Blaze notebook

A musical mastermind

Members of the crowd enjoyed the valley heat and the sun in their eyes while listening to Sheryl Crow’s “Soak Up the Sun.”

Behind the hip summer music lies a musical mastermind, Jim Eggert. Nicknamed “Santiago” by his co-workers, he confesses to watching telenovelas during the baseball games.

Mexican soap operas, however, do not explain his talent nor his power over the crowd. Eggert has been a disc jockey for the past 20 years, giving him an edge of experience and expertise when it comes to sound-bytes. It was no surprise for him to see members of the crowd dancing to the Village People’s “YMCA.”

Although he works as one of the backstage security officers for Centennial Garden, he has been working part-time with the Blaze for the past four years, and he continues to enjoy watching the games from the press box.

The sounds of toppling bowling pins, shattering windows, gut-wrenching screams and wailing babies were not easy to come across.

“I just sit there for hours,” he revealed, describing his process for sifting through movies such as “Shrek,” “The Nutty Professor,” and both “Toy Story” films.

Now with the Blaze under new ownership, Eggert likes having more freedom to play different songs. After the eighth inning, the loudspeakers blared William Hung’s notorious version of “She Bangs.” Eggert was clearly taking advantage of this new found freedom.

After mockingly playing a recording of a girl laughing hysterically, let’s hope the Lancaster Jethawks can forgive him.

— Dariane Nabor, Delano High School

For Rookie, it’s always hot

It’s a beautiful night at the Sam Lynn Ball Park. The air is cool, and a breeze is ruffling through the crowd.

But for Kimberly Navarro, Blaze Rookie, it’s blisteringly hot.

Stifled by the woolen Bakersfield Blaze mascot uniform, she leaps across the field, waving at fans and generally being, despite the heat, the most enthusiastic person there.

She’s been the Blaze Dog for a year now and “hugely hot” is how she describes her job.

Currently earning her real estate license while working as a broker’s assistant, Navarro came to mascot tryouts at the urging of her children, Keisha, 19, and Tanner, 11.

“‘You should do it, you should do it, you’d be so good at it,'” she said, recalling their support.

It’s not as if she hasn’t had any experience dressing in giant, heat-retaining costumes for the enjoyment of others.

Navarro participates in the costume ministry at her church, Valley Bible Fellowship, where she dons a similar costume and greets people at the service.

Baseball runs in the family. Keisha, her daughter, works at the Dip N Dots stand. Her son, Tanner, has played baseball for eight years. He also collects cracked bats, a collection which Navarro easily adds to.

With the change in Blaze management, she hopes to do a wider variety of skits.

“We’re going to be able to do a lot more stuff,” she said, excited about future prospects.

But even mascots have sick days. That’s where Justin Ahart comes in.

Currently a BC student, he was Foothill’s Trojan mascot while in high school.

He also auditioned for the position of Blaze Rookie and part-time mascot.

His motivation? “I love kids,” he said.

Being a Rookie means coordinating the Chip of the Game, Tricycle Race, seventh inning stretch, and T-shirt tosses, among other crowd-pleasing events.

Ahart agrees with Navarro on the biggest challenge in being a mascot.

“It’s hot. It’s very hot.”

— Valerie Urso, Bakersfield High School

Bring on the Bud Girls

Bakersfield Blaze fans may have a new reason to come to the games: the Budweiser Girls.

Adorned in tight white shirts bearing the Budweiser logo and black shorts, Crystal Eldrige and Alissa Thomas bounced around the Sam Lynn Ball Park carrying tin buckets. They were handing out smiles along with Budweiser key chains and bottle openers.

Eldrige works at Chuy’s and Thomas works at Chili’s. Both girls ventured from the restaurants to take on the part-time jobs of Budweiser Girls.

“I like the interaction with people,” Thomas said, her white teeth beaming and her full blonde hair shining in the bright stadium lights.

A short brunette with not a blemish in sight, Eldrige agreed.

“It’s a lot of fun,” she said.

Upon changing ownership, the Blaze corporation has changed some beverage promotions as well, including the Budweiser Beer stand, complete with a gigantic beer can towering over the little blue tent.

Working the stand on the “Opening Night II: A New Beginning” were Ashley Lewis and Sara Thomas. It was Lewis’ first night, while Thomas seemed to have a little more experience. This might spring from the fact that her husband is the Blaze’s Assistant General Manager Bryan Thomas.

“I like the changes,” Sara said. “The change in ownership was a big step.”

Both agreed that tonight was the first time they had seen the Budweiser Girls in action and didn’t seem to know much about them.

Beer and baseball are proving to be a dynamic duo for the Bakersfield Blaze.

“We’re planning on selling 20 to 25 kegs tonight,” Charlie Valentine said. Valentine is part owner of the Tailgater’s bar and helps supply the Blaze with lucrative liquid.

Sara Thomas is planning on singing the national anthem at a game on July 3. The Budweiser Girls will be singing their own tune, too: a song of mixing baseball, beer and good looks to what appears to be a very profitable promotion.

— Kirsten Wirth, Bakersfield High School

A patriotic performance

Kendall Bowen couldn’t have had a better reason for being nervous Friday night at the Bakersfield Blaze game.

Having just recovered from strep throat and singing for one of the biggest crowds ever to be seen at Sam Lynn Ball Park, Bowen gave a star- studded performance of the National Anthem.

This is Bowen’s eighth time this season singing for the Blaze.

She also said that she has sung for the Mighty Ducks and the Bakersfield Blitz.

“I sent the Anaheim Angels a demo CD, I hope I get in,” she said.

Bowen said that it’s most difficult for her to sing in front of people she knows, but among a group of family and friends she walked with her head held high toward home plate and sang the national anthem.

She said she was unaware that fireworks were to be set off during her song.

“Oh my goodness, I didn’t know there were going to be fireworks. Could you tell I was caught off guard?” she said afterward.

A Bakersfield native, she has four children and is pregnant with her fifth.

She said people tell her that she should do something with her voice, but Bowen said all she wants to do is continue being a good homemaker.

“It’s fun, I like to do it,” she said about singing. “I hope I can do this for a long time.”

Bowen has been singing the national anthem at Sam Lynn Ball Park since 1992, when it hosted the Bakersfield Dodgers.

“I love baseball and I love to sing,” she said.

— Maria Johnson, Valley Oaks Charter School

Meet the beer man

At any sports event most people will get their food or drinks, find their seats, and just enjoy the game without even thinking about the people who gave them their refreshments.

James Spillers worked his first Blaze game as the beer man.

The reason he is doing this is because he enjoys baseball.

He is just going to be working the refreshment stand as “an every now and then,” thing, says the Home Depot manager.

Although he would like to see the game, he spends his night helping out by dispensing beer and soda.

When a child asked for some water, he said, “There is a water fountain right around the corner,” so the boy would not have to spend $2.50 on a small bottle of water.

— Cody Schneider, Foothill High School

‘I almost fainted’

Eight-year-old Taylor Elliott couldn’t believe he had been chosen to run with a Blaze player.

“I almost fainted,” he said. “I was excited.”

On June 18, the Blaze played at home against the Landcaster Jethawks. As the starting lineup was announced, another name was said after each player, the names of the North of the River Mariners baseball team, who were to take the players to their position on the field.

From an early age these young Barry Bonds are out to see how the big boys play and learn from their skills. Nicholas Claypool and Cody Holsey, two rookies on the team, both agree they have learned a lot from games.

“This is my first [Blaze] game,” said Claypool. “Yesterday I went to a Dodger game. I learned from their center and pitcher. When I grow up I’m gonna be like Eric, the pitcher on the Dodgers.”

Catcher Matthew Claypool, who has three years under his bat, has his mind made up about his future.

“I like playing baseball; I’m thinking about playing with a major league team.”

— Sophia Ramirez, Centennial High School

Players of the future

Baseball fans cheer as one of the Bakersfield Blaze players hits a fly ball. But the fans don’t realize that the boys running out and picking up the bats may be the professional baseball players of the future.

Pancho Villa and Keith McCullough, both 17, are the bat boys for the Blaze, and they both have hopes of becoming professional baseball players.

Villa and McCullough went to many Blaze games and eventually, signed up to be bat boys.

This is Villa’s second year, but it is McCullough’s first.

“I got to know them [Blaze players] right at first; the only thing that stopped me at first was most of the guys spoke Spanish,” McCullough said.

During the games, Villa and McCullough run up and retrieve the bats after each player has batted, as well as hand balls to the umpire. While they’re waiting to do their jobs they get to watch the game in folding chairs on the field. But they also play with the Blaze during practice.

The players even give them advice and help them improve their games.”They teach us what we’ll need to make it to the majors,” McCullough said.

Both will be seniors at South High in the fall. Villa plays second base on the varsity baseball team. McCullough plays first and third base on the team.”I do the same thing they do. … I just want to get better at baseball,” Villa said.

— Emily Davis, Liberty High School

‘For the love of the game’

Carolyn Kittrell and Judy Kukuruza have been working for the Bakersfield Blaze souvenir shop for 14 years combined. Kittrell has a 20-year-old son who has played baseball since the age of 5 and is going to try his luck in major league baseball when he finishes college.

The souvenir shop is small with glass display counters holding anything from baseball cards to Blaze key chains.

The shop is muggy and a fan blows room temperature air onto the faces of incoming customers. What would keep these two women coming back to the ballpark to sell souvenirs year after year?

“Everybody here- we’re like a family, and I think that’s what keeps everybody coming back…for the love of the game,” Kittrell said.

Kukuruza has gotten the opportunity to dress up in the Blaze mascot costume for promos, but not as a regular.

“When I was working in concession I made some odd dollars in tips because they would say I had a beautiful smile. It was great,” Kukuruza said.

— Stephanie Rodriguez, Liberty High School