Summer Days at Cheney Stadium

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Whether it’s the musical stylings of the “Epic Sax Gorilla” (above), or the usual hijinks of the Rhubarb the Reindeer (the best mascot in the Puget Sound), fans often find themselves singing, dancing, laughing and cheering at every ball game at Cheney Stadium. Photo by Rocky Ross

In the world of Tacoma sports, summer can be spotted by the stands of Cheney Stadium filling up with fans of all ages eager to support the local team. While the scene on Saturday, June 30, didn’t feel like a sunny summer day, more than 5.000 fans still bundled up and braced against steady winds and looming clouds to watch the Tacoma Rainiers take on the Reno Aces in the second game of a five-game series. 

By the time the final pitch was thrown the Aces held a heavy lead against the Rainiers with the final score being 14-8 leaving the series tied. While the Rainiers weren’t able to pull out a win, that wasn’t to say the night was without its highlights. In the first inning, the teams traded home runs with one from the Aces’ A.J. Pollock and the Rainiers’ Daniel Vogelbach. 

The best action of the game though happened in the fourth inning. Starting at the top of the inning the Aces’ Pollock stepped up to the plate with Kristopher Negron on second and Ildemaro Vargas on first. With a double to center field, both Negron and Vargas were able to score. Later Kevin Cron hit another Aces home run to left field bringing himself, Pollock and Steven Souza Jr. to home plate. By the time the Aces were done on offense, they led by a score of 6-3. 

The Rainiers headed into the bottom of the fourth ready to answer and ended the inning with four more runs on the scoreboard. The first runs of this inning for the Rainiers came from Adam Law off a single by Gordon Beckham, which also moved Zach Vincej to third base. When David Freitas walked up to bat the bases were loaded with Vincej on third, Beckham on second and Vogelbach on first. Freitas was walked, which scored Vincej. Up next to bat was Andrew Aplin, who hit a single into right field, scoring Beckham and Vogelbach. Tacoma ended the fourth inning ahead by a score of 7-6. 

After the fourth inning the Rainiers wouldn’t take the lead again as the Aces went on to score three runs in the fifth, four in the eighth, and one final run in the ninth. The Rainiers sole remaining run came across in the sixth inning. 

While on the field the action wasn’t entirely what Rainiers fans were hoping for, the Tacoma mascot, Rhubarb, helped keep the crowd engaged through various games and activities including dances on the jumbotron and a T-shirt toss. 

Part of the appeal of Cheney Stadium and the Rainiers is the family-oriented culture and cozy intimacy the smaller stadium offers. A good portion of Saturday’s crowd were families with kids who either soaked up the entire game on the edge of their seat or having fun on the playground on the right-field side of the stadium. Either way the atmosphere on Saturday at Cheney, despite a Rainier’s loss, was both engaging and easy going as spectators moved fluidly between conversation and pausing to watch  play unfold. 

After the game ended and players exited the dugout, the night was preparing for what maybe any kid was most anticipating the entire game: to run the bases just like the Rainiers. Kids flooded the field to get from base to base and slide into home plate while their parents documented the moment from the stands. 

As Tacoma moves further into summer days, the Rainiers will keep grinding away to hopefully move up one spot in the standings and overtake the Fresno Grizzlies. To step into the spirit of summer, head out to Cheney Stadium to cheer on the hometown team in search of a Pacific Coast League pennant. 

For tickets and more information go to tacomarainiers.com, or visit the Cheney Stadium box office. 

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