Chronological Tour: Stop 72

Game Delayed, Sun

Home plate entrance to the Sam Lynn Ball Park, Aug-2008.

The seating bowl, as seen from the top of the first-base bleachers.

The sun has just set behind the tall screen on a beautiful evening in Bakersfield.

Quick Facts: Rating: 2 baseballs
I’ll admit, I didn’t do my homework. When I first visited this park, I had no idea who Sam Lynn is or was. (A correspondent from Bakersfield told me in early 2001 that he was the local Coca-Cola bottler who brought professional baseball to the city.) His name, however, remains on the old ballpark in Bakersfield, Calif., the home of one of the two “sun delays” in professional baseball (along with Wahconah Park in Pittsfield, Mass.).

Sam Lynn and Wahconah have the joint distinction of a line from home plate through the pitcher’s box to second base running nearly due west. When the park was built in the 1940s, this wasn’t a problem; however, with the advent of lights, the setting sun can get into the batter’s eyes.

As a result, the folks in Bakersfield have erected a huge screen in the outfield, and the starts of games here are often delayed until the sun dips behind the screen. Games in mid-summer start no earlier than 7:30, as opposed to the usual 7:05 start around the league. The other oddity about this park is the 354-foot fence in straightaway center field, which I believe is the shortest in professional baseball.

The old wooden grandstand behind the plate, which was also covered, has been replaced with a concrete structure with no roof. This is not much of a problem, though, as the club plays only night games and it seldom rains in this part of California in the summer.

A new park has long been proposed for Bakersfield. As I arrived here for a 2008 game, a rumor broke that the franchises in Bakersfield and Adelanto were being shifted to the Carolina League. Speculation was that one of them would move into the ballpark in Richmond, Va., which ws being vacated by the Triple-A Braves franchise, which moved to Lawrenceville, Ga. That never occurred, either, and an Eastern League team moved from Norwich, Conn., to Richmond instead. Finally, in late 2012, plans were announced for a new park that would allow the Blaze to stay in Bakersfield, opening for, or during, the 2014 season. But those plans, too, were put on hold.

The sad saga ended after the 2016 season, when the Blaze and High Desert Mavericks were indeed shifted to the Carolina League, after eight long years of rumors. The intent is to build a new ballpark in Fayetteville, N.C., in time for the 2019 season. In the meantime, the club will operate for two seasons as the Buies Creek Astros, playing at Campbell University about 30 miles north of Fayetteville. The Mavericks landed in Kinston, N.C., which had been vacated by the minors after the 2011 season.

The closure of the two California League stadiums left a void that the independent Pecos League is endeavoring to fill. For 2017, they started a Pacific Division that includes the vacated parks in Adelanto and Bakersfield, along with California City (halfway between those two), Monterey, and Griffith Park in Los Angeles. The loop is attempting to make it in a territory where prior efforts such as the Western and Golden leagues drew for a few seasons but ultimately failed.

Game # Date League Level Result
154 Fri 2-Sep-1994 California A BAKERSFIELD 8, Stockton 4, 10 inn
940 Sat 2-Aug-2008 California A Lake Elsinore 12, BAKERSFIELD 3
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This page updated 2-May-2017