Astros Fan Fest Disappoints Once More

This past Saturday the Houston Astros hosted their annual Fan Fest.

Fan Fest is a time when fans can go to Minute Maid Park and take in the sights and sounds of the Ballpark before the team heads off to Florida for the start of Spring Training.

There are games for the kids and opportunities to take batting practice or run around the bases like a Major League Baseball player.

Additionally there are various state of the franchise forums where team management outlines their expectations for the upcoming season.

Fan Fest is also a place where fans can purchase player autographs, past promotional items and other things with the proceeds all going to the team’s charity.

Batting Practice is just one of the activites for fans during the Houston Astros Fan Fest. Photo R. Anderson

Batting Practice is just one of the activities for fans during the Houston Astros Fan Fest.
Photo R. Anderson

On the surface Fan Fest is a win for everyone and is a great way to spend a sunny Saturday in January.

Unfortunately much like the Astros players have a tendency to strike out at the plate, the past couple of Fan Fests have been mostly a swing and a miss from my perspective.

I have attended around six or seven Fan Fests through the years and this was the second one that I had attended since the new ownership took over the team.

While I am sure there are still growing pains to address I was really not too impressed with what I saw.

For the second year in a row, instead of letting fans move throughout the whole ballpark with activities spaced out, activities were limited to a U shape on the concourse which created log jams of humanity having to turn around and move back upstream like spawning salmon when they reached the two black curtain dams.

This meant that there was less elbow room than in past years and made for a bit of a claustrophobic situation.

I am sure that there were many nice activities, but with so many people in such a small space it was hard to tell.

In the future I would recommend spreading the activities out a bit more to avoid the packed sardine feel.

Another disappointment came in the annual garage sale of past promotional items.

In previous years I have been able to get many team hats, shirts, and bobbleheads at the garage sale while doing my part to help charity.

This year when I arrived the garage sale was already sold out of items. I find it very hard to believe that there were more people buying items this year to the point that they would be sold out an hour after the doors opened and think that the team made less items available for the fans to purchase.

Speaking of things for fans to purchase, both team stores were open to allow people to stock up on hats, shirts and other gear ahead of the season.

The only problem with this was the proximity of the children’s bounce house zone to the store.

Once again anyone wanting to get to the main team store had to fight their way through lines of people waiting to get their bounce on.

There has got to be a better location for the bounce houses that allows the children to play and the adults to get to the store without having that salmon feeling again.

It is very likely that there were people who did not even go to the team store since they did not want to fight their way through bounce house land to get there. So in this way the placement of the bounce house zone likely cost the team money.

I did not venture to the Club level to hear any of the forums with team personnel since that would have been another upstream battle to get to the stairway that led to the forums.

In previous years the fan forums were located in the Union Station lobby next to the team store and were easily accessible without battling the compressed humanity.

I am sure that the forums were good and I certainly wish I could have seen for myself but it just wasn’t to be.

After two straight disappointing Fan Fest experiences I will certainly think long and hard before returning next year.

I am sure I can find other ways to mark the arrival of the baseball season without swimming like a salmon with thousands of other fans crammed into a tight space.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about salmon has me hungry for some seafood.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Baseball Movie Mondays is in Love with the Game

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of seeking sunshine during a gray winter, and to help usher in the upcoming baseball season we will be featuring baseball movies every Monday between now and Opening Day. Today we fall in love with the game and visit the first side of the Kevin Costner baseball triangle.

Kevin Costner has made three baseball movies in his career playing a Minor League catcher who creates rain delays and catch phrases, a farmer who hears voices in the corn and build a ballpark, and a Major League pitcher who dates John Travolta’s wife.

Today we are focusing on the movie where he played a pitcher, For Love of the Game, which also happened to be the newest of the three Costner baseball movies.

By the time the third leg of the Costner baseball triangle rolled around though it was clear that he did not have much left in the tank.

The third side of the Kevin Costner baseball triangle is For Love of the Game. Photo R. Anderson

The third side of the Kevin Costner baseball triangle is For Love of the Game.
Photo R. Anderson

While Bull Durham and Field of Dreams provided entertainment from start to finish, along with a few tears, For Love of the Game has moments where it turns into that extra inning game that you just want to end so you can fight the traffic and go home.

Still, it is hard to not count the complete Costner trilogy in a listing of baseball movies since each one contributes pieces to the entire picture.

The movie focuses on Costner as a 40 year-old pitcher for the Detroit Tigers. Throughout the course of pitching what could be the final game of his career Costner flashes back to various points of his career both on and off the field and thinks about the events that made him the person that he became.

The movie is helped by the presence of Vin Scully calling the on-field action as only Vin Scully can.

When the day comes where Vin Scully is no longer able to call baseball games it is nice to know that his voice will live on not only through his massive archive of actual games called but through a few silver screen games as well.

There truly is no one left in the world of baseball who calls a game like Vin Scully.

Of course For Love of the Game is not just a baseball movie.

Like the previous movie on our countdown, Fever Pitch, For Love of the Game probably could also fall into the romantic category but as Fred Savage’s character in The Princess Bride comes to learn, you likely won’t mind the “mushy stuff” as the movie draws to its conclusion.

The baseball action is strong for the most part and the flashbacks do not seem to water down the present day action.

Not to give anything away for those who have not seen the movie but viewers are rewarded in the end of the film in much the same way that a fan is rewarded with a walkoff home run after watching a 21-inning game into the wee hours of the morning.

Again, For Love of the Game is not Kevin Costner’s strongest baseball movie, but it does deserve a place on the shelf next to the other two sides of the Costner baseball triangle. And of course like I said there is Vin Scully to listen to so one really can’t go wrong there.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to listen to some vintage Vin Scully broadcasts.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Gas Prices are Falling, the Sky is Not

It has often been said that there are at least two sides to every story, and somewhere in the middle is the truth.

I have been thinking about that saying lately as I read the news coverage about the falling price of oil and gas which depending on who you ask is either the best thing ever for consumers, or the beginning of the end of western civilization as we know it.

There are many oil companies in and around Texas and when a gallon of gas sold in the $3 to $4 range they were giddy and beside themselves as they swam Scrooge McDuck style in their big vaults of money.

To be perfectly honest oil companies probably do not have a big money vault, but if they did there is no doubt that they were swimming in it.

With the average price of a gallon of gas below $2, and falling, many oil and gas companies are   shedding employees as they try to stay competitive in a changing market. Photo R. Anderson

With the average price of a gallon of gas below $2, and falling, many oil and gas companies are shedding employees as they try to stay competitive in a changing market.
Photo R. Anderson

Now, that the average price of a gallon of gas is below $2, and falling, those same companies are screaming that the only way they can remain in business at such low prices is by shedding employees as they try to stay competitive in a changing market.

Former oil executives are also telling anyone who will listen that the price of oil will soon rise again much like the phoenix rising from the ashes and that $5 a gallon gas is coming.

All the while the bulk of the country finds more money in their pockets since the price to fill up at the pump is dropping.

More money not going to gas means more money available to spend on other things which in theory should help the economy.

Restaurants and other retailers should benefit from consumers spending less money in gas to arrive at their establishments.

Plus, companies spending less on gas to ship items means they are less likely to need to pass the costs on to those same consumers.

While I do not have an advanced business degree it seems a very simple equation that lower fuel costs are good and higher fuel costs are bad.

When I first started driving many years ago, gas was still under $1 a gallon.

I remember the uproar when the stations had to add the third line of their signs when the price of a gallon of gas had the audacity to cost more than a buck.

The rumblings continued each time gas surpassed another dollar milestone as people dug deeper into their wallets each time they went to the pump as $3 and even $4 gas became a part of life.

The only people who would benefit from $5 a gallon gas also happen to be the only ones saying that it is coming. I guess they are hoping for a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Of course gas is not the only factor affected by the laws of supply and demand.

Prices are higher when demand is great and supplies are low.

Conversely prices tend to drop when supplies raise and demand drops.

The factors of supply and demand are not limited to just oil commodities and play a role in the world of baseball as well.

When a team is red hot and demand to see them in person is high, the prices go up. When a team is struggling in the standings and the turnstile prices usually do not go up.

Under dynamic pricing fans are charged more to see the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees compared with other teams where demand is not as great. Photo R. Anderson

Under dynamic pricing fans are charged more to see the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees compared with other teams where demand is not as great.
Photo R. Anderson

Teams call this the dynamic pricing model. In Houston the Astros use this practice to raise the price of admission whenever the Yankees and Red Sox come to town since they know that more people want to see those games and are willing to pay the higher prices.

Personally I have always thought that the same seat in a Ballpark should cost the same amount of money regardless of who the opponent is but it seems that dynamic pricing is here to stay as teams try to find ways to make as much money as they can.

Ticket prices are just one of many factors that go into the makeup of a competitive baseball franchise just as the price of a gallon of gas is just one of the factors that drives the economy.

Falling gas prices will not doom the economy and baseball fans will still pony up the dough if they want to see a team bad enough.

So with Spring Training around the corner it is time to take advantage of the low gas prices and take a road trip to see the action at the Ballpark.

Just don’t be surprised if you see oil executives in fancy suits on the side of the road holding up their sky is falling signs along the way.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a Spring Training trip to plan.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Baseball Movie Mondays is Feeling Feverish for the Red Sox

Editor’s Note: In the spirit of seeking sunshine during a gray winter, and to help usher in the upcoming baseball season we will be featuring baseball movies every Monday between now and Opening Day. Today we travel to Red Sox Nation on the big screen.

In the movie What About Bob?, the title character, played by Bill Murray, sums up the world as being comprised of two types of people, those who love Neil Diamond, and those who do not.

My aunt falls into the category of someone who loves Neil Diamond. Her love of all things Neil Diamond goes so far as having “Sweet Caroline” as the ringtone on her phone. While this causes some members of the family to burst out into fits of side splitting laughter whenever she gets a call, it is something that she enjoys.

Like Neil Diamond, one tends to either love or hate the Boston Red Sox. It probably is not too surprising then that Neil Diamond and the Red Sox are so intertwined with Red Sox fans belting out that same Neil Diamond song as my aunt’s ringtone during every home game.

While the Red Sox have a long history of winning, they also had a long period of “cursed” play where the diehard fans wondered if their beloved BoSox would ever hoist the World Series trophy again.

The world of a Boston Red Sox fan is explored in the baseball movie, Fever Pitch. Photo R. Anderson

The world of a Boston Red Sox fan is explored in the baseball movie, Fever Pitch.
Photo R. Anderson

After winning World Series titles in 2004, 2007 and 2013, the Red Sox have certainly been on a bit of a winning streak lately.

But before the start of the winning streak, members of Red Sox nation had to look towards the silver screen to see a place where the Sox could be champions. Enter the movie Fever Pitch which explores the fanatical side of Boston Red Sox fandom while also exploring interpersonal human relationships in the form of a baseball Rom Com, or romantic comedy.

At its surface the terms romantic comedy and baseball should not really be uttered in the same breath. But upon deeper inspection, one can accept that baseball fans have long had a romance with the game that often starts when they catch their first game or pick up a ball and glove for the first time.

In Fever Pitch, the romance is between a Red Sox loving man, played by Jimmy Fallon, and the conflict that arises as he tries to choose between his love of his team and the pressure he feels to grow up.

The movie resonates with fans in different ways depending on where they see themselves along the spectrum.

For some people at a crossroads they can think about whether they need to give up their childhood love of the game and get a real job.

For others watching, perhaps they long for a return to when they loved the game as much as the characters in the film.

Others may be somewhere in the middle finding balance between a so called normal life and support of the home team.

Regardless of where one stands in terms of their personal baseball journey, Fever Pitch offers a glimpse into a year of fandom related to one of the teams with the most rabid fan bases in all of baseball.

Of course, the movie also may or may not have helped break some of those dreaded Red Sox curses so it should be a must have for any member of Sox Nation.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I suddenly have the urge to listen to some Neil Diamond.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Ben Zobrist Traded from Tampa Bay Rays to Oakland A’s

Over the weekend the Tampa Bay Rays continued their A to Z roster rebuild by trading long-time fan favorite Ben Zobrist to the Oakland Athletics.

The Zobrist trade is the latest move in a busy offseason for the Rays.

Since October the Rays have had to find replacements for president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, who went to the Los Angeles Dodgers, and manager Joe Maddon, who is now manager of the Chicago Cubs.

After nine seasons with Tampa Bay Ben Zobrist became a member of the Oakland A's this weekend. Zobrist is just the latest of many players to be traded by the Rays as they retool their roster. Photo R. Anderson

After nine seasons with Tampa Bay Ben Zobrist became a member of the Oakland A’s this weekend. Zobrist is just the latest of many players to be traded by the Rays as they retool their roster.
Photo R. Anderson

Friedman and Maddon were the two people who were most often credited with the turnaround of the Rays. Under their tenure the Rays experienced their first winning seasons in team history along with some trips to the playoffs including a World Series appearance in 2008.

With the departures of Maddon and Friedman a sort of free for all trading of players ensued as the new president and manager sought to put their stamp on the franchise.

In addition to Zobrist, the Rays have also parted ways this offseason with their 2014 Opening day right fielder, left fielder, second baseman, catcher, shortstop along with six pitchers. By any calculation that is a very busy two and a half months.

With months to go before the start of the season it is entirely possible that even move roster moves will be made before Opening Day.

The only safe player on the roster appears to be Evan Longoria at third base but something tells me that the Rays would even entertain offers for him if they felt they could get enough prospects in return.

If recent history is any indication Alex Cobb will be the next pitcher to be traded by the Tampa Bay Rays. Photo R. Anderson

If recent history is any indication Alex Cobb will be the next pitcher to be traded by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Photo R. Anderson

While each of the moves have stung to varying degrees, the Zobrist trade is perhaps the most puzzling.

By all account Ben Zobrist was one of the most popular members of the Rays organization having spent his entire nine-year career as a super utility player filling whatever spot in the infield or outfield needed him.

Off the field he was involved in numerous outreach programs within the committee showing that he was more than just a player there for a paycheck.

Speaking of that paycheck though, Zobrist was due to be a free agent at the end of the 2015 season and was certainly due for a raise in salary.

While the baseball economists will say that small market teams like the Rays need to trade players like Zobrist to get value in return instead of watching them depart in free agency.

The business model the Rays seem to embrace is shedding some salary and gaining some prospects in return that they hope will turn into Major Leaguers that they can sign on the cheap and then trade away when they are due for a raise. Lather, rinse, repeat and hope all goes to plan. That is far from an ideal way to run a fan driven business.

The Tampa Bay Rays made their first and only World Series appearance in 2008. That season also marked the first winning season in franchise history. If things do not turn around the club may be headed back towards their losing ways. Photo R. Anderson

The Tampa Bay Rays made their first and only World Series appearance in 2008. That season also marked the first winning season in franchise history. If things do not turn around the club may be headed back towards their losing ways.
Photo R. Anderson

Despite the focus on television contracts and corporate sponsorships as revenue streams the fact remains that teams still need fans to be successful.

Most fans understand that baseball is a business and roster moves need to be made from time to time but when fans continue to see their favorite players traded year after year they can start to resent the organization.

In college athletics, especially basketball and football, turnover is extremely high as players leave college early to start their professional careers.

In the professional ranks however fans do not want to have to learn an entire roster every year.

Of course fall out from trading popular players like David Price last year and Ben Zobrist this year are far from the only issues facing the Rays who seem one the cusp of returning to their devilish losing ways.

Before when the Rays made their famous midseason salary dumping trades there were still enough key pieces left on the roster to absorb the losses. History also showed that the traded players seemed to struggle after leaving the Rays leading to the belief that the trade worked out in favor of the Rays.

But as the trades became more frequent, the remaining roster was left weaker and the returns diminished.

Instead of a team poised to win the American League East Division year after the year, the Rays find themselves once again as sellers among a retooling division that is adding pieces at a breakneck pace.

Joe Maddon instilled a winning tradition with the Tampa Bay Rays before opting out of his contract and joining the Chicago Cubs. Time will tell if the Ray way can continue without its ringleader. Photo R. Anderson

Joe Maddon instilled a winning tradition with the Tampa Bay Rays before opting out of his contract and joining the Chicago Cubs. Time will tell if the Ray way can continue without its ringleader.
Photo R. Anderson

Most teams go through a natural process of up and down years so a couple of bad seasons will not necessarily spell doom for the Rays but any prolonged losing streak risks further alienating a fan base and making it more difficult to get the new Ballpark they so desperately want full of those suites for the big corporate sponsors.

There is no doubt that should Ballpark discussions continue to break down in St. Petersburg, cities like Montreal and Charlotte will be all too happy to make room for the Rays.

Montreal and Charlotte are certainly both good cities and both have a long history of supporting baseball but I do not think either of them should get the Rays.

Personally I hope that the Rays enjoy a long and prosperous run in the Sunshine State and return to their winning ways sooner rather than later. Failure to do that may mark the end of Major League Baseball on the west coast of Florida leaving the Miami Marlins as the only Florida based MLB team.

Of course should the Rays make the trek up to Montreal, I hope they put heaters in the sting ray tank and find a warm winter coat for DJ Kitty.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a new roster to learn.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Bringing Cinematic Sunshine to a Cold, Gray Day

In the musical/movie, Annie, the title character sings a song about the sun coming out the day after today.

While the song about a sunshine filled tomorrow has more to do with an orphan’s wish for better days during the Great Depression than actual meteorology, for many people the gray days of winter have them wishing that they could bet their bottom dollar to get the sun to come out.

This is the plight I have found myself in the last couple of weeks as my section of Texas has had more gray skies than blue skies.

And while the gray in the sky has me asking just who stole my sunshine, there is one place where the sun always shines and the grass is always green.

I am referring to the world of cinematic baseball where even when a movie is filmed during the winter the action on the screen invokes warm days and clear skies.

To be clear not all baseball games are warm. I have sat through many cold early season baseball games including a particularly cold Pensacola night but somehow even freezing at a Ballpark seems warmer than just walking around on a gray day.

There is just something about a Ballpark that warms one down to the core.

In the spirit of seeking sunshine and to help usher in the upcoming baseball season we will be featuring baseball movies every Monday between now and Opening Day.

That equates to about 12 weeks of cinematic baseball to get you in the mood for the arrival of the Boys of Summer in April.

Today we kick off our 12 week countdown to opening day with Bleacher Bums.

The film follows a group of season ticket holders over the course of a season and explores the interpersonal relationships that develop when you spend several hours a week surrounded by people who share a common interest, in this case baseball.

I have often said that baseball is a sport that is best experienced live at the Ballpark. There are so many sights, sounds, smells and other sensory sensations that just can’t be captured on television.

But in the spirit of our quest for cinematic sunshine Bleacher Bums can provide that in Ballpark feeling. You may want to have some hot dogs and popcorn available to fully recreate the sitting in the bleachers feeling.

While the actual baseball scenes in the movie offer a few errors, the film connects on the interaction of fans and the conversations that often break out during the course of a game.

Through the years just as I think I have heard almost everything imaginable in a Ballpark something new is overheard from my seat and I am reminded of Bleacher Bums and how it captures the Ballpark conversations to a science.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am going to check the weather forecast once more to see if there is any sunshine coming in the 10-day forecast.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Once Again Bonds And Clemens are on the Outside Looking in

The other day it was announced that four players had been selected as Baseball Hall of Fame class of 2015 inductees.

Three of the inducted players were making their first ballot appearance while the fourth was elected on his third year on the ballot after missing induction by two votes last year.

While the four elected players represented the largest induction since 1955, once again players who were deemed tainted by the steroid era in baseball were left on the outside looking in.

In fact several of the roughly 500 men and women who comprise the voting members of the BWAA have gone so far as to say that they will not vote for any players who spent their careers in the steroid era regardless of whether or not they ever failed a drug test.

In taking this stance, the anti any whispers of steroid use voters cite the character clause in the Hall of Fame selection process as their reasoning for boycotting players from the so-called steroid era of baseball.

And speaking of the character clause that seems to be so en vogue with certain voters, are we to believe that every member of the Hall of Fame was an Eagle Scout and a scholar off of the field?

There can be character clause cases made against a number of the titans of the game who currently reside in the hallowed halls of Cooperstown.

Two players currently caught in the crossfire of the character clause point of view are Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens.

I grew up watching both players and aside from a collection of baseball cards with their likeness on them, I was also fortunate to see both players in action at Minute Maid Park.

Barry Bonds, shown in plastic figurine form, was once again passed over for the Hall of Fame along with several other players who were believed to have used banned substances. Although known of the players were shown to be dirty some voting members of the BWAA refuse to vote for anyone who played during the so called steroid era regardless of what was or was not proven against them. Photo R. Anderson

Barry Bonds, shown in plastic figurine form, was once again passed over for the Hall of Fame along with several other players who were believed to have used banned substances. Although known of the players were shown to be dirty some voting members of the BWAA refuse to vote for anyone who played during the so called steroid era regardless of what was or was not proven against them.
Photo R. Anderson

While neither Bonds nor Clemens would be the type of athlete I would want to emulate off of the field based on the amazing egos both men seem to possess, by all accounts those very same egos drove them throughout their careers and should have made them locks for first ballot induction to the Hall of Fame.

Both men had lengthy careers and put up the type of numbers that made a statistician blush and opposing players and fans curse.

Unfortunately late in their careers both Bonds and Clemens were caught up in the net of suspicion regarding performance enhancing drugs and were brought in front of a congressional subcommittee to face charges that they lied about their use of PEDs.

Despite both men being acquitted of the charges against them, and with Hall of Fame caliber numbers, they still are not in the Hall of Fame despite calls from more than 75 percent of fans to let them in.

This year only a third of the guardians of the gate with their golden ticket votes determined that Bonds and Clemens are Hall of Fame worthy.

With only a few more years left on the ballot it is entirely possible that two of the best players of their era will be on the outside looking in when it comes to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

And therein in lies the rub and the disconnect related to Hall of Fame voting.

The Hall of Fame is decided by around 500 people who have been BWAA members for at least 10 years.

There is no requirement that they ever played the game but merely that they have covered the game as members of the media who have paid their club dues for 10 years.

Another wrinkle in the BWAA rules is that only 10 people can be included on any given ballot despite there being more than 10 eligible players each year.

I am not suggesting that the Hall of Fame turn into a sort of American Idol situation where fans can call in their votes for their favorite players.

But, I am also not sure that allowing 500 members of the media, who have different philosophies on what constitutes a tainted player, should be the only people guarding the gates of Cooperstown and determining who is in and who is out.

In all likelihood I will never be a member of the BWAA nor will I ever cast a Hall of Fame ballot.

But if I were able to ever cast a ballot I would be sure to do my homework on the players and consider their numbers as a whole and not in a vacuum. I would also not use my vote as some sort of political platform.

If steroids were as widespread as Jose Canseco and others would have us believe, than the playing field was level in a certain way in that the numbers put up by players during that era were against other “enhanced” players so they should not be banned from the Hall of Fame, especially if no proof exisits that they ever took banned substances. Photo R. Anderson

If steroids were as widespread as Jose Canseco and others would have us believe, than the playing field was level in a certain way in that the numbers put up by players during that era were against other “enhanced” players so they should not be banned from the Hall of Fame, especially if no proof exists that they ever took banned substances.
Photo R. Anderson

For example if steroids were as widespread as Jose Canseco and others would have us believe, than the playing field was level in a certain way in that the numbers put up by players during that era were against other “enhanced” players.

And by all means with players such as Bonds, Clemens and others who never failed a drug test for any substance banned by Major League Baseball, one cannot ban them from the Hall of Fame because they might have been dirty.

I might have run a red light today, or I might not have.

Should I get randomly pulled over by a police officer and given a ticket just because at some point when no one was looking I may have run a red light? Of course not.

That would be overstepping the authority of the police and go against the letter of the law that one is innocent until proven guilty.

So players need to be judged on their on-field performance and if their numbers support admission they need to be admitted.

Yes, there was a time when the game of baseball was riddled with steroids but it was not the only time in the history of the game where players sought to get an edge.

Are we supposed to go through all the way back to Babe Ruth and others to determine if their numbers were enhanced through supplements? No we are not.

I am glad that drug testing is part of the sport and I do hope that the use of steroids can be contained. However, players always have and always will look for an off the field edge to help their on the field performance.

The practice of using some vague interpretation of the character clause as a way to deny admission to players who have been found guilty of no crime but only appear guilty by association needs to be stopped.

Unless a player drops their pants at home plate and injects steroids into their buttocks in front of 35,000 witnesses, we need to give them the benefit of the doubt and give those players with a Hall of Fame career their proper enshrinement in bronze if they have never failed a drug test.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about baseball has me craving a hot dog.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

 

Craig Biggio Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Former Houston Astro Craig Biggio was elected to the 2015 Class of the Baseball Hall of Fame on his third year of eligibility.

Having missed out on being inducted last year by two votes, Biggio made his third time on the ballot truly a charm.

Joining Biggio in the Hall’s first four person induction class in 60 years are pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz who each were elected on their first year of eligibility.

The selection of Johnson, Martinez, and Smoltz marks the first time that a trio of pitchers was inducted in the same Hall of Fame class.

Craig Biggio will become the first member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to be enshrined wearing a Houston Astros cap. Photo R. Anderson

Craig Biggio will become the first member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to be enshrined wearing a Houston Astros cap.
Photo R. Anderson

Failing to make the cut this year were a pair of Biggio’s former teammates, Jeff Bagwell and Roger Clemens.

Biggio received 82.7 percent of the votes (549 ballots cast). Johnson received 97.3 percent, Martinez 97.1 percent and Smoltz received 82.9 percent.

While each of the three pitchers elected to the Hall played on multiple teams during their careers, Biggio spent all of his 20-year Major League Baseball career from 1988 until 2007 with the Houston Astros.

Biggio is the 49th Hall of Famer to have played his entire career with one organization.

The seven-time All-Star will become the first player enshrined in an Astros cap when the induction ceremony is held on July 26, 2015 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

It is fitting that the Astros first Hall of Famer was born the same year that the team took on the Astros name since perhaps no other player has been so widely associated with the Astros brand as Biggio.

There are of course other players in the Hall of Fame who have played for the Astros during a portion of their career, including Nolan Ryan, whose last year with the Astros was Biggio’s first season with the team, but each of those players were inducted wearing another team cap on their Hall of Fame bust since the bulk of their success occurred on teams other than the Astros.

Craig Biggio was an Astro to the core and is often mentioned by fans as their ideal manager candidate to lead the team back to the glory days that seemed to disappear right around the same time that he retired. Photo R. Anderson

Craig Biggio was an Astro to the core and is often mentioned by fans as their ideal manager candidate to lead the team back to the glory days that seemed to disappear right around the same time that he retired.
Photo R. Anderson

In fact, fellow 2015 inductee Randy Johnson also briefly played for the Astros as a teammate to Biggio but he will not be enshrined wearing an Astros cap and will most likely have an Arizona Diamondbacks cap on his bronze statue since he won the only World Series title of his career in the desert.

Biggio was an Astro to the core and is often mentioned by fans as their ideal manager candidate to lead the team back to the glory days that seemed to disappear right around the same time that Biggio retired.

Whether he was playing catcher, outfield, or second base one consistent component of Biggio’s game was his performance at the plate.

As a member of the exclusive 3,000 hits club, Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits to become one of only 28 players to have at least 3,000-hits. Photo R. Anderson

As a member of the exclusive 3,000 hits club, Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits to become one of only 28 players to have at least 3,000-hits.
Photo R. Anderson

As a member of the exclusive 3,000 hits club, Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits to become one of only 28 players to have at least 3,000-hits. Biggio is fifth all-time in doubles and first among righthanded hitters with 668.

Whenever Biggio would come to the plate, the entire Ballpark would chant B-G-O in unison.

In true remember the glory days fashion, the Astros will honor Biggio with a public celebration at Minute Maid Park on Friday at 5 p.m. and it is likely that the B-G-O chant will once again echo through the rafters as fans pay their respects to a player who gave his all whenever he stepped onto the field.

The Astros will also offer fans a seven-game ticket plan centered on games where Biggio will be honored this season.

No word yet on whether those seven games will fall under the umbrella of dynamic pricing, or if they will be made affordable for the every day fan.

As the Astros continue to rebuild and move forward, there will no doubt be many moments this upcoming season where they look back at what was during the Biggio years.

There were certainly many memories generated during those two decades with the Astros.

I started following the Astros towards the tail end of his career but even in that short time Biggio became on of my favorite players and reminded me of a player I grew up following, Cal Ripken, Jr. Like Biggio, Ripken also played the game the right way while spending his entire career with the same team.

In this era of free agency and trading for prospects, it is entirely likely that Biggio will be the last member of the Astros to spend 20 years with the team.

Such are the economics of baseball where teams trade away their players in the same way that children used to trade baseball cards with their friends.

But once in awhile a team will stick with a proven commodity and the results can truly be Hall of Fame worthy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to dust off my Biggio shirt for one more trip to the Ballpark.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Some Ticket Stub Collectors are Buying Memories

Last week I mentioned that I wanted to dig up my ticket stub from the 1984 Citrus Bowl that I attended with my mother, grandmother and cousin.

I have pretty much every ticket stub from every sporting event I have ever attended, so I knew that if I dug deep enough I would most likely find it.

Sure enough in the wee hours of the morning Saturday I found the long lost ticket stub and a few others in a shoe box under my bed.

In 1984 endzone seats for the Florida Citrus Bowl went for $18. They have gotten much more expensive in the 30 years since. Photo R. Anderson

In 1984 end zone seats for the Florida Citrus Bowl went for $18. They have gotten much more expensive in the 30 years since.
Photo R. Anderson

As luck would have it, the shoe box was not the first place I looked for the ticket stub. I searched countless plastic totes in my quest to unearth the 30-year-old relic.

And while it took several days to find the ticket stub, and while I probably should have checked under the bed first, I did discover many other lost treasures which made the entire search quite successful.

Of course the main find, and the entire motivation for the search, was the 1984 Citrus Bowl ticket.

Some fun facts about that particular ticket stub is that an end zone seat at the1984 Citrus Bowl was only $18. I doubt that one could even get parking at a bowl game nowadays for $18 let alone a ticket to the game.

By comparison the cheapest ticket to attend the 2014 version of the Citrus Bowl was $45 and went up and up from there. Tickets for the National Championship game this year are averaging around $1700.

Economists will say that with inflation and other factors the $18 back then is comparable to today’s prices but something tells me it is still more expensive to attend a bowl game today than it was back then based on the epic growth that college football has gone through the past three decades.

While I was certainly pleased that I was able to find the ticket stub, thanks to the world of EBay and ticket stub collectors, I could have saved myself the trouble of digging through all of those plastic totes and just purchased a ticket from the game.

I never once considered the idea of purchasing a ticket online and quite frankly am surprised that there is a market for such things.

Each of the ticket stubs in my collection are attached to a memory of a game I attended as opposed to something I bought online. This particular ticket stub is from the game where I met Earl Weaver who I had looked up to for many years. Photo R. Anderson

Each of the ticket stubs in my collection are attached to a memory of a game I attended as opposed to something I bought online. This particular ticket stub is from the game where I met Earl Weaver who I had looked up to for many years.
Photo R. Anderson

As mentioned before there are three items that I try to get as a memento whenever I attend a game. Those items are a ticket stub, game program, and souvenir cup.

Each of these items are tangible extensions of my memories of attending the game and I collect them for my pleasure without worrying about what I can sell them for later.

Apparently though there is an entire industry based on selling programs, ticket stubs, and souvenir cups to anyone with an internet browser who is willing to pay the shipping and processing.

I get that if you lost a ticket stub for a game you attended as a youngster you may want to replace the item to help maintain a tangible piece to go with your memories of the game, but a larger segment appears to be buying ticket stubs for games that they did not attend.

Big sellers in the ticket stub business appear to be from marquee games.

Want to pretend you witnessed one of Nolan Ryan’s no hitters despite not even being born yet when the game took place? There is a ticket stub online for that.

A selection of Orlando Rays tickets are just some of the items in my collection. Photo R. Anderson

A selection of Orlando Rays tickets are just some of the items in my collection.
Photo R. Anderson

Want to add a Super Bowl ticket to your collection despite never setting foot in one? Click, click and it is yours.

Have you always wanted to pretend that you were there the night Kirk Gibson hit that big home run in the World Series? You know what to do.

Want to show your American pride by purchasing Olympic tickets from years gone by? You get the idea.

In this way people are purchasing other people’s memories since they did not go to the games that they are buying the ticket stubs from.

I suppose if someone wants to spend the money to own a ticket stub it is entirely their business, but in all of the years I have collected ticket stubs I have never once thought about trying to make a profit on them.

Every ticket stub in my collection is from a game that I physically attended. From professional football, baseball, hockey, basketball and various college sports, each ticket stub represents a seat that I occupied to witness that particular game with my own eyes.

Some of the ticket stubs are water logged reflecting that I battled through rain to see that particular game. Others are slightly bent from being stuffed in my pocket while I watched the game.

Each year for Spring Training I try to attend at least one Baltimore Orioles game. The tradition started in the mid 80's and has taken me to all sides of Florida. Photo R. Anderson

Each year for Spring Training I try to attend at least one Baltimore Orioles game. The tradition started in the mid 80’s and has taken me to all sides of Florida.
Photo R. Anderson

While I certainly do not need to own the ticket stub to prove that I was at the game, selling that ticket stub to someone else just seems like it would cheapen the experience and make me party to a fraud.

I certainly could be over thinking the whole buying and selling of ticket stubs, and may change my opinion at some future point, but for now the ticket stubs shall remain with their rightful owner.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a lot of plastic totes to stuff back into my closet.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

 

New Year, Same Old Resolutions

Today marks the second day of 2015.

Today also marks the time when people drag out their New Year’s resolutions which for many are the same as last year’s resolutions.

The most popular resolutions year after year tend to revolve around weight loss based on the amount of commercials flooding the airwaves this time of year for gyms and diet programs.

Turn on almost any channel and the odds are pretty good that in any given commercial break a commercial of some sort of weight loss supplement, program or device will be on.

I revolved to get healthier this year which will likely be accomplished through weight loss the old fashioned way and will not be accompanied by any crash diets or expensive gym memberships.

More power to those people who will be partaking of the fad diets, but they are not for me.

Another popular resolution this time of year involves many people searching for better jobs.

The better job can be in the form of higher salaries or just increased happiness.

Having a job where one is paid well, challenged and appreciated is always a good thing to find so it is certainly a valiant resolution to find such a thing.

Of course having a job that one enjoys can go a long way as well.

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to have many jobs where it was a joy to go to work. In some cases this was because the people I worked with made the day more bearable and in other case it was the work that was a joy to complete.

These jobs allowed me to cover many memorable events and also helped me feel like I was part of a worthwhile cause that made a difference.

There have also been jobs that I have had that sucked the creative juices out of me and were a complete drag to go to. These jobs offered little more than a chair that spun and paychecks that cleared on time.

For all of those people in those mind numbing jobs, I wish them more fruitful career pursuits in the New Year and hope that they find a rewarding job where their talents are fully utilized.

The new year is also a time for many in the media to compose lists containing the best and worst fill in the blank of the previous year.

Over the past few weeks I have read lists of everything from the best television shows of the last year to the best plays in college football.

These lists are subjective and are 100 percent in the eye of the beholder, but it can be fun to see what people found amusing in the previous year.

For the record, I will not be compiling any year end wrap up lists of what I think was the best and worst from the past year.

Of course another tradition this time of the year is the inclusion of predictions for the year ahead.

This can come in many forms but often involves an “expert” weighing in on who they feel will be the best in a given sport during the coming year.

As I have mentioned before I do not really believe in predictions involving sports teams.

There are just too many factors that can affect the outcome of a game let alone a season so trying to predict what will happen really holds little weight in my book.

The College Football Championship Game will feature Oregon and Ohio State this year. While there were certainly some people who saw that coming at the start of the year I am sure the bulk of people figure it would be Alabama and Florida State. Despite a game that was not predicted by the majority of “experts” I feel that the stage is set for one of the more competitive finals in recent years.

In the world of baseball the consensus preseason favorites for the World Series were noticeably absent in October as many unexpected teams crashed the playoff party.

In both cases the games were entertaining despite defying the predications from the enlightened minds.

My resolution for the New Year would be for people to rely less on what the “experts” say will happen in a game and to spend more time watching the games and letting them unfold as they should.

After all, if all of the outcomes in life were predetermined life would truly be a boring thing to go through.

Instead of making resolutions that will come and go just make the most of each day and be the best person that you can be. If you can do that, the rest will fall into place without the need for crash diets of celery and grapefruit.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some exercise to get to.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson