Sam Lynn Ballpark is causing headaches for another professional baseball team.
One of the historic venue’s light standards failed on consecutive nights this past weekend, causing two games to be suspended, another to be postponed and casting at least some doubt on what the Bakersfield Train Robbers will do for their remaining 10 scheduled home games.
The trouble started during the third inning of Friday night’s game against Monterey, when the first-base light standard failed. It’s just one of eight standards at Sam Lynn, but it leaves one side of the field shrouded in darkness, rendering it unplayable.
Team scorekeeper Tim Wheeler turned the light back on, and after a 20-minute delay, the game resumed — only to have the light go dark again in the fifth. Another 20-minute delay, another inning played and then more darkness. This time, with the score 0-0, the game was suspended.
Pecos League commissioner Andrew Dunn said the league attempted to contact Kern County’s general services department Friday, but that department’s acting director, Geoffrey Hill, said the county received no message until Monday morning.
“It’s really hard with Kern County,” said Dunn, whose office is in New Mexico. “They’re good people, but they’re just not in a hurry.”
The Train Robbers attempted to play Saturday anyway. The game against High Desert reached the second inning before the same light failed. Another reset, another delay, and this time the light failed less than 10 minutes later, right as High Desert was completing a double play.
“Welcome to Bakersfield,” Dunn said. “We still like Bakersfield, but it’s been, well, different. We’ve never had this happen in the history of our league.”
If you’re playing Yakety Sax in your head while reading this, you’re not alone. Season-ticket holder Tristan Wieser of Bakersfield said he shook his head during all of the delays Friday and Saturday night — and said he wasn’t even notified of Monday’s postponement until he arrived at Sam Lynn and found the gates locked.
“It’s just disappointing, because I had passed up other opportunities for things to do this weekend,” Wieser said. “It was especially disappointing to see the faces on this young family with three children that didn’t get to see more than half the game.”
Bakersfield and High Desert completed Saturday’s game on Monday afternoon, with the Train Robbers winning 14-3, but the county was still working on the light at close of business Monday, so the scheduled night game against High Desert was postponed.
“All our staff was already assigned (Monday) morning, so we re-assigned a couple of workers,” Hill said.
“Then we brought in another Kern County electrician and another electrician. But as far as when they’ll be finished, I don’t know.”
Making matters worse for the Train Robbers is that home plate Sam Lynn faces the west, meaning scheduling make-up games is difficult.
The suspended game was completed with a 3 p.m. start Monday in 104-degree temperatures and racing the sun as it creeped into the hitter’s view.
Friday’s game and Monday night’s game will be made up only if they affect the Pacific Division playoff picture. Bakersfield and High Desert are currently second and third in the division, and Monterey is in sixth place; the top three make the postseason.
“Luckily these teams play each other a bunch,” Dunn said. “You just have to continue this journey until these games are completed.”
Sam Lynn’s decrepit state, of course, was to blame for the California League leaving town after last year’s Bakersfield Blaze season.
But Wieser said that if he was convinced the problem with the lights was fixed, he’d renew his $225 season tickets for next season.
And the Pecos League has a history of surviving in small markets and run-down stadiums, using ingenuity and a budget that lives on the very tip of a shoestring. To that point, it has even embraced Sam Lynn, hosting the Pacific Division All-Star game there last week — just before the lights started to cause problems.
“I know it’s not conventional,” Dunn said, “but it’s Sam Lynn and the Pecos League, and that’s what you get. We’re not complaining. We like it there.”