Usually, the last game of an NWL season is a somber occasion for C’s fans.
We don’t get a long season, and we don’t get to see the players again, unless they’re slumping or rehabbing sometime down the road, so more than at any other level of ball, the end of a Vancouver Canadians season is not just an end to ball for the next nine months - it’s also an end to friendships, in some cases relationships, it’s the last time fans will see their favourite players, the last time we’ll see staff who move on to other things, the last we’ll hear of the team on the TV and radio… and if you’ve just lost in the playoffs (as the C’s have often), it’s an even harder time.
But this time around, two things changed from years prior to make the end of season 2007 a happy time.
1. We won the final game of the year. That never happens.
2. See picture above.
After a 4-1 victory to the C’s, Delany Dunn and his betrothed, Lisa Marie, gathered at home plate under a frequently collapsing wedding arbour ("Hey, security guy! Hold this up and try not to stand out behind the bride!"), and vowed to spend the rest of their days together.
It was a light-hearted event that took longer to set up than get through, and bride and groom were beaming wide enough to be noticeable in the cheap seats, a place where a good 300 or so fans could be found long after the game had ended. The possibility of an open bar may have had something to do with that, as the chants of "go wedding, go!" ran long and hard in the lead-up.
Lyndon Little of The Sun has more.
"Lisa Marie [her parents were both huge Elvis fans] and I were initially planning an ‘08 ceremony," Dunn said. "When my mother took ill we decided to move it up in hopes she could be there. Unfortunately, she passed away. But since we told her we were definitely going to be married on Sept. 5 we decided to stick with that date."
When the Canadians’ management caught word of the impending nuptials they approached Dunn about a park ceremony. With the club’s business connections the team was able to arrange some commercial support for the event, including sponsorship of Watson’s bridal package.
I want to know what part of that bridal package required a sponsorship by a Go-Kart track - but it wasn’t just the wedding at home plate that made this a special day - I witnessed many things that had me smiling, despite an umpiring performance clearly intended to get everyone home early.
The first was the crowd of people who now surround Bud Kerr whenever he’s at a game. It used to be Bud would have a few friends around him, swapping stories, but the guy is a media darling these days. He’s working on a documentary about the team, he’s got a museum in his name in the works, with next year being spoken of as a likely opening date, he’s got artists and archivists and ball fans and, yes, the ladies, crowded around him like he’s the guru of all things ballish. Which, when it comes to ball in this town, he kinda is.
The second was walking up to the window of the broadcast booth and finding not Rob Fai and Mark Lenden of TEAM1040, and not the regular webcaller, and not even HawkerRob, who’d done the call the night before. No, instead, there sat the father/son team of Dancing Hans and Lurch the Audio Intern doing the webcast call.
This is kind of like getting into a taxi and discovering that you’ve been picked up by Carrot Top. Or waking up in the morning, rolling over and finding your high school geography teacher, a midget named Cindy, and a Tauntaun sleeping beside you. It’s so random, your brain could just pop.
The third awesome thing of the day was seeing HawkerRob and Dave TheAncient Mariner stepping back out onto the concourse with trays ofGranville Island’s finest, their pennance paid, the crowd quenched, anda certificate for the Beerhawker Player of the Year firmly in hand.More on that in subsequent posts.
But the best thing of the day is something I saw that made my season: A nigh-mulleted drunk dude over in what used to be the smoking section had spent a good part of the day cheering on the team among a group of folks taking long tokes on what you might refer to as ‘BC’s finest’. The guys in the booth had been trying to get the security employees to go de-doobie them for a while, without much luck, but they weren’t doing any harm beyond the obvious breaking of laws. I suspect Julio Rivera might have been getting high just from the breeze, but I digress.
So this mulleted Anthony Kiedis lookalike was hanging about, having a good time, when a hard hit foul tip comes zinging his way. Defying his stoned and drunk state, he zips out a hand and bare-palms it without a flinch, turns to the crowd and raises his arms defiantly with ball in hand, earning a big cheer.
But then comes the good bit… he reaches across the fencing and hands it to a completely random little girl.
Now, that happens all the time at The Nat. In fact, if you don’t give a foul tip to a kid, you’ll pretty much earn the wrath of the faithful and be shunned by the hawkers, but what happened after the game with this guy took it to the next level.
Somehow, Mulletman acquired a bat from a player. This is the holy grail of autograph hunters - you NEVER get a bat. Not ever. I’ve seen literally hundreds of people ask for one, and never have I seen someone get one. Instead, the look they’ll get from the player ranges from a "dude, sorry, not going to happen" to "I can’t believe you’d even be so presumptuous as to even ask".
But this guy got one. And just like the foul tip, when he snagged it, he raised it in the air in celebration, to a big cheer from those around him.
And then he walked over to a guy in a wheelchair, put it on his lap, shook his hand and went about his business.
That’s Nat Bailey Stadium. That’s why I love the place.
Let’s get to the game.
3,284 were on hand for the finale of NWL West 2007, and they weren’t disappointed with what they saw. JD Pruitt opened the game with an infield single to 2nd base before Runway Richard was hit by a pitch to put the C’s in a strong position early. Matt Sulentic and The Pied Piper of Hamblin both struck out (Sulentic looking for a walk, and Hamblin looking for the parking lot), before Greg Desme ripped a rifle shot down the third base line, bringing both runners home. C’s up 2-0.
C’s starter Pedro Figueroa got himself out of a jam nicely in the 3rd, when with men at 1st and 2nd and only one out, he drew the Aquasox hitters into a ground-out fielder’s choice, and then struck out the always threatening Denny Almonte looking.
Matt Sulentic was robbed by a bad umpiring call in the 4th, when he was judged ot have been caught stealing 2nd. Mental replay in my head after a good night’s sleep indicates the ump was high, and the pity of it is that with Richard and Hamblin singling around him, and Desme drawing a walk, if Sulentic hadn’t been told to go (or hadn’t had NWL-standard umps to deal with), he would likely have scored a run.
Figueroa picked up an injury in the bottom of the frame, with what looked like maybe a hammy strain as he stumbled off the field. There was no panic about him, so no drama ensued, and being as it’s the last game of the year, all it really meant was Flyin’ Bryan Collins entered the game early, with a man in scoring position.
A subsequent double to Jeff Dunbar brought the scores back to 2-1 Vancouver, but that would be the closest the Flipperkids would get.
The American Dream, Dusty Napoleon’s "put me in coach, I’m ready to play" routine of late continued in the 4th as he ripped a double down the first base line, and a base hit to The Frashmaker plated him with time to spare. 3-1 C’s.
I decided to move up to the front row, right behind home plate, for the 5th inning, and it proved to be a good idea, albeit one that nearly killed my camera.
Dan Hamblin drilled double to left that, because of my line of sight, I could actually track the spin of it off the bat. It started out hit hard and low, right at the third baseman, but soon began to spiral out of his reach, slamming down on the turf just inside the line and continuing to scurry off towards the C’s bullpen. It was something to see, up so close that you could follow it’s trajectory like you fired it out of a rifle. Hamblin really does hit balls hard - every time.
More fun followed in my front row seat, as a Greg Desme single saw Hamblin not amblin’ as he motored home and Aquasox replacement catcher Blake Ochoa (there’s two names that don’t go together) missed the ball entirely, turning to watch it miss my camera by a handful of inches (as seen left).
Just so you know, no, I didn’t flinch. I was getting the shot - no time for flinching. Oh, and there was no zoom used for that pitcure; That’s how close you are to home plate when you’re watching a ballgame at Nat Bailey Stadium from the front row. In fact, if The Nat were to be built now, it wouldn’t be legal for NWL ball, because home plate is so close to the backstop. It’s only that the ballpark was grandfathered in under old rules that such an anomaly exists, but holy crap, does it make for a great baseball experience.
Anyhow, C’s up 4-1.
From that point on, the Aquasox were making travel plans and the C’s were swapping phone numbers and email addresses to keep in touch through the off-season. Aaron Jenkins, Scott Hodsdon and Leo "you can leave your hat on" Espinal pitched an inning each without threat of a run being scored on them, with Hodsdon striking out the side in the 8th, and the home fans went home for another nine months, tanned, slightly drunk, and with plenty of cut price merchandise in hand.
Thanks for the season, C’s.
|September 5, 2007|
| Final || 1 || 2 || 3 || 4 || 5 || 6 || 7 || 8 || 9 || || R || H || E |
| Everett || 0 || 0 || 0 || 1 || 0 || 0 || 0 || 0 || 0 || || 1 || 6 || 1 |
| Vancouver || 2 || 0 || 0 || 1 || 1 || 0 || 0 || 0 || X || || 4 || 11 || 0 |box
W: B. Collins (1-1, 6.59); L: E. Paredes (7-6, 3.99); SV: L. Espinal (12)