No Opener Yet, So We’ll Revisit A.J. Zapp’s Big Day

Normally this is the most anticipated day of the year, but here we are on our previously scheduled Tacoma Rainiers opening day doing… not much. At least it is beautiful outside, so hopefully you can get outdoors for a walk or something.

Eventually we’ll have a real opening day, complete with baseball and everything. I can’t wait – but we are all going to have to.

In looking at the responses to the last post about most memorable Rainiers games, the most-mentioned game was what we will now call the A.J. Zapp Game. Surprisingly, this is not the game in which he homered over the giant wall in center.

On August 20, 2004 the Rainiers were tied with Fresno, 7-7, and had the bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning. At the time Tacoma was in first place by a half-game over Portland.

A left-handed hitter, Zapp faced Fresno closer (and future Tacoma Rainier) David Aardsma and worked a full count. He then pulled a pitch to right field for a walk-off grand slam, giving the Rainiers an 11-7 win.

Already a memorable moment right there – a walk-off grand slam isn’t exactly common – this salami gave Zapp nine RBI in the game. That’s right: he drove in nine of Tacoma’s 11 runs.

Nobody has had that many RBI in a single game since – Chris Herrmann came close with a seven RBI game against Albuquerque in 2018. The nine RBI is believed to be a single-game Tacoma franchise record (this is where we insert the disclaimer that many individual single-game franchise records are unknown due to a lack of record-keeping from 1966-1990).

Zapp would finish the season with 29 home runs and 101 RBI. As for the Rainiers, the rest of the season was a bummer: a stretch of nine straight games against Portland began the very next day, and the Beavers won six of the nine to overtake the Rainiers, eventually winning the division title by four games.

There are ongoing discussions about possibly starting MLB in May, with all teams playing in Arizona. Games would be played in empty stadiums, bringing the rest of America some much needed TV sports. Everything is all in the initial planning phase and is very tentative, with health safety being the No. 1 consideration.

We don’t know how this would impact the minor leagues, but there is one huge item to keep in mind: MLB can play in empty parks because it generates big TV money. Minor League Baseball teams generate most of their revenue from ticket and concession sales. In the minors we need the ballparks open. That being said, the major league teams will want their minor league prospects playing in games, getting reps, and improving as players as soon as possible.

There are just a ton of moving parts in all of this, with safety being first and foremost. It’s impossible to project what might happen.

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One Response to No Opener Yet, So We’ll Revisit A.J. Zapp’s Big Day

  1. Mike, My concern is that MLB teams will expand rosters, keep minor leaguer’s in extended spring training and have no minor league games in their respective ballparks. Hopefully, this is an incorrect assumption on my part. MLB Commissioner really displays a negative attitude towards the Minors anyway.

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