2012 Mavericks player Jack Marder pictured above.
What's the first thing that comes to mind when you hear the word "Maverick"? Some of you might say Mel Gibson...but for me, it's a man in the middle of the desert. Joshua trees around, lots of hard packed dirt, the sun constantly blazing at 100 plus temperatures during the day and 50 mile per hour winds at night. Possibly, this same man has a rough terrain ahead of him to reach where he wants to be most. Well, the same is similar with the baseball players who have to play at Mavericks Stadium for the High Desert Mavericks, the High-A Affiliate of the Seattle Mariners.
Mavericks Stadium, home of the High Desert Mavericks of the California League, is located in Adelanto, California; 80 miles north of Angel Stadium in Anaheim, and 90 miles northeast of Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles. Adelanto is one of the cities included in the "High Desert" community, has a population of roughly 32,000, and is elevated approximately at 3,400 ft (1,000 m).
The Mavericks were relocated from Riverside, California to Mavericks Stadium in 1991, the same year the stadium was finished being built. Mavericks Stadium seats 3,808 fans, and on any given Sunday day game, only about 10% of the stadium is filled by the best fans in the California League due to the temperature, which at certain points in August can reach over 110 degrees. The infield is sub par to say the least as the dirt dries up quickly and hardens like a rock due to the heat of the desert. When the dirt isn't hardened, it's because the 50 MPH+ winds kick up the dirt in the infield right before game time in the afternoon's.
With that being said, there are four reasons that combine with each other that make Mavericks Stadium known as an offensive heaven and a defensive hell:1. Elevation
Mavericks Stadium is located at approximately 3,400 feet (1,000 meters). As many people in the baseball world, a higher elevation means the air has a lower density which makes the ball travel further naturally. This makes for a very productive offense and high home run count for hitters of all natures. Just the opposite, it torments pitching statistics. What could have been a routine fly to the outfield in any other California League Park could just have that extra oomph to squeak just a little further and turn it into a home run. 2. Wind
The High Desert is known for having high winds over the winter and spring months. Also another little known fact for baseball fans is that wind can amplify or reduce the amount of friction a baseball handles during it's flight. It can keep a ball inside the ballpark or force it out quickly depending on a head wind or tail wind. I personally have seen winds as high as 70 MPH at Mavericks Stadium during the early months of the season. A routine fly ball to shallow center can become a home run ball if it catches the right carry from a gust of wind, making fly balls a challenge for fielders. Just a quick example happened in the early parts of the 2012 season. The San Jose Giants were in town, and a pop fly got sent just past the infield into shallow center, the shortstop called everyone off, then started running quickly towards home plate as the ball started dropping. Andrew Susac, the catcher for the Giants, called the shortstop off, and dove right as the ball fell right past home plate and dudded, the runner (forgive me for my lack of memory who it was) was standing safely on second with a double. The ball had to have traveled a decent 75-125 feet over it's entire flight. It seems like an easy solution would be for pitchers to try and induce ground balls, you say...well there lies another issue. 3. Infield
The infield at Mavericks is one of the toughest to play. The dirt hardens up and gets rutted from the high temperatures which makes ground balls faster and improbable on their final destination. I've seen routine grounders take wild hops left, right, over your head, stop dead in it's tracks, you name it. A former California League infielder that will remain unnamed told me that growing up he loved infield defense, how challenging it could be, but that Mavericks Stadium made him hate playing infield and that he would beg the Manager to put him in the outfield for the game. Error counts are incredibly high at Mavericks Stadium due to the poorness of the infield which showed in 2012 just like every year with 111 errors by infielders alone in their second best defensive season over the past five seasons. Issues aren't only for the players, but the scorekeepers that come through over the years have have to make incredibly challenging calls almost every game. I worked with a Mavericks scorekeeper of old who said almost the same thing as the former infielder. "Groundballs would make my heart stop, you don't know which direction the ball is gonna go, how high it will hop at the last second. You don't know if it's gonna hit the ground and bounce straight up, or if it will just pick up speed out of nowhere. It's incredibly unpredictable every time". 4. Temperature/Humidity
I've mentioned it a few times, but the infield dirt dries up constantly as the season goes on due to the high heat of the High Desert. According to a climate website based out of Los Angeles, the average temperature over the day in the High Desert for both the months July and August is 97 degrees Fahrenheit with an average of 0.1 inches of rain over both months also. It's very safe to say the climate around Mavericks Stadium is known as a dry heat. Quick science lesson for those who don't know, when air warms, the air expands making for less dense air. With that being said, the high temps will help increase the distance a baseball flies, just as elevation does. Now from what I've been told, the High Desert usually has a dry heat as opposed to being humid, but this past season was just the opposite. Although there were no games rained out, all the staff and season ticket holders told me that it was the most humid summer they had ever had in the High Desert. It seemed like every day clouds bombarded the Stadium and it's surrounding areas. Why would this be a problem? Another quick science lesson... At the same temperature, air with a higher dew-point will be less dense, which means at a higher humidity, baseballs will travel a little further.
No doubt the group of Mavericks in 2012 were astonishingly talented both on the road and at home, but you can't help but wonder if playing at Mavericks Stadium really does increase your offensive output. To quote a former staff member of the Mavericks, "to blame it 100% on the field would be a little unfair". I couldn't agree more. Players have an effect on their own statistics, good or bad. So does playing at Mavericks Stadium effect the statistics of the players so much that these statistics should be ignored? Absolutely not! Players should be commended for good statistics regardless of their position. A comment that roams around Mavericks Stadium constantly is that, "if you can pitch here, you can pitch anywhere". So let us commend the pitchers that have come through Mavericks Stadium with flying colors and also the hitters that have come away with impressive numbers also. It takes a lot to play everyday in the High Desert heat and come out to become outstanding ball players just as they wished. In the beginning of this article I described a man who had a rough road ahead. It's the same for the players that come through Mavericks Stadium, but hopefully, at the end of their journies, they come out successful.
With all this information, I have to say going to a Mavericks game is like no other. I highly recommend finding a way to adventure your way to Mavericks Stadium in Adelanto, California and cheer on the High Desert Mavericks. They have an amazing staff every year, and can fill with the stadium with 3,808 fans that have been coming for many many years and some that are at their first baseball game, but it is always loud and enjoyable.
On another positive note, the Mavericks Front Office has added a new member to the team, Joe Jimenez. Joe worked on the field in Lake Elsinore, California for the Lake Elsinore Storm (High-A Affiliate to the San Diego Padres), and in my honest opinion, had the best looking and most consistently maintained field in the California League. A quote from one of the long time Front Office members of the Mavericks had this to say, "track mix is down, everything was laser grated and is now level, the field just looks so much better than ever before, we're really excited about this".
Anything that can be done to help those Mavericks out -- to help them feel like they aren't standing alone in the middle of the desert -- is a step on hard ground in the right direction.
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