Ravens and Broncos Kick Off Season and I am Bowled Away

Last Night the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos played the first it really counts game of the NFL season in the shadow of the Rockies.

The game was originally going to be in the home stadium of the Super Bowl winning Ravens but, as they share a few parking lots with the also playing at home Baltimore Orioles, it was determined that having the game in Colorado would be best to avoid hoards of roaming Orioles and Ravens fans battling for the same parking real estate.

Having been born in Maryland the Ravens are a team that I follow very closely so the idea of seeing them play the first game of the NFL season as they begin their quest to repeat as Super Bowl Champions had me rather excited.

Now, it should be noted that while I have been a fan of the Baltimore Ravens for as long as there have been Baltimore Ravens, I am also a fan of the Denver Broncos.

While I follow both the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos whenever they play each other I cheer for the Ravens. Photo R. Anderson

While I follow both the Baltimore Ravens and the Denver Broncos whenever they play each other I cheer for the Ravens.
Photo R. Anderson

While it is easy to understand my fandom for most of the NFL teams that I follow based on having lived in the areas near the teams (Washington Redskins, Baltimore Ravens, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Jacksonville Jaguars) it is a mystery as to why I first started following the Broncos.

Even though I have never lived in Colorado I have followed the Broncos since the late 80’s. Granted I visit Colorado now and then but when racking my brain I couldn’t think of an ah ha moment where it all clicked and suddenly the Broncos were in my NFL stable.

It should also be noted that even though I live near Houston, the NFL team that plays at the big stadium with the retractable roof named the Texans is not, and most likely never will, be in my stable of teams.

This fact has led to many debates through the years among family and friends and usually ends with the person saying, “but you follow the Houston Astros, why not follow the Texans as well?”

My response is usually along the lines of saying that at the time I moved to Texas there was an opening on my roster for a National League team and the Astros filled that void. There are not currently any opening on the NFL roster of teams that I follow but there are several teams that would take that slot ahead of the Texans.

It is not that I wish the Texans any ill will I just choose not to support them or really pay attention to what they are doing on the field.

So, on paper the opportunity to see the Ravens and the Broncos play should have been a joyous occasion albeit a torn allegiance one as a rooted for the Ravens to win and the Broncos to stay injury free. (For the record in head to head competition among the Ravens and other teams in my stable only the Redskins trump the Ravens in terms of who I am rooting for).

Unfortunately all of the promise of sitting on my couch stuffing my face with imported European cheeses and crackers were dashed by a prior commitment called the first night of the bowling season.

Assorted cheeses from Europe and Sushi may not be the all-American way to welcome a new NFL season but they do make a tasty snack. Photo R. Anderson

Assorted cheeses from Europe and Sushi may not be the all-American way to welcome a new NFL season but they do make a tasty snack.
Photo R. Anderson

While it could be argued that starting a bowling league in Texas on the same night as the start of the NFL season is downright ludicrous, the fact remains that is exactly what occurred. Of course if the Texans had been playing on the opening night of the NFL season I am sure that the opening day of the season would have been pushed back a week.

So, much of yesterday afternoon was spent in agony as I toyed with the idea of whether I could skip the first night of bowling in favor of my date with that cheese tray.

On one shoulder I had a tiny version of me in a Ravens shirt urging me to watch the game. On the other shoulder was a tiny version of me wearing bowling shoes telling me that my team needed me and that skipping opening night was not being a very good teammate.

In the end the tiny version of me wearing the bowling shoes won out but I did make a compromise with the other tiny version of me and decided that I would wear my Ravens shirt to bowling while praying that I could at least catch the second half of the game.

Then a funny thing happened on the way to the bowling alley. One of my teammates called and said that they would not be able to attend due to an injury and asked me if I would help them post bowl at a later date.

Of course, being the good teammate that I am, and not wanting them to be alone during the post bowling time, I agreed to make the sacrifice of skipping opening night of bowling to be there with them in their hour of need.

It was just a happy coincidence that my “sacrifice” allowed me to once again break out the imported aged European cheese and artisan bread while watching the game.

So, I was able to make peace with the two miniature shoulder dwelling versions of me and found a solution that was win/win. In the words of Hannibal Smith from the A-Team, “I love it when a plan comes together.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I still have some leftover cheese to make disappear from last night.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Bad Year to be an Astro Especially for Catchers

The other day The Houston Astros added another catcher to their roster.

Normally this would not really be news worthy since teams often add a third catcher in September when the rosters are expanded.

What makes the latest Astros addition of a catcher newsworthy is the fact that it is the third catcher the Astros have added to the roster since August 20th due to injuries.

Carlos Corporan was injured August 19 when he took a foul ball off of his facemask. Max Stassi was called up to replace Coporan and he was hit in the head by a pitch two days later and hasn’t played since. Both Corporan and Max Stassi remain on the seven-day concussion disabled list.

The latest injury to an Astros catcher occurred Monday when Jason Castro was pulled from the game after an RBI single in the second inning with a sprained right knee. It should be noted that it is the same knee Castro had surgically repaired in 2011.

Jason Castro meets with Manager Bo Porter and the athletic training staff before being pulled from the game with a sprained knee. The injury is being called day to day leaving the Astros without their only All-Star representative for the foreseeable future. Photo R. Anderson

Jason Castro meets with Manager Bo Porter and the athletic training staff before being pulled from the game with a sprained knee. The injury is being called day to day leaving the Astros without their only All-Star representative for the foreseeable future.
Photo R. Anderson

So with two catchers out with concussions and Castro deemed day to day with a cyst on the medial side of his right knee, the Astros were left with only Cody Clark on the roster as a catcher.

Clark is a real life Crash Davis having spent 11 years bouncing around the Minor Leagues before being called up August 23.

The Astros don’t want to call up a third catcher from within their farm system since their Triple-A affiliate in Oklahoma City and Double-A affiliate in Corpus Christi are both going to the playoffs and probably want to have someone available to catch balls that are thrown by the pitchers.

So with no more catchers to promote from within, the Astros were forced to look outside the organization for back stop help.

The team acquired Minor League catcher Matt Pagnozzi from the Braves in exchange for cash considerations.

In announcing the signing of Pagnozzi the Astros press release noted that Pagnozzi was beginning a drive to his home in Arizona from Gwinnett, Ga., and had just changed a bulb on the headlamp in his truck at a Walmart when he got the call he had to head to Houston.

After reading that it reminded me of the movie Major League when the potential manager gets a job offer while working at the tire store and thinks at first that the offer is a joke.

It also reminded me that some reporter likely asked a question along the lines of, “So Matt, what were you doing when you found out you had been traded to Houston?”

First base coach Dave Clark reminds catcher Cody Clark to stay injury free as he is the only able bodied catcher at the time. Photo R. Anderson

First base coach Dave Clark reminds catcher Cody Clark to stay injury free as he is the only able bodied catcher at the time.
Photo R. Anderson

As an aside, if one is ever asked that question the correct response is never, “Well, I was in the bathroom checking my e-mail and saw that I had a message from my agent.”

Even if that is what you were doing, it does not make a good quote and will inevitably lead to the follow up question of “did you wash your hands before replying?”

Although, it should be noted that Walmart bathrooms are certainly a nice place to stop during a road trip, especially if you need to get a bulb for your truck as well.

It is likely that Pagnozzi’s time with the Astros will be short as Corporan will begin a Minor League rehab assignment on Wednesday for Double-A Corpus Christi with the hopes of rejoining the Astros on Monday in Seattle.

I just hope that his time is not shortened by injury since the Astros really are running out of places to find catchers.

Now if you’ll excuse me I am off to the sporting goods store to get a catcher’s mitt and mask since at this rate I very well could be the next catcher called. I just hope they don’t call me while I am at Walmart.

 Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

One Down, Two to Go

With a Labor Day matinee day game today between the Houston Astros and the Minnesota Twins I inched one team closer to seeing all 30 Major League Baseball teams at Minute Maid Park.

I had seen the Twins in Florida many times for Spring Training but until today I had never had the chance to see them play a regular season game.

Later in the month I will see games against the Angels and the Yankees to complete the 30 teams in a single Ballpark quest.

Of course a larger goal of mine is seeing all 30 teams in their home Ballparks but having them all come to me is certainly a good first step.

The journey to see all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park started modestly enough with a 2001 game against the San Francisco Giants on October 4, 2001. It was also the only game at the Ballpark while it was called Enron Field.

With the Minnesota Twins officially crossed off of the list only the Los Angels Angels of Anneheim and the New York Yankees stand between me and my goal of seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

With the Minnesota Twins officially crossed off of the list only the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the New York Yankees stand between me and my goal of seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

But, for any purists out there who say that it shouldn’t count for seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park rest assured I have seen the Giants play during the Minute Maid era.

The game had originally been scheduled for September but was moved to October after a week of games was cancelled following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

For those who may have forgotten October 4, 2001 was the day that Barry Bonds tied Mark McGwire’s home run record at 70.

The stands erupted in cheers when that record setting homer sailed over the wall. Of course it is not often that a home run hit by the opposing team gets such a response but this was history in the making. Or at least it was history tying in the making.

Bonds very well may have broken that record as well during the same game that he tied it aside from the fact that the Astros manager decided to give Bonds an intentional walk later in the game ending any chance that home run number 71 would occur on Houston soil.

I recall writing at the time that the history denying intentional walk was not in the spirit of competition and was manipulating records.

Of course, after having 12 or so years to reflect it occurs to me that not wanting to have the tainted home run occur on his watch was a wise move on the manager’s part.

Perhaps that Astros manager saw through the hype before the rest of us and realized that Bonds was likely using some pharmaceutical enhancements to crush those long balls.

Every journey starts with a single step, or in some cases a single ticket. On October 4, 2001 I saw my first game at Minute Maid Park which was known as Enron Field at the time. By the end of this season I will have seen all 30 Major League teams at least once at the Ballpark. Photo R. Anderson

Every journey starts with a single step, or in some cases a single ticket. On October 4, 2001 I saw my first game at Minute Maid Park which was known as Enron Field at the time. By the end of this season I will have seen all 30 Major League teams at least once at the Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Since that night Bonds went on to be disgraced with many fans wanting an asterisk by his record to reflect that it was not earned cleanly and should not be the official record.

The record will stand until another player, perhaps Baltimore’s Chris Davis, breaks it the clean way without any attachment to performance enhancing drugs.

While not every game at Minute Maid Park was as exciting has my first there have certainly been other memories made by the various teams that have come through the visitor’s clubhouse. And of course from time to time the home team has made a few memorable plays.

Although lately it seems that many of the plays made by the Astros are memorable for all the wrong reasons.

I am sure there will come a day when the Astros once again fill the Ballpark with fans wanting to see great things from the home team.  Many fans are boycotting the move to the American League and the change in ownership.

While the new ownership has certainly made its fair share of blunders, and moving the team from the National League to the American League was highly unpopular among many in the Astros fan base, ironically it was the unpopular relocation of the Astros to the American League that helped speed up my quest to see all 30 teams. Without the Astros moving to the American League West I would not have been able to cross off Seattle and Oakland earlier in the season.

While all of the teams would eventually have rolled through town under the old Interleague schedule infusing some new teams into the mix was certainly a welcome rest from multiple games against National League Central opponents each year.

Barry Bonds went on to break Hank Aaron's career home run mark. Steroids or not, when one does that a collectible is made in their honor.  Photo R. Anderson

Barry Bonds went on to break Hank Aaron’s career home run mark. Steroids or not, when one does that a collectible is made in their honor.
Photo R. Anderson

I grew up on American League baseball with the Orioles and Rays and had not seen a National League game in person until the first one at Minute Maid Park. While I have now seen more National League games than American League games in my life I have to admit I still prefer the American League style with the designated hitter.

I know there are baseball purists who are cringing right now and crumpling up their felt pennants but I really would whether see 9 people that can potentially hit than 8 and a guaranteed strike out or sacrifice bunt from the pitcher.

I still think the Astros make a better National League team than an American League team but one does have to play with the cards they are dealt as opposed to always shouting at the dealer to reshuffle the deck until a hand that suits them is dealt.

So, like it or not the Astros are an American League squad. Granted, they are not a very successful one but they are one nonetheless. And with the constant presence of Interleague play now the lines between National and American League rules and playing styles will continue to get blurred until all of the teams are basically the same.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to get some tickets to see the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, or Burbank or whatever L.A. suburb they are including in their name these days. It sure was easier when they were just the California Angels but I guess too many people were getting lost on the Pacific Coast Highway trying to find them somewhere between San Diego and Sacramento so some better geographic indicators were needed.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson