Tacoma Rainiers

10 Things (You) Love about the Rainiers

If you’re a local of certain age, you’re likely well aware that much of the 1999 Heath Ledger-Julia Stiles-Joseph Gordon-Leavitt vehicle 10 Things I Hate About You was filmed around Stadium High School in Tacoma.  In celebration of the 23rd anniversary of the film’s release (sometimes, you just need a column idea), here’s 10 things we/you love about the Tacoma Rainiers, in 2022 and otherwise:

  1. Our 2021 Championship Rings: Between the iconic R logo on the front, and the Mariners logo and the distinctive Cheney Stadium light towers on the side, nothing quite pays homage to professional baseball in the South Sound quite like the hardware from the franchise’s sixth title.  The Rainiers’ win-loss record, 78-52, is also proudly displayed, as only a regular season champion was crowned in 2021 due to the season beginning with a month’s delay due to the pandemic.  Tacoma’s Triple-A franchise has a real knack for being crowned champion in any unusual year:  In 2010, the Rainiers defeated Sacramento and Memphis en route to a PCL title, but their home playoff games were actually played at Safeco Field in Seattle, as demolition began on the Cheney Stadium renovation project immediately following the regular season.  The 2001 Rainiers were declared co-champions with New Orleans, after the championship series was cancelled in the aftermath of 9/11.  In 1978, the Tacoma Yankees – the lone season the Bronx Bombers had an affiliate here – were declared co-champs with the Albuquerque Dukes, because the series was rained out.
  1. The Rainiers are part of baseball’s best farm system: Anchored by a seemingly endless crop of starting pitching prospects; right-handers George Kirby, Matt Brash, Emerson Hancock and Levi Stoudt, who are all at either Double-A Arkansas, Tacoma or in the big leagues as you’re reading this, it’s an embarrassment of riches right now in the world of Seattle Mariners player development.  And oh, there’s some outfielder named Julio you may have heard about too.  Baseball America has ranked Seattle’s collection of prospects as best in the game.  MLB Pipeline (MLB.com) has them slotted at #2.
  1. Ken Griffey Jr. once played a game for Tacoma: It happened on August 13, 1995 during the first season of the “Rainiers” era and the Mariners affiliation.  “The Kid,” who was summoned to Seattle for the 1989 season after spending ’88 between San Bernardino in the California League and Double-A Vermont, made his Triple-A debut and finale on this Sunday afternoon at Cheney Stadium against the Edmonton Trappers.  The single-game injury rehab assignment was Junior’s final minor league appearance – the Hall-of-Famer played 2,671 games in the big leagues – but went 0-for-3 with a strikeout on this day.  Hey, Cheney Stadium as always been known as the rare PCL pitcher’s park.
  1. The playing surface at Cheney Stadium is brand new: The field always looks great at Cheney, natch.  But if the infield looks especially green and lush as we begin the 2022 season, it’s because it and the minimal Cheney Stadium foul ground were both completely replaced over the winter.  Nothing but true hops for our infielders as the Rainiers defend their 2021 PCL title.
  1. Our manager is an Olympic medalist: Former Major League catcher Tim Federowicz, who is in his first season managing the Rainiers after retiring as an active player following last season, was part of Team USA’s run to the silver medal during last summer’s Tokyo Olympics.  Federowicz was a teammate of former Rainiers outfielder Eric Filia on that squad, that came up just a bit short of host Japan in the Gold Medal Game.  Julio Rodriguez helped the Dominican Republic defeat South Korea for the bronze, bringing another Olympic medal into the organization.
  1. Cheney Stadium is the most fan-friendly ballpark in Triple-A: Pro Tip…if you can’t get the autograph you’re seeking next to the dugout, hang out on the third base concourse behind the stands.  You’ll probably catch a player or two walking to the batting cage to tune up for that night’s game – even after gates are open!  It’s all part of the retro charm of the oldest continually operating stadium in Triple-A (Buffalo, NY is a distant second, opening in 1988).  Cheney Stadium first hosted the Tacoma Giants in 1960.
  1. You can easily follow your favorite players all the way to the big leagues: There aren’t too many places in baseball where you can watch a player in person at Triple-A, and potentially watch him live in the Major Leagues the following night.  But as we enter year 27 of the Rainiers-Mariners affiliation, only the Minnesota Twins (12 miles to St. Paul) and the Houston Astros (22 miles to Sugar Land, TX) have a shorter driving distance to their Triple-A affiliate than the trip from Tacoma to Seattle.  The Atlanta Braves and Mariners are tied for the third-shortest distance from their top farm club (36 miles).
  1. We have (at least) four mascots: While Rhubarb The Reindeer is the undisputed star of the show, Epic Sax Gorilla has proven to be epically popular, as his mid-game concerts bring the house down.  Polar Boy does whatever Polar Boy does (he’s an amateur chef, but getting a lot better), and who doesn’t like to get funky once in a while with Disco Beaver?
  1. “R” logo is iconic: How iconic is it?  The navy blue primary home cap with the red R was a top-10 seller in all of Minor League Baseball in 2021.  It was the highest-selling primary on-field cap in the Pacific Coast League last season.  Wear it with pride, folks.
  1. 2022 is the biggest schedule in Rainiers history: With the expansion of the Triple-A schedule to 150 dates by Major League Baseball, we’ll be playing a record 75 home games at Cheney Stadium this season.  So there’s no excuse to miss out…see you back at R House soon!

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