It was a beautiful night at a ball park in Lincoln. If you were there, it might remind you of Marysville in recent years. Or Arcata. Or other places where summer ball flourishes. Over 800 friends and neighbors watching the community team, but also hanging out and enjoying the evening at the same time.
The Lincoln Potters ended up falling to the Chico Heat in the first game of a best-of-three playoff series, but not very many people were going home unhappy. The home town Potters trailed 1-0 early, but led 2-1 most of the way. The Heat came up with two in the eighth for a 3-2 lead, but after tying the game in the bottom of the ninth, the potential winning run was thrown out at the plate, forcing the game to extras. The Heat won 4-3, but by the very definition—what you would expect to see if you looked it up—it was fun at the old ball park.
Yes, the Great West League has concluded it's regular season. In Marysville, that means the end of the baseball summer. There are six teams in the GWL, four make the playoffs, and the two that didn't were the Marysville Gold Sox and the Yuba City Bears. The Bears, created this year so the league would have a sixth team, weren't really expected to be very good, and they weren't. They lost 17 in a row at one point, and that was because they didn't have the rival Gold Sox to play. All twelve of those meetings came in the first month. The Bears ended up with a record of 13-47.
The Gold Sox, however, were a different story. Last year, in the first year of the Great West League, they got off to a roaring 17-2 start. They stumbled to the finish line, but at least crossed the tap ahead of the .500 mark, completing the league's inaugural year at 29-28. This year, they never recovered from a 0-4 start, and ended 2017 with a record of 23-37. It's the worst record ever for a Gold Sox team, and the first time they've finished under .500 in the collegiate era (the professional Gold Sox of 2002 were 43-47).
According to fans who did go to games in Marysville, they didn't have much company. Splitting into two teams had a ball park date every night, but less than half the crowds of what the Gold Sox had before joining the GWL. True, it was an oppressively hot summer for the most part, and there were two teams, but they were both losing. Staying home (or doing something else) didn't seem like a bad option.
Lincoln, on the other hand, could really have something here. The Potters finished in third place, but were 35-25. The park is small and needs improvements, but even without fireworks, or dollar hot dog night, brought out the folks for likely their only playoff game (down 0-1, they go to Chico for games two and three). It was interesting to find a few old Gold Sox fans there, and several workers at the ball park who were once employed in Marysville. All had nothing but good things to say about Lincoln and the future of the Potters, and all agreed (putting it kindly) that things in Marysville are not what they used to be.
On the field, the Medford Rogues (40-20) had the GWL's best record for the second straight year. Last year, they fell to Chico, and the Heat are trying to repeat that performance in 2017. The Portland Pickles finished fourth, and are down 0-1 to the Rogues in the other playoff series. The winners of each of the two series meet in a best-of-three championship starting Friday night.
You also have to hand it to the league. All six teams got in all 60 games, players weren't going home early or not making final road trips like last year. There were no reports of umpires being fired, or managers not leaving the field or anything like that. Last year saw some crazy things,m including a game that was terminated because an ejected manager wouldn't leave.
At least at the league level, there were no reports of anything like that this time. In Marysville, though, there were some stories. Substantiated or not, we were told of a manager getting into an argument with a host family, fans of several years getting thrown out of the stadium, and the general manager turning a blind eye to other incidents either on or off the field. It's possible, and even likely, that those stories, are exaggerated or embellished, but when they come from more than one source, you have to believe there is a grain of truth in there somewhere.
The thing is, though, that while the Great West League was aptly described by a Gold Sox official last year as (pardon my French) a “shit show”, it seems that's no longer the case, and hopefully that bodes well for the future of the league. The GWL still needs two more teams, and also needs to upgrade the talent to more Division One college players if it still wants to brand itself as one of the “premier college wood bat leagues in the country”, but might be able to overcome those hurdles. Going to a game in Marysville last year (and by reports more so this year) didn't lead one to believe that. Going to a game in Lincoln may have changed one's mind.
Alumni report: When the Houston Astros placed catcher Evan Gattis on the seven-day concussion disabled list, we figured they would call up former Sox catcher Max Stassi from Triple-A. They passed on Stassi, though, and went with the other catcher, Juan Centeno. Max is batting a respectable .271 with 12 home runs and 37 RBIs in Fresno. Centeno was batting .323 with one homer and 32 RBIs. Centeno had a walkoff single to beat Toronto Sunday... The Chicago Cubs waived pitcher Dylan Floro last week, who pitched against the Gold Sox and is the brother of Sox alum Brock Floro. Dylan was claimed by the Los Angeles Dodgers and assigned to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Speaking of the Dodgers (and it's hard not to): Saturday's win over the Mets was their 43rd win in their last 50 games, besting the 42-8 mark they posted in 2013. The 1912 New York Giants and the 1906 (Tinker to Evers to Chance) Chicago Cubs are the only teams that have ever bettered that mark over 50 games. The Dodgers also won on Sunday, meaning they have won 13 of their last 14, 24 of 27, and 44 of 51. If they go 25-26 in their final 51 games, they'll still win 104.
Non-word of the month: A Houston Astros broadcaster used it, but we've heard it before. In baseball parlance, “indecisiveness” is mostly used for pitchers. Spell check actually didn't flag it, but the correct word is indecision. It still goes up there with “resiliency” (resilience), and “anxiousness” (anxiety) at the top of the list. At least Aaron Boone of ESPN's “precautionarily” was creative.