Bayrouty's Buzz: Introductions

For the past five years, fans of the Stockton Ports have followed the day-to-day doings of their team through the voice of Zack Bayrouty. Throughout the 2010 season, Bayrouty will bring us his insights on the California League, the Stockton Ports and the Oakland A's system. In his first entry, he introduces us to life on the road in the Cal League.

Hello everyone, and welcome to Bayrouty's Buzz! If you've ever wondered what it's like to travel and work with a baseball team for an entire season, this column will provide what I hope are some interesting perspectives and insights, and I hope I can be your conduit to the 2010 Stockton Ports!

For those of you who've never met me, my name is Zack Bayrouty and 2010 will be my fifth year broadcasting for the Ports, the High-A Affiliate of the Oakland A's in the California League. I'm originally from Worcester, Mass., and attended college at Northeastern University in Boston. It was never my intention to get into broadcasting, nor my intention to spend a few years travelling around the state of California. However, as fate would have it, this is where my life has taken me and I've loved every minute of it. I get to live new experiences every day and discover places I never thought I'd go through a profession I'd never thought I'd pursue. The best part about what I do, especially during baseball season, is that every day offers something new to see, be it on the field or in our travels.

I'll keep this column throughout the season and discuss everything from the Ports, the A's farm system, and give an inside look at Cal League cities and ballparks. If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at portsradio@yahoo.com. If you'd like to follow the team's radio broadcast, you can tune in on game nights by clicking on the "Gameday Audio" link on the front page of stocktonports.com and follow your favorite A's prospects as they make their way up the chain! Now, onto our first two stops…Visalia and Bakersfield!

When the 2010 schedule was released, I have to admit, I cringed a bit. Not only do we open the season with 25 straight games, we begin with seven straight on the road to two of the Cal League's roughest stops. When you work in baseball long enough, you get to hear of the worst outposts in the country. Clinton, Beloit, Harrisburg, Sarasota…

In the Cal League, Visalia and Bakersfield are always tops on the list of dreadful stops, both from a baseball standpoint and a broadcast/press box (or lack thereof) standpoint. Let's start with Visalia, where the Ports recently split a four-game series with the Rawhide (the Artists Formerly Known as the Oaks) to open the season. Prior to 2009, things were a lot worse in the cradle of California's cow country. The visiting clubhouse was home to rusty metal lockers and fly-traps hanging from the ceiling, the front office consisted of a run-down wooden trailer that looked like something out of "The Boxcar Children" series, and the press box, well, just an outdoor table that left its occupants fighting the elements while trying to work.

Visalia now, however, is much more palatable—especially for the players. The clubhouse now boasts sleek new wooden lockers, new carpeting and a retiled shower. Visalia's ballpark renovation was voted the Best Ballpark Renovation in 2009 by Ballpark Digest. There's a new VIP club down the first base line with a full bar, flat-panel TVs and box seats. A grass berm cradles the right-field foul pole and has become a go-to spot for families with kids. Overall, MUCH better than before!

The one thing they forgot, however, was a visiting radio booth!!! Allegedly, this was in the original plans but had to be scraped when the project went a bit over-budget. Don't get me wrong, an outdoor broadcast is certainly doable—when it's not raining. What do you think happened during our Sunday matinee?? Yup…that's about right. The game was played under a threat of rain, and games both to the north and south of us had been cancelled due to the weather. The heavy winds made it near impossible for the official scorer (the one and only Harry Kargenian) and I to keep our papers from flying all over the place. Around the 5th inning, it started to lightly sprinkle, and I had to alert our listeners that if the rain got worse, I'd have to quickly pack my things away and bring a sudden end to our Sunday matinee.

You have to understand…as much as it makes sense to just call it a day and pack the equipment up, it's terribly unnatural for a broadcaster to do anything else but call a game while action is still taking place on the field. So I tried my best to make the situation work…hovering over my equipment with a towel as the raindrops fell, praying the entire time that I wouldn't experience an electrical nightmare.

Someone up there loves me!! The heaviest rain held up until literally 10 minutes after the last pitch. Knowing the rain was imminent I did the world's shortest post-game wrap (roughly 45 seconds after the final out) and packed up with the quickness. It was then that the heavens opened and I immediately realized how lucky I was to be able to finish the game!

What better way to follow up that experience than with a three-game set in Bakersfield! You may have heard stories of this place. No AC in the tin press box (making for average temperatures up there around 130 degrees during the summer months—not kidding), visiting clubhouse conditions that make your stomach turn, and crowds on some nights that you can count on one hand.

Oh, and a visiting team hotel where a woman sustained injuries after an altercation with her pimp in broad daylight during the playoffs last year while San Jose was in town.

But…wait…we're in a new hotel this year!! We passed our old team hotel on the way to the new one, and just the fact that we passed our old hotel knowing that we weren't staying there made my Bakersfield experience a million times better right off the bat. If I may…allow me to give a giant plug to the Four-Points Sheraton in Bakersfield. If ever your life's path takes you to Bakersfield for a few nights, THIS is the place to stay! Starbucks across the street? Check! Plenty of healthy lunch options? Check! Comfy beds with fantastic guest services? Check! Flat-screen TV in the room? Check! No sign of tweakers wandering into the hotel lobby? Double Check!

And…wait…what's this?? Upon arrival at "Historic" Sam Lynn Ballpark, we are greeted with a fresh coat of paint in the visiting clubhouse!! Does it get better? You betcha!! As I stroll into the press box, I'm not only greeted with a fresh coat of paint up there, but with news that the air conditioning unit has been FIXED! Glory, Hallelujah! Ding, Dong, the Witch is Dead! Whoomp, There It Is! These are a few of the songs that immediately came to mind upon hearing the news. It will be much appreciated in the summer months when we spend lots of time down there. Thank you Bakersfield!

All this being said, it's still a very challenging place to have a good broadcast. The broadcast area is extremely cramped, and since I'm traveling with some extra equipment this season I need to roll a chair over for extra storage space. The phone line (which hopefully will be fixed by the next time we go there) can't support the strong signal that we send back to the station, so the broadcast drops about every 10 minutes for a few seconds at a time. It's very frustrating. Add to it that they ANNOUNCED around 300 people on each of the two nights we played (the first game of the series was called due to afternoon rain showers), there's very much a lack of atmosphere. Because there's no other noise in the stands on most weeknight games, the players on the field can pretty much hear everything I'm saying. Therefore, I can't really talk about tendencies, where the catcher is setting up, what the hitter might be looking for—because they can hear me!! Often times when I broadcast in Bako I feel like I'm on NPR because I'm trying to talk so quietly!

In any event, the first road trip of the season was a smashing success for the Ports, who went 4-2 to open the season. In the first homestand of the season, however, the team came crashing back to earth as they dropped six of seven.

In all, it's not been a bad start to the season by any means. There are aspects of this 2010 Ports team that look terrific. The bullpen, for example, has been very solid to start the year. Offensively, there have been peaks and valleys. It's so hard to analyze a team in the month of April because there is so much going on. Players are not only getting adjusted to a new level of competition and a new league, but they're trying to settle back into their routines and get situated in their new cities. April, at least to me, is the most challenging month of the year. Coming up in the next post, I'll go a little more in-depth with players, opposing teams, and of course, more tales from the road. As I mentioned before, if you have any questions or comments feel free to send me an email at portsradio@yahoo.com.

Talk with you soon!

Zack

Oakland Clubhouse Top Stories