From the Big ‘A’ to High-A; Pitching During Opening WeekendAlways A Thrill No Matter What Level Current Angels Pitchers Reflect on Opening Day Rehab Experiences With the 66ers
Anaheim, CA- There are certain phrases in life that trigger animpulse response such as “How ’bout them Cowboys?“, “Let’s get ready to rumble!” , and as in the case of 66ers Director of Broadcasting, Sam Farber, will find out in a short period of time, “I do”. For baseball fans and players the sweet sound of “Opening Day” elicits thoughts of excitement, a fresh start, and the feeling that all teams are on an equal level hoping they can catch fire at the right time propelling them to the World Series.
For a pitcher, receiving the ball on Opening Day is a sign of respect and trust that they are to be depended on during the grind of the season to be a staff ace or get out of a pressure cooker of a situation while the opposing team is threatening to score. This season and last, the Inland Empire 66ers have helped mend a couple of Angels players on their way back to contributing for the Major League club.
This season, Jerome Williams was on the hill for the 66ersmaking his first start in the California League since 2008 as he rehabbed an ailing hamstring on his way to working back into the Angels starting rotation. He helped Inland Empire beat I-10 rival Rancho Cucamonga Quakes 6-5. In five innings of work Williams was able to strike out five Quakes allowing only two runs.
“It’s like being a kid again,” Williams said reflecting on his Opening Day start for the 66ers. “[The 66ers team] have real good talent. They have good pitching, infielding, and hitters.Many of the players on the roster have a real good future.”
Last season, 66ers fans saw Angels reliable lefty reliever Scott Downs during Opening Night.
“It is different and you always want to be at the Major League level” Downs said of starting in the minor leagues during Opening Night after pitching a perfect 9th inning of relief work for the Angels on their Opening Night. “It takes you back to being a kid. If you take away all the lights and the big crowds, you remember it’s just a game.”
“Any time you see a big league guy you get excited,” Downs remember of his minor league days. “Now I got to get my work in. I’m down there throwing working on hitting my spots and [opposing players] are swinging away.”
Any time a player that has made it to the Major Leagues rehabs with a minor league team, plenty of inquisitive minor leaguers pick the brains of the rehabbing players to get any tips or edge they can on advancing their own careers. Luckily for the current 66ers, it’s a position Williams embraces.
“I’m an approachable guy,” Williams said.”I’m not one of the big leaguers that’s like ‘get away.’ I’m relaxed and like to joke around and once [the 66ers players] saw that they came up and talked to me.”
Taking the mound for the Angels tonight, Williams lived out another dream of his. The Hawaii native received the nod to pitch on Jackie Robinson Day across the Major League and wear #42 in honor of a childhood idol.
Williams will now have another story to reflect on and share with minor league players if another rehab start is needed in his career. Preferably not on Opening Day though.
After losing their first nine games of the second half of the Cal League season, the Inland Empire 66ers have turned things around. They’ve won four out of the last five games and sit two games out of the Cal League South Wild Card spot. The High Desert Mavericks are in town for the weekend and it could end up being a very important series for both teams as both are in the hunt for that Wild Card spot.
The home stand started out with an exciting 7-1 victory over the Visalia Rawhide on the 4th of July in front of 7,892. It was the biggest crowd the 66ers have seen all season long at Arrowhead Credit Union Park and seemingly every fan stayed afterwards for the impressive 15 min firework show. Inland Empire then took the next game as Kyle Hurst gave an outstanding pitching performance picking up his sixth win of the season in the 6-1 win. Although they dropped the final game of the series to the Rawhide and couldn’t complete the sweep, they still got the series win.
It’s been in the mid to high 90s all week here in San Bernardino, CA, and the heat doesn’t look to be letting up anytime soon as forecasts predict similar weather patterns to be coming through during the weekend. Matt Long looks to add to his league leading triple count in this series and Michael Wing will try to extend his hitting streak to 12 games tonight. 66ers right fielder, Kole Calhoun, will try to continue to be the force in the middle of this lineup as he has been the most consistent hitter throughout the course of this 2011 Cal League campaign. With 56 games to play in the second half of this Cal League season, a lot is on the line and it all starts with this series with the High Desert Mavericks.
–Danny Day, 66ers Media Relations
With homestand #1 behind us and the 66ers on the road for the first time in 2011, it’s time for the very first “look back” of the year. We had a chance to unveil each of our nightly promotions in the first seven games against the Quakes and Mavericks, and even threw in a blanket giveaway in between. Fans in the Inland Empire endured less-than-desirable weather to cheer on the 66ers to a 4-3 start to the season, before a seven game road trip in Bakersfield and San Jose.
Thursday, April 7
Opening Night. It’s hard to put those two words together without forming a smile on your face. They mean so much more than the start of a baseball season. It’s the real first day of Spring, and the gate that ushers in that unique smell of freshly cut grass and perfect weather. Unfortunately, an odd trend in San Bernardino left us with a chill in the air, but couldn’t derail the excitement of a brand new season at Arrowhead Credit Union Park.
Along with it being the first night of the season, it also happened to be a Thursday. Every Thursday this year we’ll feature $1 beer and soda, thanks to JBS Heating & Air who have supplied us with the opportunity to provide our fans with Thirsty Thursday.
Everyone knows that ACUP is a place you’ll have the time of your life. But it’s always a little sweeter when the home team puts together a reason to cheer. The 66ers took an early lead in the 2nd inning off the bat of Angels rehabber Reggie Willits’ two-run single, and never looked back. Fellow Angel Scott Downs, who also played for the 66ers on a rehab assignment, took the win that night, leading the 66ers to an Opening Night victory.
Friday, April 8
The first Toyota & Scion of Redlands Fifty Cent Friday of the year gave our fans a chance to see another 66ers win with discounted prices throughout the ballpark. Fifty cent hot dogs and quesadillas, $2.50 beer and admission? You betcha.
The 66ers won again Friday night, stretching their record to 2-0 to start the season for the first time since 2003, this time coming from behind twice to win 7-6. It didn’t happen without a little excitement, as the 66ers plated the tying run in the bottom of the 9th with 2 outs, sending the game into extra innings before the Quakes took the lead in the 12th. Then the team that never quits posted two runs in the bottom half of the inning off the bat of Michael Wing to win in walk-off fashion.
Saturday, April 9
Fans lined up early for the first of many giveaways this season, as the 66ers handed out sleeved blankets to the first 1,000 in attendance. Unfortunately the early and loud crowd couldn’t help the 66ers to a 3-0 record, as Rancho Cucamonga scored early and often on their way to an 11-6 win over Inland Empire. Luckily for the ones who came in early enough, the blanket giveaway came just in time as temperatures continued to drop and leave baseball fans a little colder than their used to at the old ballpark.
Sunday, April 10
There’s not a whole lot better than day baseball, and that’s exactly what fans got last Sunday. Hundreds of kids came out three hours before game time to participate in a skills clinic from 66ers players and coaches, who graciously spent time before the game leading youth in instructional drills. The weather warmed up a little (likely due to the fact we played under the light of the sun), and it became a perfect day for baseball. Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher Jon Garland took the mound in a rehab assignment for the Quakes, but was touched for three runs by the younger Single-A hitters of Inland Empire. In a close game, the Quakes held on to push the 66ers record to 2-2, and end the first series with the Quakes by a score of 6-4.
Monday, April 11
The Quakes left town and the Seattle Mariners’ High A Affiliate, the High Desert Mavericks rolled in. If you haven’t heard yet, Mondays were made for YOU, the reader of a blog like this or a follower of us on Twitter or Facebook. Mondays at Arrowhead Credit Union Park will revolve around our social media efforts, appropriately named Social Media Monday.
We gave away several tickets to the game, just for those who showed up and mentioned that they followed us on Facebook. We really appreciate those who make our interactive media soar, so the least we could do was invite them to a game. Be on the lookout later for more offers every Monday this season.
As for the game, the Mavericks continued the 66ers losing streak, by posting a shutout of Inland Empire 6-0. It was a game to forget for our boys in red, as the offense could only muster up four hits, and was held scoreless for the first time of the young season.
Tuesday, April 12
Many remember the days when the San Bernardino Spirit ran to their positions at Fiscalini Field. We hope to catch that excitement every Tuesday with VMI Builders Turn Back the Clock Tuesdays at Arrowhead Credit Union Park. The 66ers and the ballpark alike transformed into the days of the Spirit on Tuesday. The team wore uniforms from the 1987 season, and parking, admission and beer were all only $2.
It must’ve been the bright white jerseys with “SPIRIT” across the chest that did it, but the 66ers ended the short losing streak, evening up the record at 3-3. High Desert took an early 1-0 lead, but the 66ers scored in the bottom half of the inning before scoring two more times, winning 3-1.
Wednesday, April 13
It was a long homestand, but a fun one nonetheless. What else would you expect at Arrowhead Credit Union Park??
Fans from across the Inland Empire brought their pooches into the stadium for our first Bark in the Ballpark. It was one of the more chilly evenings of the first two series, but the 66ers must not have noticed. The offense heated everyone up with seven runs on eight hits, including a four run 5th inning en route to a 7-4 victory. All but one of the 66ers nine starters had a hit, as Jon Townsend increased his batting average to .400 while driving in three runs of his own.
We’re expecting a fun season in 2011. If every set of home games is as exciting as the first, you won’t want to miss a pitch at Arrowhead Credit Union Park. Click on over to 66ers.com or visit us at the box office to get your tickets today!
Koren Wetmore of ROTWnews.com compiled a great piece about Opening Night at Arrowhead Credit Union Park. This short video includes a great interview with 66ers manager Tom Gamboa and pitcher Johnny Hellweg, along with clips from the game and comments from fans. Check it out below, then click over to the website and read the accompanying article.
Opening Night and Opening Weekend are now behind us as we move forward into the meat of the season. The 66ers took the first two games of 2011 before dropping the next two, to split the four game series with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes.
Nearly 8,000 excited men, women and children packed Arrowhead Credit Union Park for the opening series of the season, which included a sleeved blanket giveaway and one of the most successful kid’s clinics the 66ers have ever seen.
Tonight, the 66ers move on from the Quakes to begin a three-game set with the High Desert Mavericks, the Class A Affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. Head over to 66ers.com for a complete photo gallery of the first series of 2011.