Diamonds in the Desert: A Baseball Blog from Tucson

Toros Join GBL With A Win!
May 22, 2009, 19:23
Filed under: Uncategorized

The latest incarnation of the old Tucson Toros kicked off their affiliation with the Golden Baseball League last night at Hi Corbett with a solid win over rival (from the Northern Division of the League) Chico Outlaws.  Our Toros were never behind in the game – final score 8 to 6 – though they did give us a few moments of worry as relievers allowed the Outlaws to gain on us after being blanked in the early innings. 

For me, it was rather a strange night in baseball…  Game time temp was 66 degrees and it was still damp (and in fact sprinkled a little) from the rare May rain storm which pounded the city all morning.  It’s May, for heaven’s sake!  We expect to swelter in our seats and complain about the heat, not worry about whether the light jacket we brought will suffice against the elements!  I also spent the whole evening fighting the eerie feeling that a Tucson Sidewinders game had just been plucked up out of TEP and dropped into Hi Corbett.  The promotions are exactly the same, the staff is very nearly the same, the owner is the same, and the fans are also very familiar.  It was like old home week in a very different stadium…hugs from ushers (“aren’t you coming back?”) and concessions folks, hoots and hollers of greetings with fellow fans…a sense of belongingness as the new season rolled to a start.                                                                                        

Jay Zucker and staff did an excellent job making the opener memorable.  A couple of live bands on the concourse before the game, lots of food and beverage concessions (did I mention that it was also a Thirsty Thursday?), plenty of helpful, happy staff.  I wasn’t inclined to look for glitches, but the few I noticed were minor and I didn’t hear any complaints amongst my fellow fans in the seats.  Links to the past were established when the original Toros mascot handed over a bat to our newest Tuffy Toro…  The Commissioner of the GBL and the San Diego Chicken (up to his usual antics – a real treat!) threw out the first pitches…and there was the usual pomp of Opening Day lineups – with each player from both teams taking the field.  And, even though we know very little about them right now, we screamed and applauded for our Tucson Toros, while scattering polite applause for the Chico Outlaws (whom we also don’t know) – the boundaries set.  These are our players and we are behind them. 

There is, perhaps, more truth to that comment than ever before.  There are tremendous benefits, of course, to MiLB teams.  You get to watch your kids move on to the show, the big stage…it’s a heady feeling.  But that move to the show was never within our control, and quite often came at a time when you wanted to the throttle the Parent Unit for stealing your players at a critical juncture in the season.  The GM of the Big club often set parameters for performance at the minor-league levels.  So certain pitchers could go no longer than some abstract (but safe) pitch count for weeks into the season no matter what the in-game situation required or reflected.  A Nanny State in the purest sense.  But these GBL teams are different.  The Toros staff ran try outs and culled the team down to the required 22-man roster all on their own.  Our manager sets the pace of the game.  It feels like freedom.  It feels like we make the calls. 

And there IS talent out there, my friends.  I worried to myself that the team might not perform at a level that would hold our attention, we who have been fed a diet of MLB Spring Training and AAA MiLB ball for so many years.  But do not fear, this does appear to be a good team.  I do not think last night’s win was a fluke.  I think they’re going to entertain us very well this summer.  We’ve got a group of kids with Tucson ties (and I think our manager sent every pitcher with a tie to Tucson into the game at some point in the evening), a few former major leaguers, a son of a baseball “name” (Robin Yount’s son, Dustin – who got the Toros first hit in 2009), a big ol’ designated hitter who looks like a slugger (but didn’t quite get there last night) – and all of them playing their hearts out.  This will be fun!  Oh sure, there were miscues and some errors.  But they’ll improve:  they’ve only been playing together as a team for a couple of weeks.  Their mistakes last night were ones you’d expect to see when a team is uncertain of who is doing what…that will improve as they play together. 

Starting pitcher for the Toros last night was Lorenzo Barcelo – one of the Toros players with MLB experience, having played for the Chicago White Sox from 2000 to 2002 – and he earned the win with his 6 2/3 innings of work.  He certainly settled my fears about the new team with the first fastball that whacked into catcher Luis Apodaca’s mitt to a called first strike.  I felt much better when Lorenzo struck out the side in the first.  This was good baseball!  Each Toros hit – much less run – was greeted with thunderous applause and cheers, as if it was the ninth inning in the seventh game of the World Series.  This group of basically unknown players tapping a desperate need in us to cheer for our own team.  It’s clear these guys must be playing for the simple love of the game along with a hope that their careers aren’t over; that “someone” will see them play and pull them into the MLB/MiLB world.  Certainly the fans saw them last night.  We were riveted.  It is, afterall, last chance baseball for all of us. 

(Disclaimer – this posting not reviewed/approved by Pima County, the City of Tucson, the Tucson Toros, the Reno Aces, Diamondbacks, PCL, MiLB, MLB, Golden Baseball League, National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, Tucson Baseball LLC, SK Baseball LLC, or any other baseball official and represents the views and biases of the author alone)


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