It's a great improvement from the rocky minefield I've heard about from past seasons. With sod donated by the San Francisco Giants, the players of the San Quentin Giants have worked on their hands and knees for weeks, digging, planting, watering, and weeding.

Strolling up to bat to lead off the game, I'm greeted by shouts from the general population. Standing just a few feet away behind the backstop, they let me know what would happen to me if I used the prison's shower facilities after the game. One inmate pays me the "compliment" of saying I look like Tom Cruise, before advising myself, and the rest of the yard, exactly what he would do to Mr. Cruise if given the opportunity. Filthy comments continue to fly with the ferocity of a Randy Johnson fastball, and I haven't even seen the first pitch.

The umpires along the bases are inmates, and while other media accounts of baseball at San Quentin portray them as notoriously blatantly biased in favor of the prison team, I find them quite diplomatic. The home-plate umpire, however, is from our league. Not that it helps me in this case. In the dressing room, before the game, the ump admitted that this place intimidates him; I'm not surprised to be trudging back to the bench.