September 2014

Hero Cats, that pesky sun in centerfield and Don Drysdale. Getting to know the Bakersfield Blaze

It was announced last week that the Seattle Mariners Advanced Class-A affiliation will no longer be in High Desert, but moving to Bakersfield in the California League. The move ends an eight-year run of Seattle being affiliated with the Mavericks in Adelanto, CA. The Blaze had been affiliated with the Reds for the past four years. Ballpark Digest also chronicled the change in affiliation. So, no longer will most of the new Generals come from High-A, High Desert, but from High-A, Bakersfield. Admittedly, it is a bit less redundant to say and write. BakersfieldBlaze

I thought it would be fun to get to know the new M’s affiliate – get to know Bakersfield, the area and the ballpark. They are a franchise that has been around for a long time and have a rich baseball history. So, I reached out to Dan Besbris, Assistant GM for Media and Marketing as well as team broadcaster for the past three seasons. I asked him.some questions and he came through with some terrific answers.

Here is my Q&A with Dan.

CH: Where did the nickname Blaze come from?

DB: Unfortunately, the story isn’t nearly as funny as the ones that get thrown around. It’s not because we lit the field on fire or had some run-in with the fuzz. Sadly, it’s just because it’s hotter than Hades in the summertime.

CH: What is Bakersfield most known for?

DB: Oil, energy, agriculture, and country music. We are the second-largest oil-producing area in the States behind Alaska. Of course, the area does take on a bit of an odor, and the air quality here is pretty low. As far as music, Bakersfield is the home of Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. Most folks know it as “The Bakersfield Sound” – there was an exhibit on it at the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville we were fortunate enough to check out during the Winter Meetings a couple years back.

CH: Tell me a little bit about Sam Lynn Ballpark?

DB: Sam Lynn Ballpark is an odd duck. It faces the wrong way, and centerfield is only 354 feet from home plate. The scoreboard, which was actually installed by the Mariners back in 1983, seems to have ghosts in it, adding numbers where they shouldn’t be, and putting up a mysterious “7” in the 7th that can’t be removed. But it’s also nostalgia at its best. Most folks out here remember when they played a High School tournament at Sam Lynn 40 years ago or came out and saw the Dodgers 5 straight Rookies of the Year. It’s a weird little hut, but it’s our weird little hut. Oh, and our program salesman is a man named Froggy that almost anyone that has played here will remember for his gravely voice.Blaze-Stadium

CH:  It is an older park, what are the prospects of a new stadium?

DB: Rumors come and go. I’ve sort of stopped paying attention to them, though the latest is a potential move to Salinas.

CH: So, the sun sets behind the centerfield wall. What challenges does that present?

DB: We have to start games around 8 p.m. pacific time in the dead of summer. The California League won’t let us start, then take a sun delay, so we have to wait until the sun ducks behind a 30-foot metal wall build behind, and above the outfield fence in straightaway center. It’s tough to get kids to stay past the 5th or 6th inning, just because of timing, but otherwise, a pair of sunglasses usually does the trick.

CH: How has attendance been recently?

DB: On the rise, for sure. We only hold 1,839 at capacity, so we’ll never be a big bopper, but we’re up from 40k in 2011 to 60k this year, and 800+ fans per night in a park that only has 1,200 grandstand seats feels relatively full.

CH: What is some of the more unique aspects of the baseball history in Bakersfield?

DB: Don Mossi, arguably the ugliest man in baseball history, was married at home plate. Don Drysdale is our Hall of Famer, and over 250 former Bakersfield players have made the bigs. The names people might know, recently at least, would be Billy Hamilton of the Reds (who set the minor league steals record with over 100 here before finishing the job in Pensacola), Josh Hamilton, Chris Davis, and going back a tiny bit farther, Rocco Baldelli.

Ken Griffey Sr. was the manager in Bakersfield from 2011-2013

Ken Griffey Sr. was the manager in Bakersfield from 2011-2013

CH: What are the biggest names to of played for Bakersfield?

DB: Oops, sort of answered this one above. Our Dodgers years were the most laden with names. Pedro Martinez, Mike Piazza, Eric Karros, Raul Mondesi, Hideo Nomo, Orel Hershiser, and so on.

CH: What is the history of MLB affiliation in Bakersfield?

DB: Yikes. There’s been a bunch. Mariners (of course), Reds, Rangers, Devil Rays, Giants, Dodgers (that gets us back to 1968). Prior to that, it was a bit of a revolving door that included the Phillies, Cubs, Tigers and Indians.

CH: As the broadcaster, what has been some of your most memorable moments since you have been there?

DB: My first month in Bakersfield I got to call (and then feel the hurt from) the longest professional 9-inning game. In April of 2011, the Blaze lost to the Inland Empire 66ers by the score of 24-19 in a game that took 4:55 and included a 10-run comeback. Being a part of the Billy Hamilton legend in 2012 was pretty amazing (took calls from ESPN, the LA Times, the NY Times, among others), and this year we had Tara the Hero Cat throw out a first pitch and ESPN did a SportsCenter package LIVE from Sam Lynn.

HeroCatCH: If a Mariners fan visited Bakersfield, what would be on their to do list to see or do before leaving?

DB: Sunday brunch at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace; try some Basque food (we have a strangely large number of Basque in Bakersfield); drive out to the oilfields just to get a look at the chaos.

CH: Do you ever get any references to the movie “Cast Away” with Tom Hanks?

DB:  Nope, though I’ve tried to get people to watch The Running Man with Arnold. The criminal he chases at the beginning of the film is called The Bakersfield Butcher.

2014 Wrap and Postseason Accolades

Another summer of professional baseball in Jackson has come and gone. Despite a losing record for the second straight year, this club will be remembered for some pretty entertaining moments and some numbers that are pretty astonishing. I thought what better way to wrap up a season with some accolades and putting some of those great performances into perspective.

All Star

First off, attendance wise in 2014, Jackson drew a total of 135,248 fans in 67 openings, which was 16,046 more than last season. It was the highest total attendance since 2008 and thanks in part to a new playing surface, the 67 home dates was the most in seven years.

Patrick Kivlehan by Seth Chandler

Patrick Kivlehan by Seth Chandler

Offensive Player of the Year and MVP: Jackson’s successes in 2014 were led in large part by Patrick Kivlehan. He was named a Southern League postseason All-Star and ranked seventh in the league in average (.300) and fourth in slugging (.485). Kivlehan played in 138 of 139 games overall this season between Single-A and Double-A and hit .295, with 32 doubles, nine triples, 20 home runs and 103 RBI’s. Kivlehan played first, third, and all three outfield positions. His favorite player growing up in New York was David Wright and he may end up being just as good.

Honorable Mentions: Ketel Marte was promoted to Triple-A Tacoma on August 10, but still earned postseason All-Star honors in the league. Marte hit .302, with 27 doubles for Jackson and improved those numbers in Tacoma batting .313. The 20-year-old shortstop has a bright future.

Although D.J. Peterson just played just half a season in Jackson, you can’t deny the big numbers. Like another former Seattle first round pick, Mike Zunino in 2012, Peterson blasted 13 home runs in a short period of time, 58 games, and collected 38 RBI’s. Peterson wrapped up his second pro season, batting .297, with 31 doubles, 31 home runs and 111 RBI’s in 123 games with Single-A High Desert and Jackson. Peterson is one of just five minor league players this season to record at least 30 home runs, while driving in at least 100 runs. Peterson finished with one more RBI this season than Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant.

Tyler Olson by Jeff Roush

                   Tyler Olson by Jeff Roush

Starting Pitcher of the Year: The Seattle Mariners picked up a steal with their 17th round pick during the 2013 draft in lefty Tyler Olson. The Gonzaga product finished the season with a club-record five wins in August and became the first pitcher in franchise history to record 10 wins in a season since J.R. Mathes accomplished it in 2006 when the Diamond Jaxx were affiliated with the Chicago Cubs. In six August starts, Olson was 5-1, with a 1.18 ERA, allowing just five earned runs in 38.0 innings. He struck out 30 and walked just seven in August. Overall, Olson was 10-7, with a 3.52 ERA in 2014.

Reliever of the Year: There was not a Stephen Pryor, Yoervis Medina, Steve Delabar or Carter Capps on this club, but, Stephen Shackleford led the team with 44 appearances and went 6-2, with a 3.11 ERA. Shackeford struck out 70 over 63.2 innings and had a 1.64 ERA over his last 13 outings.

Dan Paolini by Jeff Roush

Dan Paolini by Jeff Roush

Breakout Player: If you keep up with prospect rankings, outfielder Jordy Lara was nowhere to be found back in March. Well, the 23-year-old Dominican led the Mariners minor league system with a .337 average, as well as 40 doubles, 26 home runs and 104 RBI’s split between High Desert and Jackson. Not bad.

Honorable Mentions: Dan Paolini will not get any headlines or prospect statuses, but he closed the season with back-to-back four-hit performances (no other Jackson player and two four hit games) and finished tied for fourth in the league with 34 doubles. He hit just .165 with no home runs in 31 Double-A games in 2013, but rebounded by hitting .268, with 13 home runs and 65 RBI’s in 2014. Also, outfielder Leon Landry rebounded from a lackluster 2013 campaign to lead the Generals with 25 stolen bases and made numerous spectacular catches in centerfield.

Trevor Miller by John Shadrick

Trevor Miller by John Shadrick

Most likely to begin the season in Seattle next season: The past two years a Jackson starter has broken camp the next year with the Mariners starting rotation. It was righty Brandon Maurer in 2013 and lefty Roenis Elias this year. Olson definitely will get a look in 2015 spring training and certainly Peterson, Kivlehan, Marte and even pitcher Trevor Miller will have a shot.

Moment of the Year: There were some really nice moments in 2014, but honestly the moment freshest on the mind could be the best. The Generals closed the season on September 1 at Montgomery with a 13-6 win in which Peterson hit two home runs and Jackson had 20 hits in a game for the first time since August, 2009. Retiring pitcher Moises Hernandez (Felix’s older brother) got the win. Hernandez got a water cooler shower and it was just a fantastic way to end a season.

Names to watch out for in 2015? Yes, the Generals open the season on April 9, 2015 at Jacksonville and it’s never too early to look ahead. Outfielder Jabari Henry hit .291, with 30 home runs and 95 RBI’s for Single-A High Desert in 2014. Also, outfielder Gabby Guerrero, the nephew of former MLB slugger Vladimir Guerrero hit .307, with 18 homers and 96 RBI’s for High Desert this season.

Jack Marder forced to retire due to numerous concussions

At 24-years-old, Jackson utility man and promising young Mariners prospect Jack Marder has been forced to give up baseball. Marder was hit in the head by a 92 mph fastball during a game in Montgomery on July 19, which ultimately is the final game of his professional baseball career.

He suffered a concussion, which was at least the seventh in his baseball career. Originally drafted as a catcher in RS4_47662011 out of the University of Oregon, the concussions that added up forced him to make a position change.

“After I got hit in head (in Montgomery) I knew it (would be) an issue,” said Marder. “It’s what prevented me from continuing to catch. But I was starting to feel fine towards end of year, so all the hope I had was in that meeting.”

The meeting he is referring came at the end of the season in Seattle with Mariners doctors. Marder began to play catch, take swings in the cage and it seemed if the season went on a few more weeks he could be activated.

“I went up to Seattle and took brain scans. After seven, eight concussions and looking at my brain they didn’t clear me to keep going.”

Marder, as any baseball player would be after hearing news like that was devastated.

“I honestly never felt as though I’d be done. So when they had that talk with me, it was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever gone through. I just really didn’t think they would ever tell me I couldn’t keep playing.”

In the dictionary beside the word toughness, there should be a picture of Jack. If you were able to be around Jack, his positive attitude and mindset rubbed off on you. He never had a bad day. I mean can you imagine suffering through that many concussions and playing the game at the highest level? He was a coaches dream. Whether it was teammates, scouts, coaches, opposing teams, umpires etc. they raved about how he played the game. He played it the right way, whether he felt good that day or not.

“ I played though injuries my whole life, always managed a way to get on the field. Tricked them enough to get me in the lineup sometimes. In this case though, there was no more pleading I could’ve done, or disguising my injuries in a case like this.”

Marder announced the news on his twitter page on Friday night and of course there was an outpouring of support from fans and teammates.

Mariners’ top prospect D.J. Peterson had this to say to Marder after playing with him the second half of the 2014 season.

Big guy? Well, not so much in stature at a listed (and I say listed) 5’11’’, 185 pounds, but again it comes from how he played the game.RS4_4701

He jumped on the radar after his 2012 season with Single-A High Desert in the hitter friendly confines of Adelanto, CA posting a .352/.416/.564 slash line with 24 doubles, four triples, 10 home runs and 56 RBI’s in just 65 games. He was limited due to one of those concussions and a hamstring injury. It was in 2012 though when we began to see the versatility as he appeared in games at catcher, second base and the outfield.

In 2013, rated as a top 20 Mariners prospect he battled through the tough jump to Double-A and was no longer a catcher. In 90 games, he batted just .218 playing in games at catcher, second base, third base, left field, right field and designated hitter. But, this year, in his second season at the Double-A level, Marder started to live up to that hype he received at the end of 2012. After a little bit of a slow start, he hit .329 in June and overall in 74 games batted .277, with 11 doubles, two triples, five homers and 24 RBI’s. The patented patience at the plate led to 27 walks and a terrific .375 on-base percentage. He was also hit by a pitch 12 times in 2014, pushing his career total to 38.

For now though, it’s looking to the future. Unfortunately, it is not a future  that would’ve probably had him with Triple-A Tacoma in 2015. But,  Marder has already paved out a plan, at least for the short-term. He is going back to the University of Oregon to finish school and be an undergrad assistant for the Duck’s baseball team.

More importantly than anything though, he says he is feeling healthy.

“I feel fine now. I was worried though that the next (concussion) could be life altering for me with how many I’ve had and what they saw on the CT scan”Marder-3

With his knowledge and passion for baseball, I asked him if coaching professionally could be in his future.

“I haven’t thought that far. I know I can’t get away from baseball. Coaching is my only way to be a part of it and I plan on being good at it. I plan on being the best there is some way or another. If I’m able to do it professionally then I will strongly consider it.”

Over four seasons and 247 games he’s had some great memories and I asked him to reflect on his baseball career not only with the Mariners’ organization, but overall.

“I played baseball since I was three and have had great moments and have had bad ones. I’ll miss the guys, the bus rides, grind of it and long seasons where you go through so much. You never get that anywhere else and I’ll miss it. Feeling of getting knocked in the dirt and coming back from it and rising above it. That’s what baseball is.

I wish there were more players like Jack Marder, more players that played the game the right way. More players that pulled the socks up high and had that “bring the lunch pail to work” type of passion and work ethic. He had a chance to play in the big leagues and unfortunately it will never come to fruition. It’s not fair, in fact in flat out stinks, but Marder has an amazing attitude.

“I don’t want people feeling bad for me to. I believe everything happens for a reason. It will all work out in the end.”

Game Central (Monday, September 1) at Montgomery

Game #139: Jackson Generals 31-38 (62-76) at Montgomery Biscuits 31-38 (66-73)
Time/Place: 12:05 pm CT | Riverwalk Stadium | Montgomery, Alabama
Pitching Match-Up: RHP Victor Sanchez (7-6, 3.99) vs. RHP Victor Mateo (12-10, 3.72) 
Radio: Online Only | Listen Live Online | TuneIn Radio App | IPAD or IPHONE
Live Stats: Live pitch-by-pitch coverage will be available on MILB GAMEDAY
Generals Videos: Watch Generals Highlights and Features
Generals Blog: Inside the Jackson Generals
Social Media: Twitter Facebook

Roster 2014 Schedule | 2014 Promotions | 2014 Stats | Current SL Standings | MLB Game Notes | Mariners Roster | MLB Standings

2014 Lineup Home2


• The Generals conclude their final series and road trip of the season today with the rubber match of a 5-game set at Montgomery…Jackson dropped 3 of 5 from Chattanooga in previous series.
• The game can be heard on 96.5 ESPN, online at or TuneIn Radio.

• The Generals came back from a 6-4 deficit on Sunday night to defeat Montgomery 7-6 and even the series at 2-2.
• LF Dan Paolini (4×5) homered in the first and was a triple shy of the cycle. Paolini’s 4-hit game was his second of the season (last 8/9 at PEN). 1B D.J. Peterson (2×5, RBI), C Tyler Marlette (2×4, HR) joined Paolini with multi-hit games on Sunday.
• It was just the 6th time in 62 games that Jackson has won win trailing after six innings.
• Starter Stephen Landazuri (4.1,6,6,6,3,3) did not factor into the decision in his final start of 2014. LH Kyle Hunter (2.2,2,0,0,1,2) picked up the win as he, LH Nick Hill (1.0,0,0,0,1,1) and RH Matt Brazis (1.0,0,0,0,0,1) shutout the Biscuits over the final 5.2 innings. Brazis recorded his 2nd save.

• Over 5 starts in August, LH Tyler Olson went 5-1 with a 1.18 ERA (5 ER, 38.0 IP). During this stretch he limited opponents to a .199 (28×141) average, while walking 7 and striking out 30. After going 3-5 with a 4.56 ERA (36 ER, 71.0 IP) over his first 13 AA starts, Olson went 7-2 with a 2.15 ERA (13 ER, 54.1 IP) over his final 9 starts.
• Olson became the franchises first 10-game winner since J.R. Mathes accomplished the feat in 2006 (10-8).That was a year prior to Jackson becoming an affiliate of the Mariners.

• The Southern League announced the 2014 Postseason All-Stars Friday and Ketel Marte was named to the squad at shortstop and Patrick Kivlehan as utility player. Kivlehan has appeared in games at 1B, 3B, LF, RF, CF and DH.

• Of the 10 minor league players this season to record at least 100 RBI this season, the Generals currently have 3 players on the list. Seattle is the only franchise with 3 players with at least 100 RBI this season (Colorado has 2) and have 4 players that rank in the top 13. INF D.J. Peterson currently ranks 3rd in the minor league with 106 RBI, while INF/OF Patrick Kivlehan and INF Jordy Lara are T5th with 103. High Desert OF Jabari Henry is currently T13th in 2014 with 95 RBI.

• The Mariners, affiliated in 2014 with the Surprise Saguaros are sending current General pitchers RH Matt Brazis and RH Stephen Landazuri along with position players D.J. Peterson and Patrick Kivlehan to the AFL.
• Current High Desert pitcher Matt Anderson and Tacoma catcher John Hicks will play for Surprise. Jackson trainer B.J. Downie will serve as athletic trainer for the Saguaros, who will partner with the the Red Sox, Reds, Padres and Rangers in 2014.

• YOU ALREADY KNOW that the Generals won their 62nd game of the season on Sunday, but DID YOU KNOW? ..that it matched the win total of 2013 and only twice in the 17-year history of the franchise has the club ended the season with less than 62 wins. (60 in 2007, 59 in 2001).

• Seattle snapped an 11-game losing streak vs. the Nationals yesterday with a 5-3 win (since June 10, 2005).
• Defeated them for the first time since they moved to Washington (last: vs. Expos on June 13, 2004).
• Former Jackson 2B Dustin Ackley hit a go-ahead 3-run home run in the 5th inning, his 2nd home run in as many days. He has 7 home runs in his last 28 games (as well as 5 doubles, 2 triples and 26 RBI) since July 31.

• Bring on the Biscuits…again: The Generals conclude their season series with Montgomery today and are 9-10 overall this season against the Biscuits and 4-5 at Riverwalk Stadium.
• Jackson is batting .264 against Montgomery this season and have been out-scored by the Biscuits 87-84 in the 18 games.
• Leading the SL in Homers Since July 1st – After hitting just 40 home runs over their first 81 games, Jackson has hit 50 home runs over their last 57 games since July 1st which leads the Southern League in that period of time. The Generals have hit 29 home runs in August which is 2nd in the SL and 14 in their last 14 games.
• Peterson blasts homer 11 and 29 on Saturday – INF D.J. Peterson blasted his 11th Jackson home run and 29th overall this season on Saturday night. Peterson currently ranks 2nd in the Mariners minors behind Jabari Henry of High Desert (30) in home runs and is T11th in all of MiLB.

• LH Kyle Hunter has allowed only 1 run over his last 28.0 innings (0.32 ERA). During this stretch, since July 16, Hunter has limited opponents to a .182 (18×99) average, while walking 6 and striking 13…After posting a 4.10 ERA in 16 first half games, Hunter has a 2.41 ERA in 22 second half games.