Secrets from Banner Island Ballpark: The ‘Bullpen Memorial’
The 2012 Stockton Ports wrapped up another memorable season of baseball a few weeks ago, marking the eighth year the Ports have been able to call Banner Island Ballpark home. The beautiful ballpark has a number of memorable features that fans have enjoyed year after year, including everything from the Jackson Rancheria Back Porch to the Delta Charter School Kid Zone. There’s no doubt Stockton Ports fans are among the best in the California League, but there are a few hidden elements inside the gates of Banner Island Ballpark that we think even the most devout Ports fan might not be aware of; one of them being the writing on the wall in the Ports bullpen, which a few players lovingly refer to as the ‘Bullpen Memorial’.
The Bullpen Memorial sits just below the Express Transmissions BBQ Pit Stop in left field, and has been a part of the ballpark since its opening in 2005. That year, the Ports pitching coach Scott Emerson and the Ports relievers started the tradition that has been replicated every year since. Whenever a pitcher entered a game from the Ports bullpen, they signed their name on the wall. So at this moment, the wall depicts the name of every reliever from 2005 through 2012, in order by year, with the current pitching coach’s name (or nickname) at the very top of each column.
Current Ports pitching coach Craig Lefferts explains, “You had to have pitched out of the bullpen on this field to get your name up there. If you came on the team and you pitched on the road and then left the team, you didn’t get your name up there. And it doesn’t include starters, but a lot of the time, the starters will get at least one relief appearance.” Lefferts and 2012 Ports reliever Connor Hoehn, who coined the wall’s nickname as the Bullpen Memorial, both said that they haven’t seen anything similar in other ballparks that honors or recognizes players.
As if that isn’t fascinating enough, the wall serves as a sort-of motivational tool for the relievers each year, because once a pitcher makes it to the Big Leagues, his name on the wall is starred and MLB is written underneath. Hoehn commented, “I think it’s really cool, because you see the names of the players that have played here in the past. A lot of people can recognize those names and see how they played in this league and went on and are now having success at the major league level.”
Connor went on to add, “You look at someone like Andrew Carignan – his name is riddled all over the wall, probably at least four times. It’s motivating for the people that are returning or struggling to see that someone’s been up there four times and now they’re in the major leagues.” Connor had it right; Andrew Carignan’s name is signed on the Bullpen Memorial four years in a row. The RHP spent at least part of his 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2011 seasons here in Stockton before making his MLB debut with the Athletics on Sept 2, 2011.
Looking to the list of names from this season, we are reminded of the amazing year Sean Doolittle has had, as he tops the 2012 column of pitchers with stars marking his name. The first baseman turned LHP started out here at Banner Island Ballpark and shot his way through the Athletics organization, joining Oakland’s roster on June 5, 2012. As we begin to leave the 2012 season behind and look forward to a new start in 2013, we can’t help but wonder whose names will fill the 2013 column, and which former Ports players will earn their own stars on the Bullpen Memorial.