenderness in his groin. The real highlight of the series was Sam Long. Who? You might ask. Well, most people outside of Sacramento probably don’t know him, and to be honest being from Sacramento myself, I had already forgotten about him, but he is definitely worth taking note of after his first start here for the River Cats.

A Fair Oaks native and an alumnus of Del Campo High School, and Sacramento State where he played for three years, Sam was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the 16th round of the 2016 Major League Baseball Draft. After spending three years in the Rays system before being released, and then considering leaving baseball, before signing with the White Sox after a six-month break. The Giants signed him and invited him to Spring Training this season. He opened some eyes with his 97-mph fastball, and he was assigned to Double-A Richmond to start the season where he was 0-1 in four starts with a 3.00 ERA, and 22 strikeouts in 15 innings of work. Having just been called up days before, Long was making his Triple-A debut for his hometown team, in front of a hometown crowd; and he didn’t disappoint.

Long struck out the first eight batters he faced before allowing a hit to Aviator’s outfield Buddy Reed. He then struck out the next batter for good measure. He had a 60-pitch limit and was pulled after strikeout number nine and had reached pitch 56. I couldn’t find any information on the Minor League record for strikeouts to start a game, but the Major League record is eight, which is the mark that Long reached. The feat was first done in 1986 by Houston Astros’ pitcher Jim Deshaies and matched by Jacob deGrom in 2014. While we may or may not have witnessed history that night in Sacramento, it was still an outing to remember. It will be interesting to see how Long follows up this performance when he toes the rubber this Saturday June 5, 2021, against the first place Reno Aces. There’s something amiss about Long’s season so far in my opinion as the Giants don’t seem to be stretching him out as is shown by his 60-pitch limit. I just find it odd that he had those four starts in Richmond, yet only has 15 innings under his belt so its probably safe to assume that 60 has been the high point for him so far.

The rest of the series saw Tyler Beede with his worst outing of the season where he simply didn’t have his control. Beede pitched three, and allowed 6 runs, 5 earned, while walking six, including two hit batters and only striking out one. I don’t know if these are numbers that we should be concerned about or if it’s the natural progression of someone who is going through Tommy John rehab as I’ve never watched another player’s return so closely. I realize the numbers don’t always tell the whole story and I wasn’t at this game to see it firsthand, but his control seems to be getting a little worse lately. The series did end on a high note though as newly acquired Braden Bishop, older brother of Giants top prospect Hunter, ended the series finale in style.  The back-and-forth game which found the River Cats and Aces tied in the bottom of the 9th started and ended with Bishop. On a 1-1 count as the clock struck 10:00pm Braden launched his first homerun off of Ace’s reliever Matt Milburn for the walkoff! This was Sacramento’s first walk off since August of 2018 when Gregor Blanco did, and was then called up the next day.

The River Cats start a 12-game road trip against Reno and Tacoma before returning to Sacramento on June 17th. That will be the first game since Covid in which capacity will be at 100% and I’m excited to see a full crowd!