Tag Archives: Baltimore Orioles

Dear Baseball, I Hope This Column Finds You Well in These Uncertain Times

Dear Baseball, it is me Ryan.

I know it has been a while since we have seen each other at the Ballpark. These are definitely crazy times. I hope you are doing well.

I have been thinking a lot about the fun we used to have together back before the world was turned upside down by that uninvited party crasher COVID-19.

Remember that time my mom had me called out of class in elementary school so I could see you in a Spring Training game  between the Minnesota Twins and the Baltimore Orioles for my birthday? The entire time I was walking to the exit of the school I thought for sure that someone in my family had died. Imagine my relief when I learned that everyone was alive and well, and I was getting to spend an afternoon at the Ballpark with you.

One of my best baseball memories was getting Earl Weaver’s autograph at Tinker Field.
Photo R. Anderson

Another memory that makes me smile, is that time you gave me the opportunity to meet Earl Weaver on the third base side of Tinker Field. I was definitely start struck at meeting a man I considered to be larger than life, but I was relieved to learn that he was fairly down to earth, and was not just the fiery dirt kicking, base throwing manager I had seen on TV.

Baseball, you have not yet afforded me the opportunity to meet Cal Ripken, Jr., but I guess I will let that one slide since you did give me such good memories following his career during “The Streak” and beyond.

Sadly, not all of my encounters with the men who played you were as encouraging as meeting “The Earl of Baltimore.” Through my attempt to meet Frank Robinson, you taught me the valuable lesson that not everyone who wears your uniform is a hero to be looked up to.

While it is entirely possible that the outcome would have been different on another day, my attempt to meet Frank Robinson soured my opinion of the man, and taught me a valuable lesson in the dangers of heroes letting you down.
Photo R. Anderson

It was a hard lesson for me to learn at the time, but it has helped me separate talent for the game from being a hero off the field. It is possible to respect what a player can do on the field without expecting them to be perfect off the field.

There are of course players who shine both on the field and off, but you let me see that those people are exceptions to treasure, versus the rule.

My joy in you was not limited to just being in the Ballpark. I spent hours collecting your cards and trying to compile complete sets of them each year. I kept checklists in my wallet to know which cards I needed whenever I would find myself at a card shop. I even tried my hand a running a small card shop in my neighborhood for my friends. Grandstand Cards was my first business venture, but it was far from my last.

Every Saturday I rode my bike to the neighborhood 7-11 for powdered doughnuts, a Sunny-D, some baseball cards, and a comic book. Those were much simpler times. While I cherished those days at the time, I cherish them even more now.

I still have those cards, as well as the team scrapbooks that I made for the Orlando Sun Rays and the Baltimore Orioles. Each time I pull them off the shelf the memories return, and I am transported back to those days of going to the local baseball card shop, and sitting in those well-worn grandstands at Tinker Field.

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 my three seasons of attempting to play you did not lead to All-Star numbers, you taught me that I could make a career out of telling your story through the various news outlets I worked for.

You even gave me the opportunity to have a full-ride scholarship as a collegiate baseball team manager, which a younger me turned down to go to a different school. It all worked out in the end, and to this day I can still legitimately say that I turned down a full-ride baseball scholarship. I just leave out the part about it not being as a player.

Then there was that 21-inning high school playoff game that I covered as a high school reporter at the old Baseball City Stadium. Man, I sure learned my lesson that night about not leaving the warmth of the press box before the final out. I spent 12 extra innings freezing behind the dugout while my colleagues mocked me from their warm perch.

Despite that unseasonably cold Florida night, and all the other nights shivering in your stands, you taught me that one of life’s simple pleasures is sitting in your Ballparks and getting caught up in the action. You also taught me to never write the lead to an article while the game is still going on, since very few leads are safe once teams are forced to go to the bullpen.

I also learned from you, Baseball, that whenever possible, get a seat in the Ballpark next to the scouts. The times I have been seated in the scout section at Spring Training and Minor League games, I have been entertained by hours of stories of baseball behind the curtains. Sadly, scouts are a dying breed as more and more of your teams are taking a strictly statistical look at how you are played, versus relying on gut feel.

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

Baseball, you have given me the chance to interview many coaches and players. Some of them gave thoughtful answers, while others allowed me to play cliché bingo.

One manager even trusted me enough to write my own quotes for what I thought he would say. To keep it real, I even included some clichés in his quotes. At the end of the season of covering his team, he invited me into his office and said that he had never sounded better than he did when I “quoted him.”

I have thought a lot lately about those post-game interviews under the unforgiving Florida and Texas sun, as well as the interview in the rain that killed my recorder right after I transcribed the quotes. On that day Baseball, you taught me to never rely solely on a recorder, but to write down quotes in real time as well.

Just when I think that you have run out of things to teach me, Baseball, you give me new lessons through this delay in the action brought about by COVID-19. Through the virus you have taught me that player strikes are not the only thing that can cause the games to stop, and that we should not take you for granted when you do return.

More importantly, Baseball, you have reminded us that there are more important things than you, and your other sport siblings. Taking care of ourselves and others is far more important, no matter how badly we want to throw caution to the wind and cram inside your hallowed halls and watch you “play ball” once again.

The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball was the first to use a pitch clock when the Sugar Land Skeeters and other teams implemented it as part of a test with Major League Baseball..
Photo R. Anderson

When you do return, Baseball, either this year, or next year, some people will no doubt continue to complain that your games are too long, that pitchers need  to not take so long between pitches, and that umpires need a robotic voice in their head telling them how to call balls and strikes.

Ignore those people, Baseball, and try to resist the calls to constantly tinker with your game. Part of what makes you perfect are your perfect imperfections, and the fact that there is no game clock to say when the game ends.

Baseball, you will come back stronger, and will once again fill those summer nights with the sights, sounds and smells, of the National Pastime.

Hang in there Baseball, I know we will see each other again soon when it is safe to do so. Until then, thanks for the memories you have given me so far, and thanks in advance for the memories yet to come.

Now if you’ll excuse me, this trip down memory lane has me craving some powdered doughnuts and Sunny-D.

Sincerely yours,

Ryan

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

Building my Ballpark Bucket List for When the World is Open Once Again Part 2

As the world of sports continues to look into ways to safely return fans into their facilities thanks to the COVID-19 virus, sports fans are left to wait and wonder when they can return to their local Ballparks and Stadiums and raise their souvenir cups high.

Although I will not be able to see live sports any time soon, that does not mean that from the relative safety of my gigplex I cannot compile a Bucket List of the ballparks I want to visit once the green light is given to safely return to mass gatherings.

Since catching my first Major League Baseball game at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore I have visited a lot of Ballparks. There are still many more Ballparks I want to see.
Photo R. Anderson

My Bucket List of ballparks was already pretty extensive, but as I have had much time at home to contemplate, I have had the chance to add to it. For the purpose of this exercise I have selected a Top 10 list of Ballparks I want to see.

The list is broken up into five Ballparks that I want to visit again, and five Ballparks that I want to see for the first time. The Ballparks include facilities at the Major League level, the Minor League Level, as well as the Independent League level.

I unveiled the five Ballparks I want to see again in Part 1. Today, in Part 2, I unveil the five Ballparks that I have never visited, but in some cases, have wanted to see for years.

Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD

Oriole Park at Camden Yards is the main Ballpark on my Bucket List that I want to visit.
Photo R. Anderson

While there are many Ballparks that I want to visit, the one that has topped my list pretty much from the time it was built is Oriole Park at Camden Yards, home of the Baltimore Orioles. I was raised as a Baltimore Orioles fan, and saw my first Major League game at Memorial Stadium where the Orioles played prior to making the move to Camden Yards.

Once I moved to Florida, Spring Training meant trips to see the Orioles at Tinker Field, and later at Ed Smith Stadium. I have even seen the Orioles play regular season games against the Astros in Houston and against the Rays in St. Petersburg.

Still, the one venue that has eluded me is Oriole Park at Camden Yards. The Ballpark started the movement for single use Ballparks, and includes a distinctive warehouse wall feature which the Astros mimicked when they built their new Ballpark at the site of the old Union Station. As soon as I am able, and the world gets a little more stability, I will board that big blue Boeing 737 nonstop from Houston to Baltimore to catch a game, enjoy an Esskay hotdog, and some crab cakes smothered in Old Bay. On a positive since the Orioles have struggled mightily the last few seasons, it is likely that the Ballpark will not be full which should allow me to really explore as I check it off of my Bucket List.

Nationals Park, Washington, D.C.

Proximity to Space Coast Stadium allowed me the chance to see many Washington Nationals Spring Training games when I lived in Florida. However, I have yet to see the 2019 World Series Champions play at Nationals Park.
Photo R. Anderson

When I lived in Maryland, the Washington Senators had already fled to Texas to become the Rangers, after replacing the version of the Senators that fled to Minnesota to become the Twins.

Additionally, the Washington Nationals went by the name of the Montreal Expos, so the ability to catch a game at Nationals Park would have been rather difficult since neither the Ballpark, nor the team existed. But from the time that the Nationals arrived on the scene, I embraced them with the full vigor that one would for a long-lost friend.

My fandom of the Nationals was further entrenched after my mom reminded me one day that since we had lived closer to Washington D.C. than Baltimore, had the Nats existed when I lived in Maryland, I likely would have followed them instead of the Orioles, or I would have followed them both. When I lived in Florida the Nats had Spring Training less than an hour away from where I lived, which made catching games easy. Even after moving to Texas I continued to catch the Nats whenever I traveled to Florida for Spring Training.

When the Nats made their magical World Series run against the Houston Astros in 2019, I certainly got nasty looks as I wore my Nats gear proudly around the Houston suburbs but my fandom was well entrenched by then and as the song goes, “the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, and the trash can gonna bang, bang, bang.” So when I make the trip to Oriole Park, I will be sure to stay in town long enough to catch a game at Nationals Park as well while I am there.

Globe Life Field, Arlington, TX

The Texas Rangers traded in their quaint, furnace of a Ballpark for a retractable roof version next door. When the scoreboard says it is 108 degrees outside it will be nice to catch a game in air conditioned comfort.
Photo R. Anderson

The third Ballpark I want to visit for the first time is Globe Life Field, the new home of the Texas Rangers.

I attended games at Globe Life Park, which the Rangers previously called home, and left each game a few pounds lighter than when I went in based on the triple digit heat, and the general lack of air circulation within the lower bowl of the Ballpark.

The Rangers decided that their under 30-year old Ballpark was not conducive to the climate in the Dallas Metroplex and a retractable roof Ballpark was built next door. Globe Life Park briefly served as the home of the Dallas XFL team, but with the XFL gone Globe Life Park will be two teams short.

While some could argue that based on the hard to miss similarities between the design of Globe Life Field and Minute Maid Park, I have already seen the new facility, I still want to visit it. Whenever I do make it up to Arlington it will definitely be nice to experience a Rangers game for once without needing to bring a dry set of clothes for the drive home.

Nat Bailey Stadium, Vancouver, British Columbia

During my previous trip to Vancouver, British Columbia I had poutine in Stanley Park. During my next visit to Vancouver I hope to have poutine in the Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

While the previous three ballparks on the list have all been on the Major League level, my fourth Bucket List Ballpark that I want to visit takes us north of the border, and also down to Class A in the Minor Leagues.

Nat Bailey Stadium, located smack dab in the center of Vancouver, British Columbia, is the home of the Vancouver Canadians, who are the Class A Toronto Blue Jays farm team.  A few years back, I had the opportunity to catch a Vancouver Canucks hockey game in Vancouver. Catching a BC Lions CFL game in Vancouver is also on my Bucket List, so it is only natural that I would want to see baseball north of the border as well.

Taking my baseball fandom international will certainly be an experience to treasure. Of course, traveling all the way to Canada just to see a Minor League baseball game would likely be rather silly in the big picture. Good thing that there are many other items on the list for things to do on the trip besides the game. I just hope they serve poutine at the Ballpark. Something tells me that they do.

FNB Field, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania

The Washington Nationals have a Farm Team named the Harrisburg Senators who play on an island. As long as I don’t have to take a boat called the S.S. Minnow to get there count me in.
Photo R. Anderson

The final Ballpark on the list is FNB Field in Harrisburg, PA. FNB Field is the home field of the Harrisburg Senators, the Double-A Minor League affiliate of the Washington Nationals,

The Ballpark has been on my Bucket List for several years based on a) it being a Washington Nationals farm team and b) it is located on an island in the middle of the Susquehanna River.  I mean, a Ballpark in the middle of a river. How cool is that?

I still have the program from my first Major League Baseball Game. between the Baltimore Orioles and the Milwaukee Brewers.  It is one of many programs that I have collected through the years. In the years to come I look forward to collecting even more programs, ticket stubs, and souvenir cups as I travel around to various Ballparks.
Photo R. Anderson

If I plan really carefully, I can likely catch a game on the island during the same trip where I go see Oriole Park and Nationals Park. Three days of Esskay hot dogs, Old Bay lump blue crab cakes, and Utz cheese curls sounds pretty spectacular right about now.

Of course, visiting any Ballpark will be welcome once the all-clear is given on this terrible virus that has taken far too many lives, and forever impacted the lives that it hasn’t taken.

Stay safe. Stay smart, and I will see you at a Ballpark in the not too distant future.  Until then, may your dreams involve Ballparks with all you can eat popcorn and unlimited soda refills.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to check to see if we are still keeping track of the days of the week.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Looking Back at the First Baseball Game Played in an Empty Ballpark

Editor’s Note: As the world of sports continues an extended timeout due to the COVID-19 virus we look back on a column from April 29, 2015 which captures what the future of sport may look like for the foreseeable future as Major League Baseball and other sports look at ways to “Play Ball” without fans.

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 Park 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

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

Triple B Flashback: In the Beginning

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 1 on our countdown is a column from January 25, 2013.

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 knew 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 Ballpark, 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

Triple B Flashback: Orioles Rout White Sox and No One is There to Hear

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 2 on our countdown is a column from April 29, 2015.

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

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

 

Some Ticket Stub Collectors are Buying Memories

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

 

The United States to Normalize Cuban Relations after Nearly 60 Years

The other day it was announced that after the United States would seek to normalize relations with Cuba after nearly 60 years of trade embargoes and other restrictions that have made it difficult for the average American to travel to the nation 90 miles south of Florida.

The closest I ever came to visiting Cuba was on a cruise ship in the late 80’s when the ship was heading back towards Miami from the U.S. Virgin Islands. As we approached the island the captain made an announcement along the lines of if you look out to our starboard side you will see Cuba.

I recall that the island was covered in a sort of rainy haze which made it both intriguing and beckoning at the same time. I also remember briefly thinking that I hoped the captain did not drift into Cuban waters by mistake and lead to an international incident.

Stories of the pre Cuban Missile Crisis and Bay of Pigs Cuba have always fascinated me. I was not alive during the tense days when the U.S. Naval blockade was in place to keep Russian ships from supplying missiles to the island so it is likely that my opinion towards Cuba may be different if I had lived through those tense days that almost led to World War III.

Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba is where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea. Photo R. Anderson

Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba is where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.
Photo R. Anderson

Instead, for me Cuba represents a land where Earnest Hemingway and other figures spent their days fishing and their nights in smoke filled rooms, or crowded ballparks enjoying the freshest of Cuban cuisine and culture while getting from point A to point B in various cars from Detroit.

I guess one could say I want to experience the vision of Cuba that I have in my head. I want to sit and watch a baseball game played in a ballpark where the air and the accents are both thick and rich with history.

I want to sit in a road side cafe and eat my weight in Cuban pork and plantains while watching the hustle and bustle along the street.

I want to visit Finca Vigia, Earnest Hemingway’s home in Cuba where he wrote For Whom the Bell Tolls and The Old Man and the Sea.

I want to see those old cars that were on the road when Hemingway walked the streets and are still being driven today due to the ingenuity of the Cuban people to keep those cars roadworthy for all these years.

I had always held out hope that the embargo would be lifted during my lifetime so that I could visit all of the sights and sounds of the island mentioned above and now it appears to be the case.

Of course normalizing relations with Cuba, and opening up a United States Embassy on the island, takes time and certain travel restrictions will still be in place for the foreseeable future so a trip to ring in the new year on Cuban soil is out of the question at this time. But it does seem closer to becoming a reality today than it did before the President’s announcement.

Cuban cigars that were once traded on the black market due to sanctions against Cuba will soon be available without fear of prosecution.  Photo R. Anderson. Photo R. Anderson

Cuban cigars that were once traded on the black market due to sanctions against Cuba will soon be available without fear of prosecution.
Photo R. Anderson.

Make no mistake there are serious issues that still need to be resolved in Cuba and lifting an embargo that was either effective, or ineffective, depending on what side of the fence you are on, is merely the first of many steps.

The news of normalized relations was met with both elation and protests within the Cuban American communities of Florida.

Throughout the embargo many people have risked their lives to escape Cuba and build a better life for themselves and their families in America. Countless more lost their lives making the journey or were intercepted and sent back to Cuba.

The issues that led to those harrowing water crossings will not change overnight and should not be forgotten. But, normalizing relations between Cuba and the United States could lead to grass roots changes that take shape in the decades to come.

Another huge issue with the announcement that has yet to be fully fleshed out as a result of the open relations with Cuba is the impact on Major League Baseball.

Shortly after the President announced the change in posture with Cuba, Major League Baseball issued a statement of its own stating in part that they were actively monitoring the situation and would respond when appropriate.

Just as I am sure there are regular citizens on both sides of the issue of opening relations with Cuba I am sure there are people in the ranks of baseball that are on both sides of the issue as well Cuban.

The Baltimore Orioles became the first Major League Baseball team in 40 years to play a game in Cuba in 1999. With normalized relations with Cuba coming it is likely one will not need to wait another 40 years for another game in Cuba involving MLB teams. Photo R. Anderson

The Baltimore Orioles became the first Major League Baseball team in 40 years to play a game in Cuba in 1999. With normalized relations with Cuba coming it is likely one will not need to wait another 40 years for another game in Cuba involving MLB teams.
Photo R. Anderson

For years baseball players from Cuba have risked their lives and left their families behind defecting in hope of finding greener pastures elsewhere. And while it has become easier for MLB teams to sign Cuban player over the past couple of years there are still hurdles that only impact Cuban players.

It is entirely possible with the normalized relations that Major League Baseball teams will set up academies in Cuba similar to the ones that are in the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and other countries to evaluate international talent.

Major League Baseball has a history in Cuba with the Giants, Dodgers and Pirates all having held their Spring Training camps in Havana at one time or another. Additionally, the Havana Sugar Kings were the Triple-A affiliate of the Cincinnati Reds from 1954 to 1960.

After a 40-year absence Major League Baseball made a brief return to Cuba in 1999 when the Baltimore Orioles and the Cuban national team played an exhibition game in the Estadio Latinoamericano in Havana. The Orioles won 3-2 in 11 innings.

With many issues left to resolve it will likely be years before the floodgates open wide to Cuban players leading to additional competition to be one of only 1200 players to be on one of the 30 Major League Baseball teams’ roster.

Realistically in the near term, it will be far more likely that one will still need to travel to Cuba to see a roster filled with Cuban baseball players. A day will likely come though when almost every team in the Major Leagues has some sort of Cuban influence.

Of course the Cuban influence I would most like to see return to American Ballparks is some good quality Cuban pork. Are you listening Minute Maid Park?

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to try and find an authentic Cuban sandwich.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Cyber Monday Deals of the Baseball Variety

Today is known across much of the internet connected world as Cyber Monday.

While Black Friday involves sales from the brick and mortar stores, today is the chance for online retailers to lure shoppers in with discounts and free shipping on everything from Apple Computers to Zenith televisions. (Granted Zenith is now owned by LG but I needed something that started with the letter Z for the sake of an A to Z analogy).

Personally I have never understood the herd mentality that has people camping out at stores to save a few bucks on an off brand appliance or some fleece pullovers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good bargain as much as the next person, but I am not going to body check hundreds of other people trying to get the same item.

Online shopping provides the ability to get deals without feeling like one has survived a heavyweight title fight but it still only includes savings on the items that the retailers want you to buy.

So instead of getting corralled into buying things that I don’t need on this Cyber Monday I am going to focus on four baseball teams and what needs they should address in terms of their holiday shopping.

After losing Nelson Cruz to the Seattle Mariners the Baltimore Orioles are in need of a new designated hitter under the Birdland Christmas tree this year. Photo R. Anderson

After losing Nelson Cruz to the Seattle Mariners the Baltimore Orioles are in need of a new designated hitter under the Birdland Christmas tree this year.
Photo R. Anderson

Let us begin with the defending American League East Division winning Baltimore Orioles.

Earlier today it was announced that the O’s had failed to sign free agent Nelson Cruz. Instead Cruz is taking his league leading home run bat west to Seattle for the next four years.

In the end it may prove to have been a wise decision by the Orioles to not overpay for a slugger who has battled injures throughout his career. Recent history is full of examples of teams who have overpaid for players long past their productive years. The contracts of Josh Hamilton, Alex Rodriguez and Prince Fielder come to mind.

But in the short term the Orioles need to do something to replace the bat of Cruz if they want to defend their division title so for the residents of Birdland I will put find a new Designated Hitter on their Christmas list.

Further down the American League East in both geography and the standings sit the Tampa Bay Rays.

The Tampa Bay Rays are looking for only their fifth manager in franchise history following the unexpected departure of Joe Maddon at the end of last season. Photo R. Anderson

The Tampa Bay Rays are looking for only their fifth manager in franchise history following the unexpected departure of Joe Maddon at the end of last season.
Photo R. Anderson

The Rays have already traded several players since the end of the season and will likely make more tweaks to the roster as they look to regroup and rebuild after a disappointing 2014 season that started with preseason predictions of a playoff run and ended with the team’s first losing season in six years. The Rays were also left with the departure of manager Joe Maddon, who decided to take his muscle cars and hoodie up to Wrigley Field.

While it is unlikely that the Rays can find a manager right out of the gate with the same skill set as Joe Maddon, they need to find a manager who can handle the challenges the Rays face in a way that sees them remain competitive and not fall into the devilish ways of their pre Maddon years.

Failure to find a strong manager who can find a way to remain competitive in the toughest division in baseball against retooled Orioles, Yankees and Red Sox could very well doom the Rays for decades to come.

So while many may think replacing Tropicana Field is the team’s biggest need this Christmas, I maintain finding the right manager is the most crucial holiday need. I just hope that one of the three identified finalists becomes at least a fraction of the manager Joe Maddon is.

After suffering their first losing season since a name change and new uniforms the Tampa Bay Rays may need to dust off the old uniforms if a new manager fails to maintain their winning ways. Photo R. Anderson

After suffering their first losing season since a name change and new uniforms the Tampa Bay Rays may need to dust off the old uniforms if a new manager fails to maintain their winning ways.
Photo R. Anderson

If he does not then even a new Ballpark would not be enough to help the team’s long term future and they may as well dust off the green uniforms that took the field for many previous losing campaigns.

For our third holiday need we travel west from St. Petersburg, FL and find ourselves in Houston where today marks the 50th anniversary of the Astros being called the Astros.

For most of their five decades of existence the Astros found themselves in the National League. The 2015 season will mark the team’s third season of American League play and yet another season of rebuilding as the front office tries to find the right formula for building a winner on a budget.

Of course the build a winner on a budget approach only works when the other teams in the division play along. With skyrocketing salaries within the American League West and the Mariners, Angels and Athletics entering an arms race the best the Astros can realistically hope for in the coming years is to do better than their in state rivals the Rangers.

With a steady diet of Mike Trout and other power sluggers in the American League the Houston Astros are likely hoping a return to the more friendly National League Central is in their stocking this year. Photo R. Anderson

With a steady diet of Mike Trout and other power sluggers in the American League the Houston Astros are likely hoping a return to the more friendly National League Central is in their stocking this year.
Photo R. Anderson

A division title is likely not in the cards for the Astros in the American League any time soon. One can preach the sermon of rebuilding until they are blue in the face but that does not make it so when other teams aren’t reading from the same playbook.

With that said, my Christmas gift for the Astros would be a move back to the National League. Of course like that brown Matchbox police car that Santa could never locate for younger version of me despite the best of intentions, a move back to the National League is likely another unfulfillable wish no matter how much one wants it to happen.

For our final stop along the holiday gift giving trail we move a little south of Houston to Sugar Land, TX which is home of the Sugar Land Skeeters. The Skeeters, who play in the independent Atlantic League of Professional Baseball, will start the 2015 season as defending champions of their division and with new ownership in place.DSCN7359

With all of their opponents located on the Atlantic Coast, my gift to the Skeeters, were it in my power, would be closer opponents to make those road trips not so long.

There are plans to expand the Atlantic League’s footprint in Texas in the coming years so it is likely that the Christmas wish will become reality before too long.

There are my four Cyber Monday gift ideas that are not available in stores but if they were they would certainly make the perfect stocking stuffers for the Orioles, Rays, Astros and Skeeters.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to take care of a little Christmas shopping while I am in the Holiday spirit.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Orioles and Royals kick off American League Championship Series Tonight

The American League Championship Series kicks off tonight in Baltimore between the Baltimore Orioles and the Kansas City Royals.

When people were making their predictions at the start of the season I am sure there were very few, if any who saw that particular match up in the cards for the American League Pennant.

While the last few decades have not been kind to the fan base of either franchise, in the mid eighties they were among the teams to beat in the American League led by a pair of Hall of Famers in Cal Ripken, Jr. and George Brett for the Orioles and Royals respectively.

I saw my first live baseball game in 1983 at Memorial Stadium when the Orioles hosted the Milwaukee Brewers.  Memorial Stadium is gone now and the Brewers are in the National League but I can forever say that my first baseball game occurred during a pennant winning season as the Orioles were the 1983 World Series Champions. Photo R. Anderson

I saw my first live baseball game in 1983 at Memorial Stadium when the Orioles hosted the Milwaukee Brewers. Memorial Stadium is gone now and the Brewers are in the National League but I can forever say that my first baseball game occurred during a pennant winning season as the Orioles were the 1983 World Series Champions.
Photo R. Anderson

The Orioles last went to The World Series in 1983 where they defeated the Philadelphia Phillies.

I saw my first ever in person baseball game in 1983 at Memorial Stadium when the Orioles hosted the Milwaukee Brewers.

Memorial Stadium is gone now and the Brewers moved to the National League, but I can forever say that my first baseball game occurred during a World Series winning season.

While I was fortunate to witness a World Series title come to Baltimore, Orioles fans who were not alive during 1983 have had very little to cheer about.

While the 1997 season showed promise and included a trip to the American League Championship Series, it was the Cleveland Indians who made the trip to the World Series instead of the Orioles.

Starting tonight the fans clad in orange and black filling Oriole Park at Camden Yards will know that the O’s are once again four victories away from the World Series.

Standing in the way of that trip to the World Series are the Kansas City Royals. The Royals defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1985 World Series and had not made the playoffs since until this season.

The last time I saw the Royals play the Orioles neither team was at their peak. This year, four wins are all that stand in the way of a trip to the World Series. Photo R. Anderson

The last time I saw the Royals play the Orioles neither team was at their peak. This year, four wins are all that stand in the way of a trip to the World Series.
Photo R. Anderson

I last saw the Orioles and Royals play against each other on March 23, 1991 during a Spring Training game in Baseball City, Florida.

The Royals won the game but 1991 was not a good season for either team as most of the mid eighties mojo was already starting to fade.

The Orioles and Royals each finished in sixth place in their divisions in 1991 and both teams fired their managers during the season.

The Orioles have had a couple of more playoff appearances than the Royals over the past 30 years, but both teams are hungry for another World Series title which makes this year’s American League Championship Series much watch television.

Over in the National League Championship Series the San Francisco Giants and St. Louis Cardinals are battling for yet another World Series appearance.

Since that 1985 World Series loss to the Royals, the Cardinals have made five additional trips to the October Classic with a pair of championships to show for it.

Over in San Francisco, the Giants have made four trips to the World Series since 1985 claiming two World Series Championships.

The 1991 season for the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals started with promise in Spring Training and ended with both teams in sixth place in their divisions after firing their managers.  Photo R. Anderson

The 1991 season for the Baltimore Orioles and Kansas City Royals started with promise in Spring Training and ended with both teams in sixth place in their divisions after firing their managers.
Photo R. Anderson

In fact, since 2010 the National League representative in the World Series has been either the Cardinals or the Giants with each team making a pair of trips. This year’s NLCS winner will take a 3-2 advantage in that ranking.

So with the National League turning into a tale of the same two teams year after year,  the American League Championship series offers a chance for fresh blood to hoist the Pennant.

Only six members of the Baltimore Orioles active roster were alive the last time the team made a World Series appearance.

Of those players only Nelson Cruz, born in 1980, is likely old enough to remember it as the other five players were under a year old.

The Royals offer a slightly older roster and have 11 players who were born before the Royals last went to the World Series.

And if that does not makes one feel old enough consider this, when the Orioles were last in the World Series the top movie at the box was “Return of the Jedi.”

In 1985 when the Royals won it all fans were flocking to see “Back to the Future.”

Of course this time around one does not need the power of the Jedi or a time traveling DeLorean to see the Orioles and the Royals face off in the ALCS. They just need access to the TBS broadcast.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to get ready for.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson