All-Star Game Fan Voting is Still a Bad Idea

Anyone who has visited an official  Major League Baseball web page recently is likely to have noticed that the fan voting portion of All-Star Game balloting has begun.

Between now and July 3 fans can stuff the ballot box with the hopes of seeing their favorite players take the field Tuesday, July 15, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Inclusion in the MLB All-Star Game is certainly a hot ticket for the players selected since unlike other All-Star games in sports, the MLB game has the feeling that it is being played to win by both sides.

Of course some added incentive to win was added a few years back when home field advantage in the World Series was given to the league that won the All-Star Game.

The All-Star Game also allows players to show off their home run swing during the Home Run Derby leading up to the big game.

Even the players not selected to the game get the benefit of a few days off to spend with their friends and families.

Catcher Jason Castro of the Houston Astros was named to his first All-Star Game last season. Photo R. Anderson

Catcher Jason Castro of the Houston Astros was named to his first All-Star Game last season.
Photo R. Anderson

All in all, there is little to find fault in when it comes to the All Star Game. However,  there is one particular aspect of the MLB All-Star Game season that needs to change.

That element of All-Star Game party foul is the fan vote. I know I will get lots of grief for saying this but I do not believe that the fans should be voting for the All-Star participants.

Sure, people will say that as a reporter I am being unfair to the common fan by saying that only members of the media and league officials should have a vote but let us examine what the fan vote portion of the All-Star voting really entails.

Unlike say the election for the President of the United States where a registered voter is allowed to cast a single ballot there are no such restrictions for MLB balloting. In fact, excessive voting is encouraged by the 30 teams who offer various prizes for filling out excessive amounts of ballots.

This is also the time of year where Ballparks will be filled with super fans who take their devotion to their favorite players to the extreme by filling out boxes and boxes of ballots.

That boys and girls is called buying votes no matter how you slice it. And yes I am not trying to say that electing representatives to the All-Star game is more important than electing the President.

Sadly I would not be surprised if more people vote in the All-Star race than the general elections to decide who will run the country though.

All Star Games often have all the pomp and circumstance of a political campaign including campaign buttons. Photo R. Anderson

All Star Games often have all the pomp and circumstance of a political campaign including campaign buttons.
Photo R. Anderson

As part of the ballot stuffing certain power voters submit hundreds if not thousands of ballots. Of course it stands to reason that they are voting for their home town favorites so it becomes a battle of which team has the most active fan base in selecting some of the leaders of the voting pack.

So instead of an All-Star game where the most talented individuals at a given position are selected to represent both their team and their league, the All-Star Game becomes like high school with only the popular kids getting in to the party.

Granted, sometimes the most popular player is also the best player at that position but there has been a long history of players with better stats getting left out.

Let us use Cal Ripken, Jr. as an example. As noted numerous times, Cal Ripken, Jr. was my favorite player to follow growing up along with Don Mattingly.

Few could argue that Cal Ripken, Jr. was a great ballplayer and every bit deserving of induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on his first ballot.

Cal Ripken Jr. had a Hall of Fame worthy career but some late career All-Star Game selections seemed based more on past performance than current stats. Photo R. Anderson

Cal Ripken Jr. had a Hall of Fame worthy career but some late career All-Star Game selections seemed based more on past performance than current stats.
Photo R. Anderson

But as happens with all of us as we age we are not as productive as we once were. So despite declining skills Cal Ripken, Jr. still was selected to All-Star games late in his career when he was still widely popular but no longer the best player at his position.

There are examples of players on the disabled list getting a large amount of votes for inclusion as well.

Regardless of what Derek Jeter does on the field this year it is a no brainer that he will be elected to the All Star Game during his farewell season.

In fact even if Jeter is somehow on injured reserve fans will likely still vote him onto the infield at Target Field for the American League.

Another wrinkle in the All-Star game is the rule that all 30 teams need to have at least one representative selected.

This rule helps ensure that no team feels left out and harkens to the age where everyone gets a participation ribbon regardless of where they finish in the race.

And yes there are good players on bad teams but am I really to believe that a player on say the Astros is playing at an All-Star level?

Granted there is probably not a perfect solution for balloting due to the fluid nature of the game and the ballots being released  over two months before the game.

But, The fact remains I do not feel that allowing fans to vote as often as they can based on their ability to pick up enough ballots at the ballpark makes a mockery of the whole process.

And for those people not wanting to spend a week in Minnesota there is always the Atlantic League All Star Game in Sugar Land.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I will not be filling out an All-Star ballot but I will start to plan my menu for the All-Star game tailgate.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Skeeters Add Tracy McGrady to Roster

Yesterday the Sugar Land Skeeters announced that former NBA star Tracy McGrady had been added to the team’s opening day roster.

McGrady had joined the team as a non-roster invitee during Spring Training and wound up earning one of the 25 roster spots.

McGrady will work out of the bullpen as a pitcher despite never playing professional baseball before.

Tracy McGrady is trading in the arenas of the NBA for the Ballparks of the Atlantic League as a member of the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

Tracy McGrady is trading in the arenas of the NBA for the Ballparks of the Atlantic League as a member of the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

After the move was announced comments began to surface online about the move being a publicity stunt more than a way to help the ball club over the long haul.

Does signing a retired NBA player with local ties bring publicity to the Skeeters?

Absolutely.

When Michael Jordon retired for the first time 20 years ago and joined the Birmingham Barons Ballparks across the Southern League were filled to capacity with people wanting to see him play.

While some could argue that Jordon is a bigger star than McGrady the fact remains that people tend to pay attention when players try to pick up an entirely different sport than the one they are known for.

While the Skeeters are entering their third season of competition in the Atlantic League it is entirely possible that there were many people in the Houston area that had not heard of the team before the McGrady announcement was made.

Fans of the Sugar Land Skeeters are hoping for many more visions of Tracy McGrady heading out of the bullpen. Photo R. Anderson

Fans of the Sugar Land Skeeters are hoping for many more visions of Tracy McGrady heading out of the bullpen.
Photo R. Anderson

So yes, signing a retired NBA player to your roster does bring the sort of media coverage that helps build a team’s reputation.

One of the local television stations even broadcast live from Opening Day yesterday and had one of their meteorologists throw out the first pitch after she received some pointers from Roger Clemens.

It should be noted that McGrady also worked with Clemens before starting on the quest to become a professional baseball player.

Speaking of Clemens, the Skeeters were the team where “The Rocket” pitched his final two games as a professional player.

The Skeeters are also the team with current Oakland Athletics starter Scott Kazmir was given a second chance after seemingly losing control of his pitches and having his future as a professional baseball player in serious doubt.

The Skeeters gave Clemens a chance to “have a catch” with his son in a professional game before calling it a career and also allowed Kazmir to regain his control and resume his Major League career.

The Sugar Land Skeeters gave Koby Clemens a chance to "have a catch" with his dad Roger Clemens during the Rocket's last professional game. Photo R. Anderson

The Sugar Land Skeeters gave Koby Clemens a chance to “have a catch” with his dad Roger Clemens during the Rocket’s last professional game.
Photo R. Anderson

Granted Kazmir and Clemens were both Major League Baseball players at one time so their stories are slightly different than that of a retired basketball player giving baseball a chance but they both show a history of giving players a second chance more than staging mere publicity stunts.

McGrady did not play during last night’s opener which I am sure disappointed some people in the sellout crowd but it should also temper some of those who are calling the move to sign him a publicity stunt only.

Gary Gaetti is entering his third season as manager of the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

Gary Gaetti is entering his third season as manager of the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

The fact that he did not pitch last shows that manager Gary Gaetti and the rest of the coaching staff are not in the publicity stunt business and are there to win ballgames.

Were McGrady merely a publicity stunt to sell tickets and jerseys than the Skeeters would run him out onto the mound at every opportunity.

Speaking of jerseys there was a wide assortment of McGrady items in the gift shop during Spring Training which pointed to the likelihood of McGrady’s inclusion on the roster well ahead of the actual announcement yesterday.

As a rule teams rarely spend money on jerseys for non-roster invitees.

Unfortunately the Skeeters fell in their season opener to the Lancaster Barnstormers but one loss does not always set the tone for the season.

And if signing a former NBA star does bring more attention to the region regarding the existence of the Skeeters than that is not entirely a bad thing.

The Sugar Land Skeeters kicked off their third season in the Atlantic League last night. Photo R. Anderson

The Sugar Land Skeeters kicked off their third season in the Atlantic League last night.
Photo R. Anderson

The Skeeters offer a good product at a reasonable price and provide that small Ballpark feel that the Minor Leagues are famous for.

While the roster includes many players with Major League experience there are also players who never quite made it to the “Show” and are merely playing for the love of the game.

Contrast that with some of the Major League players who seem to only be in it for the money and one can see why the Minor League version of the game is preferred by many fans.

While the Houston Astros are still the Major League Baseball game in town there is plenty of room for the Skeeters and other teams in the region.

In fact, the Atlantic League is set to add more teams in the Western Division in the coming years which will give fans other options when it comes to watching baseball.

More teams in the Atlantic League will also mean that the Skeeters will likely not have as many long road trips to the east coast.

In the meantime the Skeeters and the Astros could always just have a royal rumble for bragging rights in the region. Were the two Houston area professional teams ever to play a scrimmage together the result would likely be closer than one might expect.

As for Tracy McGrady time will tell if his transition from the arenas of the NBA to the Ballparks of the Atlantic League leads to a lasting second career and potential Major League Baseball debut.

For now the only thing that matters is that he can call himself a professional baseball player who is living out a childhood dream.

It is always good when dreams can come true.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get my tickets for the game tomorrow.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

If You Film it They Will Watch

Monday marked the 25th anniversary of the release of the movie Field of Dreams.

As noted during our Totally Subjective Top 10 Baseball Movie Countdown back in March, Field of Dreams trails only Bull Durham in terms of popularity here at the Gigaplex.

Based on the book, Shoeless Joe, by W. P. Kinsella the movie follows the exploits of an Iowa farmer who hears voices that tell him to plow over his crop of corn and build a baseball diamond to allow the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson and his friends to play on it.

The story also centers on making the most of second chances along with working through the grief that comes from the loss of a loved one.

Last Monday marked the 25th anniversary of the release of the movie Field of Dreams which still has moviegoers longing to have a catch after a quarter of a century. Photo R. Anderson

Last Monday marked the 25th anniversary of the release of the movie Field of Dreams which still has moviegoers longing to have a catch after a quarter of a century.
Photo R. Anderson

With superb performances from Kevin Costner, James Earl Jones, Burt Lancaster, and Ray Liotta rounding out the cast, the film delves into topics of faith and belief in both a simpler time in baseball as well as each of us.

There are of course elements in the movie that could never happen in real life regardless of how many voices we hear in the corn fields of life but the belief that things like the ones depicted in the movie could happen somewhere are part of what make the movie one of the all-time bests.

What makes the movie so popular and relevant a quarter century after its release depends on who you ask.

Each of our inner children want to believe that somewhere there is a “field of dreams” where we can relive our happiest experiences and perhaps avoid some of the sadder times in life.

For some that field is a baseball diamond. For others the field might be somewhere where we can spend a little more time with a loved one who is no longer with us.

The movie tackles each of those elements perfectly and never really spends too much time explaining the supernatural elements of the film and they never seem too over the top.

It just feels natural that there could be a cornfield in Iowa that is cosmically linked somehow to allow ballplayers to be young once more and enjoy the simple joy of “having a catch.”

There are certainly plenty of emotional moments in the movie and despite Tom Hanks’ proclamation in A League of Their Own that “there is no crying in baseball” there are still certain scenes in Field of Dreams that get me a little watery eyed each time that I see them.

That of course is the mark of a good movie that even after seeing it countless times over the past quarter century the emotional elements still run true and can elicit a reaction despite knowing what is coming.

While no big celebrations are planned this week to commemorate the anniversary it should be noted that many of the prime cast and crew will be on hand at the baseball diamond in the corn field June 14 as part of Father’s Day weekend.

With its central theme of “having a catch” with one’s father it is only fitting that a Father’s Day event is tied to the anniversary.

In addition to events planned on the diamond, a Field of Dreams 25th Anniversary Celebration Parade will take place in downtown Dyersville, Iowa on Saturday, June 14.

With the anniversary upon us it is only fitting to once again remember the nostalgic effect of baseball.

Or to put it in the words of James Earl Jones’ character, “Ray, people will come Ray. They’ll come to Iowa for reasons they can’t even fathom. They’ll turn up your driveway not knowing for sure why they’re doing it. They’ll arrive at your door as innocent as children, longing for the past. Of course, we won’t mind if you look around, you’ll say. It’s only $20 per person. They’ll pass over the money without even thinking about it: for it is money they have and peace they lack. And they’ll walk out to the bleachers; sit in shirtsleeves on a perfect afternoon. They’ll find they have reserved seats somewhere along one of the baselines, where they sat when they were children and cheered their heroes. And they’ll watch the game and it’ll be as if they dipped themselves in magic waters. The memories will be so thick they’ll have to brush them away from their faces. People will come Ray. The one constant through all the years, Ray, has been baseball. America has rolled by like an army of steamrollers. It has been erased like a blackboard, rebuilt and erased again. But baseball has marked the time. This field, this game: it’s a part of our past, Ray. It reminds of us of all that once was good and it could be again. Oh… people will come Ray. People will most definitely come.”

Perhaps no other sport is as linked with feelings of nostalgia as baseball is and Field of Dreams taps into that nostalgia in a way that is not over the top or judgmental. It just feels as comforting as a worn glove when the leather is broken in at just the right amount or perhaps like a baseball cap where the bill is curved at just the right angle to keep the glare of the sun at bay.

And if you happen to find yourself in Iowa Father’s Day weekend you should “go the distance” and take a side trip to the Field of Dreams.

Who knows, you might just catch a glimpse of Shoeless Joe Jackson emerging from the stalks of corn in center field.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I will go have a catch with my dad.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Skeeters Wrap up Spring Training, Look Ahead to the Regular Season

The Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League wrapped up an abbreviated Spring Training with a trio of games against two local colleges last week.

While teams will often play exhibition games against colleges during Spring Training for the Skeeters scheduling games against colleges becomes a logistical necessity.

Unlike Major League Baseball where Spring Training sites are located within driving distance of each other in either Florida or Arizona teams within the Atlantic League are spread out over several states.

The Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League tuned up for the regular season with a pair of games against the Alvin Community College Dolphins. Photo R. Anderson

The Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League tuned up for the regular season with a pair of games against the Alvin Community College Dolphins.
Photo R. Anderson

When your closest league opponent is based in states that border the Atlantic Ocean finding teams closer to scrimmage with can certainly be a huge advantage.

The Alvin Community College Dolphins and the San Jacinto College Gators filled the roles of Spring Training opponents to help the Skeeters prepare for the start of the regular season.

The Skeeters won all three of their Spring Training games as one would expect but the games proved to offer more than just a box score.

For starters the games allowed the use of a mixed fleet of bat types.

While Professional baseball leans toward the wood bat camp college baseball allows the inclusion of metal bats.

With the metal bats in play fans were treated to the rare pinging sound of a ball meeting a metal bat within a Professional Ballpark.

Additionally the players from both colleges will be able to tell their friends that they played against a Professional baseball team. Of course the players who managed to get hits of of those same Professional players will have even bigger stories to tell.

Another plus for the Spring Training crowds in attendance was plenty of elbow room and the chance to scout out the best seats in the ballpark.

Koby Clemens enters his second full season as a member of the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

Koby Clemens enters his second full season as a member of the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

For the most part there are not any bad seats in the Ballpark but it never hurts to try to see the view from various vantage points whenever one has the opportunity.

Speaking of opportunity, fans were treated to their first views of Tracy McGrady who is trying to join an elite club of former NBA stars to become professional baseball players.

Hoping to make the team as a pitcher, McGrady, worked one inning Friday night against the Dolphins and allowed one run on three hits.

While his baseball stats may have a small sample size thus far, McGrady was a seven time All-Star and recipient of two scoring titles during a 16 year NBA career where he spent time with the Toronto Raptors, Orlando Magic, Houston Rockets, New York Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Atlanta Hawks and San Antonio Spurs.

Whether past success in basketball will transition to future success in baseball will remain to be seen. But if the rack of McGrady jerseys in the Skeeters team store is to be believed someone in the organization is hoping that it does.

Aside from the normal concession stands and gift shop found in most Ballparks, the Skeeters facility also includes two water features in the form of a pool and a splash pad area.

The multiple water features allow fans the opportunity to cool off during those hot nights at the Ballpark and have become a feature of many of the Minor League Ballparks within Texas.

Saturday night the Skeeters introduced a new on field water feature as well when the sprinkler system inadvertently went off in the middle of the game.

While several fans in the front rows along the third base side of the field ran for dryer ground many of the players stayed put during the impromptu rain delay.

Sometime you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes the grounds crew forgets to turn off the timer on the sprinkler system. Photo R. Anderson

Sometime you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes the grounds crew forgets to turn off the timer on the sprinkler system.
Photo R. Anderson

To paraphrase Bull Durham baseball is a simple game. Sometime you win, sometimes you lose and sometimes the grounds crew forgets to turn off the timer on the sprinkler system.

In an era where every second inside the ballpark experience seems scripted from sponsorships and other concerns it is refreshing when something like the sprinklers going on occurs to remind people that it is still a game where the unexpected can happen.

With a 3-0 Spring Training record the Skeeters will spend this week making final roster cuts to get to their 25-man roster before the regular season begins on Thursday.

Early signs and shirts certainly point to Tracy McGrady making the team but an official announcement will likely not occur before Thursday.

Until then fans will sit and wait to see who makes the Opening Day roster.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly have a craving for some peanuts and Cracker Jacks.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Championships are Not Won in April but They Can be Lost in April

It has been said that championships are not won in April but that they can certainly be lost.

That is to say that a team’s early success does not always carry over throughout the course of a full season as many things can happen between Opening Day and Game One of the World Series to shape a team’s fortunes and in some cases misfortunes.

While a team winning the bulk of their games early in a season does not guarantee continued success, a team that loses most of their games early on will in most cases continue that trend throughout the season.

While it is certainly neither the time nor place for celebration or despair in any of the 30 Major League Ballparks this early in the season it is certainly worth looking at some early trends in terms of expectations met and expectations that have not been met.

In the American League East few should be surprised that the New York Yankees are leading the standings during the Derek Jeter Swan Song Tour.

With the  New York Yankees in first place in the American League East very few people are likely to bet against them going deep into the postseason during Derek Jeter's Farewell Tour. Photo R. Anderson

With the New York Yankees in first place in the American League East very few people are likely to bet against them going deep into the postseason during Derek Jeter’s Farewell Tour.
Photo R. Anderson

Some may go so far as to suggest that the baseball stars will align so that Jeter’s last game occurs as a World Series Champion. That is not to say that baseball is rigged but there are certainly odd occurrences now and then. I am looking at you Boston Red Sox.

The rest of the American League East offers a few surprises.

Few would have thought that the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox who famously healed an entire region last year with a title following a terrorist attack at a marathon would be in last place in the division.

The Tampa Bay Rays who many predicted as a World Series bound team are also struggling a bit due to injuries to their starting rotation but it is likely that they will bounce back from the early season struggles and become the playoff team that many predicted them to be.

While the New York Yankees may be the current frontrunners in the East, one cannot discount Joe Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays since no team has done more with less over the past five seasons. Photo R. Anderson

While the New York Yankees may be the current frontrunners in the East, one cannot discount Joe Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays since no team has done more with less over the past five seasons.
Photo R. Anderson

The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles certainly cannot be ruled out as well in what is often the most hotly contested division in all of baseball.

Traveling further down the geographic standings brings the focus on the American League Central where the usual suspects seem to be doing the usual things early on.

The Detroit Tigers will likely continue their reign atop the division while fighting off the advances of the Kansas City Royals who continue to improve each season.

The Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians will likely string together some impressive victories throughout the season but it is unlikely that they will rise to the top of the standings based on their early sample of work.

Out in the American League West the Oakland Athletics are in first place and the Houston Astros are in last place.

No real surprises there.

While the Texas Rangers will look to return to postseason play in the post Nolan Ryan era a more intriguing thing to watch in the division will be whether the Astros can break their streak of consecutive 100 loss seasons.

Early indications point to another long season for the Houston Astros. Fans can take comfort in the return of the view of the skyline however. Photo R. Anderson

Early indications point to another long season for the Houston Astros. Fans can take comfort in the return of the view of the skyline however.
Photo R. Anderson

Early indications certainly point to it being another very long season in Minute Maid Park but at least fans have a view of downtown again to entertain them during lopsided losses by the home team.

The Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will look to get some bang from their hefty payroll bucks and should easily finish higher than the Astros but it is doubtful that they will break the grasp the Rangers and Athletics have atop the division.

With the American League shaping up with few surprises it is time to look at the National League and any potential surprises or unexpected trends from the early parts of the season.

The National League East has the Atlanta Braves in cruise control atop the standings. With their days in Turner Field numbered it would be nice to see the Braves give the Ballpark a final taste of postseason play before it is reduced to a pile of rubble.

The Atlanta Braves look like the team to beat so far in the National League East. Photo R. Anderson

The Atlanta Braves look like the team to beat so far in the National League East.
Photo R. Anderson

The Washington Nationals, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies will try to keep things interesting but the division does seem to have a heavy “tomahawk chop” feel to it with the Braves going the distance.

The Miami Marlins hold their familiar spot at the bottom of the standings showing that a Ballpark without payroll can lead to a very long couple of seasons.

The National League Central is shaping up to look like the division normally looks with the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals near the top and the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs near the bottom.

It is likely that the 100th Anniversary season at Wrigley Field will end like many of the previous years with the Cubs shut out of the postseason.

The Cincinnati Reds will likely hold their familiar spot in third place in the division although Billy Hamilton will certainly give the Reds’ fans something exciting to watch as he scorches the base path with his base stealing speed.

Current Cincinnati Red Billy Hamilton stole a record number of bases in the Minor Leagues  and became immortalized as a bobble head. The real life version is likely to entertain Reds fans for years to come. Photo R. Anderson

Current Cincinnati Red Billy Hamilton stole a record number of bases in the Minor Leagues and became immortalized as a bobble head. The real life version is likely to entertain Reds fans for years to come.
Photo R. Anderson

As for the National League West the Los Angeles Dodgers are leading the pack with the Arizona Diamondbacks currently having the worst record in all of baseball.

The Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres will keep things competitive but the West has a feel of Dodger Blue as long as they don’t implode down the stretch.

While the standings in all six divisions are likely to change through the course of the season early indications do seem to point to a postseason filled with the usual suspects.

Of course there are no guarantees in baseball. Teams will need to battle through injuries and other factors as they approach October.

The only peak the Astros are likely to see this season will come in the form of Tal's Hill in center field. Photo R. Anderson

The only peak the Astros are likely to see this season will come in the form of Tal’s Hill in center field.
Photo R. Anderson

The teams that peak at the right time are the ones that win it all in the end. For some teams that peak occurs on Opening Day and lasts the whole season long. Other teams are more slow burners and need to build up to their peak.

Then there are the teams who are stuck in the valley where the only peak they see is the pitcher’s mound or in the case of the Houston Astros, Tal’s Hill.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about peaks and valleys has me craving a mountain view.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

McGrady Shows That he Wants to Be Like Mike

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Michael Jordon’s attempt to become a professional baseball player.

For those who may have been too young to know, or old enough to have forgotten, “Air Jordon” took a stab at being “Ballpark Jordon” during a stint with the Chicago White Sox Double-A affiliate Birmingham Barons.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Michael Jordon's tenure as a Minor League Baseball player. Tracy McGrady is trying to be like Mike and make the rster of the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League. Photo R. Anderson

This year marks the 20th anniversary of Michael Jordon’s tenure as a Minor League Baseball player. Tracy McGrady is trying to be like Mike and make the roster of the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League.
Photo R. Anderson

As a 31-year-old multimillionaire with NBA titles under his belt Jordon certainly did not fit the mold of the typical Minor League Baseball player but in a gesture of good will towards his new teammates his “Airness” bought the team a new bus to travel all of the Southern League back roads on.

Throughout Jordon’s time with the Barons Ballparks across the Southern League sold out as fans crowded to see the future NBA Hall of Famer in action on the diamond.

Jordon’s time as a baseball player was also given the Hollywood treatment in the movie Space Jam.

When the Michael Jordon baseball carnival rolled into a Ballpark every media outlet in town sent a reporter and a photographer down to capture every swing of the bat and to capture the electricity in the stands.

By most accounts Jordon’s baseball career was a complete flop.

Or to put it more kindly Jordon was one of the many Minor League prospects who just don’t pan out and have to fall back on another career in order to put food on the table.

For Jordon the post baseball career included a return to the NBA and the Chicago Bulls and some more championships.

Now, 20 years after the Jordon baseball experiment another retired NBA star is set to try to find extra innings in his athletic career through Minor League baseball.

After retiring from the NBA, Tracy McGrady is trying to reinvent himself as a pitcher with the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League.

While it is unknown if McGrady will earn one of the 27 roster spots available on the team his presence has already created a bit of buzz around the Skeeters facility.

At 6’8” McGrady creates a towering presence on the mound.

Former Houston Rocket Tracy McGrady is looking to join the ranks of the Sugar Land Skeeters as a pitcher. Photo R. Anderson

Former Houston Rocket Tracy McGrady is looking to join the ranks of the Sugar Land Skeeters as a pitcher.
Photo R. Anderson

Teams tend to like taller pitchers as they allow the ball to have more downward movement in most cases.

So from a size and stature standpoint McGrady has the intangibles to be a successful pitcher.

From a marketing perspective the Skeeters, fresh off of an Atlantic League crown, are benefiting from the publicity that comes from a former basketball player turned pitcher.

The Skeeters are also the team who lured Roger Clemens out of retirement to make a couple of starts during their inaugural season to stir up some publicity so they know a thing or two about putting on a show.

Like Roger Clemens who had both ties to Houston and a Hall of Fame worthy career, McGrady is also quite a household name around town with the local fan base since he was a member of the Houston Rockets.

Of course as Michael Jordon showed it is not easy to switch gears late in one’s career and try something completely new.

There have certainly been successful two sport stars before but most of them played both sports at a high level throughout high school and college before going pro.

Bo Jackson and Deion Sanders are perhaps the most famous two sport athletes and each played both baseball and football at a high level.

If all goes to plan Tracy McGrady will be up on the Texas jumbotron soon for the Sugar Land Skeeters. Photo R. Anderson

If all goes to plan Tracy McGrady will be up on the Texas jumbotron soon for the Sugar Land Skeeters.
Photo R. Anderson

But neither Jackson nor Sanders waited until after retiring from one of the sports to pick up the other.

I think the world needs another Bo and “Prime Time” to spice things up but I also think the commitments from teams on athletes nowadays would make it difficult for a two sport star to succeed.

Russell Wilson of the Seattle Seahawks, and under contract of the Texas Rangers, is the next logical player to be a two sport star but it is unlikely that the Seahawks would want to risk their star quarterback getting injured on the baseball field.

Of course Wilson could always decide to go into baseball after his NFL career is over since baseball players on average can play longer than football players.

But that brings us back to McGrady and his attempt to turn pro in a new sport.

In order for McGrady to make the team he will need to knock one of the existing pitchers off of the roster.

Rosters will be finalized next week so it will be known at that time whether Tracy McGrady can add professional baseball player to his already impressive athletic roster.

There will be a few Spring Training games between now and the roster deadline to allow him to show his stuff on the mound and for the coaches to decide whether or not he makes the opening day roster.

If Tracy McGrady does make the roster for the Skeeters and trades jump shots for curve balls he will join a unique set of players who have enjoyed a second act with a new sport.

As another bonus should McGrady defy the odds and make the team is that his battery mate behind the plate will be Koby Clemens, son of Roger Clemens.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to watch a basketball player pitch.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Major League Baseball Takes Time to Remember a Trailblazer

We are a country that enjoys commemorating achievements in all shapes and sizes.

Some call it the American spirit while others might call it an attempt to ensure that the sacrifices of those that have gone before us are remembered long after they are no longer walking amongst us.

Memorials of all shapes and sizes can be found from sea to shining sea as a way of helping to ensure that history is not forgotten.

The number 42 hangs in all 30 Major League Baseball Ballparks in honor of Jackie Robinson who broke the color barrier on April 15, 1947. Photo R. Anderson

The number 42 hangs in all 30 Major League Baseball Ballparks in honor of Jackie Robinson who became the first African American to play for a MLB team on April 15, 1947 when he suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers.
Photo R. Anderson

Tomorrow marks one of those occasions to remember history and honor those who have achieved against the odds.

Aside from being “Tax day” April 15 is also “Jackie Robinson Day” which a day sat aside to pay homage to an achievement of courage and determination in breaking the color barrier in Major League Baseball.

While many fans may have only heard of Jackie Robinson following the release of the movie 42 his impact on the game of baseball stretches back nearly 70 years.

On April 15, 1947 Jackie Robinson became the first African American to step foot on a Major League Baseball field when he suited up for the Brooklyn Dodgers.

The world of baseball for Jackie Robinson, and many other players like him, was far different from the world of baseball today.

I am not referring to jumbotrons and jumbo hot dogs or any of the other things that have found their way into the modern game. I am not even talking about the designated hitter.

Prior to 1947 there were no minority players in the highest level of professional baseball. It took an owner willing to do what others wouldn’t in Branch Rickey and a player willing to withstand insults from on the field and in the stands in Jackie Robinson to pave the way for those that came behind them.

Since 1997 when the number was retired players like Hunter Pence of the Houston Astros have all worn the number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day. Photo R. Anderson

Since 1997 when the number was retired players like former Houston Astros right fielder Hunter Pence have all worn the number 42 on Jackie Robinson Day.
Photo R. Anderson

For people of a certain age, like me, it is nearly impossible to picture a segregated baseball diamond. From my earliest recollections there were people of all shapes and sizes and races on the field.

Look at the rosters of the 30 MLB teams today and one will find players from six continents.

None of that would have been possible without someone taking the first step to desegregate the diamond.

So it is fitting to take time to honor Jackie Robinson’s sacrifice and to ensure that generations who were not alive back in 1947 can learn the story and know that without the sacrifices of people like Jackie Robinson the world would be an entirely different place.

One of my favorite quotes is “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” It was first stated in the early 20th century by George Santayana, but the phrase is still as true today as it was when first spoken. Society must continue to learn from history so as not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

During the annual celebration of Jackie Robinson there are always a select few who will state in various outlets that the inclusion of Jackie Robinson in the Baseball Hall of Fame was based solely on him being first to break the color barrier and is not reflective of his playing ability.

For the first time since Major League Baseball ordered all teams to retire the number 42 in 1997 there are not any players who wear the number on any day other than Jackie Robinson Day.  Photo R. Anderson

For the first time since Major League Baseball ordered all teams to retire the number 42 in 1997 there are not any players who wear the number on any day other than Jackie Robinson Day. Mariano Rivera was the last player allowed to wear the number and he retired at the end of last season.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, a quick look at his career statistics show that based on the merits of his play alone Jackie Robinson is every bit of a Hall of Fame caliber player and is included as much for what he did as a player as well as what he did as a trailblazer.

As part of Jackie Robinson Day each player on every team wears the number 42 as a show of respect and solidarity.

In 1997 Major League Baseball retired the number 42 on all teams in honor of Jackie Robinson. As part of the number retirement players who were still wearing 42 were grandfathered in and allowed to keep wearing the number for the remainder of their careers.

Following Mariano Rivera’s retirement at the end of last season no player will ever again wear the number 42 in Major League Baseball.

It is likely that the Yankees will retire Rivera’s number as well based on his impressive body of work.  That will lead to the hanging of two 42 banners in Yankee Stadium with one for Robinson and one for Rivera. Then again the Yankees always did like to be a little different.

Fans gather during the 2011 Jackie Robinson Day at Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Fans gather during the 2011 Jackie Robinson Day at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

While last year’s celebration of Jackie Robinson Day was marred by the cowardly act of the Boston Marathon bombers, this year the celebration can focus on the courage of Jackie Robinson along with the courage and determination of the bombing victims who have overcome their own set of odds since the events of last year.

Acts like the bombing of innocent bystanders at the Boston Marathon show that the world is still as full of hate today as it was on that April day in 1947.

But just as was the case in 1947, there are still people willing to rise above the hatred and do what is right. And that is something worth remembering every day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to watch 42 before the games start tomorrow.

Copyright 2014 R Anderson

Rangers Mark 20 Years in Ballpark Tonight

Tonight the Texas Rangers will mark the 20th anniversary of the first game played at the Ballpark in Arlington with a game against the Houston Astros.

The Houston Astros visit the Texas Rangers tonight for the 20th anniversary of the first game at the Ballpark in Arlington. Photo R. Anderson

The Houston Astros visit the Texas Rangers tonight for the 20th anniversary of the first game at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Photo R. Anderson

Aside from serving as the 20th anniversary game for the Ballpark, tonight will also mark the first game of the season between the two in state and, as of last season, American League West Division rivals in what is known as the Lone Star Series.

In recent years the Lone Star Series has been leaning heavily towards the Rangers but with both teams heading into tonight’s game with an equal amount of victories for the season anything is possible in the quest for the silver boot trophy.

While the teams have similar records heading into tonight’s game I tend to think the Rangers have the edge.

In a could not have planned it any better for the anniversary twist the Rangers will send their ace Yu Darvish out on the mound in a night honoring the past and the future of the team.

As far as the Ballpark in Arlington goes, it marked the 20th season with a new 10 year corporate naming agreement as it enters its third decade of service.

While the Ballpark may have a new corporate name as of this season for me it will always be the Ballpark in Arlington.

The Ballpark in Arlington replaced Arlington Stadium 20 years ago tonight. Photo R. Anderson

The Ballpark in Arlington replaced Arlington Stadium 20 years ago tonight.
Photo R. Anderson

While players have come and gone throughout the history of the Texas Rangers franchise the current Ballpark marks only the second home for the Rangers since they made the move from the east coast.

The Rangers begin their baseball life in Washington D.C. as the second team known as the Washington Senators following the exodus of the first Washington Senators to Minnesota.

Crowds over the last couple of years have seen two World Series come through the Ballpark in Arlington. Photo R. Anderson

Crowds over the last couple of years have seen two World Series come through the Ballpark in Arlington.
Photo R. Anderson

Like the Senators before them who became the Minnesota Twins, the second version of the Senators also pointed their wagons, err moving vans, west in search of greener pastures and more suitable Ballpark amenities.

The Rangers first stop in Texas was Turnpike Stadium, a 10,000-seat Ballpark which had been built in 1965 to house the AA Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs of the Texas League.

After it was announced that the Senators were moving to Texas, improvements were made to Turnpike Stadium which after being renamed Arlington Stadium served as the home to the Rangers from 1972 to 1994.

In 1991, two years into George W. Bush’s tenure as Managing General Partner of the Rangers, ground was broken on The Ballpark in Arlington.

A couple of years ago the Rangers got a new neighbor when the Dallas Cowboys came to town.  Photo R. Anderson

A couple of years ago the Rangers got a new neighbor when the Dallas Cowboys came to town.
Photo R. Anderson

The Ballpark in Arlington opened in 1994 which was also the same year that Bush left the team after being elected Texas governor.

While George W. Bush went on to be President of the United States for eight years, the Ballpark he helped create has hosted two World Series among other notable events since it opened its doors.

While it currently is dwarfed by its new neighbor Cowboys Stadium the Ballpark still mixes the charms of an old time Ballpark with the conveniences of a modern Ballpark.

One thing that the Ballpark does not seem to have though is adequate air circulation in the hot Texas summer heat.

Unlike Minute Maid Park, and many other Ballparks built after it, the Ballpark in Arlington does not feature a retractable roof.

While the lack of a roof would not be as big of a deal in places such as Minnesota where the original Washington Senators turned Twins recently left a domed stadium behind for the open air comfort of Target Field, the lack of a roof in Arlington is definitely noticed on most game days.

Some times you really don't want to know hot hot it is as day games in Arlington often prove. It is likely the actual temperature was much hotter than 99 degrees. Photo R. Anderson

Some times you really don’t want to know how hot it is as day games in Arlington often prove. It is likely the actual temperature was much hotter than 99 degrees.
Photo R. Anderson

In fact, studies were done to look into the feasibility of placing a roof over the Ballpark in Arlington to help protect fans from the blistering heat and frequent thunder storms that the area is known for.

The study found that retrofitting the Ballpark with a roof would cost more than the cost of building an entirely new Ballpark so the issue was tabled leaving fans to continue to be exposed to the elements.

It is likely that in 10 years when the current team lease on the Ballpark is up there will be more studies looking into the options of building a retractable roof Ballpark in the Dallas area.

In Atlanta the Braves are abandoning Turner Field after only 20 years so it would not be unheard of to trade in a 30-year Ballpark for a younger model.

Despite the battles with the elements I hope that the Rangers do choose to stay in their current facility since it really is a nice place to catch a game and a tan.

It is likely that fans coming to see the Rangers in the coming years will still see the sky as a study down by previous team owners showed putting a roof over the stadium was cost prohibitive. Photo R. Anderson.

It is likely that fans coming to see the Rangers in the coming years will still see the sky as a study down by previous team owners showed putting a roof over the stadium was cost prohibitive.
Photo R. Anderson.

As a word of advice though if one does decide to venture out to see a game in Arlington I would suggest drinking plenty of water before the game and definitely wearing light colored clothing.

You can also try to schedule your visit around one of the t-shirt giveaway days which will give you something dry to change into for the drive home.

And try not to pay too much attention to that thermometer in center field.

It may say it is only 99 degrees in the shade but it will definitely feel a lot hotter when you are shoulder to shoulder with 30,000 of your closet friends.

Needless to say this is one anniversary game that I will be catching from my couch where there is plenty of elbow room and the temperature is always a pleasant 72 degrees.

Now if only I could find a hot dog vendor to avoid having to go to the kitchen it would be just like being at the Ballpark.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to watch.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Many Situations in Life Would be Better with Walk up Music

Go to any baseball game from Little League to Major League, and odds are that when a batter is coming up to the plate they will be serenaded by walk up music.

The type of walk up music selected varies depending on the player.  Players often alternate their walk up music between the guitar driven hair band standards as well as pop music depending on their moods. Other players may even select country music or hip hop for their walk up theme.

One of the best players for walk up music that I have seen in person was former Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence.

For one whole season Pence walked up to the sounds of Katy Perry’s California Girls proving that sometimes walk up music, like baseball, should just be fun.

Former Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence took walk up music to the extreme a few years back when he chose Katy Perry's "California Girls" as his go to jam. Photo R. Anderson

Former Houston Astros outfielder Hunter Pence took walk up music to the extreme a few years back when he chose Katy Perry’s “California Girls” as his go to jam.
Photo R. Anderson

Whether the music selected is hard rockin’ or bubble gum poppin’ it serves a key purpose when it comes to the battle between the pitcher and the batter.

Or as Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh from Bull Durham would say the players use the music to “Announce their presence with authority.”

Granted it would be hard for a batter to announce their presence with authority by walking out to the pop styling of Carley Rae Jepson but it could be a good call maybe if it made the pitcher laugh so hard that he couldn’t throw a strike.

While there is not an exact Archimedes stepping into the tub and shouting “Eureka” moment when it comes to the invention of walk up music, most baseball people point to the 1993 Seattle Mariners as the fathers of the walkup.

While certain individual players had used walk up music before, the Mariners were the first team to come up with a song for each of their players in the lineup.

It seems fitting that the city that brought flannel and grunge to the world of music would also be the city to bring music to the batter’s box.

While the Seattle Mariners are one of only two teams to never appear in a World Series they can at least lay claim to being the champions of the walk up.

In 1993 the city that brought the world grunge music brought walk up music to Major League Baseball when the Seattle Mariners became the first MLB team to have walk up music throughout their lineup. Photo R. Anderson

An idea that some felt was stupid turned contagious in 1993 when the city that brought the world grunge music brought walk up music to Major League Baseball when the Seattle Mariners became the first MLB team to have walk up music throughout their lineup. Soon the idea was in bloom throughout all levels of baseball.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course theme music is not limited to batters. Pitchers, especially closers, have also gotten into the act of having music introduce them.

Retired New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera famously walked out from the bullpen to the sounds of “Enter Sandman” from Metallica.

And of course who can forget Charlie Sheen as Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn walking out to “Wild Thing” in the Major League franchise.

The cinematic walk up music predates the Mariners walk up trend by about five years and is also often pointed to as being instrumental in the evolution of walk up music.

As with everything there are rules to the walk up music. The songs chosen need to be family friendly and the music is supposed to stop once the player enters the batter’s box.

Of course a really good walk up song can lead to players lollygagging their way to the batter’s box to hear more of their “theme” before facing the pitcher.

While mostly found within the confines of a Ballpark sometimes walk up music occurs beyond the bleachers.

The other day while eating lunch at a local Cajun inspired chicken restaurant named after a spinach loving cartoon sailor I experienced my own version of the walk up music.

I had just gotten up from my table when the perennial theme for the underdog Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger” from Rocky started playing.

As I walked to throw away my trash there was an extra spring in my step as the music blared, (bop, bop bop bop, bop bop bop).

Heading to refill my iced tea the music continued as I found myself filling the tea more forcefully than usual (bop, bop bop bop, bop bop bop).

As I left the restaurant humming along to the song I was inspired to tackle the day with vigor as I headed out to my car.

Of course while the music may have inspired me to find the nearest outdoor flight of stairs to run up while air boxing, I was reminded that I had just eaten lunch and should probably wait at least 30 minutes before jogging and air boxing.

Still, the musical interlude got me thinking about why it is that only baseball players should get walk up music.

Just think how much more exciting life could be if all of our big moments were preceded by music.

Just picture the boardroom scenario where someone says the following. “Now up to present the quarterly earnings report, Joe Smith” (cue the music).

After a few bars of (insert song here) Joe knocks the earnings report out of the park while his coworkers serenade him with Queen’s “We are the Champions” and fist bump each other on the way out of the conference room.

Of course different situations in life would require different music.

While some situations might call for some Pearl Jam, others may require heavy organ sounds of Bach.

Pearl Jam and Walk up music are two Seattle originals still going strong for over two decades and counting. Photo R. Anderson

Pearl Jam and Walk up music are two Seattle originals still going strong for over two decades and counting.
Photo R. Anderson

There will even be situations where one might take the Hunter Pence route and walk up to a situation with some pop music even going so far as nodding their heads like yeah.

With the invention of large capacity MP3 players it would be very easy to carry around all of the possible walk up music one would need for any situation.

Just cue up the appropriate song for whatever situation comes up and one is ready for anything that life throws their way.

The trick would be the trial and error of finding a truly unique walk up song since not everyone can walk out to “Enter Sandman.”

While it is unlikely that the walk up song idea outside of the Ballpark will catch on any time soon it is certainly something to think about the next time one is listening to the radio, or filling out that dreaded TPS Report.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some walk up music songs to pick out for my next big event right after I put the new cover page on this report.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Visit from Berkman and Oswalt Reminds of What Was, Points to What Could be Again

Once upon a time the Houston Astros were a yearly visitor to a magical land known as the Major League Baseball Postseason.

Looking at the past few years that statement may seem like a fairy tale but I assure you it is true. One need only look in the record books to see for themselves.

From 1997 to 2005 the Astros only missed the postseason three times and captured the National League Pennant in 2005.

Long Time Houston Astro Lance Berkman retired during a pregame ceremony Saturday night at Minute Maid Ballpark. Photo R. Anderson

Long Time Houston Astro Lance Berkman retired during a pregame ceremony Saturday night at Minute Maid Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Granted, it has been eight years and counting since the last postseason appearance by the Astros but during those heydays of yore men like Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt gave the fans something to cheer about as they packed into Minute Maid Park shoulder to shoulder.

Saturday night the fans were once again chanting for Berkman and Oswalt as both men retired from Major League Baseball as members of the team that drafted them by signing one day contracts.

The ceremony was certainly bittersweet for many of the long time fans who donned their Berkman and Oswalt shirts once more as they watched the two men ride off into the sunset during a pregame ceremony.

During much of his time in Houston Lance Berkman's biggest fans the Little Pumas stood in the outfield in their furry puma suits. Saturday night the suits came out of the closet for one more time. Photo R. Anderson

During much of his time in Houston Lance Berkman’s biggest fans the Little Pumas stood in the outfield in their furry puma suits. Saturday night the suits came out of the closet for one more time.
Photo R. Anderson

The Little Pumas, a group of fans dressed in puma suits in honor of Berkman’s nickname, “the Big Puma” even dusted off their furry puma suits and took their place in the standing room only area in center field for one more time to say farewell.

In addition to standing ovations and tributes from the fans both men were presented with Stetson hats, a rocking chair and perhaps more importantly framed jerseys from the 2005 World Series.

After being traded from the Astros to the Yankees Berkman went on to win a World Series ring with the St. Louis Cardinals before playing for the Texas Rangers last year.  Although Berkman is a World Series Champion I am sure he would have preferred to do that with the Astros.

Oswalt also played for a trio of teams after leaving the Astros but time with the Phillies, Rangers and Rockies did not produce a World Series title for the “Wizard of Os.”

Roy Oswalt joined Lance Berkman in retiring as members of the Houston Astros Saturday night. Photo R. Anderson

Roy Oswalt joined Lance Berkman in retiring as members of the Houston Astros Saturday night.
Photo R. Anderson

During the ceremony notable accomplishments for both players were recited and it was clear that they had successful careers but despite that success both men were quick to point out that the success did not come without sacrifice.

During his remarks Oswalt thanked the fans for their support along with his family who “had never missed a game he played since he was four.”

While the Astros will likely return to the postseason at some point watching them lose over 100 games year after year can harden even the most diehard of fans.

Very much aware of this fact, Berkman used a portion of his time at the podium to encourage the fans in attendance to “make the rafters shake” not for him, but for the current roster of players, many of whom were not even old enough to drive the last time the Astros were in the Postseason.

Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt threw out the ceremonial first pitches after a pregame ceremony honoring them for their time with the Houston Astros. Photo R. Anderson

Lance Berkman and Roy Oswalt threw out the ceremonial first pitches after a pregame ceremony honoring them for their time with the Houston Astros.
Photo R. Anderson

While the fans cheered for the new guys it was clear that for many of the fans their hearts still belong to the players they grew up watching.

Perhaps no where was this fact more evident than from a woman a couple rows up from me who squealed like a preteen at a Justin Bieber concert when highlights of Berkman’s career were shown on the ballpark screen known as El Grande.

For the record I have never heard a preteen scream at a Justin Bieber concert but I am guessing the sounds are pretty comparable to what I heard at the ballpark.

Berkman, Oswalt and I pretty much all arrived at Minute Maid Park at the same time so they were two of the players that I followed when I first became a fan of the Astros.

As mentioned before I was at the Ballpark the day that Berkman was traded to the Yankees and while I know players are traded all of the time the Berkman trade seemed different since I had fully thought that he would be given the chance to retire as a member of the Astros.

Roy Oswalt was presented a framed jersey from the 2005 World Series during a pregame ceremony at Minute Maid Park Saturday night. Photo R. Anderson

Roy Oswalt was presented a framed jersey from the 2005 World Series during a pregame ceremony at Minute Maid Park Saturday night.
Photo R. Anderson

In the end after playing for three other teams Berkman came back home if only for a day to retire with the Astros but I can’t help but think that his presence the last couple years around the young players would have greatly benefited the team.

But roster turmoil is part of the game and very rarely do fan favorites get to stay with their team for their whole careers. Craig Biggio, Cal Ripken, Jr. and Derek Jeter are certainly the exception more than the rule.

Players come and go. Logos and team colors change but the game goes one just as it has for generations as each group of players and fans contribute a stanza to the baseball sonnet.

After throwing out the first pitches to a pair of former teammates Berkman and Oswalt left the field for most likely the final time to the roar of the crowd to enter their post baseball lives.

Lance Berkman was presented a framed jersey from the 2005 World Series during a pregame ceremony at Minute Maid Park Saturday night. Photo R. Anderson

Lance Berkman was presented a framed jersey from the 2005 World Series during a pregame ceremony at Minute Maid Park Saturday night.
Photo R. Anderson

Oswalt is going to become a consultant for his long time agent and Berkman is rumored to be on the short list replace Wayne Graham at Rice University as the head baseball coach in a few years.

Of course, the players may also come back to Minute Maid Park someday to see their numbers retired and hung up in the rafters with the other team greats.

But even if they do not have their numbers retired they will still have given a generation of fans years of memories to look back on while they wait for the next generation to complete their stanza.

As for that next generation of Astros they ended up losing the game Saturday night but did come back to win on Sunday afternoon.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to put my Puma shirt back in the closet.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson