Top 10 Tacoma Rainiers Facts You Didn’t Know

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Top 10 Tacoma Rainiers Facts You Didn’t Know

The Tacoma Rainiers are one of Triple-A Baseball’s exciting teams every sports fan needs to learn about. In fact, the Rainiers are a high-level farm team for the Seattle Mariners. Any Tacoma fan that bleeds Rainiers blue and red will know every information possible, from the team winning the Pacific Coast League title in 2010 to Rhubarb the Reindeer being the official mascot. However, there are new Tacoma Rainiers facts that many baseball supporters never knew or never heard of in their lives. For details on what facts baseball fans rarely knew about, please refer to Top 10 Tacoma Rainiers Facts You Didn’t Know below!

10: Cheney Stadium has Hosted 13 No-Hitters Since it Opened in 1960

The Tacoma Rainiers know a thing or two when it comes to throwing no-hitters. In fact, the team has achieved three no-no’s since changing its name to the Rainiers in the 1990s. Tacoma is one of the several Triple-A cities to have thrown multiple no-hitters since the early 2000s: Toledo, Sacramento, Nashville, Oklahoma City, and Colorado Springs (now San Antonio Missions). Another thing to add is that the Rainiers went on the wrong side of the accomplishment a couple times over the past couple decades. But fortunately, for Cheney Stadium, the historic ballpark has witnessed 13 no-hitters since it opened in 1960. 

The first no-no in franchise history took place in 1962, when the late Dick Lemay reached that goal against the now-defunct Vancouver Mounties. Now, let’s talk about the most recent no-hitters that happened in the Rainiers era. In May 2001, Sacramento River Cats pitcher Micah Bowie tossed a no-no vs. the Rainiers. Two months later, John Halama became the first Tacoma thrower to complete a perfect game (no hits and no baserunners) against the Calgary Cannons (now Albuquerque Isotopes). In 2002, Portland Beavers pitcher Junior Herndon tossed a no-no vs. the Rainiers at Cheney Stadium

9: Tacoma Rainiers were Named After a Beer Company, Not a Mountain

The Rainiers are one of the most popular baseball teams in the Pacific Northwest. The other clubs are the following: Seattle Mariners, Spokane Indians, Everett AquaSox, Hillsboro Hops, and Eugene Emeralds. In fact, Tacoma has a long history of baseball that dates back to the 1960s. In the mid-1990s, the Tacoma franchise became the Rainiers after being called the Tigers for the previous 14 years. But did you know that the Tacoma Rainiers were named after a beer company, not a mountain. 

First of all, Mount Rainier is a huge volcanic mountain that can be seen from both Seattle and Tacoma. Whenever tourists drove from Downtown Seattle to the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, they would see the snowy top of the mountain. However, the Rainiers were not named after the local mountain because they were inspired by a local beer firm. When a different franchise was purchased in the 1930s, the new owners were the Rainier Brewing Company. Even though the firm has since ceased operations, its big red “R” sign that sat previously at the main factory now occupies a spot at the Museum of History and Industry in the Emerald City

8: Some of the Wooden Seats for Cheney Stadium are Actually from Seals Stadium

Stadium seats are perhaps the most important amenity for any sports venue. In fact, there are different types of fan seats located in ballparks and arenas. First, there are bleacher seats that are mainly situated in the outfield. Second, stadiums have traditional seats where the seat part goes up if the fans get up and goes down when they sit down. Finally, sports facilities have cushioned seats that can be utilized in the home plate club as well as suite rooms. But Cheney Stadium is a special ballpark because they have wooden seats that originated from Seals Stadium. 

Located behind home plate, there are about 24 blue wooden seats that look different from the rest of the stadium chairs. That’s because they were transferred from Seals Stadium, the first home of the San Francisco Giants and the San Francisco Seals Minor League club. When Seals Stadium was being replaced in favor of Candlestick Park, the Giants owners decided to have a farm team in Tacoma. However, there was a strict deadline to have the new facility done in time for the 1960 campaign. In order to preserve time and meet the deadline, team officials decided to install Seals Stadium’s seats and ballpark lights into Cheney Stadium. 

7: Tacoma has had Two Pacific Coast League MVP Winners in Franchise History

Winning a major award is considered a huge deal in Triple-A Baseball, especially for those who are trying to get to the big leagues. If a person wins Rookie of the Year or Pitcher of the Year, then this achievement could improve his chances of getting called up to the Major Leagues. Also, that person might face the chances of receiving an invite to Spring Training from his team’s parent club. Luckily, for the Rainiers, they have made Tacoma proud by winning two MVP awards. As a matter of fact, the team has won player awards along with one of the historic ballparks in the state of Washington. 

In 1961, infielder Dick Phillips claimed the Pacific Coast League MVP honors with a 0.264 batting average with 16 home runs and 98 runs batted in. Phillips spent three seasons with the Tacoma club (1960-1962), but he didn’t have much success in the big leagues. 50 years later, Rainiers 1B Jose Marmolejos won the MVP award by batting 0.338 with 26 long balls and 75 RBIs. Marmolejos made his MLB debut in 2020 during the abbreviated 60-game season that resulted from the global pandemic. Since the Tacoma team didn’t change its name until the 1990s. That makes Jose Marmolejos the only Rainiers player to ever win Pacific Coast League MVP. 

6: Cheney Stadium was the Site for the 2017 Triple-A All-Star Game

Over the past couple of decades, Cheney Stadium has witnessed some pretty exciting baseball events. For example, the Rainiers won the Pacific Coast League championship in 2010. In addition, the west coast ballpark saw 13 no-hitters since its opening in 1960. The Tacoma venue is notable for incorporating local baseball history into the game day experience like the Seals Stadium seats and the old ballpark lights. But in 2017, Cheney Stadium was the official site for the Triple-A All-Star Game. 

For the first and only time in its history, the Rainiers facility got to host the Minor League’s Midsummer Classic. The event’s main logo incorporated Cheney Stadium’s exterior as well as the iconic “R” from the Rainiers brand. Some of the most high-profile players who took part in the All–Star Game were INF Ozzie Albies (Gwinnett), OF Alex Verdugo (Oklahoma City), and INF Rhys Hoskins (Lehigh Valley). Team Pacific Coast went on to beat Team International by the final score of 6-4. Meanwhile, DH Richie Shaffer (Columbus) and OF Renato Nunez received All-Star Game Co-MVP honors. 

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5: Tacoma Rainiers Played in the 2010 Triple-A National Championship Game

The Rainiers were one of the country’s most successful teams in the Minor Leagues during the 2000s. They have competed for the Pacific Coast League title four times from 2000 until 2010. In addition, Tacoma’s most recent playoff appearance took place during the 2016 season. But in rare situations, going to the final round of the playoffs is a challenging and rewarding effort for teams wanting to have a deeper run. Believe it or not, the Rainiers played in the 2010 Triple-A National Championship Game. 

2010 turned out to be a special year for Tacoma because the team got the first ever chance to compete for Triple-A Baseball’s main event. Unlike the Fall Classic in the big leagues, the championship event was just a single game and not a series. However, for the Rainiers, they lost the 2010 edition to the Columbus Clippers 12-6. Despite the loss, Tacoma managed to win the Pacific Coast League Championship Game 3-0 against the Memphis RedBirds. But since that 2010 run, the Rainiers have yet to return to Triple-A Baseball’s main event. 

4: Cheney Stadium is the Only Triple-A Venue to Have a Statue in the Seats

The Rainiers ballpark offers some of the most unique experiences in the Minor Leagues. For instance, the nearby school (Foss High School) allows fans to situate their cars in its parking lots. Another thing to add is that the stadium has a Dugout Club that allows those to sample the all-you-can-eat buffet in the private room under the seating section. One more thing to point out is that anyone who sits at the top level on the third base side of the ballpark can see Mount Rainier. But interestingly, Cheney Stadium is the only Triple-A venue to have a statue in the seats. 

As we mentioned earlier, there’s a section of blue wooden seats located behind the home plate area. Well, next to those seats is the statue of the local lumber firm businessman Ben Cheney (no relation to former U.S. President Dick Cheney). The feature, which was sculpted by Paul R. Michaels, shows Cheney with a small bag of popcorn in his hand while watching a baseball game.

Anyway, the individual played a big role for the Rainiers franchise because he was responsible for bringing professional baseball to Tacoma. When the Giants relocated from New York to San Francisco, they were looking for a team that could operate not far from the Bay Area. Therefore, Cheney convinced the Giants to have their farm team in the Pacific Northwest by building a stadium in less than a year

3: The Rainiers Club Used to Play in Phoenix Before Moving to Tacoma

The Rainiers are one of the most beloved Minor League baseball clubs on the west coast. They have a stadium that lets fans watch some of the MLB stars of tomorrow. In addition, the team has a fun-loving mascot called Rhubarb the Reindeer. But believe it or not, the Tacoma Rainiers did not begin their mark in Washington. In fact, the franchise started its professional baseball run in another city and in another state. 

In 1958, the team debuted as the Phoenix Giants and it became one of the earliest baseball clubs in the state. However, that club only lasted a couple seasons as the San Francisco Giants decided to move them to Tacoma. Perhaps the main reason was because Tacoma was closer to San Francisco than it was in Arizona. There is a happy ending for Phoenix, who lost the Giants Minor League franchise, as the city now hosts the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Also, the state is the home for Cactus League Spring Training every March as well as the Arizona Fall League. 

2: There’s a Time Capsule Located Near Cheney Stadium in Tacoma

Rarely, baseball stadiums have time capsules that are either shown to the public or hidden in plain sight. Those features can store some of the team’s greatest archives like game-used equipment of a program from the inaugural season. Also, time capsules are a great way to preserve history so future generations can learn about them once they are opened. But did you know that Cheney Stadium has a time capsule located near the stadium? The Rainiers are pretty much the only Triple-A team to have a time capsule on the ballpark’s premises. 

Over 40 years after Cheney Stadium made its debut, the city of Tacoma decided to build a time capsule that honored the Rainiers and Ben Cheney’s legacy. Therefore, the baseball team dedicated the Cheney Stadium event during the 1993 season. Not much was known in terms of what’s inside the capsule box, but the feature likely contained the following: autographed ball from Rainiers players, vintage photos of Ben Cheney, anniversary program from Tacoma baseball, and items from the local community. So when will this time capsule open to the public? One day when Cheney Stadium celebrates its 90th birthday, that’s when that box will open. 

1: The Rainiers Have the 3rd Shortest Distance for a Triple-A/MLB Partnership

Regardless of any sport, having a farm system is crucial for professional leagues because that’s where some of the top prospects train to get ready for the big time. One example of this process is that the National Hockey League (NHL) has Minor League organizations in the American Hockey League (AHL) and the East Coast Hockey League (ECHL). Another example is that the National Basketball Association (NBA) has a farm system in the NBA G-League. Perhaps the most notable Minor League process is Major League Baseball (MLB), where the organization has four levels: Triple-A, Double-A, High-A, and Class-A. But for the Tacoma Rainiers, they have the 3rd shortest distance for a Triple-A/MLB partnership. 

Tacoma is the perfect farm system for the Mariners because the city is about a 40-50 minute drive from Seattle. In fact, there’s a Seattle-Tacoma International Airport located between those two towns. The Mariners/Rainiers only trail the Twins/Saints and Astros/Space Cowboys as the shortest distance of travel in-between big league clubs and their high-level farm clubs. Minneapolis is close to a 20-25 minute drive from St. Paul, while Houston is approximately a 25-30 minute drive from Sugar Land. Not only can a short distance between partner cities play a big role in player development, but the process can also play a huge role on fans wanting to do local baseball road trips. 

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