Giants vs. Marlins, 6/6/06
Last time I saw Jason Schmidt face the Florida Marlins, it was the 2003 playoff. Schmidt shut Florida down, 2-0. Here is a poem I wrote, in the style of William Blake, to celebrate that dominant performance:
The Portly Right-Hander
Each pitch proving the Pirates wrong
Trading him for Ryan Vogelsong
An unhittable fastball on ev'ry pitch
And to the umpire each man would bitch
Just strikes, no balls, and but three hits
Flor'da no rallies, merely fits
Last fourteen hitters all made out
Vict'ry's what this Schmidt's all about
Little did I know that Schmidt would be nearly as dominant this evening, a night I sat in excellent seats with my sister Kelly. Kelly is a great ballpark companion because she knows the game, she's very funny, and she brings snacks. I am not as good of a ballpark companion, as my creepily detailed knowledge of the career of Wes Helms did nothing to convince him to throw us a ball during batting practice.
Venezuelans, Rookies & Middle School Cymbal Players
During batting practice, our favorite player was definitely Alfredo Amezaga, Florida's charismatic utility infielder. He took grounders in front of us, along with Helms, when regular third baseman Cabrera was taking his cuts. Amezaga really put a lot of energy into his infield practice. One ball was hit to the foul side of third base, but Amezaga made a nice stab at the ball, followed by a leaping throw to first. When the crowd applauded his effort, Amezaga shrugged and said, "They don't play me."
The Giants honored a library reading incentive program before the game. The Giants send out Matt Cain to shake hands and take photos with the various librarians, because he doesn't know how to read. It is possible that Cain really does support local libraries, but it is much more likely that he drew photo op duty because he is the youngest guy on the team.
The national anthem was played by the Hoover Middle School band. Just before they started, Omar Vizquel jogged over, and stood next to the cymbal players during their performance. There are only a few cymbal crashes in our national anthem, so the percussionists mostly stared, goggle-eyed, at Omar. He slapped hands with all of the drummers before jogging back to the dugout. There's a reason why he's everyone's favorite Giant.
Catching up With the Marlins
Since their triumph in 2003, the Marlins have turned over nearly their entire roster. Only two players remain from the team that won the world championship just 31 months ago. When my sister Kelly and I arrived to watch batting practice, we found it hard to recognize anyone besides Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis.
Instead, the Marlins are full of young players with potential, displaced former prospects in their late twenties, and a few crappy old pitchers. Their oldest position player, Matt Treanor, is only 30, which would make him the third-youngest hitter on the Giants opening day roster.
The Marlins may be trying to rebuild their tattered franchise by stockpiling failed young catchers. Miguel Olivo was a prsopect once, but he's been discarded by three different teams since July of 2004. Josh Willingham and Mike Jacobs both used to play behind the plate, but now they start in left field and at first base, respectively. There were no wild pitches at first base or in left field, so maybe Florida is on to something.
(On a side note, one reason I enjoy baseball is that it gives me an opportunity to watch young men who are the same age as me, but have far more success in their chosen field, and then deride them for being washed-up. "27 years old, and he's never hit over .270. What a bum. Miguel Olivo will never accomplish anything. Ooh, are those Mint Milanos, Kelly?")
In Which My Sister Predicts the Future
After Randy Winn leads off the first inning with a double, Kelly correctly predicts that Omar Vizquel will sacrifice. Either Kelly is psychic, or Felipe Alou is managing the Giants using optimal strategies for girls softball. Barry Bonds hits into a double play, and the Giants do not score.
Happy Days at AT&T Park
The Giants always let a kid announce the hitters in the third inning. Tuesday night saw the best kid announcer ever, a ten-year-old named Jackson Smith. Once he nailed the name, "Eliezer Alfonzo", we knew the kid had chops. He delivered the names with the volume and inflection of a seasoned wrestling announcer. It's a shame that the Giants went down in order that inning, because I really wanted to hear him say, "Now batting, OOOOOOO-Marrr Viz-QUELLLLLLL!"
Alfonzo has only been in the major leagues for a week, but Kelly and I are pretty sure he already has a nickname. "Fonzie". For the past three years, the Giants had Edgardo Alfonzo, and the names are just too similar for the nickname to change. It doesn't matter if "Alfonzo" is actually a common last name in Venezuela, or if Eliezer has never seen Happy Days. He'll be called Fonzie and like it. Kelly did suggest "Ebeneezer Fonzie" as an expanded nickname. I think Molly would approve.
Dream Fan Experiences
Public address announcer Renel hypes a promotion in which fans can submit their "dream fan experience, if they were YOUR San Francisco Giants". Kelly wonders if the fantasy is restricted only to baseball-related activities. "What if my fantasy was to watch two Giants make out with each other?" Matt Cain would probably be forced to do it.
Second baseman Ray Durham gave a remarkably candid taped interview between innings, where he detailed his love of video games, particularly Halo. Not only that, but he continually looks for new opponents to play online, hassling teammates or their screen names. This affection for video games, coupled with his choice of the THX theme as his walkup music, leads me to believe that:
a) Ray Durham is a nerd
b) He and I would get along quite well.
Durham doubles in the seventh, though it looks like he could have had a triple. Kelly implores him to run harder. "Pretend there's a big killer alien grenade behind you, Ray! Hustle!" Kelly has never played Halo.
He's Going the Distance
Before Schmidt came on to pitch the bottom of the ninth, they played Cake's "The Distance". Do they always play that when someone is going for a complete game, i.e., "going the distance"? I hope they do, because it was very exciting. Schmidt responded by giving up hits to the first two Marlins hitters, and then advancing them to second and third with a wild pitch. Felipe Alou may have been experiencing bowel-shaking earthquakes of doubt and remorse for leaving Schmidt in the game. It turned out Schmidt was just milking the drama. With the tying run ninety feet away, Schmidt struck out the final three Florida hitters to close out the game and tie a century-old team record with 16 strikeouts.
The Giants didn't acknowledge Schmidt's feat until the game was over. I could tell he was striking out a significant number of hitters, but I didn't know exactly how many. I looked around constantly, trying to find a running total of his punchouts, or a guy taping photocopied "K"s to the wall. Nothing. No trophy, no flowers, no flashbulbs, no wine. Maybe the Giants didn't want to jinx anything, like how you don't ever tell a pitcher that he's throwing a no-hitter.
A guy on MUNI had a different opinion. "Peter Magowan's got no class," he said.