San José Giants last night. I had no idea it was a fireworks night, or I probably would've waited for another day. When I go to a game alone, I prefer a sparse crowd. Makes me feel like less of a loser baseball geek. Hard to think a fish can disappear easier in a smaller pond, but that's how it feels.
Anyway, of course, it's packed with families, and with families comes kids, and with kids comes the church-like stand-up-sit-down routine every ten seconds because somebody's little brat can't sit still for five freaking minutes – as if it's a chore to watch the bloody game.
I'm the kinda guy with tree stumps for legs, so I have to sit on the aisle to be able to stretch out. In a sparse crowd, this is no big deal. But on a fireworks night at Muni, it's f***ing torture. It becomes even more tortuous when the usually solid Jack Snodgrass gives up six runs over the first three innings...
But it was not a night of wall-to-wall pain and suffering. After all, Sergio Romo and Brandon Belt were there to throw out the first pitch. Neener...
I went primarily to get a look at Ricky Oropesa, the Gigantes' third-round pick in 2011, a husky firstbaseman out of USC – my alma mater. With 8 homers and 59 RBI thus far, I figured he was close to becoming a Flying Squirrel, and I wanted to catch him while he was playing in my hometown.
I got a good look at the hanger he absolutely mashed off the right field wall leading off the bottom of the 2nd. The damn thing came off his bat like lightning, and it got out there so quick, he couldn't even stretch a double after it rebounded straight to the right fielder.
He also worked a walk later and added a solid shot up the middle that for some reason was called an error even though it would have taken an excellent play by the second baseman to get him. Hopefully the hometown scorekeeper changed that one.
I got a taste of the Giants' 2011 first-rounder, secondbaseman Joe Panik (At The Disco) out of St. John's. The lefty had a pair of solid singles, both of which I believe went the other way – over or through the 5-6 hole. He had a good approach, patient, letting the ball come to him. Doesn't have a lot of pop for now, but his build profiles like a young Jeff Kent. I could see him developing a power stroke.
I do think Panik was entirely out of position at shortstop last night. Not sure if he's seeing much action there, but he doesn't seem to have the arm for it. He short-hopped a few throws to Oropesa, and one got through in the 9th, allowing the Ports to score what turned out to be the winning run.
Andrew Susac was the third 2011 pick I went to see. The catcher out of Oregon State also had a solid night at the plate, also with an opposite-field approach. And he seemed to handle the pitching staff well from behind the dish. He didn't let anything by him, and he knew when to go out for a chat. I don't think Snodgrass was digging his rap, though...
Anyway, I might've left after seven if the Giants hadn't made it a game. Chris Wilson – wearing the number 38, I shit you not – took over for Snodgrass after 2 2/3 to turn in 3 1/3 of one-hit, no-walk, three-K ball. And the offense closed the gap to 6-4 after a two-run single from right fielder Ryan Lollis.
Adam Duvall's 3-run dong got them within a run in the bottom of the 9th, but alas, it was not to be, and the lads fell to Stockton by a final of 8-7. Still, I was too spent after a long day to stick around for the explosions in the sky. I'm sure they were nice.
Despite the packed house, I chose the most fortuitous of seats: Directly in front of two Italians speaking the language of my family's history. Even better: One was explaining the game of baseball to the other.
Now, I don't speak a lick of Italiano, but I know enough baseball to have understood at least half of what they were talking about. And I know enough futbol to engage them in a conversation (in English) about today's Euro 2012 semifinal with Germany. (For the record: I called a 1-0 Italy victory.)
But my favorite smile of the night had to be listening to one of my fellow countrymen – who turned out to be an engineer at Yahoo! (and before that Sun) – describe for his friend the ingredients and preparation of a churro. Trust me. You haven't lived.