I attended the Tacoma Rainiers media day today, a nice presentation by Alyson Jones, Ben Spradling, Mike Curto and the rest of the staff. The Rainiers, defending Pacific Coast League champions, open the season Thursday at Sacramento, and return home Friday, April 15 for the unveiling of the new Cheney Stadium.
I’m here to report the ballpark, which has undergone a $30-million renovation since the final home game of 2010 on Sept. 2, looks very nice. It’s a remarkable transformation in just about 210 days. There’s the usual last-minute scramble to put on the finishing touches, but by next Friday, it should be tip-top. As you can see in the picture above (and I have several more photos below), two entirely new levels have been added above the seating bowl, which was left pretty much untouched and includes the same grandstand from the stadium’s first game on April 16, 1960.
The new amenities include luxury suites, a new club/restaurant, a grass berm in right field (which you can see in the picture above) and new concession stands. The wooden walls lining left and right field have been replaced by lower, padded, chain-link fences, and the bullpens have been moved from inside the foul lines to the outfield corners. The Rainiers dugout and clubhouse have moved from the first-base side to the third-base side, with much cushier provisions for the players. The visitors will inhabit a renovated clubhouse on the first-base side rather than being housed in the outfield.
As for the team, Daren Brown returns from his stint as Mariners manager to take over a Rainiers squad that’s an interesting mix of young and old. Matt Tuiasosopo and Mike Carp will interchange at first base, with both players also getting outfield time in left.
“It’s good for both those guys,” Brown told me. “If they’re swinging the bat, that gives them a couple of options. Things happen; we can’t really sit here and predict the future of what’s going to happen, what you’re going to need. I think it’s good for both kids that they have some options.”
Dustin Ackley, of course, will be at second base, with Sean Kazmar as the primary shortstop, and Alex Liddi at third. Veterans Josh Bard and Chris Gimenez will share the catching. Besides Carp and Tui, the outfielders consist of Greg Halman, Carlos Peguero and Mike Wilson. Leury Bonilla and Jetsy Extrano are the infield reserves.
Brown told me that his rotation, in order, will consist of Luke French, Blake Beavan, Chris Seddon, Chaz Roe and Fabio Castro. Castro is technically not on the Tacoma roster yet, having been left in Arizona to throw one more game in extended spring training to get stretched out. Brown said he’ll meet the team in Sacramento, and the team will make a roster move to add Castro in time for him to start Monday in Fresno.
The bullpen includes Denny Bautista, Dan Cortes, Manny Delcarmen, Cesar Jimenez, Justin Miller, Edward Paredes, Royce Ring and Chris Smith. Brown’s policy is to not designate a closer, and that will continue this year.
“Anyone down here is going to be expected to go to the big leagues and go two innings, at least – two or three innings,” he said. “We’ve already met with them. There is no closer. In a perfect world, at the end of the year, I’d like to have nine or 10 guys with saves. That would mean I felt good about nine or 10 guys getting that opportunity.”
Now, on with the pictures. The first one shows the view from one of the third-level suites, and also gives a glimpse of the berm in right field.
This next one shows the shorter outfield fences, which could result in some home-run-robbing catches at the wall. The high batter’s eye, one of Cheney’s trademarks, hasn’t been changed, but it will be painted green to match the fence before the home opener.
Here you get a glimpse of the area where the home bullpen is going to be. There’s also going to be a new stadium entrance from the left-field parking lot near Foss High School
Here’s the new team shop:
The last two shots show some of the work still going on: A truck unloading chairs, and a painter working from high atop a crane.