Dodgers not first MLB team to play at Epicenter

There is plenty of excitement over Thursday’s exhibition game at the Epicenter and rightfully so. The Dodgers are coming to Rancho Cucamonga.

Of course, Quakes fans have been treated to some high-profile rehabilitation guys last year, including Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. But this is an entire Dodger team, although several of the regulars will be playing in the Freeway Series the same night against the Angels.

But, this is not the first time that a big-league team has come to Rancho Cucamonga to play the Quakes in an exhibition game.

The only other time was March 23, 1997, when the San Diego Padres left Arizona and flew in for the day to Rancho Cucamonga to play a team of Padres prospects at the Epicenter. The Quakes were a Padres affiliate back then.

Here are some notes from that game:

  • The game, played on a Sunday afternoon, had an attendance of just 3,496. Since it was not part of the Cal League attendance race, the Quakes could be honest about the attendance.
  • Quakes owner Hank Stickney had to fly in the players from Arizona on a charter plane, which is presumably a reason why it didn’t happen again.
  • The Padres team included Tony Gwynn, who was at least one Padre player who volunteered for the assignment as well as Andy Ashby and  Wally Joyner. Gwynn was 2-for-2. “What a park. It’s nice. It’s better than most minor league parks I see. I thought it was nice. I thought they’d get a bigger crowd, though,” Gwynn said.
  • The prospects team included several former players from the Quakes’ lone Cal League championship team, in 1994. Among those players was Derrek Lee, who would go on to have a long and successful big league career, Chris Prieto, who settled in the area and was an early Quake fan favorite, and Gary Matthews Jr.
  • The Padres team, which won, 4-3, was managed by Padres manager Bruce Bochy and ex-Quakes manager Tim Flannery was a coach on that team. Mike Basso, the Quakes’ manager that year, and a Quakes player/coach in 1994, managed the “Future Stars.”