Results tagged ‘ Tulsa Drillers ’
The RoughRiders return to Dr Pepper Ballpark on Tuesday night at 7:05 p.m. to host the same two opponents of last week’s road trip, the Springfield Cardinals and the Tulsa Drillers. Frisco will play three games each against both teams, looking to recover from a tough six-game road stint. Last week, the ‘Riders were swept by the Cardinals in three straight one-run games. Frisco lost their first game against the Drillers, but won game two, ending a streak of six straight one-run losses. The RoughRiders lost the series in Sunday’s matchup, ending the road trip in third place, twelve games out of first place.
This will be the first time for fans to see the four newest RoughRiders, who were added to the roster during the road trip. Infielder Ryan Rua was promoted from Class-A Hickory and the Rangers signed former San Antonio Missions outfielder Kalian Sams and assigned him to Frisco. Pitchers Jerad Eickhoff and Nick Martinez were promoted from Myrtle Beach. Martinez will start Friday against the Drillers, and Eickhoff is scheduled to throw the following game.
This six-game home stand will be the last time this season that the ‘Riders will face the Cardinals and the Drillers and will be the next-to-last home stand of the season.
Rangers’ designated hitter Lance Berkman has been transfered to Frisco to continue his rehab assignment, and is expected to serve as the DH for the ‘Riders on Tuesday and Wednesday when the team hosts the Springfield Cardinals at Dr Pepper Ballpark. Berkman is rehabbing from inflammation in his left hip.
These are the matchups we expect to see on the mound for the upcoming two series:
Friday: RHP Nick Martinez (0-0, 1.50 ERA) vs RHP Tim Gustafson (6-8, 4.76 ERA)
Saturday: RHP Jerad Eickhoff (0-1, 6.55 ERA) vs RHP Christian Bergman (7-7, 3.28 ERA)
Sunday: RHP Neil Ramirez vs RHP Tyler Matzek (8-7, 3.43 ERA)
- RoughRiders Horse Race presented by Whataburger
- Dollar Dog Night
- RoughRiders Horse Race presented by Whataburger
- $1 Dr Pepper Thursdays
- Kids Run the Bases
- Raising Cane’s Grand Slam Sunday
- RoughRiders Horse Race presented by Whataburger
Baseball term of the day: Truck horse - A very slow runner
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
Jerad Eickhoff and Nick Martinez arrived in Springfield, Missouri yesterday to join the team as they opened a six-game road trip with three against the Springfield Cardinals. Eickhoff made an immediate impact, starting the game for the ‘Riders last night in the 4-3 walk-off defeat. After a shaky three-run first inning, Eickhoff faced two over the minimum through the next four innings. He allowed a walk and a lone single–that was it. He picked up a no-decision.
Nick Martinez makes his Double-A debut at ONEOK Field on Saturday against the Tulsa Drillers.
To introduce you to these two guys a bit, an excerpt from the press release over at RidersBaseball.com:
Eickhoff, 23, receives his first career promotion to Double-A and is expected to start tonight’s series opener at the Springfield Cardinals. Drafted by Texas in the 15th round of the 2011 MLB June Amateur Draft, the right-hander has spent the entire season in the Pelicans rotation. In 21 starts, he posted a 7-3 record and a 3.41 ERA. The Evansville, Illinois native struck out 80 batters in 116 innings with 26 walks allowed. A reliever in his first professional season in 2011, Eickhoff has pitched just once out of the bullpen over the last two seasons. In 2012 with Hickory, he posted a 13-7 record, and his 13 wins were tied for the second most in team history.
Martinez, 23, was drafted by the Rangers in 2011 as well, taken in the 18th round out of Fordham University. Like Eickhoff, Martinez began 2013 in the Myrtle Beach rotation (aside from one relief appearance) and is making his first trip to Double-A. In 22 outings for the Pelicans, he went 10-7 with a 2.87 ERA. Ranked #27 by Baseball America among Rangers prospects entering 2012, the Carolina League All-Star fanned 105 and walked 38 in 119.1 innings before his promotion. The former Fordham Ram pitched in relief and played second base in college. His All-Star selection this season marked the second straight year he has participated in his league’s mid-season All-Star Game, as he earned the same honors in the South Atlantic League in 2012.
A bit outdated at this point, Jason Cole of Baseball Prospectus wrote this in July 2011:
Since signing with the Rangers, the 6-foot-4 hurler has displayed solid command of a 91-94 mph fastball. He also mixes in a 73-75 mph curveball, which has good shape but is deliberate out of the hand and lags behind his fastball.
I got an update from Jason today though, who saw Jerad in early July of this year:
Eickhoff is almost like a Nick Tepesch starter kit. The arsenal is very similar, and he’ll have to make some of the same improvements Tepesch made. I think he profiles as a no. 4 or 5 starter at the end of the day. He’s a big right-hander with a durable build and a nice command/control profile.
When I saw him with Myrtle Beach last month, he sat comfortably in the low-90s with his four-seam fastball and not only held velocity, but he also touched 94-95 mph pretty consistently while working out of his jam near the 100-pitch mark. He’s also got an upper-80s cutter, a changeup that has progressed well this year, and a curveball.
For me, the curve will be the biggest key for Eickhoff. It’s a fringy pitch right now. If he can bring the curveball along over the next year or two into even an average offering, it’s going to make a big difference. He doesn’t project for a plus secondary pitch and won’t miss a lot of bats, but he should throw strikes with a big body and a deep arsenal.
The velocity stuck around last night as well, with Jerad throwing in the low to mid 90s near the end of his 81 pitch start (touching 97 mph on what appeared to be a hot gun in Springfield). His next start comes Sunday night in Tulsa in the road trip finale. He lines up to make his Dr Pepper Ballpark debut on Saturday, August 17.
Here are the numbers on Eickhoff:
An interesting story, Martinez is just two years removed from being drafted by Texas and converted to a full-time pitcher. The Fordham University product was a middle-of-the-order bat that played second base and was used out of the bullpen as a college player, but has quickly adapted to the starting rotation as a pro.
Jason Cole sent over his thoughts on Martinez as well, who he saw on the same trip to Salem while the Pelicans were in town last month:
Martinez is an intriguing guy because he was primarily a second baseman in college. He’d come in and relieve maybe once per weekend. The Rangers liked the arm, athleticism, and delivery, though, and snapped him up as a pitcher in the draft. Martinez took to full-time pitching immediately and showed good command of an 88-94 mph fastball in his first season. The velocity is the same today.
He, like Eickhoff, doesn’t necessarily have a dominant secondary pitch, but he has pitchability with a mix of four usable pitches – fastball, slider, curveball, changeup. It’s a back of the rotation ceiling or perhaps long man/up-and-down profile, but an overall intriguing arm worth watching. He has adjusted his delivery a bit this year to get a little more downward angle on his stuff, and I think it has translated well. As a result, his ground-ball rates have improved and the command/control has remained the same as last year, which is solid.
Baseball America, who ranked Martinez #27 among Rangers prospects entering 2013, adds that “his breaking ball has made the most progress of any of his secondary pitches since he signed.”
Following his ‘Riders debut on Sunday, he would line up to make his Dr Pepper Ballpark debut in the home stand finale on Sunday, August 18.
And the stats on Martinez:
- ‘Riders return to action in Springfield tonight at 7:09 p.m.
- Neil Ramirez returns from disabled list tonight and makes his first outing since July 19. He was placed on the DL on July 24, retroactive to July 21, with an injury to his right shoulder.
- Correspondingly, the RoughRiders have placed LHP Alex Claudio on the 7-day disabled list.
- Read more in tonight’s game notes
- Want to tune in…find out how
Baseball term of the day: yakker - curve ball
(Term from MLB.com Baseball Basics: Lingo)
‘Riders on the Record: the first day of school, home runs over touchdowns and the return of Mike Olt
‘Riders on the Record is a weekly rundown of the pre-game interviews record by broadcasters Alex Vispoli and Nathan Barnett with RoughRiders players and coaches and occasionally a special guest. You can find all previous editions by clicking here.
Another busy week of player transactions, the RoughRiders saw the return of Alex Buchholz and Arlett Mavare from Triple-A, the departure of Barret Serrato (back to extended spring training), Roman Mendez sustain a season-ending injury, Mike Olt return from the DL and Alexi Ogando make a rehab start for the Rangers at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
Highlights from this week eight’s ‘Riders on the Record include Steve Buechele’s assessment of his two aces in Neil Ramirez and Carlos Pimentel, Dennis Higgins (The Voice of the Drillers) talking about former Clemson QB Kyle Parker’s focus on baseball, Joe Benson’s acclimation to the RoughRiders clubhouse, and Mike Olt on his lengthy journey back to health from a vision issue he dealt with in spring training and while at Triple-A Round Rock.
Happy Sunday and enjoy!
Sunday, May 26, 2013 – Manager Steve Buechele
In their weekly sit-down, ‘Riders Manager Steve Buechele speaks about the gritty outing of Neil Ramirez, the continued success of recently named Texas League Pitcher of the Week Carlos Pimentel, the return of Alex Buchholz from Triple-A, and the addition of Joe Benson from Minnesota. (w/ Alex Vispoli)
Monday, May 27, 2013 – Tulsa Broadcaster Dennis Higgins
Tulsa broadcaster Dennis Higgins joins Alex to give us a Drillers perspective. He talks about Kyle Parker‘s commitment to baseball after starring at Clemson as a QB in addition to playing baseball. They talk about the Rockies relationship with the Tulsa franchise and the new instructional program put in place by Colorado this offseason. (w/ Alex)
Tuesday, May 28, 2013 – OF Joe Benson
The Texas Rangers claimed Joe Benson off waivers from Minnesota on Saturday. He sat down with Nathan Barnett before his home debut at Dr Pepper Ballpark and discussed his whirlwind of a weekend. He explains his speedy home run trot and expresses his excitement for a fresh start in the Rangers organization. (w/ Nathan Barnett)
Wednesday, May 29, 2013 – Hanser Alberto
RoughRiders shortstop Hanser Alberto talks about his big three-run home run that lifted the ‘Riders over the Cardinals on Tuesday. He explains the origins of his nickname “Radio” as well. (w/ Nathan)
Friday, May 31, 2013 – 3B Alex Buchholz
In his first week back at Double-A, Alex Buchholz discusses his time with Triple-A Round Rock. In his ever stint at the highest minor league level, Buchholz excelled, and he explained the differences between Double-A and Triple-A pitching as well as the routine of the players around him. (w/ Nathan)
Saturday, June 1, 2013 – 3B Mike Olt
Mike Olt returned from the disabled list and played over the weekend for the RoughRiders. In his first game, he homered to left field, just his second of the season. He hit only one as a member of the Express in his 20 games, but with his vision issues resolved, Mike says he feels more like himself. He talked about his long road to recovery and the legions of doctor visits. (w/ Nathan)
Baseball term of the day: tobasco tap – a hard-hit ground ball
(term from The Dickson Baseball Dictionary)
Last night, Rangers pitcher Alexi Ogando pitched six solid innings for the RoughRiders in a rehab start, and allowed two runs, including a home run, on four hits while striking out four.
Mike Olt also made his return to Frisco last night against the Tulsa Drillers, though Ogando’s rehab assignment seemed to overshadow the third baseman’s return to the ‘Riders. Olt went 1-for-4, striking out swinging his first two at-bats. In the sixth, Mike flied out to the left warning track, just feet away from knocking it over the wall and then in his final at-bat in the eighth, Olt slammed a two-run home run over the left wall. Frisco beat the Drillers 7-4.
See Mike Olt’s two-run blast in his return to Frisco.
After hitting a Texas League- and RoughRiders-best 28 home runs last year, and despite getting called up to the big leagues in early August, Olt has struggled this year, opening this season at Triple-A Round Rock where he hit just .139 in 20 games with one home run with the Express before being placed on disabled list with vision problems.
MLB.com contributor Christian Corona spoke with Olt about his vision issues last night prior to the game.
Following Frisco’s victory, Josh Jackson, contributor for MiLB.com, talked with Olt about his return:
“It feels really good to finally be able to feel like myself again,” Olt said. “Obviously, when we couldn’t figure things out and I couldn’t see the ball, that was a frustrating time. Tonight it felt good to just work toward finding my normal timing and being able to see the ball.”
Jason Cole of LoneStarDugout.com caught up with Olt this week in Surprise, AZ at extended spring training during his rehab for an interview about the vision troubles. (Note: Subscription to Lone Star Dugout needed to view the article.)
Mike Olt was the 49th overall pick in the 2010 draft pick by the Texas Rangers. The Newberg Report recapped day one of the 2010 Rangers draft picks on June 8, 2010 with this scouting report on Olt coming out of UConn:
The 21-year-old has good hands and feet, solid range, and a strong arm from third. There are holes in his right-handed swing – he struck out 54 times in 264 at-bats this season – but the bat speed is there, and scouts believe in his approach at the plate and coachability. It’s been a long time since third base was so uniformly thin in the big leagues, and in Olt the Rangers see a player they obviously believe could give them an developmental asset, particularly if he can make more consistent contact and take advantage of his power potential while providing lockdown defense at third.
Baseball Term of the Day: Monster shot - a tremendous home run out of the ballpark
It is with excitement that we at ‘Riders Insider announce that our blog has been ranked in the Top 10 of all Minor League Pro blogs for the month of April.
Each month, MLB.com Blogs ranks the team and fan blogs based on popularity and page views. In previous years, all team blogs were compiled together, both Major League and Minor League. With that system, ‘Riders Insider consistently stayed in the Top 50, remaining near #40 for the past year. Our highest rank in 2012 was at #32 in November (with ten Minor League blogs above ‘Riders Insider).
This year, MLB.com Blogs added the category of MiLB Pro, and during the first month of the 2013 season, ‘Riders Insider earned the #10 spot, sixth among minor league teams.
We would like to congratulate the top MiLB Pro blog of the month of April, Ben’s Biz Blog. Above ‘Riders Insider, ranked at #9, is 45 Miles From Fenway, the blog for the Pawtucket Red Sox (Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Redsox). In the 11th spot is Porcupines in Pinstripes, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Rail Riders blog (Triple-A affiliate of the New York Yankees).
In keeping up with this blog, we strive to provide quality posts that our readers will enjoy. We don’t always post about baseball; however, we like to provide you with the inside scoop on the Frisco RoughRiders as a team and individual players, the Texas Rangers and events at Dr Pepper Ballpark.
Thank you to our readers for viewing our blog and placing us in the Top 10. We are really excited about this ranking, so please help us maintain and move us up in the rankings. We would love to hear from you about posts you’ve particularly enjoyed, or if you have suggestions on what you’d like us to cover in future posts.
In ‘Riders News:
We would like to wish pitcher Wilmer Font a happy 23rd birthday.
Last night, Carlos Pimentel threw seven innings of one-hit baseball and allowed just three baserunners as the Frisco RoughRiders went on to beat the Springfield Cardinals 1-0, tying the series at one apiece. The RoughRiders conclude their series with the defending Texas League Champion Cardinals tonight at 7:09 at Hammons Field in Springfield, MO.
Frisco continues their road trip tomorrow as they face the Tulsa Drillers for the first time this season.
Baseball term of the day: Whiz chuck: a swiftly pitched ball
On May 10, we took a glance at some of the prospects from the Texas League South Division and their performances throughout this first part of the season.
The RoughRiders are on the road playing North Division opponents, therefore, today, we’re taking a look at the North Division and discussing prospects for each team.
Xavier Scruggs, 1B – Scruggs is ranked second of all first baseman by Baseball America in the St. Louis Cardinals system. Scruggs leads the Cardinals in home runs (12) and RBIs (38) and is second in the Texas League in HR (one behind Hooks’ slugger George Springer). Scruggs leads the Texas League in RBIs (just four above Frisco’s Brett Nicholas), slugging percentage (.624) and in best HR/AB ratio (1/10.42). He was named the Texas League Player of the Week April 29.
The RoughRiders are currently on the road with Springfield. In last night’s game, Scruggs hit 2 RBIs against Frisco.
C.J. Cron, 1B – Cron is ranked by Baseball America as the number 3 prospect and the top first baseman in the Los Angeles Angels system. Cron leads the Travelers in RBIs (21), doubles (14) and hits (51). As of today, he is fifth in batting in the Texas League, and number four in doubles and hits. In his last ten games, Cron has averaged .316 four runs on 12 hits with one home run.
Christian Bergman, RHP – Bergman is ranked number 28 and the fifth best right-hander in the Colorado Rockies system by Baseball America. He leads the Drillers in wins (3), strikeouts (40) and ERA (3.02). This year, Bergman is 3-2 in nine starts, with opponents hitting .234. Bergman has the 9th top ERA in the Texas League and is 2nd in innings pitched (53.2).
Northwest Arkansas Naturals:
Matt Fields, 1B – Fields is ranked as the third best first baseman in the Kansas City Royals system by Baseball America. He leads the Naturals in home runs (10), RBIs (29) and runs (20). In the Texas League, Matt is 5th in home runs. In his last ten games, Matt has had five runs on ten hits and 6 RBI, averaging .294 in 34 at bats.
Baseball Term of the Day: Glory time: A point late in a game during which a relief pitcher can earn a potential save.
The 2013 (Nearly) Complete Twitter Guide to the Frisco RoughRiders, the Texas League and the Texas Rangers Farm System: Part One
A couple days ago I wrote a post here with the best resources for keeping up on the Texas Rangers and its minor league teams and prospects, and the entire time while writing it, I kept thinking about how I get as much or more information on Twitter these days.
I still hit the ‘ole feedly reader every day. Sometimes 140 characters just doesn’t really cut it for a topic. Yu know, like Darvish’s outing last night. (For more on that, read this, and this, and this and this. Oh and you have to watch that).
And while that is true, Twitter is still great, especially for breaking news. Want to be the first one to find out that Nelson Cruz’s home run last night actually came with a broken-bat swing? FSSW’s Emily Jones has you covered:
Just confirmed Nelson Cruz broke his bat on that homerun. #beastmode
— Emily Jones (@EmilyJonesFSN) April 25, 2013
Did you see former RoughRiders pitcher Robbie Erlin got called yetserday? With Twitter, you could find great stuff on who is behind the numbers from excellent Rangers prospect guru Jason Cole:
— Jason Cole (@LoneStarDugout) April 25, 2013
And, yeah, you might have heard that 17-year-old Rangers prospect Nomar Mazara hit his second home run last night for Class-A Hickory, but how impressive was it? Crawdads’ broadcaster Aaron Cox does a very nice job tweeting in-game. See:
17 year old Nomar Mazara with a towering solo homer over the video board and clock in Greensboro to give the #Crawdads an early 1-0 lead.
— Aaron Cox (@TheAaronCox) April 24, 2013
SO, without further ado, here it is: The 2013 (Nearly) Complete Guide to the Frisco RoughRiders, the Texas League, and the Texas Rangers Farm System.
Why “nearly” complete? Well. 1) this is not necessarily exhaustive. Plenty of people tweet about these topics, but this is a great starting point. And 2) of course we need your input! Let us know who we are missing by commenting below or tweeting at me (@NathanSBarnett) and 3) I am not done with the rest of the parts yet…
And, yes, this is just Part One of The 2013 (Nearly) Complete Twitter Guide (TNCTG). I will have a few entries over the next week or so and also update them, as I find new handles worthy of the all-important “follow” click.
Part One looks at the teams and key employee follows in the Texas League and Rangers system. Future entries will include key journalists, commentators, and bloggers to follow. And players! Yes, the exhaustive list of players as well. Stay tuned!
TNCTG PART ONE:
Texas League Teams:
Frisco RoughRiders: @RidersBaseball
Corpus Christi Hooks: @CCHooks
Midland Rockhounds: @RockHounds
San Antonio Missions: @MissionsMiLB
Arkansas Travelers: @ARTravs
Northwest Arkansas Naturals: @NWANaturals
Springfield Cardinals: @Sgf_Cardinals
Tulsa Drillers: @TulsaDrillers
Teams in the Rangers System:
MLB – Texas Rangers: @Rangers
Double-A – Frisco RoughRiders: @RidersBaseball
Advanced-A – Myrtle Beach Pelicans: @PelicanBaseball
Single-A – Hickory Crawdads: @HickoryCrawdads
Short-Season A – Spokane Indians: @SpokaneIndians
Rookie – AZL Rangers: No official Twitter handle, that I am aware of. There is @AZL_Rangers which was created by a fan. Decent follow.
Rookie – DSL Rangers: Ditto. Some do cover this team, however. More to come in future TNCTG entries.
Alex Vispoli, Frisco RoughRiders: @Vispoli
Michael Coffin, Corpus Christi Hooks: No twitter account (see team Twitter handle)
Mike Saeger, San Antonio Missions: @SAMissionsRadio
Phil Elson, Arkansas Travelers: @ElsonPhil
Eric Nadel, #1 MLB – Texas Rangers: @NadelEr
Matt Hicks, #2 MLB – Texas Rangers: @RadioHicksie
Mike Capps, Triple-A – Round Rock Express: @RRExpressRadio
Travis Lucian, Advanced-A – Myrtle Beach Pelicans: @TravisLucian
Aaron Cox, Class-A – Hickory Crawdads: @TheAaronCox
Mike Boyle, Short-A – Spokane Indians: @MrMBoyle
Other good employees and team-related follows:
Nathan Barnett, Media Relations & Broadcasting Assistant: @NathanSBarnett
Ryan Garrett, Media Relations Intern: @Garrett_RM
Corpus Christi Hooks:
Chris Blake, Media Relations Coordinator: @ChrisCBlake
Greg Bergman, Assistant GM / Media Relations & Advertising: @GregBergman
Brian Carroll, Director of Media / Public Relations: @BKC001
John Blake, Executive Vice President of Communications: @RangerBlake
Updates on Rangers Ballpark: Parking, Traffic, Valet, Gate Openings, Weather & Events: @RangersInfo
In-game Rangers Twitter handle: @theRangersGame
For those of you out there wanting to keep up with every with a Twitter “list” — I have made one with most of these handles on there. Feel free to subscribe, I plan to keep it up to date this season.
Baseball term of the day: wand - baseball bat
Before the game yesterday we talked to Tulsa Drillers’ starter Nick Schmidt about playing in high profile games like the California League championship game and pitching as part of Team USA.
Shot by: Jarah Wright and Michael Damman
We sat down with World Series winner and current Tulsa Drillers reliever Tyler Johnson before the game yesterday to talk about winning the World Series and coming back from an injury to play professional baseball.
Shot by: Michael Damman and Jarah Wright
Texas League travel is renowned in Minor League Baseball circles for the toll it takes on players, coaches, bus drivers and, yes, broadcasters. With airfare too costly for Double-A teams, all of the trips in the TL are via chartered bus rides. Google the route from Corpus Christi, Texas to Springfield, Missouri and you’ll get the idea of what sort of monstrosities take place for some teams in our eight-squad circuit. Fortunately for the RoughRiders, Frisco’s central location makes our travel somewhat more advantageous than for some of our peer teams, notably those from the South Division.
As far as road trips go, the six-game Tulsa-Northwest Arkansas swing has been one of the more enjoyable of the season, with the travel being one of the reasons why. For most road series, we will leave as a team the day before our first game in a particular city so that the players can salvage as much rest as possible prior to playing. For example, we left at 3:30 p.m. for Corpus Christi (our longest trip at over seven hours) on a Wednesday with the first game of our series on Thursday night at Whataburger Field.
With Tulsa only about four hours north of the Metroplex, we were able to leave the day of the game last Wednesday. However, the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry, which proved to be the case when we arrived in “The 918.” Our hotel did not have our rooms ready for the team to check in, meaning that we had to wait up to two hours in the lobby to head to our homes away from home (I drew the lucky straw for getting to his room last, leaving me 15 minutes to unpack, change clothes, gather equipment and catch our bus to the ballpark).
The hotel “in” Tulsa is barely in the city; it’s located near the southern edge of its borders, not far from the campus of Oral Roberts University. Generally, we will have two scheduled bus times to take the team to the ballpark when we are on the road: one at 3 p.m. and another at 4 p.m. Most of the team will get on the earlier bus, with that night’s starting pitcher taking the other, often by his lonesome self.
The first thing that sticks out about the Drillers’ ballpark is its location. ONEOK Field (pronounced “one-oak”) is directly adjacent to downtown Tulsa, giving it a terrific view of the skyline over right field and a setting that feels urban, the way it should feel in my opinion. There is a dearth of views like this in the Texas League (Arkansas’ vista with downtown Little Rock looming past the Arkansas River, is Tulsa’s closest competitor), so it’s a treat to look at the cityscape for three nights.
The second appealing aspect of the Tulsa trip is the ballpark itself. Built in 2010, ONEOK Field, named after a natural gas utilities company, is the newest park in the TL and it is impressive. Aside from views it possesses, it boasts a huge clubhouse, a terrific press box and plenty of fan amenities. I thought the name of a group seating section – “The Oil Field” – was particularly clever, given the importance of the oil industry in Tulsa (hence, the nickname of the team). The fans support the Drillers in droves, sending Tulsa to the second-highest average attendance in the league (Frisco leads the way by a large margin). Our final game drew 8,207 fans, making it the largest crowd we have seen at an opposing ballpark this season.
After each game, the players will shower up, have dinner in the clubhouse (as prepared by the visiting clubhouse manager) and load back up onto the bus to head back to the ballpark, typically 45 minutes or an hour after the game ends. This takes a bit longer on the last day of the series, as the team needs to bring all of its equipment and uniforms to whichever city is next on the travel log.
The trip from Tulsa to our next destination, Springdale, Arkansas – the home of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals – is the shortest route between any two cities in the Texas League. After numerous seven-hour bus rides this season, the sub-two hour journey following Friday’s game was a welcome trip, especially so because we played a four-hour game against the Drillers in the series finale. We arrived at our hotel at a reasonable 2:15 a.m. with game time less than 18 hours later.
When ONEOK Field opened, it replaced the Naturals’ Arvest Ballpark as the newest yard in the league (Arvest is a bank headquartered in nearby Bentonville). Like Tulsa’s home park, Northwest Arkansas’ is quite nice, though the area around it could not be much different. Instead of the bustling downtown atmosphere you get at the home of the Drillers, Arvest Ballpark is located in a very rural area in the southwest corner of Springdale, a city of close to 70,000 residents. Grazing horses and cows are not an unusual sight when one looks out onto the rolling fields that surround the ballpark.
While this gives the sense that you are located in the middle of nowhere, people from the area don’t seem to have a hard time finding Arvest. The park is not far from Interstate 540, the main thoroughfare in the area that runs north to south from Bentonville (the home of Wal-Mart) to Fayetteville (the home of the University of Arkansas). The rationale for calling the team the “Northwest Arkansas Naturals” and not the “Springdale Naturals” is in part so that the other communities in the region feel a connection with the team that is not exclusive to one city (the Texas Rangers can relate).
While the setting couldn’t be described as exciting, the brand of baseball through two games in Springdale has been, with Frisco and Northwest Arkansas combining to score 29 runs. The teams have split the first two contests and played a rubber game on Monday afternoon. A RoughRiders win made the five-hour bus ride back to Frisco seem a lot shorter and truly made this a road trip we won’t mind experiencing again.
Written by: Alex Vispoli
Photos by: Alex Vispoli