On May 26, Willie "Flipper" Anderson came up to Class A Advanced Lancaster's radio booth in the fourth inning. The former UCLA wide receiver and NFL single-game record holder for receiving yards was in town as part of the JetHawks' "SuperStar Series" of appearances at The Hangar and ready for an interview with on-air voice Jason Schwartz.
"We were going to have him on in the top of the fifth inning and they brought him up in the middle of the fourth, right before the start of the bottom of the fourth," Schwartz said. "I think the bottom of the fourth inning took about 45 minutes."
By the time Anderson got on the air, Lancaster was unleashing the Minor Leagues' most eye-popping offensive uprising of the season -- a 23-hit barrage that resulted in a 29-11 win over visiting Stockton and MiLB.com's nod as the 2016 Game of the Year.
From the outset, that late-spring Thursday night felt like one of those Lancaster games in arguably the Minors' most offense-friendly ballpark. The Ports put three runs on the board in the top of the first. The JetHawks responded with four in the second. Lancaster countered another Stockton run in the third with seven. A six-tally Ports fourth brought the game close again.
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"At one point, that game was 11-10," Schwartz said. "We were up, 11-4, and then they put up six runs in the fourth inning. It just goes to show, it's weird on these certain nights, but it does go both ways. I haven't seen many games where we've won, 29-0. Usually where one team is scoring 29, 28, 30 runs, the other team has put up a pretty good number too."
In the bottom of the fourth, Lancaster kept the line moving. As Anderson settled into the booth for his interview, 11 JetHawks went to the plate. Brooks Marlow was plunked by a pitch to start the frame. Bryan Muniz followed with a two-run homer. Bobby Boyd, still in the early stages of a career night, singled in a pair five batters later. No. 28 Astros prospect Ramon Laureano capped things off with a one-out grand slam. At the end of four, Lancaster led, 19-10, and Anderson had smiled his way through his wait.
"He just sat there the entire time and I felt so bad," Schwartz said. "He was amazing. He was laughing and joking about it as the runs kept scoring and scoring. I never have people on the air with me, and one of the few times I do, he has to come up and sit through a 40-minute inning."
The game returned to normalcy for the fifth when Stockton and Lancaster both posted zeros, but the night was far from over. Each lineup already had a host of players on the verge of personal-best nights.
"There are so many different storylines within a game," Schwartz said. "Like you look at all the things our JetHawks players did, and then you turn it around to the other side and realize that James Harris almost hit for the cycle in that game. He started his night 4-for-4. He had a single, a home run, a double and then another single in the fifth inning. By the time the sixth inning came around, he was 4-for-4 and a triple away from the cycle. That kind of gets lost because we're the team that scored 29 runs and won the game."
Lancaster had 13 hits by the end of the fourth and three had left the yard. The JetHawks started again in the sixth on Garrett Stubbs' leadoff single. Two batters later, Marlow and Bryan Muniz went back-to-back. In the seventh, Stubbs led off with a homer and was called out on strikes to end a seven-run inning. But Boyd was the star. After plating one with a double in the second and adding a two-run double in the third, the JetHawks right fielder and leadoff man collected a two-RBI single in the fourth and finished his night with a moment to remember, bashing a grand slam to cap Lancaster's scoring in the seventh.
"Honestly, I'm still kind of shocked to see all of the hits, the runs and just how many guys had good games," Boyd said that night. "The game just kept going on and on and on. It was crazy. I've never been a part of anything like that.
"I think I hit a grand slam in high school," he added. "I had faced [Stockton reliever Rob Huber] the inning before, so I knew what he had. He tried to get ahead with a fastball and I reacted to that. I put a good swing on it. I can only hope to have another night like this, especially as a leadoff man. Honestly, I think I'll leave the RBIs to our big hitters. I'll stick with getting on base and setting the table for them. It's hard enough to do that."
Boyd had just eight RBIs all season to that point and finished the night with a career-high nine. When asked how long he thought it would take to match that mark, he said, "Based on how my career has been, I'd say about two years or so."
The JetHawks' outburst was impressive in multiple contexts. It was the third time in three weeks the team had scored 19 runs or more, and the club's prolific May stretch came on the back of an offensively challenged April. In the season's first month, Lancaster was credited with a .252 team average and eight home runs, but two of those long balls actually came in May, in the May 31 completion of an April 8 game at San Jose. The power display against Stockton topped April's total. The JetHawks batted .279 and blasted 29 dingers in May.
Stockton's totals that night are impressive; Lancaster's are staggering. The Ports churned out 11 runs on 15 hits, tallying two homers, a triple and four doubles while going 8-for-19 with runners in scoring position. The JetHawks blasted seven homers, tripled once and doubled three times. They went 10-for-22 with men primed to score and drew 11 walks.
The reaction around Minor League Baseball to wild games in Lancaster -- and now-defunct High Desert -- usually falls along the lines of resigned amazement. Schwartz and his fellow front-office and field staff members see it from a more unique perspective.
"I think people look at it differently depending on just your understanding of the game and the environment," he said. "I think a fan looking at the box score … might look at it and think, 'Oh, my god, 29-11.' They'll process it one way, whereas we see those things happen once or twice a season. We kind of have a different way of processing it. It's kind of inevitable like, 'Here we go again. It's going to be one of those games.'"
A night with 40 combined runs and 38 hits presented a series of challenges for coaching staffs and players. Stockton used five pitchers, and the only one to have a scoreless outing was infielder/outfielder Melvin Mercedes, pressed into duty for the final 1 1/3 innings. Lancaster sent three hurlers out for three innings apiece.
Harris finished 4-for-6 and without the triple he needed to cycle for the Ports. Boyd's nine RBIs were a team best, but No. 29 Astros prospect Jason Martin set career highs with five hits, six RBIs and four runs scored. Muniz registered his lone multi-homer game of the year. Of the eight JetHawks who recorded hits, seven had at least two.
Only Kristian Trompiz went hitless for Lancaster. He walked, reached on an error, was hit by a pitch and scored three times.
The craziness can be hectic on a broadcaster trying to keep everything straight while juggling a rare mid-game guest.
"We batted around three times," Schwartz said. "Fortunately, I have 12 innings in my scorebook and I do a pretty good job keeping things neat."
After the game, which took three hours and 50 minutes, the mood was exhaustion.
"It's just kind of shock both ways," Schwartz said. "I don't think anyone feels like they just witnessed a baseball game, to be honest."
For Schwartz, games like that aren't exactly commonplace but certainly are much more in the realm of possibility than in many other environments. One day, when his time in Lancaster comes to a close, those memories will remain ever-present.
"I'll be grateful to have done it and I'll be grateful to no longer have to deal with it," he said with a laugh. "I think no matter who you are in baseball, if you're a broadcaster, pitcher, power hitter, I think that being in that type of extreme environment can certainly teach you a lot. It's taught me a lot about -- when you're a broadcaster, you have to fill time. You have to make things interesting and it's a different game."
Hitting is contagious. It makes for prolific days in lineups and long days in broadcast booths. But it doesn't always carry over in major ways, as Schwartz pointed out.
"The very next day -- the very next game -- we won, 2-1."