The Inland Empire Experience

Last night, I was lucky enough to get a press pass for the Inland Empire 66ers game against the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.  It was my first time "covering" a game, and I will say it was a very cool experience.  I went with my wife who had to work until 4 so I wasn’t able to the game early, but turned out to be OK since I wouldn’t have been able to talk to anyone before the game anyways.  When I got to the stadium, I used my press pass to get into the press box area, and I noticed that most of the rooms were closed off for radio or broadcasting.  There was one room for the media, however, so that is where I ended up.  In the room was the reporter for the San Bernardino newspaper and the 66ers employee who writes the articles for the team.  I hung around with them for a little bit, but because my wife was sitting by herself I didn’t want to stay up there the whole game.  So they said if I came back in the bottom of the 8th, they would take to the locker room after the game where I could get some questions answered.  So I went back to my seat with something to look forward to.

In terms of the game, I really picked the wrong one to go.  None of the pitchers who threw were really prospects (Josh Walter who is 25 years old, Brandon Mann who is 26, and Eric Krebs who is 25), and Austin Gallagher sat this game out.  I also wanted to see Ramon Jean play, but he was not in the lineup either.  The one player I did get to see, however, was Mike Trout for the Quakes.  He actually struck out 4 times in the game, but he has unbelievable speed and made an outstanding catch in center field.

After falling behind early, the 66ers ended up winning the game with a big 6 run 4th inning.  Scott Van Slyke starting the inning by hitting a shot to center that would have been a homer in most parks, but the tall wall kept it in the park for a triple.  After 6 more singles, a wild pitch, and an error, Inland Empire had taken the lead for good after batting around in the inning. 

Nobody really stood out on offense, but Pedro Baez did have an RBI single and looked very solid in the field at 3rd base.  Alfredo Silverio, however, did not look very good in center field as he took a bad route on a catchable fly ball.  One other strange thing happened in this game that delayed play for about 20 minutes.  Apparently reliever Brandon Mann, who pitched the 7th and 8th innings, had been listed on the DL in the roster that had been provided to the Quakes.  So there was a lot of confusion and running around, but at the end of the day I guess everything was OK.

When the 8th inning rolled around I headed back up to the press box and waited until the end of the game.  When the last batter struck out, I headed down to the locker room with the reporter from the San Bernardino Sun.  I had never been to a locker room before so I didn’t really know what I was doing, but what ended up happening was that the reporter introduced me to Charlie Hough, so he was the one I asked my questions to.  Based on our conversation, this is what I was able to find out from Mr. Hough:

-         Nathan Eovaldi has a strained oblique injury, and Hough has no idea how long he’ll be out.  Before the injury, Eovaldi was topping out at 96 and 97 mph.  I asked Hough why he though Eovaldi’s strikeout rate was so low despite his strong fastball, and Hough said that it was due to his command.  He thinks that if Nathan is able to learn better command, the strikeouts will come.

-        Javier Solano has a low 90’s fastball, and also has a cutter, a curve, and a changeup.  He will remain a reliever, and actually might be shorter than the 6’0" he is listed at.

-        Ethan Martin consistently throws in the mid 90’s, but occasionally can go higher than that.  Hough said that Martin has struggled a bit this year, but he is convinced that Martin will be a star in the big leagues.  I think Hough’s exact words were "he’d better be a star".

-        Kyle Smit has had a very successful conversion to a reliever, and the only problem that he might have as he moves up is that he throws too many strikes at times.

-        Aaron Miller was very advanced as a pitcher when compared to the other players on the team, which impressed Hough.  He said that Miller was very easy to coach and will continue to have success as he moves up.  Hough said that Miller doesn’t throw all that hard (90 to 91 mph), and is more of a location guy.

-        Geison Aguasviva had a rough start to the season because he had a tired arm, but has turned things around recently. 

After mentioning these players, Hough said that I had hit on the big prospects, but that all of the other guys on the team still had a chance to make the majors.  Lastly, I asked Hough about Jansen because I knew that they spent a lot of time together over the past 2 seasons.  Hough said that Jansen is awfully talented, but that he never expected him to be closing games at the big league level this soon.  Hough also said that he believes Jansen will have a lot of success at the big league level.

Overall, I had a great time at the game despite the lack of prospects for the Dodgers, and I’m glad the 66ers won.  The atmosphere is very fun, and the mascot (named Bernie) really does keep you entertained throughout the game.  I would recommend to everyone that they try and make it out to a game this year.  I’m planning on attending one more game toward the end of the season, and maybe next time I’ll get to talk to the hitting coach or manager about some of the position players on the team

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