Thursday, April 5, 2012

Aggie Baseball: The Honolulu Chronicles

UC Davis baseball just got back from a four-game series in Hawai'i and, despite going 1-3 against the Rainbow Warriors, the Aggies still had plenty of stories - and sunburns - to go around.

Back on the mainland, I could more or less guess how the scene was unfolding. Of course the skies were blue. Of course the temperature never wavered from 81 degrees. Of course the sands were white and the water was crystal clear.

But I got to see a little more than I thought I would thanks to two of the four games being featured on It may not be ESPN in the truest sense, but it's still pretty fun to see this as part of the worldwide leader in sports' family of channels:

So on Thursday night, I settled in for a night of Aggie baseball.

From the broadcast, I could tell that Les Murakami Stadium is pretty impressive and the team wholeheartedly agreed that it was a really great place to play. First baseman Eric Johnson told me that there is even a third level of seating that hangs over the field, causing an echo that makes the stadium sound even louder than it really is.

Also noticeable? When third baseman Paul Politi forgot to take his hat off during the national anthem... right as the camera panned over UC Davis lined up outside of its dugout. Oops. Luckily he remembered, slyly glanced from left to right to see if anyone else noticed, then slowly slipped his cap off as shortstop Adam Young smiled next to him.

If you saw Thursday's game or took a look at the box score or postgame recap, the highlight of the night was another stellar pitching performance from senior Dayne Quist. In seven innings, he struck out nine Hawai'i batters and gave up just four hits as the Aggies took the 5-3 win.

But it seemed the crowd, and then the cameramen, were much more interested in another situation that was unfolding. All of a sudden the camera was pointed on senior second baseman Ryan Allgrove as he was... shagging foul balls?

It's true. The camera and the broadcasters were transfixed on Allgrove as he jogged up and down the left field line collecting foul balls. He probably had a solid half inning of air time. They showed a graphic with his name, bio info and mugshot. And everytime he ran out, the home crowd heckled him with every step.

Well what could a foul ball shagger ever have done to get a crowd that riled up?

It seems as if our own Mr. Allgrove is a bit of an instigator, I'm afraid. The story goes like this:

There were signs posted all over the Aggie dugout instructing the players to please return all foul balls. So that's exactly what Allgrove set out to do. At one point, one foul shot looked like it was going to hop over the fence and into the crowd, when, at the last second, Allgrove snatched it out of the air. The crowd clamored for the ball and Allgrove tossed... but completely faked the crowd out. The entire section half stood, hands in the air, waiting for the toss that never came, then laughed and applauded when they realized Allgrove had pulled one over on them.

The whole rest of the game they razzed him and the camera followed it, even as he took his cap off to give the crowd a salute as he sat back down after retrieving yet another foul ball.  Nice touch Ryan.

Allgrove wasn't the only Aggie to feel the heat of 2,500 Hawai'i baseball fans.  Turns out, every Aggie got their fair share of heckling after it was discovered that a 15-page "scouting report" was passed out to the fans to give them plenty of ammunition against our boys. Sisters' names, girlfriends' names, and who knows what else were all part of this packet of info and the fans used it all weekend long.

But the joke turned out to be on the Hawai'i fans in one instance.

UC Davis has a set of uniforms that features blue jerseys with gold numbering. If you've seen these at Dobbins Stadium, you probably know which ones I mean. And you probably remember them because the font that the numbers are written in is one of the most difficult fonts to read.

Evan Wolf in the dreaded blue jersey... Is that 36? 38? It could even be 39 maybe? 

Let's say we have a pinch hitter and the Aggies are in this particular set of uniforms.  The exchange from the press box at Dobbins Stadium generally goes like this:

Me: We have a pinch hitter on deck. That's... 19?
Someone in the press box: No that can't be 19. 19 is Johnson and he's on first. 16?
Me: No. 16 is Patrick Hennessey and he's a pitcher.
Someone else: Is it 18?
Me: Yes. Yes that's an 18. Ok so that's Spencer Brann pinch hitting. Good work everyone.

Well Eric Johnson experienced this exact confusion - for lack of a better term - as he stood at first base on Friday night.  Fans kept yelling "Spencer! Hey Spencer!" throughout much of the game. Obviously Eric didn't turn around. They kept yelling "Spencer! Spencer!" but got no response from Johnson.

Later on, it finally dawned on the Aggie senior: They thought he was wearing No. 18 and thus exhausted all of their heckling energy trying to rile up backup catcher Spencer Brann, not first baseman Eric Johnson.

I feel your pain, Hawai'i fans. I really really do.

All in all, a couple more wins could have really made the trip one to remember, but it's back home to Davis and on to the next one. And for a few more days they'll have the stories... and the sunburns... to remember the trip by.

Assistant director Amanda Piechowski was lucky enough to travel with women's basketball to Honolulu in December, so she really didn't want to push her luck with a return trip with baseball. But it would have made waiting for the 9:35 p.m. Pacific first pitch - and writing the post game recap at the end of the three-hour game - a heck of a lot easier...


  1. This sounds like an electric place to watch a baseball game. Go Ags!


  2. OK, as an Aggie alum from Hawaii, I'm gonna make it a bucket list item to try and catch a game at Dobbins Field, preferably against the warriors. Thanks for the story, and Go Ags!