Orioles Rout White Sox and No One is There to Hear

Earlier today The Baltimore Orioles and Chicago White Sox tested the baseball equivalent of the old adage about what happens when a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it.

Instead of a forest though the two teams were in the nearly empty Oriole Pak at Camden Yards for a Major League Baseball game in which the Orioles defeated the White Sox 8-2.

The National Anthem was still played, and a stretch was still made in the seventh inning complete with the John Denver song that has entertained Birdland for the better part of four decades but something was definitely missing.

The Baltimore Orioles became the first Major League Baseball team to host a game with locked out fans. Photo R. Anderson

The Baltimore Orioles became the first Major League Baseball team to host a game with locked out fans.
Photo R. Anderson

With only players, team officials, some scouts and members of the media allowed inside the Ballpark the game marked the first time in MLB history that fans were locked out of the Ballpark when a game was going on.

While there were fans who gathered to watch the game from outside the gates no ticketed fans were allowed through the turnstiles.

With no fans inside the Ballpark home run balls and foul balls went uncaught and parts of the Ballpark were so silent one could likely hear a pin drop. Orioles Skipper Buck Showalter noted after the game that it was so quiet that he could hear the bullpen phone ringing from the other end.

As strange as playing in an empty Ballpark is today’s game was merely one of many things to occur during a strange week for the Orioles who briefly told fans that they could not leave the Ballpark on Saturday night and then saw games on Monday and Tuesday completely cancelled.

Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones and his teammates played a game in an empty Orioles Park at Camden Yards after MLB officials deemed it was unsafe to allow fans to attend. Photo R. Anderson

Baltimore Orioles center fielder Adam Jones and his teammates played a game in an empty Orioles Park at Camden Yards after MLB officials deemed it was unsafe to allow fans to attend.
Photo R. Anderson

The Orioles will also fly south this weekend for a “home” series at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays after the Rays voiced concerns about visiting Baltimore for the scheduled series between division rivals.

The reason for all of the juggling of the schedule is protests that are occurring in the neighborhoods surrounding the Ballpark which have led to the city of Baltimore imposing a 10 p.m. curfew.

Even with all of the efforts to shorten the pace of play a regular MLB game could not be finished in time for fans to all get home before 10. Ironically though the game in the empty Ballpark was finished in just a little over two hours which might lead some to believe that the ultimate way to shorten the game is to lock the fans out all the time.

With police and National Guard troops trying to restore order within Baltimore to prevent future acts of violence and looting, the Ballpark will stay silent until it is deemed safe to once again play ball.

Part of the freedom Americans have is free speech and the ability to show displeasure with things in a way that very few other countries have.

The Orioles will fly south this weekend for a "home" series at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays after the Rays voiced concerns about visiting Baltimore for the scheduled series between division rivals. Photo R. Anderson

The Orioles will fly south this weekend for a “home” series at Tropicana Field against the Tampa Bay Rays after the Rays voiced concerns about visiting Baltimore for the scheduled series between division rivals.
Photo R. Anderson

But there are limits to the protection of free speech. Just as it is illegal to yell “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire it is also illegal to burn buildings and other property as a form of protest.

The violence and destruction over the past few days takes away from those members of society who are trying to peacefully demonstrate and have their voices heard.

As is almost always the case a small minority of protestors escalated things to the level of violence so any generalizations about the behavior of all of the protestors would be false. Sadly, the actions of the few far out shadow any peaceful message that the many may have been trying to share.

And while a baseball game being played in an empty Ballpark is likely something that will be forever mentioned as part of Baseball lore and may even warrant a small exhibit at the Baseball Hall of Fame, it is those few individuals who turned to violent protests that caused the community of Baltimore to lose the economic benefit from at least six baseball games.

Granted two of the cancelled games will be made up as a doubleheader later in the season but the fact remains the protests took money out of people’s pockets.

Bars and restaurants near the Ballpark did not benefit from the game day crowds and the various vendors who sell peanuts and Cracker Jacks missed out on income from the games as well.

Hopefully the Orioles are able to come home to roost by the time of their next schedule home game, however, Major League Baseball has made it very clear that fans will not be allowed inside the Ballpark while protests are still actively occurring.

While it is certainly unfortunate that games are being played without fans and Camden Yards, the safety of the thousands of fans had to be taken into account so while it was a difficult decision to move out of Baltimore it was likely the only decision MLB felt they could make.

When the dust settles it is the images of the burning police cars and looting that most people will remember more than any peaceful demonstration that may have occurred.

In previous times of despair, such as the aftermath of the Boston Marathon Bombing, baseball has served as a way to unite the community and help heal wounds.

Hopefully baseball in Baltimore can once again unite the community to focus on being one Baltimore cheering together for the men wearing the orange and black.

That is not to say that Esskay hot dogs, and crab cakes can solve all of societies problems nor is diminishing the rights of citizens to engage in peaceful demonstrations to stand up when they feel they are being wronged.

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was one of two players to hit a home run with no fans there to catch it. Photo R. Anderson

Orioles first baseman Chris Davis was one of two players to hit a home run with no fans there to catch it.
Photo R. Anderson

Regardless of whether one agrees with the protesters or not one should agree that they have the right to demonstrate within the boundaries of the law.

It is when those protests fall outside the boundaries of the law that action, even the difficult action of looking fans out of a Ballpark, must be taken to ensure that innocent people are not harmed.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to see what sporting event will be aired next without any fans.

Copyright 2015 R Anderson

 

Texas Rangers Welcome Josh Hamilton Home

It has been said that home is where the heart is.

It has also been said that you can’t go home again.

While both of those statements may be true, through stage and screen it has been portrayed that one need only click their heels together and say, “There is no place like home” and they will be magically transported there.

Today Josh Hamilton got his wish, without the need for ruby red slippers, and is returning home to the Texas Rangers after what can only be described as a disaster of a time playing for the Los Angeles Angels.

Josh Hamilton returned to the Ballpark in Arlington where he had the bigggest years of his career after a disastrous stint in Anaheim. Photo R. Anderson

Josh Hamilton returned to the Ballpark in Arlington where he had the biggest years of his career after a disastrous stint in Anaheim.
Photo R. Anderson

In fact, the Angels were so willing to be rid of Josh Hamilton that they are paying him $68 million to go away.

In his three years with the Angels, Hamilton battled numerous injuries and watched his offensive numbers plummet while also making many more defensive errors than usual.

It was also during this time that Hamilton once again succumbed to many of his personal addictions which had almost ended his career when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays organization.

Having yet to suit up this season Hamilton last saw action in 2014 when he hit .263 with 10 homers and 44 RBI in 89 games before being sidelined from April 9-June 3 with a torn ulnar collateral ligament in his left thumb.

Things started looking up slightly for Hamilton in his final 45 regular season games when he batted .329 and ended the year with a 14-game hitting streak.

After leaving the comforts of home with the Texas Rangers Josh Hamilton never was able to equal his Lone Star success.  Photo R. Anderson

After leaving the comforts of home with the Texas Rangers Josh Hamilton never was able to equal his Lone Star success.
Photo R. Anderson

While the Angels are ready to move past the disaster of a relationship they had with Josh Hamilton, the Rangers are hoping that the player coming back to Arlington is more like the one who left in 2012 than the version of the player that struggled in the shadow of Disneyland.

While with the Rangers from 2008-12, Hamilton batted .305 with 142 home runs and 506 RBI in 647 games. He was named an All-Star in all five seasons he was with Texas, won three A.L. Silver Slugger awards, was named the Rangers Player of the Year two times, and received the American League Most Valuable Player in 2010.

It really is a small world after all that a player who left town in a flurry of angry fans can be welcomed back to ask forgiveness from those same fans that he shunned for the lights of the big city.

During a news conference at the Rangers Ballpark to announce his return Hamilton took time to address the comments he made when he left that angered some fans.

“You know, I’ve said some dumb things, and I continue to say dumb things sometimes,” Hamilton said. “I’m not gonna sit here and try to clarify all the dumb things I said cause we’d be here for a while. But I just want all the fans to know that I’m back here, I’m back home, I’m gonna give you everything I’ve got just like I did when I was here…. I’m excited about it.”

Time will tell if the fans fully embrace his return but one thing is clear Josh Hamilton needs the Rangers and the closeness of home.

That is not to say that the Dallas Metroplex is not a big city but for a player like Josh Hamilton, who has battled substance abuse issues his whole career, it was the temptations of Tinsel Town that ultimately led the Angels to give up on the troubled outfielder.

After admitting to a violation of the Major League Baseball substance abuse policy, Hamilton was cleared by an arbitrator who deemed that a suspension was not needed.

Usually this would make almost any team happy to learn that they would not have a player suspended. Of course the Angels took the opposite approach and were angered that Hamilton would not be punished for his most recent fall off of the wagon.

With a full no trade clause in his contract the Angels could not just trade away their problems to just anyone. They had to find a team that would embrace Josh Hamilton and accept all of the baggage that went along with that.

Former Los Angels Angel Josh Hamilton will continue to face is former team in division play as a member of the Texas Rangers. Photo R. Anderson

Former Los Angels Angel Josh Hamilton will continue to face is former team in division play as a member of the Texas Rangers.
Photo R. Anderson

That team is the Texas Rangers who already had a support system in place to try to keep Josh Hamilton away from his demons.

With Hamilton being closer to the end of his career than the beginning the Rangers are likely his last chance to show that he still belongs in Major League Baseball.

Of course Josh Hamilton is more than just a baseball player and he noted during the news conference that he understands that careers are finite.

“The reason I’m making certain changes in my life is because I want to be okay when baseball’s over,” Hamilton said.

As an addict who plays baseball, Josh Hamilton has a large platform to use to help warn younger players, and people in general of the dangers of addiction.

If the past is any indication Hamilton will use that platform to the best of his ability within the Dallas area and beyond and perhaps that is what the Texas Rangers need the most.

After spending time in extended Spring Training in Arizona Hamilton is expected to make his return to the Rangers in mid to late May which will be homecoming day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to decide which Rangers games I am going to go to this year.

Copyright 2015 R Anderson

Wallet Lost, Good People Found

The other day I did something that I have never done at a Ballpark, and hope to never do again.

That something was becoming separated from my wallet.

Through the years I have attended games at many Ballparks from Little League to Major League and every league in between.

At each of those games my wallet and I remained attached at the back pocket from the time I entered the Ballpark until the time I left.

Sure the wallet would come out from time to time to purchase concessions or souvenirs but after each transaction was completed the wallet would return to the security of Mr. Pocket despite the discomfort of sitting on a wallet on a hard plastic seat.

Saturday's Houston Astros game started with three astronauts throwing out ceremonial pitches and ended with a frantic search for a lost wallet. Photo R. Anderson

Saturday’s Houston Astros game started with three astronauts throwing out ceremonial pitches and ended with a frantic search for a lost wallet.
Photo R. Anderson

For some unknown reason during a recent visit to Minute Maid Park my wallet decided that it no longer wanted to be in my pocket and decided to venture out on its own.

I did not realize that my wallet had gone on a walkabout until I was standing on the lower concourse after leaving my seat on the upper concourse.

Upon first realizing that my wallet was no longer tucked safely inside my pocket, my first thought was that perhaps I had been the victim of a pick pocket since several people had bumped into me during my trek through the mass of humanity within the facility.

My next thought regarding my lost wallet was that perhaps I was not the victim of a pick pocket and instead it had fallen out somewhere along my journey between the highest point of the Ballpark and the lowest.

Shortly after watching George Springer cross home plate after a solo home run I was greeted by the sinking feeling of an empty back pocket where my wallet should have been. Photo R. Anderson

Shortly after watching George Springer cross home plate after a solo home run I was greeted by the sinking feeling of an empty back pocket where my wallet should have been.
Photo R. Anderson

I decided that the only course of action was to retrace my steps and hope that the needle that was my wallet could be located within the hay stack that was Minute Maid Park.

As I began my sprint back to the upper deck I allowed my thoughts to drift to the worst case scenario that at that very moment someone had my wallet and was up to no good.

While I was certainly not hoping for a worst case outcome, I knew that I needed to prepare myself in case that turned out to be what happened.

I knew that in this scenario whatever cash I had in the wallet was gone along with my driver’s license and credit cards.

There was nothing I could do about the lost cash, so I focused on the credit cards and who I would need to call to report the cards as stolen. While it would be a hassle to call them I knew that it was the only way to protect myself in the event the cards were stolen.

Ironically it was not the potential loss of cash, nor the loss of the credit cards that had me the most upset.

The view of the grounds crew raking the field was nice. Sprinting from the lower bowl to the upper deck in record time was not quite as nice. Photo R. Anderson

The view of the grounds crew raking the field was nice. Sprinting from the lower bowl to the upper deck in record time was not quite as nice.
Photo R. Anderson

The thought that troubled me the most as I ran up the three sets of escalators, was that I was going to have to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a new driver’s license.

It is sad that the DMV was the place I most dreaded, but as anyone who has spent an afternoon waiting in line can attest it really is a fate worse than lost cash or credit cards.

Speaking of the escalators, as I approached the usher at the top of the last one he looked briefly like he was going to tell me not to run but I must have had a look of either shear motivation or madness that told him to step aside and let me through.

Clearly I was a man on a mission.

About a hundred or so paces from the escalator was the tunnel that led to the section where my seat had been.

After turning the corner and entering the tunnel I saw another usher holding something brown that looked surprisingly like my walkabout wallet.

As I got closer I could tell that the light at the end of the tunnel, or in this case the brown object in the usher’s hand, was in fact my wallet.

The view from the top where a kind stranger helped ensure a wallet lost would be a wallet found. Photo R. Anderson

The view from the top where a kind stranger helped ensure a wallet lost would be a wallet found.
Photo R. Anderson

Although I was out of breath from my multilevel sprint I managed to utter the words, “That is mine, thank you.”

Without a word in return the usher gave me my wallet and I turned around to head back to the lower concourse.

All of the worst case scenarios that I had feared, including that trip to the DMV, were no longer in danger of coming to pass.

My wallet, complete with cash, credit cards and driver’s license was once again safely in my pocket.

I still do not know how my wallet managed to extradite itself from my pocket, nor do I know exactly who found it and gave it to the usher.

What I do know is that someone in Section 410 of Minute Maid Park did the right thing and turned a situation that could have been very bad into something very good.

While I certainly don’t wish the stress of a sprint to find a lost wallet on anyone, sometimes it is those things that are needed in order to see the big picture.

Even though newspapers and television newscasts seem to be filled with only the stories of all of the bad things happening in the world, now and then it is important to be reminded that there are still good people in the world.

So to whoever found and returned my wallet last Saturday night I say, “thank you,” not only for the return of the wallet but for also showing a complete stranger an act of kindness and compassion.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to buy some shorts with a Velcro closure on the back pocket to keep my wallet from further unapproved walkabouts.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Major League Baseball Takes Time Today to Honor a Trailblazer

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

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

Just last week the 150th anniversary of the end of the United States Civil War was celebrated at Appomattox Court House, Virginia where General Robert E. Lee surrendered to General Ulysses S. Grant.

While Appomattox Court House is certainly among the central historical places in America, memorials of all shapes and sizes can be found from sea to shining sea as a way of helping to ensure that history is not forgotten.

Of course sometimes a memorial is not made out of brick and stone but is instead comprised of flesh and blood.

Today marks one of those occasions to remember and honor a flesh and blood memorial who, against all odds, changed the face of the country.

Each year on April 15 Major League Baseball teams stop to remember Jackie Robinson. Photo R. Anderson

Each year on April 15 Major League Baseball teams stop to remember Jackie Robinson.
Photo R. Anderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jackie Robinson Day at Minute Maid Park.  Photo R. Anderson

Jackie Robinson Day at Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In 1997, on the 50th Anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s first game,  Major League Baseball retired the number 42 on all teams in honor of Jackie Robinson. As part of the number retirement players who were still wearing 42 were grandfathered in and allowed to keep wearing the number for the remainder of their careers.

Following Mariano Rivera’s retirement at the end of the 2013 season no player will ever again wear the number 42 in Major League Baseball.

There are still trails to blaze in a variety of areas and memorials will continue to be built for those individuals who conquer that new ground. But each new trail that is blazed is built upon the foundation of those who showed the way through their own courage.

History is a great thing to honor but the promise of the future can be equally exciting.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to figure out how to keep track of all of these 42’s on my scorecard.

Copyright 2015 R Anderson

Pace of Play Shows Nothing Gold Can Stay

When I was a senior in high school I had to memorize the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” as part of an English assignment.

Whenever I am dealt setbacks, or encounter things that make no sense to me logically, I often think of that poem and its message of the inability of golden things to last forever and the inevitable decay that takes their place.

I was reminded of that poem the other day when I read a story about a lake near Boulder, Colorado that contained thousands of goldfish.

Now before you bemoan the fact that your local swimming hole is not filled with thousands of goldfish, rest assured that goldfish are not native to Colorado either.

It seems that at some point someone put a few pet goldfish into the lake and over time those goldfish begat more goldfish which ushered in the circle of life that the animated lion and his friends sang about.

An unknown number of pet goldfish were placed in a Boulder, Colorado lake and have now swarmed to a school of thousands. Photo R. Anderson

An unknown number of pet goldfish like these were placed in a Boulder, Colorado lake and have now swarmed to a school of thousands.
Photo R. Anderson

As well intentioned as the person, or persons, were when they added the goldfish to the lake, the resulting swell in goldfish population has led Colorado wildlife officials on a search for a way to remove the invasive species.

Most likely the remediation plan will result in the death of the goldfish either through draining of the lake or electroshock since someone has determined that while goldfish have a place in man-made aquariums they do not belong in a man-made lake.

That’s right the entire lake is invasive itself if one really stops to think about it.

Personally I think the people of Boulder are sitting on a gold mine and missing a golden opportunity. I mean how many other towns can say that they have a huge goldfish pond?

I would leave the goldfish where they are and promote the lake as a golden pond where people young and old can come and see goldfish that have grown much larger than they would have grown were they swimming around in a little fish bowl.

But sometimes people fail to see the gold that is in front of them and instead bring on the decay by invoking change when no change is needed.

Take for example the efforts to speed up the game of baseball.

For the past 10 seasons or so the average length of a Major League Baseball game has increased. Last season the average duration of a nine-inning baseball game clocked in at a record 3 hours, 2 minutes, up from 2 hours and 33 minutes in 1981.

As such, Major League Baseball is seeking to shorten the game through pace of play initiatives such as requiring a batter to keep at least one foot in the batter’s box at all times.

Players who step out of the batter’s box will be fined since they are lengthening the game by taking too much time between pitches.

Personally I do not think that batters stepping out of the box is a bad thing and often enjoy some of the comical routines that players do between pitches.

Former Houston Astro Hunter Pence was an especially fun player to watch in the batter's box since he took his batting helmet off between pitches and rubbed it on his elbow each time without fail. photo/R. Anderson

Former Houston Astro Hunter Pence was an especially fun player to watch in the batter’s box since he took his batting helmet off between pitches and rubbed it on his elbow each time without fail.
photo/R. Anderson

Hunter Pence was especially fun to watch when he was with the Houston Astros since he took his batting helmet off between pitches and rubbed it on his elbow each time without fail.

If I were going to change something about the game to make it go faster, I would limit the number of pitching changes that were allowed.

The trend of pitching specialists who only face a single batter is ludicrous and is the real reason games are longer.

Unless an injury replacement is needed teams should be limited to no more than four pitchers in a nine-inning game.

Additional pitchers could be used in an extra inning game but I see few reasons why a team cannot field a competitive nine-inning game with four pitchers.

Speaking of pitchers, another time saving innovation in the pipeline is a pitch clock where pitchers have a set amount of time to pitch. Go over the pitch clock and the batter is awarded a ball.

The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball was the first to use a pitch clock last year and this year pitch clocks have made their way into affiliated Triple-A and Double-A Minor League Baseball Ballparks.

Under the pace of play rules Minor League pitchers have 2 minutes and 25 seconds to begin their windup or come to set between innings, and 20 seconds between pitches.

The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball was the first to use a pitch clock when the Sugar Land Skeeters and other teams implemented it last year. Photo R. Anderson

The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball was the first to use a pitch clock when the Sugar Land Skeeters and other teams implemented it last year.
Photo R. Anderson

Part of the beauty of baseball that is getting lost in all of this is that baseball is the only professional sport without a game clock of any kind.

The action is controlled by the number of outs, not the number of seconds.

I see no reason to change that.

As for some other sports that do have clocks, they are close to the length of a baseball game and do not offer any more on field action.

In 2010 the Wall Street Journal conducted a study on the amount of action in a National Football League game and discovered that 11 minutes of the average NFL game can be considered action.

For the purpose of the study action was considered the time that the ball was snapped until the play was whistled dead by the referees.

While listening to people shout “Omaha, hut, hut” can be fun, it was not listed in the action category.

By comparison the Wall Street Journal determined that a fan will see 17 minutes and 58 seconds of action over the course of a three-hour MLB game.

Items considered action as part of the Journal’s study included balls in play, runner advancement attempts on stolen bases, wild pitches, pitches, home run trots, walks and hit-by-pitches, and pickoff throws.

With the average MLB ticket price far below the average NFL ticket price it is clear that baseball offers fans much more bang for their buck and nearly eight more minutes of action.

If something is not broken there is no need to tinker with the formula.

And if someone does not have the attention span to sit through a three-hour baseball game, no amount of tinkering can fix that.

Koi are common in fish ponds, pet goldfish not so much. Photo R. Anderson

Koi are common in fish ponds, pet goldfish not so much.
Photo R. Anderson

Instead, continued tinkering will likely alienate long term fans.

Just as the Colorado goldfish should be left to swim out their days in peace, the game of baseball should be left to unfold as it has for the past century or so without adding a pitch clock or whatever other effort is proposed in the name of time saving.

But of course as Robert Frost taught me all those years ago in Mrs. Phillips’ English class, nothing gold can stay.

Now if you’ll excuse me, it is time to feed my fish.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson