I heard Yasiel Puig made a sensational catch last Thursday during the Dodgers-Mets game in New York. Like two-thirds of the Southern California audience, I could not watch the game because the telecast was available only to subscribers of SportsNet LA, the new Time Warner Cable (TWC) network that has not been picked up by any other carriers, including DIRECTV and Cox, which has the cable monopoly in Santa Barbara. SportsNet LA is the exclusive TV outlet for more than 140 Dodgers games this season.
As long as Vin Scully is announcing a game, all is not lost, because his Hall of Fame voice is on the radio in the early and late innings. Scully gives such a pleasingly high-definition description of the action that you hardly need a picture. But he no longer travels to games in the East, and this week a bad cold kept the 86-year-old Scully out of the booth at Dodger Stadium. Another drawback is the lack of a Santa Barbara radio outlet for the Dodgers (KTMS once proudly did the job). Good luck getting clear reception from KVEN (1450 AM) in Ventura or KLAC (AM 570) in L.A.
As for the TV fiasco, there’s plenty of greed to go around. It is the result of the exorbitant $8.5 billion that Time Warner Cable has committed to pay the Dodgers over the next 25 years, a price that the club’s owners sought to compensate for the billions they paid to purchase the team and to maintain the highest player payroll in baseball. They figured a large portion of that money would be sucked from the TV-watching public, but so far Cox and other providers have balked at paying what TWC is asking. It reportedly would lead to a monthly increase of $4 to subscribers’ bills, whether or not they care about the Dodgers.
We went through the same thing at the start of the 2012-13 NBA season, after the Lakers sold TV rights for the majority of their games to Time Warner for a reported $3 billion. Cox Cable held out for just the first week of the regular season before adding TWC’s Lakers channel to the lineup. This blackout of the Dodgers has entered its ninth week — a third of the season lost — with no end in sight. But when the NBA and NHL (Go Kings!) play-offs have run their course, it might seem inconceivable for many households to go the rest of the summer without watching L.A.’s iconic baseball team, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the companies then strike a deal.
HOME SWEET HOME: Santa Barbara’s summer baseball team, the Foresters, will give fans lots of opportunities to watch games in the best way — from a seat in the ballpark. Beginning with its season opener on Saturday, May 31, the Foresters will play 37 games at UCSB’s Caesar Uyesaka Stadium. In addition, they will host the Rawlings California Cup tournament over the 4th of July weekend.
Bill Pintard, beginning his 21st season as Foresters manager, has assembled a roster of young players from top college programs around the country. Many of them will be missing from this weekend’s games against the Oceanside Waves (Saturday, May 31, at 4:30 p.m., and Sunday, June 1, at 1 p.m.) because they are playing in the NCAA regionals.
UCSB had been hoping to snag a postseason berth for the second straight year, since it had a better overall record (34-17-1) than in 2013, but the Gauchos were doomed by going 4-8 against the four Big West Conference teams that did make the tournament: Cal Poly (which is hosting a regional), Long Beach State, UC Irvine, and Cal State Fullerton.
Pintard said UCSB seniors Joey Epperson, who hit a cool .376 during the season, and Cameron Cuneo, who made 10 pitching appearances, may suit up for the Foresters this weekend. Incoming players include third baseman Vance Vizcaino, whose father Junior played in the major leagues; Dillon Dobson, a slugger from Appalachian State; and Bret Boswell, a redshirt shortstop from Texas. Many more will arrive in the next week or two. Pintard said he is trying to line up host families to put up the players until the end of July. He can be reached at 886-7041.
The Foresters are known for their winning ways — 21 consecutive appearances in the National Baseball Congress World Series in Wichita, Kansas, including four championships — and their charity work for young cancer patients.
TOUGH YEAR: UCSB basketball teams have been saddened by the loss of two of their most devoted fans: Judy Contreras died in February after following the Gaucho men for decades, and Renée Trenholm, a longtime friend and benefactor of the women’s program, passed away recently. She will be fondly remembered at the UCSB women’s golfing fundraiser at the La Cumbre Country Club on Monday, June 2. Former Gaucho standout Kayte Christensen, the sideline reporter for the Sacramento Kings, will speak at the banquet. Call 893-5732 for information.