Another year, another All-Star Game. This year, in the 30th installment of the Triple-A game (the Seventh for MetsPlus), the Tacoma Rainers had theiR (more on that lateR) moment in sun, as Cheney Stadium hosted the best from the Pacific Coast League and the International League.
It’s the best of both worlds: It’s a major league crowd with the national broadcast and cameras pointing in every direction, yet it’s a calm setting, very minor leagues, and accessible.
Our tickets were purchased in April, and I was already a little bit disappointed to see that the tickets for single-game ticket holders weren’t commemorative like they were in prior years, but commemorative copies were made for season ticket plan holders, and while I was disappointed as a single game ticket holder, I respect giving the guys that sit in the seats on cold April nights something extra special, so I hold no extra reservations against the Rainiers for that.
Unfortunately, one of my only gripes happened upon entry at the stadium. There are three main entrances at Cheney Stadium, one on the third base side, first base side, and left field. We arrived at around 4:40pm, about and hour and a half prior, and due to the presence of metal detectors, the security lines were somewhat long. One of the stadium’s security personnel in a bright yellow shirt directed me and a few other fans to the left field gate to reduce crowding, which I can understand, as there seemed to be only one line open, and a hold up at the detector. I then walked all the way around the stadium’s parking lot to the left field gate, and found an even longer line (which we stayed in), and after getting our tickets scanned, we entered the stadium.
The girl that was greeting fans told us that she was not provided with any of the complementary lanyards, and that we had to go to third base to get them, as only they had them. I then proceeded to Third Base, my original line, and was told that they couldn’t give me a lanyard because it was only for fans who entered the stadium through that gate, but I could get one at First Base, or wait for the crowd to diminish until they could give me on from their stock, I waited, but after their stock expired, I went over to First Base, and they told me they had just ran out.
At this point, my inner New Yorker took over, and I went to Customer Service to complain, considering I had been running around to accommodate their crowd control, but didn’t get the giveaway that fans arriving 45 minutes after us did. They called the stadium operations manager, who quickly defused the situation in the most professional way possible, and apologized. (I too should apologize, I travel for the game, not the lanyard, there are far more important things than a small memento). He was able to find some lanyards in the back, and gave one to me, which was very nice and not necessary. With that, I took my lanyard and my Dirt game program and went to my seat.
It’s also not the first year there has been a lack of communication, in Buffalo in 2012, the already limited concessions ran out in the fifth inning, and that left a lot of fans angry, this was obviously a much bigger deal than this year’s incident, but it does show how much preparation is needed to host such a big event.
I was a little suspicious of the entertainment during the Home Run Derby. Their were only three “games”, a fill in the lyrics game, a celebrity look alike camera, and a mascot home run derby, and aside from the fill in the lyrics game, they really fell flat for me. Again, I went for the derby, and it was a good one (the Rainiers fans were really behind their hometown slugger, Dan Vogelbach) but their were some issues with the in-between breaks that screamed minor leagues.
Luckily, in the All-Star Game, the Rainiers balanced the corny humor of minor league entertainment with something that is exciting to watch. The Conga Line, Sax and Harmonica guy, and This or That were all good games, and kept the game timed well.
The stadium itself had a lot of different seating areas, a berm, traditional seating, a homerun porch, and table seating. There was none of that annoying netting that extends beyond the dugouts that some stadiums have nowadays.
Other good feature of Cheney Stadium was their culinary options. There were no two concession stands that offered the same thing. Over the two nights, I tried the Pizza, which was probably the best stadium pizza I’ve had.
I also enjoyed the Pulled Pork Sandwich and Macaroni combo, which tasted just as good as the barbecue in Omaha two years ago, and was very affordable. For desert, there was a “cookie truck” with freshly baked warm cookies, which were delectable.
Lastly, I tasted Seattle’s famous burger, which came with fries and a Vanilla Milkshake. Also very fine, not quite Shake Shack but perfectly tasty.
Of course, I haven’t even talked about the main event, the game, which was a 6-4 win for the Pacific Coast Legaue, only their second win in the last nine years.
The only Las Vegas representative, Amed Rosario, looked a little shaky on defense, but stole a base and looked superior to the rest of the Triple-A All Stars. One interesting note that occurred this year was how passionate the fans were towards their home league, the Pacific Coast. Since it’s an All-Star Game, they had to be impartial, but the fans were behind the PCL.
There were a total of 7,024 fans in attendance, a sellout, but the lowest for any Triple-A All Star Game, even if it didn’t feel like it during the Seventh Inning Stretch.
Overall, this was a good week. Tacoma missed some things in the gaps, but they were a very strong host city, and I’m excited to come back for the All-Star Game in 20XX when Tacoma hosts it again. It’s was very special for Tacoma, a city going through a massive transformation, and since it’s such a tight nit community, I understood how the game wasn’t just for the Rainiers, but for the community as well. All of the folks I met, from the Valet, to the waiter at the Pacific Grill, to the transit workers on the Sound Transit, all excited to have the additional crowds from the All-Star Game. They used the hashtag, #ThisIsRMoment, with the R capitalized for Rainiers, but it embodied the feeling of pride of hosting such a prestigious event, one that I was very happy to be apart of.
For more content, check out @NikoMetsPlus on Twitter, and we’ll see you in Columbus in 2018!