Monday night marked the end of an era, as the Bakersfield Blaze (High A; California League) played their final game.
The Blaze’s postseason contest against the Visalia Rawhide proved to be the last for the Blaze and Sam Lynn Ballpark, as the franchise will be contracted as part of the California/Carolina League realignment. Though it has been clear for some time that Sam Lynn Ballpark is obsolete by Minor League Baseball standards, the facility and the team carried a significant amount of history. Sam Lynn Ballpark was celebrating its 75th season this year, and it has hosted the California League dating back to the league’s first year of existence in 1941.
Thanks to a playoff push that came down to the wire, the Blaze managed to outlast the minor league regular season. Monday’s loss, however, eliminated the team from the postseason and effectively ended the franchise’s storied run. More from Bakersfield.com:
Bakersfield went 4-2 on its final regular-season homestand, clinched a playoff spot a couple of days later and then won two elimination games against San Jose in the opening round of the playoffs here last week.
It was enough to make you believe the Blaze might actually have a happy ending.
Blaze officials have received messages from baseball people all across the country, people who had no reason to root for Bakersfield, and you can guess what most of them said: “We’re rooting for you. Wouldn’t it be cool if the Blaze did it? If these ballplayers from all over the Western Hemisphere came together and won a few baseball games and sent Bakersfield out on top?”
Yes, it would have been. And for a while, it seemed like everybody’s wish was coming true.
Then reality hit, in the form of the Visalia Rawhide. Visalia won two close games at home and came to Sam Lynn — where the Rawhide was 10-1 this season — and ended it. Instead of bogeymen there were bloop singles and runners left in scoring position, but either way, this wasn’t the way this dream was supposed to end.
The Blaze are one two California League teams that will be contracted at the end of 2016. The other, the High Desert Mavericks, currently have a 2-1 lead in a best-of-five semifinal against the Lancaster JetHawks. Across Minor League Baseball, the only other team that is set to relocate or contract after this season is the Brevard County Manatees (High A; Florida State League), who are moving to Kissimmee’s Osceola County Stadium. The Manatees played their final game on September 4.
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