Visalia, CA -- Remember the scene from the movie "The Natural" when Roy Hobbs hits a home run so high and far that it hits a bank of lights, causing the to burst into a brilliant shower of falling embers? Well, what happened in Visalia California on Thursday night echoed that scene, only in a much less heroic and dramatic way.
It was the last game of the homestand for the Visalia Rawhide, who were facing the Modesto Nuts in a battle for first place in the California League Northern Division. The game had gone back and forth, but entered the bottom of the ninth inning 5-4 in favor of Modesto. Leadoff hitter Ryan LaPensee grounded out to second base, but before doing so, hit a foul ball that struck and broke a light bulb just above the first base side of the grandstand. There was a small explosion, and some falling glass that crashed to the ground behind the grandstand (where, thankfully, no one was standing). Next, outfielder Ender Inciarte dropped a base hit into left field. Everyone in the ballpark continued to monitor the spot where the light bulb had been, which was still meagerly smoking. The following batter struck out bringing Mike Freeman, perhaps the Rawhide's most clutch hitter, to the plate. Freeman had heroically ended numerous games for the Rawhide this season, including several walk-off base hits in front of the home crowd. Freeman, a left-handed batter, doubled down the left field line, missing the foul line by less than a foot. Inciarte rounded third, but was held as the baseball began to leave the left fielder's hand. Second and third, two outs and the Rawhide's leading home run hitter, 6'7" John Griffin, stepped to the plate. Remaining on the mound for the Nuts was left-handed late-inning reliever Isaiah Froneberger. Even with first base open, Froneberger looked set to pitch to the powerful Griffin with left-handed power hitter Yazy Arbelo on deck.