Sacramento River Cats

New players, new menu items, new season: River Cats' home opener is on deck

The River Cats will play their home opener Tuesday, when they host the Reno Aces at Raley Field in West Sacramento. The River Cats played their first four games of the season in Tacoma.
The River Cats will play their home opener Tuesday, when they host the Reno Aces at Raley Field in West Sacramento. The River Cats played their first four games of the season in Tacoma. Sacramento Bee file

Myles Schroder figured the first shot to the cup was just part of playing catcher for the Richmond Flying Squirrels, the Double A farm club of the Giants. An inning later, another errant bounce caught Schroder in the same spot.

He ruptured a testicle but returned to the lineup two weeks later. His teammates, no doubt, teased him upon his return, but they also knew Schroder was a gamer who would, literally, leave it all on the field.

“I guess the first one cracked the cup,” Schroder said. “The second one … wow, that one hurt. But everything is good. I had a girl since then and one on the way, so everything is working.”

Schroder has been a fan favorite everywhere he’s been through the Giants’ farm system and is a phone call and short drive away from a promotion. He’s played every position except for pitcher in his professional career and carries a large duffel bag filled with catcher’s mitts, first baseman, infielder and outfielder’s gloves.

To entice the Giants to give him that call, Schroder has made himself into a switch hitter. He’s been inactive for the first series for the River Cats in Tacoma, but will likely be activated soon as the team returns to Sacramento for the home opener Tuesday. He’s listed as an outfielder on the official River Cats’ roster and hopes to help the River Cats rebound from a 64-77 record last season, last in the Pacific Coast League Pacific Northern Division.

“Switch hitting is just another way for me to get to the big leagues quicker,” said Schroder, who was drafted in the 27th round of the 2007 MLB draft by the Giants, the only club he’s played for in seven seasons. “And the good thing about being a utility player is that I can play until I’m 40 because I don’t have the wear and tear like the everyday players. I feel great. I’m ready for this season.”

Myles Schroder mug 0410
Myles Schroder

Schroder, who played at Diablo Valley College in Pleasant Hill, voluntarily retired before his first season of pro ball. He worked for a home remodeling business and a company that maintained pools and spas at health clubs, he said. But three years of schlepping pool chemicals around the East Bay was enough and Schroder contacted Giants general manager Bobby Evans to see if he could earn another opportunity. Evans said yes and sent Schroder to rookie ball in Arizona, and it’s been a steady climb since the 2011 season. He’s a career .260 hitter who has improved his on-base percentage almost every season.

“The Eastern League is a tough league for Double A, but I made some adjustments last season and started seeing pitches better, and I became more selective,” Schroder said. “My (on-base percentage) improved, so I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. I’m ready for my shot.”

Here are some other things to watch for this season for the River Cats:

Offensive firepower – Kyle Jensen signed with the Giants in the offseason after spending 2017 in Japan. In 2016, the 6-foot-3, 255-pound first baseman had 30 home runs and 120 RBIs before being called up by the Arizona Diamondbacks for the final 20 games of the season. He already has a home run in the season’s first series.

The River Cats outfield will feature Mac Williamson, Austin Slater and top prospect Chris Shaw. Williamson is off to a torrid start, hitting .692 with four RBI through three games. Slater hit .321 in 50 games for the River Cats last season. Shaw led all players in the organization last season with 24 home runs and he hit .292.

Love of the glove – The defense will be anchored by shortstop Orlando Calixte and Trevor Brown behind the plate. Each is regarded more for their work with leather than wood. Hector Sanchez will split time with Brown. Center fielder Steven Duggar is a top prospect and is only one of four River Cats players who don’t have major league experience. But because his defense is so stellar, he’s expected to be called up within the next two months. He was the last one cut from the Giants’ 25-man roster to start the season.

Pair of aces – Tyler Beede and Andrew Suarez, assuming they stay in Sacramento, will battle to see who is regarded as the staff ace. Beede, a right hander, and Suarez, a lefty, have battled inconsistency early this season. But when they’re in command, they can be a dominant 1-2 punch.

Dorados de Sacramento – Minor League Baseball has started Copa de la Diversion, an initiative to reach out to Latino communities by home teams taking on new personas throughout the season. For five Tuesday home games, the Sacramento River Cats will become Dorados de Sacramento. Loosely translated, Dorados de Sacramento means Gold from Sacramento.

“The Dorados team name, special jersey and hat, and other brand new merchandise is just our latest effort to maximize the potential for fun at Raley Field,” said River Cats communications manager Daniel Emmons. “The team name (Dorados) is a nod to the Golden State, and the logo is based on a fun luchador theme.”

New eats and drinks – River Cats executive chef Tim Benham is always working to come up with new and delicious food options at Raley Field.

The team lowered some food prices to nothing more than $12 and introduced a giant smoked turkey leg plate ($12) that includes mac and cheese and a watermelon wedge. Sauce-tossed beer battered shrimp with traditional buffalo or sesame-ginger glaze is available in the new “Uncle Charlie’s Food Truck” in the Solon Club.

“We’ve also expanded our offerings in street tacos with a taco salad, chicken taquitos and a quesadilla,” Benham said. “That’s all to offer a little more so the whole family can get something from Oso’s Cantina.”

As an example of the daunting task of feeding hungry baseball fans, Denham said he and his crew will smoke approximately 45,000 pounds of tri-tip this season. Baby back ribs have been added to the menu and a third-pound of ribs with mac and cheese and watermelon wedge is just $12.

“We always want to make our food prices more affordable without sacrificing quality,” Benham said.

Raley Field will be serving a brand new beer from Knee Deep Brewing called the Sac Fly-PA. The brew is exclusive to the Knee Deep Alley at Raley Field, which will be the home of Orange Friday drink specials.