Friday, May 13, 2011

A rare night: Game 17 in Rancho Cucamonga

After spending three weeks in the storm bedeviled Southeast, I was delighted to return to the Southwest, even if it placed me in the heart California’s earthquake country where I’d perhaps jinx the recent stability by singing first for the Quakes in Rancho Cucamonga. 
The view from the Epicenter toward the San Andreas fault.
There, the stadium is known as the Epicenter—perhaps the ballpark whose name is most aptly aligned with its team.  And the shaky theme is taken even further with the identity of the mascot, a dinosauric critter who instills the effect of his own name: Tremor.

Tremor, the Quakes' mascot.
In multiple ways the Quakes' game was a rarity.  For starters, it was the first game that my wife Bonnie and older son Jared were able to attend because we were able to commute to the game from our home in Whittier.  In that respect, it is like the final few games of the tour when I will enjoy the post-game comfort of being greeted by Winston and Tucker (my two dogs), snacking from my full refrigerator and pantry, and sleeping in my own bed. 

The game was rare in other ways, too.  For one, it was the first game following Chris Erskine’s witty take on my anthem project in the Los Angeles Times earlier in the day.  Right away, the effect of the article was perceptible.  As I left the home plate area after singing, the Quakes’ manager Juan Bustabad greeted me.  “Great job,” he said, adding: “I enjoyed the story in the morning paper.  And when I saw you standing here, I said, “Holy smoke! That’s the guy.  He gets around.”  The article had featured my time in Florida during preceding days.

For this game, however, there were also other rare features—including the attendance of friends from different communities of which I am a part.  And you know how much I enjoy sharing a game with friends. 

Because Rancho Cucamonga is relatively near Whittier, at least for Southern California drivers, several of my colleagues from the College drove out to see the game.  Deborah Norden, a professor of political science with whom I have collaborated on classes connecting Latin American politics and religion, brought her daughter Meghann, whose recent bat mitzvah I had missed because of my trip.  Then there were Larry, Moe, and Curly, otherwise known as Charles Adams, Warren Hanson, and Rich Scaffidi! 
Warren and Rich appear abandoned by Charles.
Certainly the opposite of stooges, these three friends and I have been in a Faculty Fantasy Baseball League for 25 years. Some years ago, Rich directed the College’s production of Bleacher Bums and invited me to join the student cast by opening the play with the anthem. Warren, who has attended games in more Major League ballparks than most major leaguers, has made an effort to see me sing in several of them—including my most recent in Washington, DC.  And Charles and I have team-taught courses, traveled to conferences together, worked on common book projects, and enjoyed the deep-friendship that is enhanced by the bond of baseball, even if he is devoted to the Mariners.

The last sweet cookie from Marcy.
Another friend also had let me know that she attend the game with her husband and young son.  When she had entered Whittier College in 1992, Marcy Holmer enrolled and excelled in my first- year writing seminar on "Humor and Faith in Recent Southern Literature."  Now a middle school science teacher, she was still laughing and smiling at the ballpark, even after spending a day with her adolescent students. To top things off, she brought me home-made treats, enough baseball-decorated cookies to provide Bonnie and me with snacks for a week of games.  

A TPC choir trio: Pam, Russ, and Joe
While driving out to Rancho Cucamonga, I had thought about it being Thursday, the evening during which we typically sing in choir rehearsal at Tustin Presbyterian Church (TPC).  Throughout recent months, we have enjoyed anticipating our trip with the choir members, several of whom have informed relatives and friends throughout the country about our adventure.  On this evening, I expected that they would begin choir practice about the time that I would sing the anthem.  Imagine my surprise at the game, then, when I saw Russell Schmallenberger, a bass by whom I frequently stand, and Pam Roeth, an alto in the section with Bonnie!  I was flattered by their effort to support me on a rare evening off in the choir’s schedule: Coincidentally (or providentially?), my night of singing for the Quakes was timed for the first Thursday following Easter, a date for which the choir director annually cancels rehearsal. 

Finally, the game itself proved rare, at least to me.  It featured an inning unmatched in any game—whether Major League or Little League—that I have ever attended.  In the second frame, each batter in the Quakes’ lineup reached base and scored before the Jet Hawks recorded an out: 9 runs on 5 hits, several walks, and one error.  Incredibly, on the previous night the Salem Red Sox in Virginia had done even better, getting a dozen consecutive batters on base before making an out in their 10-run outburst .

While the Quakes enjoyed the rare good luck of 13, scoring that number of runs in their lopsided victory, the evening also proved rare to me because I shared it with family, good friends from the College and choir, and my new fan, manager Juan Bustabad.  


  1. I know some of those people. Delightful post Joe. It is good to have friends around when out on the road.

    Be Great!

  2. Hi Dr. Price! So glad that you enjoyed the cookies! The real treat was listening to you sing and then catching up a little bit afterward!! Definitely need an encore... see you at the 66ers game in September! :)