Category Archives: Ballparks

Triple B Flashback: Mount Rushmore of Managers Gets Hall Invite

Editor’s Note: For the remainder of June we will be counting down our 10 favorite columns as we celebrate summer vacation. Coming in at number 9 on our countdown is a column from December 11, 2013.

The other day it was announced that Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre, who rank third, fourth and fifth, respectively, on the career list of Major League Baseball managerial victories, were elected unanimously to the Baseball Hall of Fame by the expansion-era committee.

La Russa, Cox and Torre combined for 7,558 wins and eight World Series championships. Individually each of them surpassed 2,000 wins. No manager with at least 2000 wins has ever been excluded from admittance to Cooperstown.

Until this week Earl Weaver stood alone on my Mount Rushmore of Hall of Fame managers. Bobbie Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre will soon join the late Earl of Baltimore.

Until this week Earl Weaver stood alone on my Mount Rushmore of Hall of Fame managers. Bobbie Cox, Tony La Russa and Joe Torre will soon join the late Earl of Baltimore.

With their election to the Hall of Fame each of the three managers earn a place on my personal Mount Rushmore of managers joining former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver, who until now had been a floating head of granite awaiting the arrival of some companions in the mountain of my mind.

Granted placing imaginary heads of granite on a mythical “Mount Rushmore” is a purely subjective exercise. A case could be made for many other worthy managers to be included.

Arguments can be made about the various eras of baseball and how to weigh the accomplishments of managers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries with the managers of the modern era.

Even the actual Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, which features larger than life busts of presidents Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln, is occasionally the subject of revisionist desire.

There was a time when people thought the “Gipper” himself Ronald Reagan deserved to be forever etched in stone on the side of a mountain.

Some folks even went so far as to say that the “Roughrider” himself Teddy Roosevelt could be surgically altered and transformed into the face of Ronald Reagan.

In the end Mount Rushmore was left as is and an airport and other things were named after President Regan instead.

So with the understanding firmly established that the Mount Rushmore of managers is in the eye of the beholder, or in this case the eye of the writer, I will make my case as to why I feel Tony La Russa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre deserve to be on my Mount Rushmore.

For starters it should be noted that until 2011 all three men were managers during my awareness of baseball.

Granted there were a few years where I was alive and they weren’t managing but from my earliest baseball memories to my earliest baseball cards all three men were in the dugout guiding their teams.

In fact each of the three men began their careers as managers within two years of each other, between 1977 and ’79, and concluded their stay between 2010 and 2011.

It has seemed odd the last few years without having at least one of them managing. The absence of Lou Pinella in a Major League Baseball dugout is also taking some getting used to as he was another manager that just always seemed to be there along with Jim Leyland.

Adding to the granite worthiness of Cox, La Russa and Torre is the fact that each of them managed in both the National and American Leagues showing adaptability to the nuances of the two styles of play.

Bobby Cox spent 25 of his 29 seasons with the Atlanta Braves in the National League. The other four seasons were spent with the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League.

Bobby Cox spent 25 of his 29 seasons with the Atlanta Braves in the National League. The other four seasons were spent with the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League.

Bobby Cox spent 25 of his 29 seasons with the Atlanta Braves in the National League. The other four seasons were spent with the Toronto Blue Jays in the American League.

Under Cox the Braves won 14 consecutive division titles from 1991-2005 and one World Series title in 1995. Cox also led the Toronto Blue Jays to their first AL East title in 1985.

As I have mentioned before my grandmother is a huge Atlanta Braves fan so whenever I would visit we would watch the Bobby Cox led Braves play. I also had the opportunity to see Cox and the Braves in person a few times at Minute Maid Park when they came to town to play the Houston Astros.

I also was able to see Tony La Russa on many occasions at Minute Maid Park when he was manager of the St. Louis Cardinals. In total La Russa managed for 33 seasons with 17 seasons in the American League and 16 seasons in the National League.

In total Tony La Russa managed for 33 seasons with 17 seasons in the American League and 16 seasons in the National League. Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson is the only other manager to win World Series in both leagues.

In total Tony La Russa managed for 33 seasons with 17 seasons in the American League and 16 seasons in the National League. Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson is the only other manager to win World Series in both leagues.

La Russa seized the opportunity to go out on top when he retired shortly after guiding the St. Louis Cardinals to their second World Series title under his watch in 2011. In addition to his two titles with St. Louis La Russa also won the World Series in 1989 with the Oakland Athletics and joined Hall of Famer Sparky Anderson as the only managers to win World Series in both leagues.

Of course one could also say that Sparky deserves a spot on the Mount Rushmore of managers based on his stellar career as well but let us not muddy the waters before getting to the last candidate for granite infamy.

Joe Torre managed 17 seasons in the National League and 12 with the Yankees in the American League. Like Cox Torre managed the Atlanta Braves, and like La Russa Torre managed the St. Louis Cardinals.

Although Torre’s success with the Braves and Cardinals was nowhere near the level that Cox and La Russa had with those organizations he did eventually find a favorable situation in New York.

Joe Torre began his career as a manager with the New York Mets and had an 894-1,003 managerial record over 14 seasons with the Mets, Cardinals and Braves when he joined the Yankees. During a 12-year run with the New York Yankees that started in 1996 Torre’s teams earned four World Series titles in his first five seasons, six American League pennants in eight years, and compiled a record of 1,173-767.

Joe Torre began his career as a manager with the New York Mets and had an 894-1,003 managerial record over 14 seasons with the Mets, Cardinals and Braves when he joined the Yankees. During a 12-year run with the New York Yankees that started in 1996 Torre’s teams earned four World Series titles in his first five seasons, six American League pennants in eight years, and compiled a record of 1,173-767.

Torre began his career as a manager with the New York Mets and had an 894-1,003 managerial record over 14 seasons with the Mets, Cardinals and Braves when he joined the Yankees.

During a 12-year run with the New York Yankees that started in 1996 Torre’s teams earned four World Series titles in his first five seasons, six American League pennants in eight years, and compiled a record of 1,173-767.

Although I was never able to see Torre in person when he was with the Yankees I did get to see his team in action when he was with the Los Angeles Dodgers where he won two NL West crowns before retiring after the 2010 season.

So there you have it, three newly minted Hall of Famers and three former managers who careers are worthy of carving into stone.

Let the arguments continue over the Mount Rushmore of managers. For me my mountain is set. One might go so far as say it is written in stone.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to start planning the next group of people that should be etched into granite. Quint, we’re going to need a bigger mountain.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Triple B Flashback: Hit the Bull, WIn a Steak

Editor’s Note:  For the remainder of June we will be counting down our 10 favorite columns as we celebrate summer vacation. Coming in at number 10 on our countdown is a column from June 14, 2013 where we took a look at the 25th Anniversary of Bull Durham.

Tomorrow marks the 25th anniversary of the release of a movie about the ins and outs of Minor League Baseball.

The movie that is causing all of the hoopla is of course Bull Durham, or as I like to call it the base of the Kevin Costner baseball movie triangle that also includes Field of Dreams and For Love of the Game. While Bull Durham enjoyed modest success during its theatrical run, it gained wider popularity in the years following to the point that celebrating the quarter century mark since it was released is kind of a big deal.

Tomorrow marks the 25th Anniversary of Bull Durham and people have been quoting lines from it ever since. Photo R. Anderson

Tomorrow marks the 25th Anniversary of Bull Durham and people have been quoting lines from it ever since.
Photo R. Anderson

While each of the sides of the Kevin Costner Baseball Triangle are good in their own ways I have always identified more with the comedy infused Durham.

I still watch both Bull Durham and Field of Dreams each year at the start of the baseball season and both still make me laugh and cry in various ways so many years later.

I suppose Bull Durham resonates with me so well because while I was never a Minor League Baseball player I was very much a Minor League Baseball fan and was attending games around the same time that the movie came out.

So the movie showed me the parts of Minor League life that I didn’t see from my view in the stands.

The movie also provided several concepts that I use even today as part of my daily life.

The concept of creating your own rain delay when the grind gets to tough and you just need a day to catch your breath is a theme that I have embraced from the movie. While I have never turned on the sprinklers in the office I have certainly found ways to give everyone a rain day here and there.

The movie also provided many timeless quotes with some of them being appropriate for repeating and some best left to the professionals.

In that respect, the current members of the Durham Bulls, the real-life team that inspired the team in the movie, made a hilarious video reenacting some of the crazier lines from the film. What makes the video of the players recreating the lines so funny, and perhaps makes the rest of us feel a little old, is the fact that many of the players were not alive when the movie first came out.

There is something for everyone in the Kevin Costner Baseball Triangle.  Photo R. Anderson

There is something for everyone in the Kevin Costner Baseball Triangle.
Photo R. Anderson

Another interesting aspect of the real life Durham Bulls is that they serve as the Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays who were 10 years away from existing at the time of the film’s release. As a bit of trivia the Bulls were a Single-A affiliate at the time the movie was made and were owned by one of the filmmakers.

But enough about things that weren’t around when the movie came out. It is time to focus on something highlighted in the movie that is no longer around.

In the movie and in real life, Max Patkin was the Clown Prince of Baseball. For over 50 years Patkin went to Minor League ballparks across the country and Canada performing his baseball clown act.

I was fortunate enough to see Patkin perform during an Orlando Sun Rays game at Tinker Field. Patkin’s act was shown in several scenes and Patkin himself got a dance to himself later in the movie.

While it was clear that Patkin was closer to the end of his performing career than the beginning by the time Bull Durham came out it, to this day when I watch his performance scenes it is like I am right there watching him in person and trying to avoid getting sprayed by his water trick.

Although he died in 1999 Patkin will forever live on in his scenes from Bull Durham. That is both a testament to the man himself and to the filmmakers for recognizing the important role he played in conveying the essence of Minor League Baseball.

Another staple of both the movie and Minor League Baseball in general is road trips on a bus. Unlike the Major League players who travel in first class chartered planes, the Minor League players arrive by bus for all of their road trips.

Not much has changed with the Durham Bulls logo since Bull Durham came out. It is still one of the more iconic and recognized looks in the Minor Leagues. Photo R. Anderson

Not much has changed with the Durham Bulls logo since Bull Durham came out. It is still one of the more iconic and recognized looks in the Minor Leagues.
Photo R. Anderson

When Michael Jordan tried to make it as a baseball player in the late 80’s he bought a luxury bus for the Birmingham Barons to use. Still despite the “luxury” bus features it is hard to picture Air Jordan traveling through the cities of the Southern League in a bus.

As for the bus that was used in the movie, that was purchased by a man named Dale Earnhardt Jr. Earnhardt is someone who knows a thing or two about motorized vehicles.

While Bull Durham has stood the test of time for 25 years, every once in a while a rumor surfaces about a potential sequel being made. Sequels can certainly be tricky business as few ever really are as good as the first or meet the lofty expectations set for them.

But, even with all of that being said I would still watch a sequel to Bull Durham. Do I think it could ever be as good as the first movie? Probably not. But, it does not have to be as good as the first movie. It just needs to help show where the characters ended up some 25 years after we left them on the porch and field.

I have my own ideas about what happened to the characters so if a sequel is never made I will still carry on my version of the story in my head. But it would be nice to see the cast get back together for one more trip around the bases.

Now if you’ll excuse me I am off to swing for the fences and see if I can hit the bull to win a steak. And remember “This is a very simple game. You throw the ball, you catch the ball, you hit the ball. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose, sometimes it rains.”

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

Fate of Tal’s Hill at Minute Maid Park Decided by Astros

After threatening to bulldoze over a unique feature of Minute Maid Park for the past few years, the Houston Astros made their threats official yesterday when they signed the death warrant for the quirky little incline in center field known as Tal’s Hill.

Tal’s Hill, named for former Astros executive Tal Smith, and a feature of Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000, will be leveled at the end of the 2015 season and replaced by a $15 million redesign that will be ready in time for Opening Day 2016.

Highlights of the redesign that were announced by the Astros include, field level seats in center field, a new section of seats atop the field-level boxes, an observation tower with a winding staircase as well as a see-through elevator equipped with LED lights with the Astros’ name and logo, and adding a smaller, self-contained section of mezzanine seats to replace three sections of current seats that will be removed as part of the redesign.

Tal's Hill, a fixture in Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000, will be removed at the end of the current season to make room for more revenue generating areas. Photo R. Anderson

Tal’s Hill, a fixture in Minute Maid Park since it opened in 2000, will be removed at the end of the current season to make room for more revenue generating areas.
Photo R. Anderson

Additionally, as part of the makeover the Astros will move the center field fence in from 436 feet, the deepest in Major League Baseball, to 409 feet while reducing seating capacity by about a hundred seats.

From the ashes of Tal’s Hill’s 30-degree, 27-foot-long incline will arise more space to entertain fans at premium prices.

While not coming right out and saying it, it is pretty obvious that as long as the are corporate sponsors and business willing to pay for premium seating areas teams will continue to build them while reducing the number of seats for the working class fan.

A few years back the press box at Minute Maid Park was moved up a level to make room for a lounge behind home plate. While reporters still cover the team I guess the real estate they previously occupied while doing their jobs was deemed to valuable to waste on media members.

A few years back the press box at Minute Maid Park was moved up a level to make room for a lounge behind home plate. While reporters still cover the team I guess the real estate they previously occupied while doing their jobs was deemed to valuable to waste on media members. Photo R. Anderson

A few years back the press box at Minute Maid Park was moved up a level to make room for a lounge behind home plate. While reporters still cover the team I guess the real estate they previously occupied while doing their jobs was deemed to valuable to waste on media members.
Photo R. Anderson

So now where the press box once stood is a super exclusive seating area where tickets likely are $600 to $1000 a game, if not more.

So if even a press box is not sacred why let a unique feature such as Tal’s Hill get in the way of revenue generating opportunities?

After all, much to the chagrin of team officials while it was popular with the fans for 15 years all Tal’s Hill did was sit there and grow grass.

Marcel Braithwaite, the Astros’ senior vice president of baseball operations was quoted in the Houston Chronicle as saying that, “Communal areas like this are what the fans want. They want to watch the games with their friends and family, they want to see what other game are going on. We are looking to create destination areas, gathering places that enable you to enjoy the game with a good vantage point while enjoying some good food and drink and spending time together.”

It very well may be a generation gap thing but I have always felt that the main reason to go to a baseball game is to see the game on the field and take in the sights and sounds of a Ballpark experience while snacking on hot dogs and other baseball concession staples at my seat.

Through all of my years attending games in both a professional and strictly fan scenario I have never thought that I want to sit in a lounge or sports bar atmosphere at the Ballpark while a game goes on in the background.

Unfortunately the new trend in Ballpark design is creating immersive environments and mini bars where one can stay an entire game without actually seeing the action on the field.

Adam Jones and the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Houston Astros on the day it was announced that Tal's Hill would disappear at the end of the season. As a center fielder Jones had a close up view of the unique incline in the outfield whenever he visited Minute Maid Park. Photo R. Anderson

Adam Jones and the Baltimore Orioles defeated the Houston Astros on the day it was announced that Tal’s Hill would disappear at the end of the season. As a center fielder Jones had a close up view of the unique incline in the outfield whenever he visited Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course these areas need to include Wi-Fi hotspots as well to cater to the constantly plugged in fan of the 21st Century.

It seems to me that is someone is wanting to watch the game on a big screen television and eat pub food with their friends there are cheaper ways to do that then paying for a ticket to the ballgame if one has little desire to watch much of the ballgame.

Of course in this social media fueled Millennial madness I suppose they feel it is better to tag their Instagram posts with pictures from inside the Ballpark when they take a chance to remember that they are at a baseball game.

So like the press box before it Tal’s Hill will go to make room for yet another revenue stream in the form of gathering places and towers of light.

At least the outfield is not covered by large billboards that block the architectural elements of the Ballpark.  Oh wait, never mind.

Besides making room for more revenue streams, another reason given for the demolition of Tal’s Hill was concerns for the safety of players. In the 15 years that the hill has been there to my knowledge there have not been any major injuries.

Next season the outfield at Minute Maid Park will look very different. Photo R. Anderso

Next season the outfield at Minute Maid Park will look very different.
Photo R. Anderson

Or to put it another way, I can worry about 99 ways for a player to get injured, but a hill with a pitch ain’t one.

The removal of Tal’s Hill is unfortunate and I think that it is a mistake. It is not the first mistake that the Astros have made and it will not be the last.

Unfortunately each mistake adds fuel to the fire of me questioning how many more times I will visit Minute Maid Park.

I have already greatly reduced the number of games that I attend each year as I do not find the Ballpark experience as exciting as it used to be. That is not to say that I will no longer support the Astros if I stop going to see them in person.

I have never been the type of person who believes that the biggest fans of a team are determined by being the biggest spenders or the ones who attend the most games.

There are diehard fans in every sport who have never had the opportunity to see their teams play in person either through financial or geographic limitations.

That does not make them any less of a fan. In fact in some ways it might make them a bigger fan since they actually pay attention to the team more than an amenity such as a revenue generating lounge.

The Astros are winning more so that will bring in a new crop of fans so in the grand scheme of things I am sure they will not miss the hundreds of dollars that I used to spend in their facility.

With Tal's Hill disappearing the next unique feature that the Astros will likely want to get rid of is the train that moves and whistles whenever the Astros hit a home run. I am sure there is some revenue generating oprion up there on the tracks with the train out of the way. Photo R. Anderson

With Tal’s Hill disappearing the next unique feature that the Astros will likely want to get rid of is the train that moves and whistles whenever the Astros hit a home run. I am sure there is some revenue generating option up there on the tracks with the train out of the way.
Photo R. Anderson

The locomotive of baseball continues to chug along and people get on and off of the train at various stops along the way.

Speaking of trains I suppose the next unique feature that the Astros will want to get rid of is the train that moves and whistles whenever the Astros hit a home run.

After all, it is not like the site of the Ballpark is built on the grounds of the old Union Station railroad yard where it would make sense to have a locomotive as a tie to the past. Oh wait, never mind.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to mourn the loss of a pile of dirt.

Copyright 2015 R Anderson

Remembering the Sacrifices this Memorial Day

One of my favorite quotes is, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it” by Winston Churchill.

There are variations of this quote that have been attributed to many other people through the years, but they all share the common thread that we are to remember and learn from the past.

To this end we set up memorials as a tool to help us remember, lest we forget and be doomed to make the same mistakes again and again.

The Battle of Galveston is reenacted yearly. The Civil War led to what would become Memorial Day. Photo R. Anderson

The Battle of Galveston is reenacted yearly. The Civil War led to what would become Memorial Day.
Photo R. Anderson

In Washington D.C. for example there are over 130 memorials honoring everything from the founding fathers, to fallen soldiers to help ensure that the sacrifices of those who have come before us are always remembered.

While the concentration of memorials in D.C. works out to roughly one memorial every two miles, there are memorials spread throughout the world honoring sacrifice of all shapes and sizes.

In fact, today is Memorial Day which is a Federal Holiday that we set aside for memorials and remembrance each year on the final Monday of May.

It is a day of remembrance and a time to honor the men and women who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.

Formerly known as Decoration Day, it originated after the United States Civil War to honor soldiers on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line who lost their lives in battle.

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who fought and died for our freedom. Photo R. Anderson

Memorial Day is a time to honor those who fought and died for our freedom.
Photo R. Anderson

Memorial Day was expanded in the last century to honor all Americans who have died while in the military service.

While dating back to the war between the states, in recent years Memorial Day has also marked the start of the summer vacation season with Labor Day acting as the second bookend in September to signal the end of the summer season.

Over the course of the past weekend families traveled all over to enjoy time in the sun and surf as they officially left winter behind and embraced the feeling of summer.

As part of the holiday weekend, numerous television networks used the time to air marathons of their most popular shows to capture the attention of those viewers who were not out in the sun catching waves or barbecuing as their way of celebrating the weekend.

Major League Baseball honored those who paid the ultimate sacrifice by wearing camouflage on their hats and uniforms during their games today.

Large flags and camouflage hats mark Memorial Day across Major League Baseball each year. Photo R. Anderson

Large flags and camouflage hats mark Memorial Day across Major League Baseball each year.
Photo R. Anderson

For those people who do not want to celebrate the weekend at the beach or Ballpark, Memorial Day weekend also features three of the biggest auto races on the yearly calendar in the forms of the Grand Prix of Monaco, Indianapolis 500, and the soda company sponsored 600 mile NASCAR race in Charlotte.

Of course, not every Memorial Day tribute includes direct commercial time-ins.

Juan Pablo Montoya kicked off Memorial Day with a win in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500. Photo R. Anderson

Juan Pablo Montoya kicked off Memorial Day eve with a win in the 99th running of the Indianapolis 500.
Photo R. Anderson

There is one Memorial Day tradition that still tends to get me choked up and seems to honor the fallen in the way the holiday was intended if not with a bit of a 21st Century feel.

I am referring to the Memorial Day Weekend NASCAR race. Each year the pre-race show includes a strong military presence, bagpipers, and Taps being played.

NASCAR is arguably the most commercialized of the major American sports with advertisements seeming to cover every spare square inch of both driver and car. But, when it comes to pausing to honor the troops they tend to get it right year after year.

NASCAR has a long history of supporting the troops and offers a stirring tribute before its annual Memorial Day Race. Photo R. Anderson

NASCAR has a long history of supporting the troops and offers a stirring tribute before its annual Memorial Day Race.
Photo R. Anderson

It is hard not to feel the sacrifice that was being made when watching the pre-race ceremony and hearing those bag pipes and lone bugle mournfully wail.

Of course the part where they roll out the extremely large American flag, a staple of most sporting events these days, is another nice touch.

Americans owe their freedom to the sacrifice made by countless soldiers and I am glad that we have holidays, and pre-race ceremonies where we can be reminded of that.

Unfortunately, I fear that in the coming years the commercial aspects of holidays like Memorial Day will overtake the true meanings behind them.

Instead of being a time where Americans all pause to remember the sacrifices made by those that came before them, I fear that the holiday will complete its transformation into a holiday where travelers merely focus on the cars before them as they rush to their weekend getaways, or catch up on those projects that the extra day off from work allows them to finally tackle.

So while you are enjoying that extra day off of work, or grilling some meat on the grill, or even grilling your flesh on the sand today, take some time to think of the sacrifice of the fallen soldiers.

It is often said that freedom isn’t free and that it comes at a great cost. Days like Memorial Day allow us to remember that cost and appreciate the freedom a little more.

If you happen to come across a member of the Armed Forces today in your travels to and from the beach or that store with the huge sale on mattresses take a moment to tell them thanks for doing their part to keep us free to enjoy those sandy shores and have the means to purchase that mattress with 90 days same as cash financing.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have the urge to cook something on an open flame and see if I can find a solider to thank for my right to make that burger extra crispy.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Hinchcliffe Wreck Shows Risk of Injuries are Part of Everyday Life for Athletes

Every day life is full of risks if one really stops to think about it.

There is the risk of stubbing one’s toe while fumbling in the dark all the way to the risk that someone will run into the back of your car while you are stopped at a light.

For professional athletes there are the every day toe stubbing risks that the average person faces along with the risk that in some cases they might be seriously injured or even die at work due to the inherent risks associated with what they do for a living.

James Hinchcliffe (shown in Winner's Circle after the 2013 Grand Prix of Houston) recently reminded people that driving Indy Cars is risky business. Photo R. Anderson

James Hinchcliffe (shown in Winner’s Circle during the 2013 Grand Prix of Houston) recently reminded people that driving Indy Cars is risky business.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, police officers, firefighters, and members of the military are among the many professions who also put their life’s at risk so in no way do I want to come across as saying that athletes are the only ones with risky professions.

There are countless men and women working tirelessly at dangerous jobs every day who deserve our thanks for keeping us protected.

Usually their jobs do not have them in arenas full of screaming fans while they perform the risky work though. In that way professional athletes really are in a league of their own when it comes to performing risky behavior in front of the masses.

One of those athletes who does risky work in front of the masses, Indy Car driver James Hinchcliffe, is in the Intensive Care Unit of an Indiana hospital following a violent crash during practice for the Indianapolis 500 Monday.

Hinchcliffe, or Hinch as he is known to many of his fans, suffered a puncture to the left upper thigh after a piece of the car’s suspension assembly pierced the driver cockpit, or tub, and went through his leg causing severe soft tissue damage and rupturing arteries.

According to some published reports after his car’s right front suspension failed, Hinchcliffe hit the wall with a force of 125 Gs and was likely traveling more than 220 mph when he hit the wall. It should be noted that G forces above 100, even in short bursts, can be fatal in some cases.

Unlike in other sports the same safety team travels to all Indy Car races. It is the quick work of that team that is being credited with saving the life of James Hinchcliffe following a wreck Monday. Photo R. Anderson

Unlike in other sports the same safety team travels to all Indy Car races. It is the quick work of that team that is being credited with saving the life of James Hinchcliffe following a wreck Monday.
Photo R. Anderson

Were it not for the fast action of the safety crew it is entirely possible that Hinch could have died from his injuries due to the blood loss associated with a ruptured artery.

While Hinch is alive thanks in part to enhanced safety features and procedures to handle injuries like his, it is likely that there will be new safety features added to the Indy Cars after the cause of the latest crash are revealed.

However Indy Cars will never be 100 percent safe any more than athletes in other sports can be 100 percent protected from the risks of getting seriously injured in their chosen fields.

Recent lawsuits from former NFL players show that injuries from playing sports can sometimes take years to manifest themselves as is the case with players stating that they are suffering from the effects of head trauma long after their playing careers have ended.

In response the NFL has new concussion protocols in place to try to lessen the risk of injury to current players from head trauma.

In baseball there has been a rash of injuries the last few years with batters and pitchers getting injured after having their heads and jaws make contact with a baseball traveling at high velocity.

Former Houston Astros pitcher J.A. Happ was lucky and evaded serious injury in 2013 when he was hit by  a ball on the mound while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays. Happ's hit and others like it have led Major League Baseball to look at ways to better protect the players. Photo R Anderson

Former Houston Astros pitcher J.A. Happ was lucky and evaded serious injury in 2013 when he was hit by a ball on the mound while pitching for the Toronto Blue Jays. Happ’s hit and others like it have led Major League Baseball to look at ways to better protect the players.
Photo R Anderson

In response to the increase in head injuries Major League Baseball is developing new protective head gear that can be worn by both batters and pitchers to help lessen the impact of a ball to the head.

The actions by the NFL and MLB to protect their players is certainly to be commended but no system can totally prevent injury when it comes to sports.

This is not to say that all motorsports and contact sports such as football should be deemed unsafe and banned any more than I should have to bubble wrap my home to avoid injury from bumping into things in the dark.

The trick is to make things as safe as humanly possible for the athletes involved so that they can live to play, or in Hinchcliffe’s case, drive, another day.

Sports are much safer today than they were 10 years ago and 10 years from now they will be even safer. Innovations will continue to evolve in the world of sports as well as other fields.

As long as people learn and improve from each accident and injury than they serve a purpose in helping the industry as a whole become safer. Failure to learn from the issues would be a far more devastating scenario.

In time the Mayor of Hinch Town will again be spraying the bubbly of victory after he heals from his injuries. Photo R. Anderson

In time the Mayor of Hinch Town will again be spraying the bubbly of victory after he heals from his injuries.
Photo R. Anderson

I had the opportunity to meet Hinch when I worked with the Grand Prix of Houston. While platitudes are certainly thrown around a lot, I can say that James Hinchcliffe is one of the most easy going athletes I have encountered in any sport and is one of those athletes who seems to really enjoy what they are doing and understands that it is a privilege to get to do what they do for a living.

The road back to driving an Indy Car will not be an easy one but Hinch has shown time and time again that he has an ability to handle those turns with the greatest of ease. I would not count the Mayor of Hinch Town out just yet.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to move a few things so that I do not bump into them tonight.

Copyright 2015 R Anderson

 

Orlando’s Tinker Field Felled by Progress

After receiving a one year stay of execution, the appeals process for a historic ballpark in Orlando, FL. ran out last week and the grandstands of Tinker Field began to crumble in the name of progress.

Think of almost any baseball player from the 20th Century and odds are pretty good that they stepped foot on the infield grass of Tinker Field at one time or another.

For several years one of the highlights of my birthday was seeing Cal Ripken, Jr. and the Baltimore Orioles play at Tinker Field. Photo R. Anderson

For several years one of the highlights of my birthday was seeing Cal Ripken, Jr. and the Baltimore Orioles play at Tinker Field.
Photo R. Anderson

From Spring Training for Major League Baseball, to full seasons of Minor League Baseball, the quaint little ballpark in the shadow of the Citrus Bowl was a unique venue where a who’s who of baseball players played from 1923 to 1999.

The last professional affiliated baseball at Tinker Field occurred in 1999 with the Orlando Rays who were the Double-A farm team for the Tampa Bay Rays.

While the Orlando Rays were the last of the Southern League teams to call Tinker Field home, they certainly weren’t the only ones.

The Orlando Twins, Orlando Cubs and Orlando Sun Rays were among the many teams to call Tinker Field home.

The Orlando Juice of the Senior Professional Baseball Association (SPBA) even spent a season playing on the hallowed field in the shadow of the Citrus Bowl.

This ticket stub allowed me entrance to Tinker Field where I ended up meeting one of my favorite baseball figures Earl Weaver outside the third base dugout. Photo R. Anderson

This ticket stub allowed me entrance to Tinker Field where I ended up meeting one of my favorite baseball figures Earl Weaver outside the third base dugout.
Photo R. Anderson

Eventually it was the shadowy neighbor looming over right field that signed Tinker Field’s death warrant.

While time and neglect certainly played a role in the demise of the nearly century old facility, it was a massive expansion of the Citrus Bowl that hastened the demise of Tinker Field.

The expansion of concourses crept into right field to the point that Tinker Field could no longer function as a professional baseball field due to an outfield depth that would make a Little Leaguer feel like Barry Bonds sending everything he hits over the fence.

Tinker Field becomes the third ballpark from my youth to be torn down joining Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida.  Photo R. Anderson

Tinker Field becomes the third ballpark from my youth to be torn down joining Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida.
Photo R. Anderson

So, despite being declared a national historic site, the demolition of Tinker Field is in full swing with the goal of removing every trace of grandstand, bleacher and dugout before a June Rolling Stones concert takes place at the Citrus Bowl.

Of course, while I can’t get no satisfaction in the fact that the stands where I spent summer nights of my youth will soon be reduced to dust, I can take some solace in the fact that the actual playing field will be saved as a small nod to the history that occurred there.

There is also some solace in the fact that many of the seats from Tinker Field were removed and will be sold to fans for use in their dens and Florida rooms.

Still despite saving some seats and the clay and grass part of Tinker Field, it will not really be Tinker Field anymore without the stands which once echoed with the sounds of the crack of the bats, cheering fans, and the Caribbean accented shouts of a peanut vendor who looked an awful lot like O.J. Simpson.

Tinker Field becomes the third ballpark from my youth to be torn down joining Memorial Stadium in Baltimore and Baseball City Stadium in Haines City, Florida. Of the three lost Ballparks the loss of Tinker Field hits the hardest as it is the one where I made the most baseball memories.

Tinker Field was where I first was able to see a live Spring Training baseball game on my birthday which is a tradition I still try to maintain each year.

Tinker Field was where I met and spoke with the late Earl Weaver on the third base line.

While I saw numerous Spring Training games at Tinker Field, it was Minor League Baseball that really grabbed my attention and stoked the desires of younger me to work in sports promotions at a ballpark. Photo R. Anderson

While I saw numerous Spring Training games at Tinker Field, it was Minor League Baseball that really grabbed my attention and stoked the desires of younger me to work in sports promotions at a ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Tinker Field was also where I saw the Clown Prince of Baseball himself, Max Patkin, perform his shtick on a sunny Florida day.

While I saw numerous Spring Training games at Tinker Field, it was Minor League Baseball that really grabbed my attention and stoked the desires of younger me to work in sports promotions at a ballpark.

During our trips to Tinker Field my mom and I were often joined for a few innings by team president, Pat Williams, who was also the General Manager of the Orlando Magic at the time, and I used to think how cool it would be to be a team executive getting paid to watch baseball.

I have yet to fully realize that dream of spending all of my summer nights as a Minor League Baseball employee but I may yet before all is said and done and when I do it will be because of those nights at Tinker Field.

I last visited Tinker Field in 1999 when the souvenir stand was offering clearance merchandise since the Rays were moving to a ballpark at Walt Disney World and it was easier to sell everything at a discount instead of moving it to the new facility.

I ended up getting an Orlando Rays fitted cap. To this day I am amazed that the employee correctly guessed my hat size just by looking at me. I am also amazed that in the years since my head has grown to the point where I can no longer comfortably wear the fitted wool cap.

I don’t know what happened to that vendor but I like to think he lived out his remaining years comfortably after his days at the ballpark were over randomly telling people on the street how big their heads were.

I last visited Tinker Field in 1999 when the souvenir stand was offering clearance merchandise since the Rays were moving to a ballpark at Walt Disney World.  I ended up getting an Orlando Rays fitted cap that I treasure to this day. Photo R. Anderson

I last visited Tinker Field in 1999 when the souvenir stand was offering clearance merchandise since the Rays were moving to a ballpark at Walt Disney World. I ended up getting an Orlando Rays fitted cap that I treasure to this day.
Photo R. Anderson

The Orlando Rays’ time at Walt Disney World was short lived and the team moved to Montgomery, Alabama and became known as the Biscuits.

To this day there are still no Minor League Baseball teams in Orlando making the decision to tear down Tinker Field an easier pill to swallow for some.

Others point to the peeling paint and overworked plumbing as reasons that it is best to raze the ballpark instead of spending money to preserve it and bring it up to current code.

In Houston people are dealing with a similar potential loss of a treasured sports fixture as the pending demolition of the Astrodome seems all but certain.

Recently fans were allowed inside the Astrodome as part of its 50th birthday celebration. The long term fate of the so called “eighth wonder of the world” is unknown. Like Tinker Field the Astrodome last hosted professional baseball in 1999.

With each year that passes it seems more and more likely that the Astrodome will also fall victim to a wrecking ball despite its historical significance.

The loss of the physical building, while difficult, does not take away the memories that occurred in those facilities.

Just as I am sure that there are people with fond memories of whichever Ballpark they grew up with, I can close my eyes and still picture Tinker Field the way I remember it right down to the tennis ball throwing peanut vendor, and the sounds of the rattling ceiling fans that tried their best to cool fans on those humid Florida nights.

I prefer to think of Tinker Field like it was, and not like the neglected facility it became.

The wheel of progress is always turning and sometimes it brings a bulldozer with it to raze the buildings of our youth.

Ticket stubs like this one from a Spring Training game at Baseball City Stadium, and memories are all that are left from the three Ballparks from my youth that have been torn down. Photo R. Anderson

Ticket stubs like this one from a Spring Training game at Baseball City Stadium, and memories, are all that are left from the three Ballparks from my youth that have been torn down.
Photo R. Anderson

I guess the morale of the story is to treasure your brick and mortar Ballparks while you can while building up memories that can last long after the Ballparks are gone.

Or as Simon and Garfunkel would say, “Preserve your memories, they’re all that’s left you.”

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some Ballpark memories to preserve.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

May the Fourth Be With You and Play Ball

Today is May 4th, and in many Ballparks in galaxies both near and far, far away, teams will be celebrating in blockbuster ways in honor of a little science fiction franchise that first hit the global scene before most of the current professional ballplayers were even born.

That science fiction franchise was Star Wars and for those who may not be aware, May 4th is known as Star Wars Day due to a pun surrounding a popular phrase found in the films.

That phrase of course is “May the force be with you,” which can easily translate to “May the fourth be with you.”

The link between Star Wars and baseball has lasted for many years. Today, one Star Wars Day the tradition continues as several Minor League Baseball teams will wear special Star Wars themed jerseys. Photo R. Anderson

The link between Star Wars and baseball has lasted for many years. Today, one Star Wars Day the tradition continues as several Minor League Baseball teams will wear special Star Wars themed jerseys.
Photo R. Anderson

For years baseball teams have celebrated May 4th in the Ballpark but how many times can you really dust off that storm trooper costume to throw out the first pitch before it gets a feeling of been there done that?

With teams looking for creative and new ways to celebrate Star Wars Day it was only a matter of time then until May the Fourth was celebrated on a Minor League Baseball diamond in the form of players wearing Star Wars themed jerseys.

Two years ago the Wookie awakening occurred when the Detroit Tigers’ Triple-A Affiliate, the Toledo Mud Hens, celebrated both May the Fourth, and May the Fifth, wearing jerseys that looked like a Wookie complete with utility belt.

Not to be outdone the Kane County Cougars, the Chicago Cubs Class A affiliate, went Wookie wild last year with a double dose of furry jerseys on May 2 and an encore on August 30.

While players dressing up as Wookie is a fairly new Ballpark trend it is not the first time that a Wookie, or at least an actor who played a Wookie, has been at a Minor League Ballpark.

Even the players on the Jumbotron get a Star Wars treatment as was the case when the St. Louis Cardinals visited Minute Maid Park a few years back. Photo R. Anderson

Even the players on the Jumbotron get a Star Wars treatment as was the case when the St. Louis Cardinals visited Minute Maid Park a few years back.
Photo R. Anderson

During a May 1, 2010 game between the Oklahoma City Red Hawks and the New Orleans Zephers Peter Mayhew, the actor who played Wookie extraordinaire Chewbacca, threw out the first pitch as part of the 30th Anniversary celebration of the original Star Wars film.

While Wookie jerseys have a certain been there done that feel to them after two years on the field, a timeless go to jersey involves a certain trash can shaped droid.

Last year the Durham Bulls, Class Triple-A affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays, celebrated May the fourth in R2-D2 uniforms. This year The Round Rock Express, Class Triple-A affiliate of Texas Rangers, kicked of Star Wars Night a tad early by rocking the R2-D2 look on the Dell Diamond last Friday.

While the Round Rock Express started the celebration early, the Sugar Land Skeeters will wait until August 8 for the force to be with them on Star Wars Night showing that the world of Star Wars cannot be contained to a single day.

One does not need to be from a galaxy far, far away to feel the force on May 4th. Photo R. Anderson

One does not need to be from a galaxy far, far away to feel the force on May 4th.
Photo R. Anderson

With the spirit of Star Wars lasting from generation to generation it is likely that the force will still be strong in the Ballpark in August when Star Wars Night rolls around.

Another popular go to jersey for a Ballpark Star Wars celebration is the ever popular Darth Vader look.

It seems that if a team is going to the trouble of wearing Darth Vader jerseys though they should invite James Earl Jones, the man behind the voice of Vader, to announce the players.

Of course with James Earl Jones playing a pivotal role in Field of Dreams it seems even more appropriate to have his booming voice over the Ballpark public address system.

That truly would be a field of dreams to see James Earl Jones announcing a game with players dressed up as Darth Vader.

It would be made even more magical if the announcement was made using the Darth Vader voice box.

The Sugar Land Skeeters will celebrate their Star Wars Night in August which means I still have some time to decide what to wear. Photo R. Anderson

The Sugar Land Skeeters will celebrate their Star Wars Night in August which means I still have some time to decide what to wear.
Photo R. Anderson

Just picture it, “Now batting (insert breathing sounds), Ray (insert breathing sounds), Smith”

Of course players are not the only ones who get into the May the fourth festivities.

Often times fans dust off their finest galactic duds to head to the Ballpark as part of the celebration.

A few years back a complete regiment of Storm Troopers descended upon Minute Maid Park as part of the Houston Astros’ May the Fourth celebration.

It is all done in good fun and is kind of cool to see the worlds of film and baseball combine in such an entertaining way.

Another staple of many May the Fourth Ballpark celebrations is a post game fireworks show.

Baseball, hot dogs, and post game pyrotechnics, it doesn’t get much better than that.

Of course if they could manage a Millennium Falcon pregame flyover it would be an epic May the Fourth indeed.

With a new batch of Star Wars films slated to come out over the next few years it is almost certain that the link between Jedi knights and balls in flight will continue for years to come.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to go see if I can still make the Kessel Run in less than twelve parsecs. And May the fourth be with you.

Copyright 2015 R Anderson

 

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