“We want tacos! We want tacos! We want tacos!”
At the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes home game on July 21, this was all most could chant as the game neared the 7th inning. This is the last sentence you would expect to be chanted over and over at a baseball game. Never having been to a Minor League baseball game, it was hard to say what was expected, but it certainly wasn’t that. It took a while to understand what the crowd was so excited about until someone explained that if the team scores seven or more runs, everyone gets a “two free tacos” coupon from Jack in the Box.
The prospect of free tacos wasn’t the only thing exciting the fans as the Quakes had lost three consecutive games against the Visalia Rawhides just days before. It was invigorating to see the loyal fans rally their third-seeded team in the California League South to a victory against the number one-seeded team in California League North with a score, 8-5.
Although viewing the game from the press box gave us a vantage point of the entire field, nothing beats sitting among the fans in the stands. There was a feeling of greater involvement; the crowd’s excitement was your excitement, and the crowd’s frustration was yours too.
All-American hot dogs, nachos, popcorn, and various combinations of ice cream in miniature plastic baseball helmets, were available to feed the crowd’s appetite just like at any major league game.
However, while the overall vibe of attending a minor league game felt similar to that of a major league game, minor league players face a great deal of adversity to play an entertaining game for the fans.
“It’s tough work, it’s long days. There’s long bus rides. We have it easy in this league, but usually it’s a six-hour bus ride after a game,” first baseman of the RC Quakes Cody Bellinger said. “You get back early in the morning and you’ve got a game the next night. It’s a part of the business, so you get used to it.”
Being a professional athlete can be demanding both physically and mentally, yet the players continue to give it their all truly for their love of the sport. Although, considered professional athletes because they are paid for their services, minor league baseball players have a starting salary at only $1,100 a month which they are only paid during the season, and are allotted $25 a day for meals, much less than their major league counterparts starting minimum salary at $507,500 a year.
Bellinger feels this is one of the greatest misconceptions that people have towards minor league baseball.
“Some people think that [as a minor league baseball player] you make a lot of money. You’re in a Dodgers organization, you’re in a Philly organization, whatever, that you have it made, but it’s really hard down here,” Bellinger said.
Many minor-league players have to take a second job during the off-season to support themselves as they skirt the 2015 Federal Poverty Level Guidelines at $981 a month. However, the players are driven by their goal of making it to the big leagues someday and know that their hard work is what will get them there.
Despite the hardships the athletes must face off the field, on the field they are an image of unity and cohesiveness as they work together to win the game.
The team’s strong performance made for a great game as kids of all ages ran around dancing with “Tremor” and “Aftershock”, the “Rallysaurus” mascots, and participated in fun games between innings.
Attending a minor league game was more fun than someone who isn’t a fan of the sport would think. The family-friendly environment and the passion the players put into the game made for a worthwhile night in which everyone got their tacos in the end.