In which The Ol' Perfesser road-trips au Naturals.
Not the most ideal night to visit Arvest Ballpark, as the Naturals got Drilled by Tulsa 11-6. Due to epic camera failure there will be no pictures, which is just as well since there was very little picturesque about the game. The Naturals faced a good pitcher in Christian Friedrich (at least I seem to recall him as a credible prospect), and he largely had his way with the Naturals lineup for six innings. He brought good heat (consistently in the 90s, at least according to all the radar guns on the row directly in front of me) and had decent location. Alex Caldera, the Naturals' starter, never touched 90 by contrast. I'm not so stupid as to presume much from one game, but this wasn't anybody's best game for the Naturals.
Derric Robinson made a nice leaping catch at the left-field wall in the first inning, saving at least an extra-base hit if not a home run. Regrettably, the Drillers would eventually leave the yard four times against Naturals pitching (three against Caldera), despite Nick Van Stratten's best wall-climbing efforts in right field; he approached the task as if climbing a rock wall, and quite skillfully at that, but to crib a line from one of the Major League movies, he'd need a rocket up his ass to catch that one. He also showed good arm and made a nice running catch in foul territory on a ball on which, most strangely, none of the infielders gave chase. Manny Pina also impressed in gunning down would-be base thieves in each of the first two innings.
On the other hand, Eric Hosmer and Anthony Seratelli did not have good defensive games. Seratelli made at least one outright boot and a number of bad throws (though Hosmer gave him no help on those), and even got beat to the bag on a double-play ball (though Johnny Giovatella may have failed him there by not getting there first), even though he managed to throw the hitter out at first. Hosmer also had a tough night at the plate, including a flailing strikeout with runners in scoring position in the seventh.
Friedrich held the Naturals at bay, but they jumped on the Drillers bullpen for five runs in the seventh and eighth innnings. Brandon Sisk got out of a jam in the eighth (by which time the Drillers led 8-6) but coughed up a three-run homer in the ninth.
As to the Arvest experience, it's a nice enough ballpark, giving the impression of being in the middle of nowhere even though I-540 and the commercial clutch around it is not far off. Good views from around the park. I found the experience rather noisy--not by crowd, but in the sense that the Naturals seem compelled to fill every possible cranny of silence with some kind of noise, be it canned music or some commercial pitch or announcement. The usual array of silly-fun stunts between innings were present, including the all-time favorite dizzy bat race in which the loser ended up faceplanting in the first base line after starting near the dugout--always good for a point-and-laugh.
The crowd was actually a little slim, which was too bad for a perfect night for baseball; not too hot, a little overcast to break up the sky. The stadium is nicely situated to keep most of the stands out of the direct sunlight for evening games, for which I'm quite thankful.
But I think I heard a new high (or low) in commercial sponsorship. As intoned by the announcer, "every foul ball" was sponsored by a local furniture store. This is a baffling concept to me. What if Sam's Furniture had not stepped forward to sponsor the foul balls? Would they be disallowed? Would they put up a giant screen down the base lines to keep the balls fair? And it's not as if there was any sort of attempt to be humorous about it--all you got on a foul ball was a straight commercial pitch. (Tangentially, I can't help but think that George Orwell would have a conniption if he saw the electronically manipulated behavior of crowds at modern sporting events. But perhaps that's a rant for another time.)
Just a word of advice: if you go to Arvest don't order the breaded catfish basket unless you're going to have help. That's a lot of catfish.
I was directly behind a clutch of Royals scouts and staff, but due to the aforementioned affinity for noise there was no way to eavesdrop on any juicy tidbits about the prospects or any activity on the Guillen-waivers front. Rockies scouts were behind me, and I managed to see scouts for the Rangers, Reds, and Marlins among others (while most of the scouts had notebooks that gave away their affiliation somehow, the poor Marlins scout was working with the kind of spiral-bound notebook millions of kids are purchasing right now for back-to-school use. Why does this not surprise me?)
Is there someone on the Royals front office or scouting staff who looks a lot like Dayton Moore, but perhaps with more of a buzzcut? I kept thinking I should know who this one fellow was. He kept looking at his phone as if desperately hoping someone would claim Guillen.
So this trip didn't work out so well, results-wise. Still, a pleasant enough experience, and worth your time should you ever wander through that part of Arkansas.