Tag Archives: Ballparks

Life is Best Experienced Live and Not on Tivo

A few years back, or maybe even a decade or so back, there was an advertising slogan by the Memorex Company that asked consumers to decide whether it was live, or Memorex.

The implication being that the quality of recorded material using the company’s products was so good as to render the consumer unable to determine whether or not it was a recording or a live performance that was being listened to.

This slogan popped into my head last week when I had the opportunity to attend a live streaming of the recording of one of my favorite radio shows, “Wait Wait… Don’t Tell Me!”  I had attended a taping of the show before but this one was part of a live streaming event to movie theaters across the world.  As I had enjoyed my previous chance to watch the show being made I jumped at the chance to take part again.

Ticket for a live radio show. Photo R Anderson

Ticket for a live radio show.
Photo R Anderson

Early on in the broadcast the host made a joke about the people tuned in to watch the live recording of the show being foolish for paying to see something that they could hear for free a few days later.

While this is technically true there is so much more that can be experienced during a live broadcast. You can see behind the curtain and see how the sausage is made so to speak.

And yes, I still tuned in Saturday morning to hear the differences in the recording compared to what I had seen a few nights earlier. There were subtle changes that had I not been there for the live portion I would have missed altogether.

The same is true for most anything in life. With very few exceptions it is better to experience things live.

I would much rather sit on a beach and hear the waves and feel the wind of my face than to experience the same beach on television.

Television cannot do this justice. Photo R Anderson

Television cannot do this justice.
Photo R Anderson

Even the best surround sound system cannot replicate the sounds of the shore. And of course there is no way to replicate the feel of the wind and the smells of the beach from the comfort of one’s own home regardless of how high one cranks up the fan or how much suntan lotion they apply. And those air fresheners that promise to smell like the sea, they all fall short in capturing the true smells of the shore.

Of course during seaweed season in Galveston it might be best to experience from afar as the shore line smells anything but intoxicating but like I said there are always exceptions.

The same goes for sporting events. Being live at the venue is simply better.

While television can provide certain angles that might not be available from every seat at a ballpark or stadium,  it cannot replicate the in person experience. Even though I wish there was a mute feature for some of the annoying fans that seem to gravitate towards me I would not trade the in person ballpark experience for a diet of televised games alone.

Very little tops a day at the Ballpark. Photo R. Anderson

Very little tops a day at the Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, televised games serve a good purpose so I don’t want to come across as being anti-televised sports. When I am unable to attend a game, or my team is playing in a stadium on the road, I enjoy having the game on as background noise as I go about my nightly routines.

But were money no object, you can rest assured I would attend every game in person as opposed to watching it on television.

A few years back Tivo and other digital recorders popped up to allow people to record live broadcasts and view them at a later time of their choosing that was more suitable. To this day I do not own a DVR, nor do I ever plan to have one. It is the same reason that I do not watch tape delayed Olympic coverage, if something is going on live I want to see it as it is happening and not wait.

Even near triple digit temperatures cannot dampen the Ballpark feel. Photo R. Anderson

Even near triple digit temperatures cannot dampen the Ballpark feel.
Photo R. Anderson

It also seems impractical in this day and age that I could avoid spoilers about the outcomes of games if I were to try to watch them at a later time.

Music is another area that is simply better live.  I have followed Green Day since college and have all of their albums, including some of their live albums from concerts in Japan and England.

Despite listening to these songs countless times, it was not until I saw them live and in person that I truly could appreciate their music. To this day that is one of the best concerts I have attended and provided a frame of reference and a week-long ringing in my ears that I would not have had without the in person look.

As a reporter my job is to attend the events and report back the experience so that readers can get the feeling of being there. Using words and images the best writers can put the reader right in the middle of the action. There are various techniques and writing styles employed by journalists but they all center on informing the reader and making them feel like they are there experiencing the event.

May all of your views be beachfront views. Photo R Anderson

May all of your views be beachfront views.
Photo R Anderson

I have been very fortunate in my career to be in the middle of a lot of action that were it not for being a journalist I would not have experienced. But for those non journalists out there I say, as Ferris Bueller would say Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”

So get out there and experience as much as you can live and you will see that with all due respect to Memorex a recorded and taped delayed life just can’t compete with one that heightens all of the senses.

And if you ever get the chance to see Green Day in concert by all means do it, just don’t forget the ear plugs.

Now if you’ll excuse me it is time to get out from in front of the computer screen and see what live event I can find next.

Copyright 2013 R Anderson

Well, of All the Cheap Lousy Ways to Save a Buck

A few days ago the Houston Astros continued their fire sale and traded last year’s starting short stop for five minor leaguers, or “prospects.”  This is far from the first time that this has occurred but they are definitely into the marrow at this point since they stopped having meat on the bone a long time ago.

Of course, as with the previous salary dumping trades the team tried to spin it as part of their multi-year rebuilding program.  As part of the process the Astros are on pace to have the worst record in baseball for the third year in a row.  The team is trying to say all the right things about how the trades make them more competitive in a few years while allowing them to keep salaries in check as they try to build a competitive product.  Time will tell if their efforts are shown to be worth the sacrifice though.

The team’s activities of shedding more payroll then they are turning around and spending reminds me of a scene from the holiday classic National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  In the movie Clark W. Griswald is upset to learn that his boss, in an effort to save money, has eliminated the long standing Christmas bonus program and replaced it with a Jelly of the Month Club. And while, in Cousin Eddie’s words, the Jelly of the Month Club is the gift that keeps giving the whole year long it is not what Clark was expecting.  To make a long story short, Clark blows his top, Cousin Eddie kidnaps the penny pinching boss and the police bust the doors and windows down to try and recuse him.  Of course, in true movie fashion the boss learns the folly of his ways and reinstates the bonus program  since sometimes things look better on paper than they do in the real world.

So, on paper the Astros have this grand plan to build cheap and trade players that make too much money and lather, rinse, repeat, turn around and get more cheap players that can be traded for more prospects.  Now, on paper it seems like a winning formula but the reality is very few prospects will ever make it to the majors and there is something to be said for not turning over the full roster every year.  Further trades are bound to happen in the next few weeks and months as the Astros seem determined to field the best Minor League team that plays against Major League opponents.

The Astros will have a new league, new uniforms and the same committment to fielding the cheapest team they can when the 2013 season starts.  Photo R. Anderson

The Astros will have a new league, new uniforms and the same commitment to fielding the cheapest team they can when the 2013 season starts.
Photo R. Anderson

I have followed the Astros for around 10 years and have to admit that all of the roster moves have left me scratching my head trying to figure out who is and who is not on the team any more.  It has turned into some sort of comedy routine like the famous, “Who’s on First” Laurel and Hardy skit.  But unlike the skit this is as real as it gets.  I am not a fair weather fan by any means and I still support the team but even my loyalty is being tested by the management’s cavalier approach to sacrificing the present completely in the name of team building. I am sure it is difficult for the players as well to not know when they will be traded or when their next victory will occur. There really seem to be more losers than winners in the short term of this plan to go young and cheap.

This season will mark the first season in the American League for the Astros and instead of fielding a team of stars they are fielding a team of could be stars and may never will be stars. Major League Baseball seems perfectly fine with the salary saving measures.  Contrast MLB’s lack of response to the Astros fielding what could be called a non competitive team for the third straight season with how things are handled in the NBA.

A few months back the coach of the San Antonio Spurs decided that most of his star players could use a night off.  Unfortunately the team had a game scheduled with the Miami Heat instead of an off day.  Still, the coach stuck to his guns and sent the star players home early and played against the Heat with a roster of bench players.  Fans who had payed to see the superstars of the Spurs were livid. Some even sued for damages because they didn’t see the people that they paid to see.  The bench warmers actually played a competitive game but in the end the Heat won and the coach of the Spurs was fined by the league and reprimanded for not putting his best team on the court.

The Miami Marlins recently traded most of their stars away in a similar salary dump and were put on notice by the league as well. Yet, the Astros who are moving into one of the more competitive divisions in baseball are not receiving any warnings from the league for the quality product they are putting on the field.  Granted the Marlins are repeat offenders at dumping salaries at the end of each season but still they seem to field a way more competitive product than the Astros.

Another example of lousy ways to save a buck comes to us from the federal government and in particular a certain division of the government that shall not be named.  Yes, I know it is hard to believe that the government would try to save money since most of the news always covers the spending overages but there are always exceptions to every rule.

The failed centralized trash idea.  Some times an idea can stink in more ways than one. Photo R. Anderson

The failed centralized trash idea. Some times an idea can stink in more ways than one.
Photo R. Anderson

Around the first of the year it was decided by this particular government agency that in an effort to save money from purchasing individual trash can liners the custodial engineers would no longer pick up trash at individual desks.  Instead, several large trash cans were placed strategically around the building and people were responsible for taking their own trash to these collection points.  It was believed that this process could be done with fewer people as well which would lead to additional cost savings.  On paper it seemed like a sound idea.  In reality it was one very smelly issue.  The cans were only emptied twice a week so the halls became littered with overflowing trash and a stench that one should really not encounter in an office building.

After a month of centralized trash, logic prevailed and the desk side trash pick up was resumed. It seemed that the powers that be decided that saving a buck that way was not worth the stench that it caused.  Here’s to hoping that the Astros realize the same thing and do not put a stinker of a team on the field. Although, the past two seasons do not leave a warm and fuzzy feeling that it will happen.  Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about trash has reminded me that it is time to take out the garbage.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

The Family Ties

If we all stop to think about it, chances are many of our interests in life, both good and bad, are influenced by our family members.  Sometimes we have interests that run counter to the rest of our family although many other times the family ties that bind us include similar interests running throughout the generations.  From a favorite soda, favorite sports teams and everything in between odds are in some way the choices we make are in some small way influenced by our exposure growing up.  I have already mentioned the influence that my mother had on my love of baseball but she was far from the only generation in my family to follow the game and in turn share their love for it with me.  Now up to bat, my two grandmothers, Granny and Mom Mom who each in their own way shaped how I picture the game and have their own place in my Hall of Fame.

Let us begin with my grandmother on my mother’s side; Edna Kirby, or Granny as she is known to me.  Granny lives in Georgia which as many of you know is home to the Atlanta Braves.  Despite living about four hours away from Atlanta, Granny always made it a point to watch her beloved Braves whenever they would come on.  There were definitely some lean years to be a Braves fan but still she would soldier on with her devotion to her boys and most of all Chipper Jones.  Whenever Chipper Jones would make a great play shouts of “attaboy Chipper” would resonate from my grandmother’s recliner.  And, whenever Chipper would strike out or make a bad fielding play the battle cry turned to “oh Chipper.”

Checking up on Chipper

Checking up on Chipper at Astros Spring Training in Kissimmee, FL.
Photo by R. Anderson

A few years back my mother and I traveled from Texas to Georgia to visit my grandmother in the hospital.  While it was never spoken out loud in the car we both feared that maybe we were driving to say good bye to her based on the severity of why we thought she had been admitted to the hospital.  After driving for 16 hours straight we arrived at the hospital and prepared for the worst as we approached the small rural hospital.   Nothing really could have prepared us for what we saw though once we got inside though.  Instead of a woman near death we found my grandmother standing in the hall in her hospital gown shouting to us to hurry up since the Braves game was on.  She did not wait for us to get down the hall. Instead, she turned and went back in her room.  By the time we got to her room she was already back in bed and giving us a recap of the game and asking what took us so long to get there.  Near death indeed, she was as full of life as ever and it was yet another time to talk about the Braves.  To this day whenever we talk to each other the conversation inevitably turns to the subject of how the Braves are doing.

Granny now lives in a nursing home and as often happens when a loved one makes the move to that stage in their live the larger furnishings and other accumulated belongings are divided up amongst the family since there is no room for them in the nursing home. There were not too many items of my grandmother’s that I wanted but  I made sure I got her television.  It is far from a new television, in fact it is down right old and heavy by today’s standards.  There are no HD channels or flat screen components yet to me it is the most valuable TV in the world. For you see, this television that now sits on a dresser in my bedroom is the very same television that showed all of those Braves games that she and I shared together.  Sure there are other channels that the TV gets but for me it is the Braves TV and everytime I see it or power it on I think of her and our shared bond over the game of baseball.   And on those rare occasions when a Braves game is being shown in Houston I smile a little wider because I know we are both watching the same game.

***

My other Grandmother, Pat Hall, or Mom Mom as I call her, also shares a deep love for baseball and for years she lived in the perfect area to take advantage of that.  After retiring Mom Mom and my grandfather moved from Maryland to the west coast of Florida near Bradenton.  In addition to being located near some really nice beaches which made for great summer days in the surf as well as year round fishing, there was proximity to baseball; lots and lots of baseball.

For those of you who may be unfamiliar with the layout of baseball in Florida there are several teams that hold their Spring Training games in and around the west coast of the Sunshine State as noted in the photo I took in Sarasota at the Orioles Spring Training facility.  Each year when Spring Training rolled around Mom Mom and I would try to plan when  I could come down and catch a game with her. Sadly it never worked out that we could see a game in Bradenton but we were able to see several games in Orlando.

A map of the teams that call the Grapefruit League in Florida their Spring Training home.Photo by R. Anderson

A map of the teams that call the Grapefruit League in Florida their Spring Training home.
Photo by R. Anderson

Mom Mom also helped add to my autograph collection as she interacted with many ball players through a part time job that she had at a restaurant that was owned by a former player in the Pirates organization.  Every so often a new package filled with autographs of people that she had met would arrive in the mail.  Many of those autographs are still displayed in my office.  One particularly cool item from those years is an autographed team ball for the Bradenton Explorers of the Senior Professional Baseball Association.  The league disbanded after a single season so I consider that extra cool to have that memento of a forgotten era.  During one visit to her restaurant I was also introduced to college basketball announcer Dick Vitale.  I met him before I really knew who he was so there was not a huge wow factor aside from the normal pleasantries of being introduced to someone and being told that they were famous. Once I did learn who he was I must say as he would surely say, “it was awesome baby.”

Like Granny, Mom Mom also has now moved from the home that she knew to enter that next phase of her life which includes assisted living facilities and the knowledge that the years ahead are fewer than the years behind them.  Still, both women remain strong influences on me as a person in all aspects of my life but the influence on the aspects that involve baseball are surely hard to miss.  Some day I am sure that I will join the line of people to influence the next generation and in turn they will go on to spread the knowledge and love as well.  That is part of the great experience of life. Each generation shares what they know to the next and it builds from there.  It also shows the generation to generation appeal of the National Pastime. Like us, the game gets bruised and tattered now and then but it gets up, wipes the orange clay and grass off and moves ahead.  We should all strive to be as resilient.  Now if you’ll excuse me I think it is time to see how the Braves are doing.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

In the Beginning

It has been said, rightly so, that every story has a beginning.  One need only look at literature to see some opening lines that have definitely stood the test of time.  From Charles Dickens declaring in A Tale of Two Cities that “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” to Herman Melville inviting the readers of Moby Dick to “Call me Ishmael,” history is full of great opening lines and beginnings of stories.  These classic openers have grabbed the reader’s attention hook line, and in Moby Dick‘s case very large sinker for generations.

While beginnings are important one cannot and should not stop there.  By stopping at the beginning line of A Tale of Two Cities one would know nothing more than that times were both good and bad. The same can be true of Moby Dick where the hunt for the white whale consumes Captain Ahab and his crew and becomes far more than just knowing to call a guy Ishmael.  So it is with all of us, while we are not classic literature we also have our origin stories and events that shape who we are and what pursuits we follow.  Don’t worry, this is not a back in the day when little Ryan was born kind of story. Although, it is safe to say if we weren’t all born, none of us would be here.  No, this is a tale of when my love of baseball took root. and much like Dickens the tale of my first baseball game experience was the both the best of times and the worst of times.

Memorial Stadium 2

Memorial Stadium in Baltimore circa 1983.
Photo by R. Anderson

As I have mentioned previously, I grew up as a Baltimore Orioles fan who bled Orange and Black pretty much from the time I can remember.  I followed football as well but baseball was also the sport that drew me in just a little bit more.  As such, I tried to catch all the games that I could on the radio and television.  I could recite lineups and stats that would make even the most avid statistician take notice.   So you can imagine my excitement when I learned that I was going to get to go to  Memorial Stadium to see the Orioles play in person in September of 1983.   Aside from the thrill of going to the game for me, 1983 was a very pivotal year for the Orioles as they were in the first year under new manager Joe Altobelli following retirement number one of Earl Weaver and spoiler alert they went on to win the World Series that year over the Philadelphia Phillies.   Of course I am getting ahead of myself  since no one new for sure in September what October would hold but needless to say there was a buzz throughout Birdland on the anticipation of what could be.

Speaking of anticipation, like most young boys gong to their first baseball game I had high hopes and higher expectations that I was going to catch a home run ball hit by Cal Ripken, Jr. and get all kinds of player autographs before the game.  I was joined in my traveling party by my mom, a family friend and his nephew.    The sky was the limit and I was ready to make the most of the ballpark experience.  We all loaded into the car and headed up to Baltimore (or Balmer if you are from there) which was about a 30 minute drive from where we lived.  Throughout the drive we excitedly talked about who we would see first and which inning we wanted to catch the home run ball in since it would be greedy to want to catch all of the home run balls that were hit our way.

Orioles Program

The 1983 Baltimore Orioles game program.

We arrived in plenty of time having pledged to arrive early and see the sights to avoid the traffic.  After walking around the Inner Harbor area it was time to head to the stadium.  It was at this moment that the realization occurred  that the tickets that would gain us entrance into the hallowed walls of Memorial Stadium were not with us in Baltimore but were in fact back in Gaithersburg which was 30 minutes away and at this time even further away in traffic.  Looking back now with 29 years or so of hindsight I want to say that I handled the news of the ticket situation with dignity and grace and the cool assurance that comes from knowing that things like this happen and that the world goes on but the key is to keep calm.  The reality of course is that 8-year-old me did not take the news well at all. And who can blame young me? I was at the cusp of seeing my heroes, of eating hot dogs until I was blue in the face and of course catching that pivotal home run and getting all of those autographs.  Now, all of that was in jeopardy and I was not pleased and was far from calm.

In the end, we made it to the game around the fifth inning, found our seats and watched the Orioles play the Milwaukee Brewers who had not yet moved to the National League at this time. (Why the Brewers did not move back to the American League instead of the Astros for 2013 is another story for another day, but is no less puzzling).  I did not catch that home run ball.  I did not get any autographs.  I did eat a hot dog and I most definitely discovered that baseball is so much better in person.  There is a buzz around ballparks that really can’t be duplicated even with the most high definition of televisions with Dolby surround sound and the freshest of popcorn smells being pumped into the media room.  To truly experience baseball is to experience it in person.

Since moving to Texas I have adopted the Astros into my stable of teams that I follow and try to attend as many games as I can each year in Minute Maid Park in addition to traveling the country and going to ballparks both small and large.  I have also since caught my share of balls despite striking out in my first attempt in 1983.   No matter the ballpark size I still get the same feeling walking in as I did as that 8-year-old boy experiencing it for the first time.  Don’t get me wrong, I am not a huge fan of crowds so the push and shove on the escalators and concourses can get tiring but once I am in my seat the magic begins all over again and it is like I am seeing it all for the first time through the eyes of younger me.  For those few hours in the stadium, I don’t worry about the stress of life or any of the outside world it is just the game and me; well and thousands of my closest friends.

So while that September night in 1983 did not go completely to plan it was indeed the best of times and the worst of times and introduced me to the white whale that I have chased across state lines ever since.  It also taught me to always check and double check that I have the tickets before leaving for the ballpark.  Now if you will excuse me I think I need to catch up on some Dickens.

 Copyright 2013 R. Anderson

The Earl of Baltimore

Growing up as a fan of the Baltimore Orioles as I did there were several faces of the franchise that helped shape one’s opinion of the O’s.  The names and faces that one most identified with was determined mainly on when one first started following the team.  For me the names most associated with the Orioles were Cal Ripken, Jr., Jim Palmer,  Rick Dempsey, Eddie Murray, and of course the leader of the bunch Manager Earl Weaver.

DSCN2961

Earl Weaver’s retired number 4 at The Baltimore Orioles Spring Training home Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota.
Photo by R. Anderson

Earl Weaver recently passed away at the age of 82 while on a Fantasy Cruise for Orioles fans.  To think that the man so associated with the Orioles would spend his final moments in the presence of Orioles fans, despite having last managed the team over two decades ago, is a testament to the lasting impact that Earl Weaver had on baseball as well as the Orioles who were the only Major League Team that he ever managed.  The Earl of Baltimore, as he was known, led the Orioles to the World Series four times over 17 seasons  and won the title in 1970. His .583 winning percentage ranks fifth among managers who served 10 or more seasons in the 20th century.  Earl Weaver finished with a 1,480-1,060 record and won Manager of the Year honors three times. Earl Weaver was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1996.

juice

Ticket stub from the December 17, 1989 Orlando Juice versus the Gold Coast Suns Senior Professional Baseball League game where I met Earl Weaver.
Photo by R. Anderson

I was fortunate enough to meet Earl at Tinker Field in Orlando on  December 17, 1989. He had recently retired from the Orioles for a second time  and like many retirees before him had found his way to Florida.  On this particular day Earl was managing the Gold Coast Suns of the Senior Professional Baseball Association against the Orlando Juice.  For me, he could have been managing a team of preschoolers in  Tee Ball;  it didn’t matter. What mattered was I was able to walk onto the field before the game and meet one of my early heroes.  We talked, he signed an autograph and it became the first of many brushes that I would have with sports figures, and other public officials through my career as a reporter and a fan.  Despite the ensuing years and other high profile meetings I still consider standing on the third base line of Tinker Field talking baseball with Earl Weaver one of my favorite baseball memories.  To this day I have the framed autographed baseball card hanging in a place of honor in my office.  Other autographs lose their luster or stay hidden away but not Earl’s.  It sort of reminds me of the man himself who was a personality that could not hide and who had many ideas and techniques that were ahead of their time 20 years ago and have now become common place.

Earl was able to see his beloved Orioles reach the playoffs last year after a long drought.  I like to think that put a smile on the old school manager’s face. Maybe he even went out in the backyard and kicked some dirt around just to feel like he was back on the field and part of the action.  I highly recommended searching for Earl Weaver vs. Umpires videos. There were some classics that make some of the theatrics of the WWE seem pale by comparison.  But what else would one expect from an original like that? Now if you’ll excuse me I need to go find some dirt to kick Earl Weaver style.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson