Life in the Minors
Frontier League pennant race delayed by a serious game of twister
After 3 1/2 months of baseball and a seemingly endless string of bus trips, takeout dinners, motel rooms and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in various clubhouses throughout the Midwest, our 96-game Frontier League season is rapidly coming to an end, with only eight games left.
After last night's 8-2 win over the Evansville Otters, we celebrated the first division championship in Windy City ThunderBolts history with 2,624 of our fans. We had actually clinched the crown earlier in the day when the second-place Kalamazoo Kings lost to Florence, but the celebration waited until after we took care of business on the field.
Even with the division crown essentially sewn up a while ago, each game we play is so important right now, that there really isn't much that we won't do to make sure we get in each of our scheduled 96 games. After all, the team with the best overall record in the league secures home-field advantage throughout the postseason. With a 2 1/2-game lead over the Gateway Grizzlies in that race, we need to play them all.
With that said, August has certainly been an exciting time for us all with the ThunderBolts. For that matter, this has been an exciting month for all of the team's fans, near and far. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, our friends and family have been able to follow our progress, even back home in Hawaii.
My parents have been following us via our team's Web site at www.wcthunderbolts.com, and have listened in to many of our radio broadcasts online as well. They were tuned into the concept of Internet broadcasts of Frontier League games by Jake Ng, the grandfather of Gavin Ng, the center fielder for the Chillicothe Paints from Mililani. I think our catcher Gavin Concepcion's family keeps up through our broadcasts as well.
I know my pals Darryl Arata, Mitch Kagawa and Derick Kato also keep close tabs on us over the Internet, while my girlfriend receives updates during our daily phone call.
But I would have a hard time thinking that any Web posting or on-air description by our radio broadcaster, Rob Jaszkula, could truly help our fans back home understand the crazy mini-disaster that hit our home field, Standard Bank Stadium, on Thursday.
Having spent my fair share of summers in the Midwest, I have become accustomed to checking the weather for the day on the Internet, or peeking over the shoulder of our groundskeeper to see the radar reading when a bad weather cell is reported to be on the way.
Hearing talk around the clubhouse or on the field about some red stuff, or green stuff, coming our way on the radar is not unusual. And, to be honest, many times the rain just never comes at all.
So when I arrived at our stadium Thursday and heard talk about possibly losing our scheduled 7 p.m. game due to an afternoon storm, I really wasn't too worried about it.
I suppose my first sign that some serious stuff was really coming this time should've been when I saw the panicked look in the eyes of our groundskeeper, Mike Vershaves, who said, "this does not look good."
Again, I thought some heavy rain at worst for an hour or so and we would be playing ball. But no.
A little while after I had changed out of my street clothes, I heard what I thought was a little swirling wind. Considering our clubhouse was pretty much made in the form of a concrete bunker, I really had no idea what was going on weather-wise. A few moments later, I heard our guys shuffling their way toward the door to our dugout at the bottom of the runway from our clubhouse and yelling and laughing a lot.
So, of course, I gave in to my curiosity and jogged out of our coaches' office and joined the huddled mass pushing up against the door. Well, there was more than a little swirling wind going on out there.
The winds, which we would later find out had been blowing at more than 70 mph, were ripping through the upper deck of our stadium, tearing off the massive tents covering our beer deck. On the field, our courageous staff were diving and jumping all over the place as they attempted to secure the field tarp, which was being flipped around by the high winds.
The large wooden sign attached to the Mike's Hard Lemonade stand became dislodged and was sent hurtling through the netting behind home plate and whipped all the way into left field.
Still, our staff remained committed to assuring the tarp didn't grow wings, until, that is, the tornado siren began to go off, at which point all bets were off and the field quickly became abandoned.
The winds subsided about an hour later, allowing us to go out and survey the damage. Our covered beer deck had suddenly become a convertible, and that spot in the grandstand net where the wooden sign ripped through now had a hole the size of a small tractor in it. The field was covered in water, and the whole surface looked like a shallow swamp.
So, of course, we were all sent home with a doubleheader scheduled for Friday. When I got back to my apartment in Blue Island, Ill., the winds, rain and yes, even the tornado siren came back to life. Being from Wahiawa, I really didn't know much about what you're supposed to do in such a situation.
Sitting in the living room of my second-floor apartment eating the dinner I picked up at Boston Market on the way home, I decided to check the trusty Internet for tips in a tornado situation after peeking out of our window to witness the very fast-moving jet black clouds racing toward us. The first thing it said was "stay clear of windows."
It was at this moment I realized I was sitting directly in front of our picture window, so I relocated to our bathroom, which did not have any windows facing the storm.
When my roommate, our hitting coach Ronnie Deck, came home an hour or so later, he asked me why I was hanging out, working on my laptop in the bathroom. Born and raised in Oklahoma, Ronnie is a tornado veteran, and did not find my relocation as silly as I thought he might.
Ronnie said, "Hey man, just chillin' in the bathroom?" So I explained my logic, prompting him to say, "Well, it wasn't the worst move you could've made."
I was happy to hear that, and even happier that the storm had passed. Some 88 games down with eight to go before the playoffs and still some business to take care of on the field, with the blessings of Mother Nature, of course. Stay tuned.