Tim Livingston, Director of Broadcasting & Media Relations
It was a packed house at Arnold Field on a beautiful Friday night, with throes of fans in attendance to watch one of the greatest sluggers to ever put a bat in his hand take his first professional swings in two years.
Even with former Oakland A's great Jose Canseco going 0-for-4 in Sonoma's 6-2 win over San Rafael, the story was a return to professional baseball for the 50-year-old. While he had recently taken part in home run exhibitions or appearances with numerous minor league and independent ballclubs, his presence on the field on Friday night was truly a sight to behold.
A hulking presence in the right-handed batter's box, Canseco towered over home plate in his imposing style: Wide open and crowding the plate. He was challenged a few times in the game, but pitchers mostly stayed away from him, with starter Ryan DeJesus (0-2) doing his best not to become a victim of Canseco's prodigious power.
Canseco's timing to game speed was quick to come around, too. While he hasn't seen live pitching in a while, Canseco's quick hands are still present. He can still react to pitches in on him or adjust away, but on Friday, he was just barely missing in his attempts to get on base.
His best plate appearance came in the third, when he got a pitch up and put his best swing of the game on it. The deep fly ball, however, flew towards the deepest part of the ballpark, and San Rafael (3-5) center fielder Zack Pace tracked it down about 15 feet shy of the wall for an out.
Regardless of the result of the game, Canseco brought an energy to the ballpark that was palpable. He still commands attention simply by coming to the plate, and each time his name was called, the reception of the crowd was predictably loud. This included a large amount of fans in the bleachers who were hopeful that Canseco would use that power to send one their way.
Sonoma (7-1) as a whole was its usual dominant self. It was yet another double-digit hit game as a team, with shortstop Gered Mochizuki showing off some power of his own in his 5'8", 170 lb. body. For the second time in four home games, the left-handed hitter hit a home run the other way, a three-run shot in the first that got Sonoma off and running. He finished with a game-high four RBIs.
The pitching was equally impressive, as Gregory Paulino (1-1) bounced back from a disastrous debut last Wednesday to pitch his best outing as a Stomper. His quality start of six innings included only four baserunners allowed and two runs scored, one earned. He struck out four and was constantly around the plate, throwing 52 of his 76 pitches for strikes (68.4% strike rate).
This time, however, his strike throwing led more to weak contact than strong, as a six-pitch sixth inning put a phenomenal capper on his evening. He gave way to San Francisco-born Jon Rand, Jr. in the seventh, and Rand obliged with the rare three-inning save, allowing only one hit while confounding the Pacifics with his deceptive changeup.
At 7-1, the Stompers are in the catbird's seat in the Pacific Association, well ahead of the other three teams. At presstime, the Pittsburg Diamonds were beating the Vallejo Admirals 4-1 in the seventh, and a win by Pittsburg would put the Stompers four games up on the other three teams in the league.
The second half of Sonoma's Jose Canseco Weekend will begin in earnest before tomorrow night's game as Canseco, some players and a lucky fan will take part in a home run derby at Arnold Field. The gates will open early so that fans can watch the derby as it happens, with the first 250 fans receiving a foam hand courtesy of Lagunitas. The foam hand will be missing the tip of its middle finger, playing off the unfortunate gun-related incident involving Canseco last year.
First pitch is set for 6:05 p.m. with the gates opening around 4:30 p.m. for the home run derby. Stompers Hour will start when the gates open and last up until 15 minutes before first pitch. After the game, Canseco will sign autographs behind the third-base dugout.