June 28, 2006 - I am a dork. In this politically correct world I suppose it would be more suitable to say I'm coolness bereft.
My parents, friends and even teachers knew this about me when I was growing up, based on my affinity for the sport of baseball. Perhaps it was the Yankees hat that never left my head or the countless book reports on Thurman Munson, Phil Rizzuto or Tommy John. Not exactly you're A-list of baseball's best.
Here's a more recent example. With the house to myself one night last week I curled up on the couch to read a good book. The Da Vinci Code? Nope. French for Dummies? Non. It wasn't even Roger Kahn's "The Boys Summer."
The tome in question was the Tucson Sidewinders' 2006 Media Guide.
Summer officially began last week and the boys of the season need your help. Southern Arizona is built for baseball. Throughout the year, we see every possible level of talent from Little League up through the majors.
Yet the best baseball in town is hardly a major draw. On Sunday a paltry 1,294 fans showed up to Tucson Electric Park to watch the Sidewinders take on the Las Vegas 51s. Friday night was a little better, 7,491 of its 11,500 seats were filled. Is the Gatorade bucket half full or half empty? I guess that depends on how you look at it.
Perhaps a little history of Tucson's Triple-A team would help you get out and go see a game, and not just because you got free tickets from work.
TEP has been home to 967 players and managers since the team threw out its first pitch as the Tucson Toros in 1969. During that time, the club has run the gamut from upstart rookies (think Connor Jackson) to veteran journeymen (think Alan Zinter, the club's only player with a last name to start with the letter Z) to likely hall of famers (Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling). You may not have seen Yogi or Mel, but if you were at the park in the past 37 years you may have caught a glimpse of the progeny of former major league greats such as Dale Berra and Todd Stottlemyre.
Among those players to wear the gold, black and white are five with the last name Brown (Jackie, Jarvis, Terry, Todd, Tom and Vick), two Whites (Chris and Walt), two Grays (Gary and Mike) and one Green (Andy, last year's Pacific Coast League MVP).
Throughout the years you could have been witness to players who have starred either famously or infamously in the World Series including Johnson, Schilling, Ron Washington, Craig Biggio and even Calvin Schiraldi.
But you don't need to go to the park simply for great players. Go for the regular players with irregular names. There are more bizarre last names than Doug Strange (1990). How about Jeff Barndollar, Paul Householder or Buddy Biancalana?
You could sit in the stands along the third-base side and see if you can find the player with the longest name. That honor would belong to Eric Christopherson, Brandon Villafuerte and Detrick Leatherwood.
Rick Huisman never won a Heisman Trophy. Then again, neither did David Nitschke. Both made fine baseball players, however.
Nothing says a night at the ballpark better than stadium food. TEP has named practically everything they sell after some sort of snake meat - although I suspect it's just a clever name for hot dogs and hamburgers. If you're still hungry perhaps players such as Juan Brito, Chet Lemon, Blake Mayo, Joe Cherry, Robert Wine, Eddie Pye, Nick Bierbrodt or Frank Cacciatore could help you out.
For us in the Northwest, yes, it's a long road to see University of Arizona alum Dave Rohde play. Sure it's hot out but consider this: the Sidewinders haven't had a game rained out in more than six years. They're guaranteed to be there.
No matter what your reason is, get out and see a game or two this summer. You don't have to be coolness bereft like me, but if you were, and you were there on June 23 you would have seen my favorite player get the win for the Las Vegas 51s. Way to go Kelly Wunsch.