Hell Night in Modesto
Picture, if you will, a second baseman. The 35th overall draft pick in the 2014 draft by the Colorado Rockies. Forrest Wall, a fair-to-middling prospect with a developing bat and seemingly sure glove. He’s currently in Modesto, in the California League. For a 20-year old drafted out of high school, he’s made good progress so early in his career.
However, on Friday, the first of July, in 2016, Wall would take a turn into…The Baseball Zone.
It was 102 degrees at game time in Modesto, California. It may seem hot, just like Hell, but the average high in July is 95 degrees in this city in the San Joaquin Valley. The locals, they’re used to it. Almost 1,900 fans brave the heat to see their Modesto Nuts play the Bakersfield Blaze.
Carlos Polanco takes the hill for the Nuts. The first batter for Bakersfield sends a ground ball to Wall at second base, who makes an errant throw. But the next two batters are retired, so Polanco and Modesto is seemingly out of trouble, and Wall’s error means nothing.
That’s when Wall and the Nuts entered…The Baseball Zone.
All of a sudden, a batter walks, then the next one smacks a line drive to right that falls in for a double. Then, a passed ball. A walk, then a double, then Polanco hits a batter. Another walk, and then another hit batter. Polanco is the first casualty as he’s removed from the game.
Helmis Rodriguez replaces him, and is also in the zone. He walks the first batter, then the next hitter hits a grounder to Shane Hoelscher at third. An error, and two more runners score. Then another hit, but then Rodriguez picks off a runner. The damage is done, nine runs cross the plate in the first for Bakersfield.
The zone appears again in the second. The first two batters send grounders towards second. Wall fails to field both of them. That’s three errors in two innings by Wall, four on the game for Modesto. The Baseball Zone relents though, a bit, and both runners are stranded.
Modesto scores four in the bottom of the third, and Wall smacks a home run. Some may have thought he escaped The Baseball Zone, but it is clever and cruel. The Zone waits for the opportune time to make its presence felt. It loves the hot hot heat of Modesto – almost Hell on earth at times.
That time was the seventh inning. The game was now 9-5, and Modesto wasn’t out of it by any stretch. Once you think you’re home free, the Zone reveals itself with fury.
Craig Schlitter is on the mound for the Nuts. The first batter of the inning reaches on another error, this time by Hoelscher. Again, the next two batters are retired. That’s when the Zone goes for the coup d’grace.
A run-scoring single, and then a grounder is hit to Wall. It’s…another error. Four on the game for Wall, and six total for Modesto. Then a fly ball is hit to left field, and it’s booted for another error. A single, and then, hopefully, Schlitter will be out of the inning as the batter hits a grounder to short. It’s another error, a total of eight on the game for Modesto. It’s now 13-5.
What happens after that is anti-climactic. Modesto scores two in the bottom of the eighth, but Bakersfield comes back with three more in the top of the ninth. These runs are scored the traditional way, with a three-run home run. The final score is Bakersfield 16, Modesto 7.
Forrest Wall, second baseman, and legitimate prospect. He does have a home run in the game, but his first-inning error opened a portal to another dimension, where he and his team, playing in a hot hellscape of central California, tumbled in, committing eight errors total, giving up 14 hits, walking five, hitting four batters and committing a passed ball. Wall and his teammates entered…The Baseball Zone.