A summer of memories at the ball park is all that is left for Tacoma Rainiers’ baseball fans this season. The home slate of games at Cheney Stadium have concluded and we’re going to have to wait until next spring until the Tyler Street gang returns to defend home plate. As a matter of fact, the 2019 Tacoma home opener is set for Tuesday, April 9. Mark your calendars.
It may not have been a championship season for the Rainiers, but the best thing about baseball in Tacoma is simply getting out to the ball park. We are blessed to have one of the finest minor league baseball stadiums in the country and I’m sure that I won’t be the only fan around these parts that will be missing the action on the diamond.
The final weekend of action was a special one for Tacoma baseball fans. On Sunday, Aug. 26, Cheney Stadium added a little bit of new paint on the third-base side of the grandstands. With a crowd of 6,953 in attendance, the Rainiers unveiled the new look above the home radio suite at Cheney. Above the windows, it now reads “Bob Robertson Broadcast Booth,” for the famed Tacoma baseball and Washington State University football radio man.
Twenty five years ago, this sports writer was cleaning swimming pools for a living. I was lucky enough to have Bob’s pool on my route. It was a real treat to meet someone whom I considered to be a celebrity. Bob would always come out to the pool and chew the fat with me while I took care of business. There was nothing flashy or Hollywood about him. He’s just the real deal, and he’s probably the nicest person I have ever met in the sports business.
Bob turned over his Cheney Stadium microphone a couple of decades ago, but over the past eight years he has returned as a weekly guest broadcaster during Sunday home games, alongside regular play-by-play maestro, Mike Curto.
“The decision to put Bob Robertson back in the Cheney Stadium broadcast booth is one of the best decisions we ever made,” Tacoma Rainiers president Aaron Artman said in a statement. “To honor him is to honor his family and friends – especially his late wife, Joanne – and it’s a privilege for this organization to be a part of it.”
After a final home stand that saw an average of 6,862 fans per ball game, the Rainiers again topped the 370,000 mark for home attendance. Despite finishing with only a 34-36 record at Cheney Stadium, it didn’t keep the fans away as 372,780 of them made their way through the gates to see their home team.
As of this article, the Rainiers have just six road games remaining before the regular season comes to a close. With a record of 64-69, Tacoma still has a chance to finish the season over .500, but they would need to win all six games. The Fresno Grizzlies (78-55) have sewn up the Pacific Coast League’s Pacific Northern Division title and will face the El Paso Chihuahuas (79-54) in the PCL semifinals.
The eastern semifinals are not yet set, as the race in the PCL American Northern Division looks like it will go down to the final day of the regular season. The Colorado Springs Sky Sox (70-61) sit atop the standings, with the Oklahoma City Dodgers (70-62) sitting just a half-game behind. The two clubs will wrap up their seasons with a five-game series against each other in Colorado Springs. The winner of the division will meet the Memphis Redbirds (80-54) in the eastern semifinal.
Let’s take a look at the previous week of Tacoma Rainiers’ action.
On Wednesday, Aug. 22, the Rainiers put a whipping on the visiting Reno Aces by a score of 11-1. The Rainiers managed the impressive run totally with just nine hits in the ball game. First baseman Daniel Vogelbach launched his 20th home run of the season in the first inning. Catcher Cameron Rupp got into the long ball action with a solo shot in the seventh inning. Right fielder Cameron Perkins would then crush a three-run dinger in the eighth inning, to go along with a double. Starting pitcher Christian Bergman (8-9) earned the win with a scoreless, seven-inning performance.
The next evening, Reno pitchers were able to hold the Rainiers to just four hits, but it wasn’t enough. Tacoma was able to scrap together three runs to blank the Aces by a score of 3-0. Shortstop Gordon Beckham swatted his 10th home run of the season in the eighth inning, which was actually the only earned run of the ball game. Catcher David Freitas added a double, while reliever Justin Grimm (2-1) earned the win. Chasen Bradford earned his first save of the season.
El Paso would visit Cheney Stadium on Friday, Aug. 24, and the Chihuahuas would hand Tacoma a 3-1 defeat. Tacoma was unable to muster any extra-base hits, and that didn’t help starting pitcher Casey Lawrence (7-4), who pitched seven innings of one-run baseball.
Tacoma would get back in the win column the following night with an exciting 8-5 victory. The Rainiers trailed 5-4 going into the bottom of the seventh inning. Freitas would launch a solo home run to get the Rainiers within three runs after seven innings. Left fielder Adam Law would then bring in three runs off a triple in the bottom of the eighth inning for the go ahead runs. Reliever Tyler Higgins would earn his first win of the season, while Shawn Armstrong picked up his 15th save of the year.
The Rainiers would then manage just 11 hits over the final two games of the home stand, falling by scores of 5-4 and 1-0. The hitting woes would continue for Tacoma as they paid the Las Vegas 51s a visit on Tuesday, Aug. 28. The Rainiers could manage just two hits in their 6-0 loss to open their three-game series. Tacoma will wrap the season with a four-game set against the El Paso Chihuahuas starting on Friday, Aug. 31.