Time Traveling through Baseball’s Present

When last we left this time and space we discussed certain key moments to visit in baseball’s past given the chance of time travel in honor of the return of Doctor Who.

Today, we will turn our attention on the present and what the ability to time travel within a single day would allow. Think of it as Groundhog Day meets Field of Dreams with a Ballpark view.

For several years I have thought that it would be fun to visit each of the 30 Major League Ballparks on consecutive days.

In developing my dream itinerary of the order of Ballparks to visit I learned that I was far from alone in this dream. In fact, there are countless sites dedicated to the 30 Ballparks in 30 days quest.

If I had a TARDIS, like the main character in Doctor Who I would travel through time and space checking out all of the key baseball moments. Photo R. Anderson

If I had a TARDIS, like the main character in Doctor Who I would travel through time and space checking out all of the key baseball moments.
Photo R. Anderson

The level of detail with each of these plans varies but if one is so inclined, and has the means to do so, there are resources available to plan the perfect month long baseball odyssey.

While visiting all 30 Ballparks in a month is the stuff of legend for many super fans, now consider that you did not need to leave home, job and family for a 12th of the year while taking out a loan to follow your dream.

What if you could see all of the games on a single day?

Okay granted there would not be more than 15 Ballparks hosting games on any given night making it impossible to visit all 30 in one night but one could at least see all 30 teams in action on the same night through the joys of time travel.

While the internet, and other media sources, makes it possible to watch all games on a given night from the comfort of one’s home there is certainly nothing like being in the Ballpark to see the games in person.

One could have dinner at home and then hop in their time machine and go from Ballpark to Ballpark. When one game ended simply set the time and destination to the start time at the next ballpark and away you go.

One could start on the east coast and work their way west or vice versa depending on their preference. With a time machine one need not be constrained by time zones for other factors in planning the perfect night of baseball watching.

Of course with an average game time in the two to three hour range, were one to go from game to game it would require them to be awake for 30 to 45 to catch all 15 games. This means that the souvenir cup size filled with Dr. Pepper is your best friend along the journey.

But after those 45 hours of watching baseball one could return home and sleep as long as they wanted since they could always just use the time machine to make sure they got to work on time.

As an aside with the average souvenir cup clocking in at 32 ounces, one would end up drinking 480 ounces of soda if they got a souvenir cup at each Ballpark. Add in the free refill option at some Ballparks and one is looking at downing a serious amount of cola during their night of Ballpark bliss. How serious of an amount of cola? Considering that there are 128 ounces in a gallon, one would consume around 3.75 gallons of soda if they went with the souvenir soda at each of the 15 Ballparks.

If one had the chance to visit 15 Ballparks in a single night, and got a cup to take home as a memento, they would have a lot of soda to drink. With the average souvenir cup clocking in at 32 ounces, one would end up drinking 480 ounces of soda if they got a souvenir cup at each Ballpark. Add in the free refill option at some Ballparks and one is looking at downing a serious amount of cola during their night of Ballpark bliss. How serious of an amount of color? Considering that there are 128 ounces in a gallon, one would consume around 3.75 gallons of soda if they went with the souvenir soda at each of the 15 Ballparks. Photo R. Anderson

If one had the chance to visit 15 Ballparks in a single night, and got a cup to take home as a memento at each one, they would have a lot of soda to drink. With the average souvenir cup clocking in at 32 ounces, one would end up drinking 480 ounces of soda if they got a souvenir cup at each Ballpark. Add in the free refill option at some Ballparks and one is looking at downing a serious amount of cola during their night of Ballpark bliss.
Photo R. Anderson

Realistically there will probably never be a way to simultaneously see every first pitch on a given night in person, nor should anyone drink that much soda in the course of a day, but it is certainly a nice thing to think about.

Another benefit of the traveling within the same day form of time travel would be the increased ability to catch balls in the ballpark.

There are people who try to catch as many foul balls, batting practice balls, and home run balls as possible when they attend a game.

Through the use of time travel these Ball Hawks could watch a game in advance and know exactly where the balls were going to land and then position themselves to catch them instead.

This of course would get into that grey area of changing the future and crushing someone else’s timeline that originally caught the ball. Surely changing the recipient of a foul ball would not start the process that dooms the entire planet, but then again that is the tricky thing about time travel.

How small of a change in the past does it take to totally ruin everything that follows?

Perhaps it is best just to watch the games without interfering. Of course that does not mean that one cannot have some fun with it along the way.

Since every game is televised these days, and with highlights living on the internet, one could make it their mission to be on camera in each of the games they visited on the same night.

It could be a fun sort of Where’s Waldo moment to scan the crowd shots and find yourself. Extra points could be given for wearing a hat from the home team at each of the games. Although I guess in true Waldo fashion the same outfit would be best.

So there are just a few of the things one could do on any given night of the baseball season if they had all of time and space at their disposal.

A Groundhog Day full of baseball games certainly seems more exciting than waiting to find out if a furry rodent can see his shadow or not.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to tweak my plan to visit all 30 Ballparks in 30 days in case I ever win the lottery.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Time Traveling through Baseball’s Past

For fans of a certain British television show about a guy and his companions who travel around in a bigger on the inside blue police box, today marks the start of a very important week.

The week is important for fans of Doctor Who in that it marks the final countdown to the new season of time traveling adventures Saturday night.

In honor of the countdown to the new season of the show I thought it would be fun to focus on time travel here as well.

In particular the focus this week will be on time travel as it relates to baseball in the past, present and future.

If I had a TARDIS, like the main character in Doctor Who I would travel through time and space checking out all of the key baseball moments. Photo R. Anderson

If I had a TARDIS, like the main character in Doctor Who I would travel through time and space checking out all of the key baseball moments.
Photo R. Anderson

Today we will start our journey through baseball time and space in the past.

Consider if you will, all of the historic moments that have occurred in baseball.

From Babe Ruth, to Shoeless Joe Jackson, to Jackie Robinson, and every player in between, baseball is full of larger than life players who for many baseball fans exist only as black and white news reel images or statistics on a page.

With Babe Ruth having made his professional debut 100 years ago, there are few people still around who were alive then, let alone old enough to have been there to witness it.

Now consider that time travel was possible and you had the means to visit any past moment in baseball history, including the Bambino’s first game. What moments would you visit?

I have often pondered that very question and have come up with some definitive moments that given the chance I would love to see in person.

The moments are divided up into the categories of Ballparks, Ballplayers, and Ballgames.

First let us focus on the Ballparks.

Many books are dedicated to the must see sights in baseball. But what if time travel was a reality and one could visit events as they occurred instead of reading about them afterwards? Photo R. Anderson

Many books are dedicated to the must see sights in baseball. But what if time travel was a reality and one could visit events as they occurred instead of reading about them afterwards?
Photo R. Anderson

While I have had the pleasure and opportunity to visit many Ballparks, including several that have since been torn down, there are a few of the classic Ballparks that were torn down before I had the chance to see them that I would have loved to catch a game in.

With the ability to travel back to the golden age of baseball and visit any Ballpark I would visit the Polo Grounds, Ebbett’s Field, and the first Yankee Stadium.

While many new Ballparks such as Oriole Park at Camden Yards have brought back a piece of that classic Ballpark feel, there would be nothing quite like traveling to see the ones that started it all.

It would also be fun to travel to an era where people dressed up in their Sunday best to catch a game although I could probably go without the grandstands full of cigarette smoke since I am allergic.

While visiting Ballparks from the golden age would be fun, another Ballpark that I would love to visit is technically still standing but no longer hosts baseball, or much of anything else for that matter. That Ballpark is the Astrodome.

Although I covered a high school football game in the Astrodome, by the time I moved to Houston the Astros had moved to Minute Maid Park (technically Enron Field at the time) and the days of baseball in the Dome were done.

Granted the Astrodome begat many carbon copy domed stadiums that hosted baseball in Seattle, Minnesota, and St. Petersburg but there would be something hard to miss about being at the very first indoor baseball game under a dome.

Whenever I find myself at Tropicana Field I often try to picture what a culture shock it most have been for those first Houston fans to see a game without knowing what the weather was like outside or being able to see the sky.

After Ballparks the next item to travel through time to see would be Ballplayers.

I would need to use my time machine to travel to see Babe Ruth play a game along with Honus Wagner, Walter Johnson, and Shoeless Joe Jackson to name a few.

Speaking of Shoeless Joe, an interesting time traveler’s paradox comes into play. Would one warn Shoeless Joe and his Black Sox teammates about being banned for life for the World Series fixing scandal, or just let history go on as predicated.

While time travel in science fiction books and films often show negative results to the future through the butterfly effect whenever the past is changed it does pose an interesting question of what one would do in that situation.

There are of course people who would use time travel to their benefit through betting on games when they know the outcome but for our purposes here let us go with the belief that all who travel back are merely going as fly on the wall observers to soak in the events without altering the outcomes or fattening their wallets.

So with that philosophy of observe, but don’t interfere in mind, the Chicago White Sox would still throw the World Series just as Pete Rose decades later would still be banned from baseball.

As a certain British time traveler would say, some points in history are fixed points in time.

The third area of our journey to baseball’s past would be specific Ballgames.

From the first World Series game, to Lou Gehrig’s luckiest man alive speech, there are countless moments in Ballgames that would be worth traveling to.

For me some of the games I would need to see in person would be when Hank Aaron broke the home run record and when Lou Gehrig and Cal Ripken Jr. played their first games.

To see the start of the two longest consecutive games played streaks and to see a home run record fall would be truly historic events.

There are of course more Ballparks, Ballplayers and Ballgames that could be revisited given the ability to travel to any point in time. Each historic moment in baseball would be at the time traveler’s disposal to visit time and time again.

While realistically time travel to that degree will remain a mere wish and the stuff of film, television and literature, it is certainly fun to consider the big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff now and then.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get ready for travels through the present.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

Robin Williams’ Death Leaves a Void

Monday afternoon the world found out that actor/comedian Robin Williams died at his California home at the age of 63.

While that news hit each person in a personal way, the overall collective grief reached the point of the President of the United States issuing a statement on the matter.

When the POTUS is commenting about your death, that is when you know that you have reached the status of national treasure. Of course in Robin Williams’ case he portrayed presidents in several films so perhaps that helped garner the Oval Office tribute.

Like many fans I never met Robin Williams and only knew him through his body of work which seemed to hit the mainstream right around the same time that I became aware of my surroundings enough to make and maintain memories.

Once of those earliest Robin Williams memories involved Mork of Mork and Mindy fame. In addition to watching the show I was given a Mork figurine that had a backpack with a pull string that would playback numerous Mork sayings. I do not recall what happened to that figurine but I did enjoy it during the time I played with it.

From Mork came the move from the small screen to the movies. One such movie was Popeye. I remember my mom and I spent a whole day traveling from record store to record store trying to find the soundtrack to the movie because I had enjoyed the songs so much. Sadly we never found the album that day, or any day since for that matter. But the search was just as fun and created a lasting memory of an afternoon spent with my mom trying to give her son what he wanted.

Robin Williams played many rolls throughout his career from a genie to a president but my best memories of him are when he was a sailor man. Photo R. Anderson

Robin Williams played many rolls throughout his career from a genie to a president but my best memories of him are when he was a sailor man.
Photo R. Anderson

While my Robin Williams memories began in the late 70’s, every generation since has had a movie or a memory that they can cling to and call their own.

For some the first memories of Robin Williams came in the form of a genie in a bottle from Aladdin. For others Robin Williams is Teddy Roosevelt from the Night at the Museum trilogy. Others still may have first discovered him in Mrs. Doubtfire, Hook, or Jumanji.

Such is the transcending nature of Robin Williams and his career. He knew how to make us laugh and through is dramatic roles in Dead Poet’s Society, What Dreams May Come, and Good Will Hunting he knew how to make us cry.

That dramatic turn earned Williams three Academy Award nominations and a Best Supporting Actor win for Good Will Hunting. Personally I think it was Dead Poet’s Society where he was truly Oscar worthy.

Robin Williams also was a fixture in the world of Major League Baseball taking to the field before Game 1 of the National League Division Series in 2010 to cheer on the San Francisco Giants. The pep talk seemed to work as the Giants went on to win their first World Series title in 56 years.

While Robin Williams never really did a baseball movie per se, it is during Good Will Hunting that his character talks about the Boston Red Sox and when it is necessary to chase after what is important no matter the cost.

The bench where that scene was filmed has turned into a memorial as many fans share their grief showing that Robin Williams has the power to makes us cry once more with his unexpected passing.

There will likely never be another actor/comedian like Robin Williams. Thankfully through the art of the movies his work will continue to entertain for generations to come. Photo R. Anderson

There will likely never be another actor/comedian like Robin Williams. Thankfully through the art of the movies his work will continue to entertain for generations to come.
Photo R. Anderson

While fans are certainly entitled to their grief, I plan to focus on the laughter that Robin Williams brought me and many others throughout his life.

With such a large group of movies to his name, and four more scheduled for release after his death, future generations will continue to experience the craft of Robin Williams long after the sadness of his passing has faded.

In that way Robin Williams will never leave us just as the greats who passed before him still live on through their work captured on film.

The passing of Robin Williams which has been attributed in early accounts to a struggle with depression highlights a bigger societal issue. As much as TMZ and trash journalism programs try to feed the public every sordid detail about celebrities, there is no way to know everything about them. Nor should we know every detail about celebrities.

We live in a society where most people know more about people they have never met than their own neighbors. While a certain degree of knowledge is good even all of the information about celebrities does not cover the hidden struggles that many of them face.

Robin Williams is not the first comedian to battle depression and he will not be the last. It is a cruel fact that many studies have shown that often times the people who makes us laugh the most, such as Robin Williams, are quietly crying on the inside.

Other studies have shown that the more creative a person is the more likely they are to suffer from depression. It is almost like they need to have that internal strife in order to fuel the creative juices.

Creativity and depression are certainly not limited to the field of comedy. In the world of music there are people like Kurt Cobain who used his battles to make great music that inspired a generation but ultimately fell victim to the depression that no amount of external success could quench.

If there is some good to come out of the death of Robin Williams perhaps it is an awareness of the perils of depression and perhaps a call to find ways to help those who suffer from it.

Another lesson to take to the Ballpark or the cinema is that as much as fans think they know the athletes or actors that they admire and cheer for there are other sides that are hidden from view.

Often times these other sides are no different than anyone else. Celebrities still have to navigate personal relationships and put their pants on one leg at a time just like the rest of us; even if they have way more pairs of pants and assistants to help with that.

The point is to never elevate celebrities to such a high pedestal as to make them appear invincible or to the point of believing that money buys happiness.

By all accounts Robin Williams, much like Kurt Cobain and others, was a wealthy man rich with talent and adored by millions. But even with all of that going for him he could not overcome his depression.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I think it is time for a Robin Williams movie marathon.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Tis Better to Appreciate than to Just Participate

Last weekend an organization I am actively involved with held an event to honor individuals who had helped make a recent keynote event a success.

In addition to providing each of the attendees with a hot lunch of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs with all of the trimmings, we were each presented with a certificate as a token of thanks for our efforts that helped make the event a success.

They could have easily stopped with just the hamburgers and hot dogs, but the inclusion of individualized certificates was certainly a nice gesture on the part of the organization.

When I looked at the certificate though I noticed some wording that I had not expected.

Instead of it being a certificate of appreciation, the certificate was worded as a certificate of participation.

While it is true that each of us participated in the event I had never really seen a certificate worded that way and was more accustomed to receiving a certificate of appreciation. In fact the certificate the organization gave out for the previous year’s event was worded as a certificate of appreciation.

Of course, at the end of the day, it did not really matter what word was placed on the certificate since I know that all of the hard work was appreciated with or without a piece of paper saying so. It was a nice gesture and my name was spelled correctly so I am definitely not complaining.

The certificate did raise some interesting general observations about appreciation versus participation and how they relate to sports and society as a whole though.

Consider the world of Major League Baseball where nine players participate on the field and in the batting order. Despite all of them participating in the game a quick scan around the grandstands shows that a few of them are appreciated by the fans more than the rest.

If Major League Baseball, and other sports for that matter, were set up in an all are equal manner, there would not be fans dressed in a certain player’s jersey and cheering louder when they came up to bat or made a great play.

If professional baseball was run like some youth leagues no one would keep score and players would be appreciated equally just for showing up at the Ballpark each day. Photo R. Anderson

If professional baseball was run like some youth leagues no one would keep score and players would be appreciated equally just for showing up at the Ballpark each day.
Photo R. Anderson

Instead, everyone would be wearing team jerseys without a player name on the back and cheering equally for everyone from the 12-time All-Star to the 12-year journeyman when they came up to bat.

Of course that is not the case. The stars of the sport get the big contracts, endorsement deals and screaming fans while the rest of the players are just happy to be on the ball club.

That is not to say that all of the other participants on a team are not important. Even the biggest superstars in the sport need a team around them to succeed, but the fact remains certain players on every team rise up above the rest and are appreciated more than their teammates.

While professional sports continues to show that some players are worth more to a team and its fan base then others, amateur sports seem to be going in an entirely different direction.

I am of course referring to the participation medal which has made its way into youth sports. The idea behind a participation medal is that everyone, regardless of talent, should be recognized for their participation in said sport instead of medals only going to a couple of people. Some youth sports have even stopped keeping score in games so that there are no winners or losers at the end of the game.

If one never feels the agony of defeat in life how can they appreciate the highs of success?

A few years back I participated in a 5k event where each person received a shirt and a medal just for showing up. Medals were also available for certain categories once the event started. While I could have just decided that a medal for showing up was good enough, I worked hard, fought through some leg cramps, and was rewarded with a second place medal for my classification.

A few years back I took part in a 5k where everyone who showed up received the medal at the top. I earned the medal at the bottom through hard work and sweat and to me it is much more valuable than the other medal because it is something earned and not just handed to me. To much of society today seems to settle for just the showing up medal. Photo R. Anderson

A few years back I took part in a 5k where everyone who showed up received the medal at the top. I earned the medal at the bottom through hard work and sweat and to me it is much more valuable than the other medal because it is something earned and not just handed to me. To much of society today seems to settle for just the showing up medal.
Photo R. Anderson

This is not being mentioned in any way to toot my own horn or suggest that I am a great 5k athlete. I am not. I was just successful on that particular day and just as easily could have fallen out of contention on any other day.

The point of the story is I tried for more knowing there was a chance that I would not succeed in my quest for a podium finish.

While I understand that some people were happy just getting a medal and a t-shirt, even though I was huffing and puffing at the end of the race, the second place medal I earned felt much better around my neck than if I had just settled for the one everyone else received.

One could certainly spend hours debating whether this move to the philosophy of everyone gets a medal actually creates a weaker society by dulling the competitive edge and rewarding all regardless of level of effort thereby creating a world where no one keeps score and everyone gets orange slices at the end of the game; and many people have. Personally I think the reward everyone approach weakens society and I am very concerned that we will just settle on participating as a way of life.

This country was built on the backs of men and women who did more than just participate. They innovated and they strived to excel in various fields while never settling for good enough and understanding that sometimes failure is an option that one can learn from and come back stronger as a result.

For that example of people doing more than merely participating, and realizing that the juice is worth the squeeze, I will be forever appreciative. I just hope that the spirit of innovation and being willing to fail does not get lost by a generation raised on the philosophy that they will be rewarded just for showing up and someone else will always be there to cut their orange slices for them.

I am sure that the people who chose to put participate on the certificates last weekend had no idea about the debate it would cause, but it certainly was a good stepping off point for some societal retrospection.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am suddenly craving some fresh squeezed orange juice.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Even During a Sharknado there is Time for Baseball and Other Lessons Learned

Last week the world was treated to the cinematic classic in the making Sharknado 2: The Second One; which oddly enough is a sequel to last summer’s Twitter crashing craze Sharknado.

The sharkcentric movies from the Syfy network center around mankind’s response to a weather event that allows powerful offshore storms to pick up sharks from the ocean and carry them hundreds of miles away to wreak havoc on densely populated areas.

For Sharknado the sharks were Pacific Ocean based and attacked Los Angeles much to the dismay of Tara Reid and Ian Ziering. For the sequel the sharks were in a New York state of mind after being plucked from the Atlantic Ocean allowing Tara Reid and Ian Ziering to be dismayed from sea to shining sea.

While few can argue that a story about sharks falling from the sky and wreaking havoc on New York City has the cinematic bite of say Citizen Kane, there are times when a movie, where everyone is in on the joke, can just provide pure guilty cinematic pleasure without the need to over analyze the meaning of Rosebud.

I have long been a collector of shark teeth but despite my frequent proximity to the coast I do not fear a Sharknado. Photo R. Anderson

I have long been a collector of shark teeth but despite my frequent proximity to the coast I do not fear a Sharknado.
Photo R. Anderson

Years ago I had a movie critic who worked for me describe this type of guilty cinematic pleasure as popcorn cinema for the Johnny lunch pail crowd. While this particular critic  was raised on art house cinema and preferred an independent film to a summer blockbuster he agreed that sometimes a movie just needs to be downright fun with a crazy plot and over the top acting.

I lost touch with him years ago but I want to believe that even my old film critic got caught up in the Sharknado feeding frenzy.

There were certainly many popcorn cinema moments, and unexpected cameos, in the sharks take a bite out of the Big Apple movie but what struck me most during the film was how the poor New York Mets just can’t seem to get a break as their Ballpark fell victim to the falling sharks.

Someone really should have checked to see if the New York Yankees were behind the taunting of their cross town rival.

Aside from learning that the House that Ruth Built, Yankee Stadium, appears to be immune from shark attacks, another lesson that I learned from the film is that a chain saw is a good item to have when one needs to cut open a shark. That knowledge definitely could have helped me a few years back when I tried to extract a jaw from a deceased shark I found on the beach.

Chompers, as the shark was known, was about a foot or two long when I found him. While most people might see a dead shark on the beach and think, “eww, dead shark,” I saw things a little differently. To me the dead shark on the beach meant the chance to have a really cool shark jaw to display on my desk at work.

I can blame my aunt for this thought process. Many years earlier she and I stumbled upon a large shark that had washed up on the shore outside of Jacksonville Beach in Florida. We had been searching for shark teeth all morning and lo and behold here in front of us was a mouth full of pristine shark teeth ready for the picking.

Upon seeing the shark my aunt mentioned how much she wished she had brought a pair of pliers to pull the teeth out. Without any pliers we left the shark alone and continued our search for easier to grab shark teeth along the shore.

So decades later as I stared at Chompers the words of my aunt came to me once more and I thought I can do better than a pair of pliers, I can take the whole shark home and extract the jaw teeth and all.

Of course living in an apartment at the time I did not really think that my neighbors would appreciate me sitting on the patio with a shark carcass so I took Chompers to my parents’ house.

After failing at my own attempt at shark jaw removal I was given a professionally extracted draw by my parents following a trip they took to Hawaii. In hindsight it is always best to leave shark rendering to the professional unless one happens to have a chainsaw handy. Photo R. Anderson

After failing at my own attempt at shark jaw removal I was given a professionally extracted draw by my parents following a trip they took to Hawaii. In hindsight it is always best to leave shark rendering to the professional unless one happens to have a chainsaw handy.
Photo R. Anderson

Over the next week or so I tried various methods to extract the jaw but had little luck and only managed to attract flies as the tiny teeth fell out of the very much still inside the shark jaw.

In the end Chompers was given a proper burial in the front yard and I was given a shark jaw my parents found at a store the next time they went to Hawaii.

A third life lesson I learned from Sharknado is that the scientific community, or at least the one that posts on the internet, seem very divided over the actual chances of a real Sharknado occurring. I was amazed at the number of articles that stated that a Sharknado event could really occur.

To be perfectly clear a Sharknado, such as the one depicted in the movie, cannot really happen. For starters even if there was somehow enough force in a tornado to pick up a bunch of unsuspecting sharks who happened to be swimming by at that exact moment they would die shortly after being thrust in the air since, spoiler alert, sharks are fish and can’t breathe out of the water.

While a Sharknado is basically ruled out by the laws of physics, I did actually witness a Catfishnado once in Florida when a school of catfish was picked up in a storm and deposited on my parents’ lawn.

So the science of storms being able to pluck things out of the water is valid. But, to repeat again there is no scenario where hundreds of six to eight foot sharks can be thrust up into the clouds and dropped upon unsuspecting citizens along the coast.

By all means enjoy the escapism that movies such as Sharknado and Sharknado 2 can provide but certainly do not live with the fear of sharks falling from the sky. Getting hit on the head by a falling catfish though is an entirely plausible thing and just might encourage someone to wear a hat when walking outside in the rain.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to try to figure out which Ballpark is going to get hit by Sharknado the third which will be coming to the small screen next summer. Fenway Park anyone?

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Death, Taxes and Baseball Remain Constants in Life

It has been said time and time again, since at least the the mid-18th Century or so, that the only certainties in life are death and taxes.

To that duo of death and taxes, I would add a third certainty in life; baseball which came to the scene in the mid-19th Century.

With the exception of strike shortened seasons, the game of baseball provides nearly eight months of distraction a year through the ups and downs of taxes and death and all of the other parts of life.

And while the income tax deadline is still several months away, baseball continues to chug along as part of the summer tapestry before giving way to football in the fall.

In terms of the third side of the constants of life triangle, death, I have felt its impacts firsthand with two funeral home visits in the past couple of weeks.

Although two funerals in the past few weeks may seem excessive, it stands to reason that the older we get the more likely we are to witness the passing of friends and family.

Last night during a funeral home visitation I spoke with a man who has attended 14 funerals so far this year. While I figured that he would be depressed from attending so many funerals in such a short time span his words put it into perspective when he stated that as long as he was able to leave a funeral on his feet, and not in a casket, he figured he was doing all right.

Of course sometimes it seems that the ones in the caskets, the dearly departed, have it the easiest as they have reached the end of their pain and suffering while the living are left to work through the pain and suffering being experienced as a result of their loss.

For me the latest loss came with the passing of a friend whom I had spent many hours talking baseball with over the past 14 years or so.

While we certainly discussed other topics, inevitably our conversations would always turn towards observations about the Houston Astros and how we would run the team if ever given the chance.

In honor of our mutual love of the team, I wore my Astros tie to my friend’s funeral even though I am sure she would have been just as happy with something far less formal.

Recently I had the chance to wear my Astros tie in memory of a departed friend who never missed an opportunity to ask me how "our boys" were doing. Photo R. Anderson

Recently I had the chance to wear my Astros tie in memory of a departed friend who never missed an opportunity to ask me how “our boys” were doing.
Photo R. Anderson

I can almost picture her saying that there was no need to get all dressed up on her account but there are certain times when formal baseball attire is warranted and this was one such occasion.

As for our conversations about the Astros they would often start with her asking me what I thought about how “our boys” were doing.

And for most of the last decade the answer was that “our boys” were doing badly but hopefully more victories were just around the corner.

With a team that last visited the postseason in 2005, and is currently on track for a fourth straight season of losing over 100 games, it might be easy to lose faith in “our boys” but the belief that a turnaround would occur for the Astros never wavered.

In addition to talking about regular season baseball, each spring the topic of conversation would turn to trips to Florida for Spring Training.

While it had been years since my friend had seen Spring Training in person, her stories of past visits to the Ballparks of central Florida showed the timelessness of baseball and how one never really loses the spark once it gets under their skin.

Each year when I would return from a Spring Training trip I would give a report on how “our boys” looked and we would agree that this very well could be the year that they turned things around.

The next time I visit Osceola County Stadium, Spring training home of the Houston Astros, will feel a little different following the death of a friend and partner in Astros commiseration. Photo R. Anderson

The next time I visit Osceola County Stadium, Spring training home of the Houston Astros, will feel a little different following the death of a friend and partner in Astros commiseration.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course the turnaround has yet to gain significant traction but through my stories of trips to Florida I was allowing my friend to experience the joys of Spring Training once more as she recalled days spent under the Florida sun watching the Astros warm up for the season.

Much as my friend kept the faith through the dark times, and even thought of us attending a baseball game when she left the hospital, I also know that the Astros will turn it around some day and once again play the type of winning baseball that they once enjoyed during those years when my friend and her husband traveled to Florida to see them.

Hopefully I will make other trips to Spring Training Ballparks in the coming years. I am especially looking forward to a milestone birthday spent under the Spring Training sky next season with visits to several Ballparks I have yet to visit.

I do not know how many trips I will get to make to Spring Training through the remainder of my life. I do know that each trip will allow me to build memories to cherish for a lifetime and hopefully not return too sunburned.

Something tells me that my friend will still be keeping tabs on the Astros from her sky box in the clouds. Photo R. Anderson

Something tells me that my friend will still be keeping tabs on the Astros from her sky box in the clouds.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course the next time I do come back from Spring Training it will seem a little different without being able to share the stories from the experience with my friend.

Perhaps next year at Spring Training I will purchase an extra ticket in honor of my friend although I know her view of “our boys” from the sky box in the clouds, sitting next to her husband once again, will be even better.

I will miss my friend and our talks about baseball but I firmly believe there will come a time when we get to discuss “our boys” once more. I only hope we have a few winning seasons to discuss by then.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to watch the Astros in honor of my friend.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

MLB Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

Another non-waiver trade deadline has come and gone in Major League Baseball.

As is the case every year when Major League Baseball’s Silly Season concludes there were winners and losers with the rich in talent teams getting richer and the rebuilding teams continuing to rebuild.

Each year teams are labeled as either buyers or sellers at the deadline as they seek to either add players to help them in the short term or trade away players for prospects that they hope can help them in the long term.

What is often lost in the midst of the trade deadline are the teams that are caught in the middle of having the record to be deemed a contender and those that are in wait until next year mode.

The Tampa Bay Rays, who were considered by some experts to be World Series favorites at the start of the season, found themselves in the murky middle ground when it came to their ace pitcher David Price.

David Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner was traded to the Detroit Tigers Thursday afternoon. Photo R. Anderson

David Price, the 2012 American League Cy Young Award winner, was traded to the Detroit Tigers Thursday afternoon.
Photo R. Anderson

Many teams would give their left arms for a chance to add the former Cy Young Winner to their rotation but with the Rays overcoming a rough start to the season to finally play solid baseball which has them only eight games out of first place in the division, and about five games out of a Wild Card spot, one could argue that Price was needed to make a valid postseason run.

Repeatedly team management stated that it would take an epic “knock their socks off” offer from a team that included several top tier prospects to make them part with their ace at the deadline.

In the end the Rays traded Price to the Detroit Tigers for a less than sock losing trio of players that appear to have far less upside at the moment than Price.

With the trade the Tigers now have three Cy Young winners in their rotation and seem destined for another American League Championship Series showdown with the Oakland Athletics who also added depth to their rotation prior to the trade deadline.

Trades in baseball are nothing new but when a team trades away a fan favorite and leader in the clubhouse, such as Price who spent seven seasons with the Rays, there is always bound to be push back from the fans.

As expected when news broke that Price had been traded, many fans filled team message boards with angry comments saying that they were done supporting the Rays. Others asked how they could have traded Price for so little in return.

The answer to why the trade was made comes down to economics. The Rays have a long history of trading their aces when they are due big raises in free agency since Tampa Bay does not have the payroll flexibility to match many other teams when it comes to salary offers.

David Price (far right) anchored the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff and became the latest ace to be traded by the Rays. Time will tell which pitcher picks up the slack and leads the staff with Price gone. Photo R. Anderson

David Price (far right) anchored the Tampa Bay Rays pitching staff and became the latest ace to be traded by the Rays. Time will tell which pitcher picks up the slack and leads the staff with Price gone.
Photo R. Anderson

David Price just becomes the latest pitcher to be traded by the Rays joining Matt Garza, Scott Kazmir, and James Shields. What makes the Price trade different is the fact that it came in the middle of the season while the Rays were still driving for the playoffs.

Previous trades of pitchers and other impact players were usually made during the offseason.

In reality the Rays still faced a tough task in making the playoffs even with Price since the Orioles were winning just as many games as the Rays making it impossible to cut into Baltimore’s division lead.

But the Rays certainly still had a shot at making the postseason. Trading Price away during that run will likely affect clubhouse morale as well as well as fan reaction to the perception that the Rays have given up on the current season.

Many fans get heavily invested in players and when a long-time player is dealt it can feel like losing a close friend or family member.

I can still remember the disappointment I felt while sitting at Minute Maid Park a few years ago after learning that the Houston Astros had traded Lance Berkman to the New York Yankees right before he was scheduled to play. It had seemed like Berkman would spend is entire career as an Astro.

Following the announcement that David Price was traded many Rays fans stated that they would not return to Tropicana Field. It is unlikely that such a fan boycutt would have any measurable effect on the bottom line financials for the team. Photo R. Anderson.

Following the announcement that David Price was traded many Rays fans stated that they would not return to Tropicana Field. It is unlikely that such a fan boycutt would have any measurable effect on the bottom line financials for the team.
Photo R. Anderson.

The harsh reality is most teams do not base their business decisions on the desires of the average fan.

Baseball is a business and like any other business it is driven by profits and the bottom line. For baseball teams the bottom line is enhanced through corporate sponsorships, suite sales, and television revenue.

While the money generated by a fan attending the game’s in person is certainly icing on a team’s financial spreadsheet it is a mere drop in the bucket for most teams meaning that the loss of a few hundred or even a few thousand fans is not going to affect them long term.

Once of the reasons often given for any new Ballpark or stadium project is the need to add additional luxury suites to increase revenue from the corporate community. Suites equal big bucks for teams at all levels of baseball. Rarely, if ever, will a team say that they need a new facility to make more affordable family seating in the outfield.

While those shots of happy families eating cotton candy look great on television, the fact remains most teams would prefer to have a Ballpark full of corporate clients spending big bucks on suites as opposed to stands full of families.

That is just the reality of the game and fans can either accept that fact to continue to have their hearts broken whenever a favorite player is traded away.

The days of a player spending their entire career with a single team and retiring to either become the manager of the team or a broadcaster covering the games are very likely behind us.

In fact, when the farewell tour of Derek Jeter’s 20 years in Yankee pinstripes is over it is likely that there will never be another player to spend two decades with the same team.

Alex Cobb will likely be one of the key pieces of any future success of the Tampa Bay Rays following the trade of staff ace David Price. Photo R. Anderson

Alex Cobb will likely be one of the key pieces of any future success of the Tampa Bay Rays following the trade of staff ace David Price.
Photo R. Anderson

Time will tell if the fans boycott Tropicana Field the rest of the season as some have suggested in response to the Price trade.

Attendance at the Trop, and the desire for a new stadium, will likely continue to be a hot topic between St. Petersburg officials and team ownership this off season as has been the case for several years now.

But as long as the high rollers keep going to the Ballpark and filling the suites the loss of some disgruntled fans is not going to affect the Rays pocket books.

Welcome to the new reality of baseball where the bottom line trumps the box score every time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see how DJ Kitty is handling the news.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson