Tag Archives: Texas Rangers

Astros Making Sugar Land Skeeters a Farm Club Proves Nothing Gold Can Stay

When I was a senior in high school, I memorized the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” as part of an English assignment. In the years since, I have often referred back to that poem during times when things I considered golden in my life became tarnished, or lost some shine.

Such was the case when I learned that the Houston Astros were nearing a deal to make the Sugar Land Skeeters their AAA farm team. As part of the deal, the Astros will own all or part of the Skeeters.

On the surface the idea that the Sugar Land Skeeters are leaving independent baseball and becoming an affiliated team should be good news. But when one digs deeper, they realize that all of the things that made the Skeeters appealing could be taken away as part of the larger effort to give Major League Baseball absolute control of the Minor Leagues.

As part of a massive realignment of Minor League Baseball the Sugar Land Skeeters are slated to go from an independent team in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball to the AAA Affiliate of the Houston Astros starting in the 2021 season.
Photo R. Anderson

The desire for the Astros to keep their AAA team close to the big-league club follows a trend other clubs have followed over the past decade or so.

In fact, in 2013 when the Astros AAA club was based in Oklahoma City there were rumblings that the Astros wanted to relocate a team to the Woodlands, north of Houston to “expand the brand” and “counter moves made by the Texas Rangers,” according to Astros officials at the time.

Fast forward seven years and buying into the ownership of an existing team with a Ballpark is certainly easier than building one from scratch. The Skeeters would join the Astros owned AA affiliate Corpus Christi Hooks as Texas based feeder teams.

The Texas Rangers will likely move their AAA team back to Round Rock, which the Astros are vacating to move to Sugar Land. In the event that the Rangers move back to Round Rock they would join the Astros in having their AA and AAA teams located within the Lone Star State since the Rangers AA farm club is the Frisco Rough Riders.

I have written extensively this year about how I went from a supporter of the Astros to a former fan who wants nothing to do with them as a result of their trash can cheating scandal. But, if any of the other 29 MLB teams were buying into the Skeeters, I would be equally sad.

To be absolutely clear, although I despise what the Astros organization represents based in part on the lack of sincerity in their apologies for the cheating scandal, I would be sad at the thought of the Skeeters changing from independent to affiliated ball regardless of what team they were affiliated with. The fact that it is the Astros just makes it hurt a bit more.

With the exception of the pandemic year of 2020, I have been a fixture at Skeeters games since the team arose out of the former sugar cane fields in 2012. As mentioned, many times before, if Sugar Land was located just a few miles closer to the Gigaplex I likely would have been a season ticket holder and spent most spring and summer evenings at Constellation Field watching the Skeeters.

For the majority of my baseball loving life I have preferred attending Minor League Baseball to Major League Baseball. There is just something about a Minor League game that cannot be matched at the Major League level.

Much like a face palming mascot named Swatson, the news that the Houston Astros were going to be involved with the Sugar Land Skeeters caused my head to shake and my palm to be planted firmly on my forehead. It also reminded me of the words I memorized years ago that nothing gold can stay.
Photo R. Anderson

Part of the charm of going to see the Skeeters play was the fact that tickets and concessions were reasonably priced and the action on the field involved former MLB players as well as people who were trying to continue their careers for just a little bit longer.

As an affiliated Astros club, I fear that the owner of the Astros who famously said in the middle of a pandemic that he wanted fans in the stands so he could sell them “beer and t-shirts” will likely not keep the prices as low as they had been on the current regime. Of course, Skeeters tickets will hopefully still be cheaper than Astros tickets but Goliath has definitely defeated David in this example.

Based on the amount of people who wore Astros gear to Skeeters games, I know that I am likely in the minority when it comes to being sad that the era of Skeeters as I knew them is likely coming to a close. There is likely social distanced dancing in the streets at the news that the Astros will have their AAA team a mere 27 miles or so away from Minute Maid Park.

They may even try to make the Skeeters Ballpark, Constellation Field, look like a mini Minute Maid Park. Of course, the city of Sugar Land owns Constellation Field so they would have a huge say in any major renovations to the Ballpark.

Come next season, one of my favorite Ballparks will be home of the AAA farm club of the Houston Astros. As part of the new relationship Constellation Field could start to look like a mini Minute Maid Park with Astros fans as far as the eye can see.
Photo R. Anderson

But even if major renovations are not done, make no mistake the Ballpark will become a mini Minute Maid packed to the rafters with Astros fans cheering on the top prospects.

I could even envision a scenario where they try to adjust the schedule to ensure that the Skeeters home games coincide with when the Astros are on the road to maximize the amount of dollars that can be made.

Like Mulder told Scully, I want to believe that the worst-case scenario I am picturing will not take place. I want to believe that come Opening Day 2021 COVID-19 will be on the way out and Swatson and the Skeeters will be there like a warm binkie reminding me of a time before the world went bat guano crazy.

Although I want to believe, I am also not naïve. There will be changes to the way the Skeeters operate. Some will be good; some will be bad. Time will tell whether the changes are something I can live with, or if I need to find another Ballpark to call home.

I really do not want to leave the Skeeters behind. They were my oasis and anti-Astros representing all that I remembered about baseball growing up. Unfortunately, that form of baseball is getting harder and harder to find.

Each year the game of baseball gets more commercialized and sanitized. The days of baseball being an afternoon or evening escape where on can just absorb the sights and sounds are fading. Efforts to streamline and modernize the game will continue until baseball as it once was may cease to exist. There are already examples of that, but the years to come are likely to involve some of the most radical changes to the game that have been seen in centuries.

As part of the musical chairs that is Minor League Baseball the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers appear to once again be swapping out calling the Dell Diamond home for their AAA ballplayers.
Photo R. Anderson

I am too young to be the cranky old guy chasing kids off of his lawn and rambling under his breath  about the way things used to be back in the day.

However, I am old enough to remember that baseball used to be a lot less commercialized and people did not need a million distractions in the Ballpark to keep them amused. Back then people actually went to the Ballpark to see a baseball game from their seats.

Back in high school when I was just kicking off my professional writing career, and attending Southern League games at Tinker Field, baseball was still in a nostalgic era. It was also in the middle of the golden age of the baseball movie.

As for the poem that started this all, memorizing the Robert Frost poem senior year was tied to S. E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders. In the book, and for those with shorter attention spans that seem to be the target audience of the new era of baseball, the movie, Johnny Cade tells Ponyboy Curtis to “Stay gold.”

In the same way now I am asking, pleading, begging even, for the Skeeters to stay gold and not become just another cookie cutter affiliate where fans are mere commodities to be monetized and fleeced for beer and t-shirt sales.

Sadly, my rarely wrong gut knows that nothing gold can stay. As Robert Frost wrote nearly a century ago:

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

Another Robert Frost poem that I often think of is The Road Not Taken. Two paths are in front of me as I decide whether to accept the road that the Skeeters appear to be heading down, or if I choose another one. But that is a poem, and a column for another day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge to reread The Outsiders. Stay gold, Swatson.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

Way Back Wednesday: Remembering When the Tampa Bay Rays Joined My Triple Double Ballpark Club

Editor’s Note: As part of our occasional Way Back Wednesday feature, today we look back to the time that I saw the Tampa Bay Rays play at Minute Maid Park for the second time which gave them entry into the Triple Double Ballpark Club. With the Rays knocking out the Houston Astros and heading to the 2020 World Series it seemed a fitting time to reminisce.

As an aside, in the years since this column first appeared in 2013, and in keeping with the World Series theme, I had the chance to see the Texas Rangers, who are playing host to the 2020 World Series match up between the Rays and Los Angeles Dodgers at their new Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, play the Los Angeles Angels in Anaheim, California, and again in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg against the Tampa Bay Rays. With those two new additions, the Texas Rangers became the first team I have seen play in four different MLB Ballparks.

If you had asked me who I thought the first team I would see in four Ballparks would have been, it is doubtful the I would have said the Texas Rangers. Nevertheless, the Rangers are the charter member of the Cuatro Single Ballpark Club, as well as having membership in the Double Double Ballpark Club.  

In addition to seeing the Rangers on two coasts in the seven years since this column first appeared, I also added trips to Coors Field in Denver Colorado, and Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California bringing my total MLB Ballpark count to seven out of 30. When the world of baseball reopens, I hope to continue my quest to see all 30 MLB Ballparks. Until then, please enjoy this blast from the past on this World Series inspired Way Back Wednesday.

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Tonight, July 3, 2013, at around 7:30 or so, I will be at Minute Maid Park watching the Tampa Bay Rays play the Houston Astros in the third game of a four-game series.

While the night will include post-game fireworks to celebrate the Fourth of July, it occurs to me that it will mark another milestone as well.

While it did not cross my mind at the time when I purchased my ticket, tonight’s game will mark the second time that I have seen the Rays play in Houston. Add that to seeing the Rays play two games at Tropicana Field and two games at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington and the Rays become the first member of my Triple Double Club.

There have been numerous teams that I have watched come and go through Minute Maid Park through the years.

Fresh off their first World Series appearance in 2008 I visited the Tampa Bay Rays in 2009 for a long overdue trip to Tropicana Field.
Photo R. Anderson

But with the exception of seeing a few of them for Spring Training games, there have not been many that I have seen in multiple Ballparks so the Rays induction in the Triple Double Club is sort of a big deal.

The fact that the event will be met with post game fireworks is sort of a happy coincidence.

Okay so the Triple Double Club may be something that only matters to me but I thought that it was pretty cool.  Considering that I have only made it to four of the 30 Major League Ballparks so far, the fact that I saw the same team twice at three of those ballparks is nothing to sneeze at.

I have seen the Baltimore Orioles play at three stadiums during the regular season but only once at each ballpark so they are in the Triple Single Club. Of course, seeing them play in two different Ballparks over a four-day period gives them bonus points. And I have seen them play in three ballparks over the years during Spring Training.

A second ballpark viewing of the Rays was added in Arlington when I saw them take on the Texas Rangers.
Photo R. Anderson

The Texas Rangers are in the Double Double Club as I have watched them at both their home Ballpark and Minute Maid Park.

It stands to reason that they would be a strong candidate to join the Triple Double Club as all it would take was a trip to an additional ballpark when they were in town to get them there.

The Toronto Blue Jays make it into the Double Single Club as I have seen them play at both Tropicana Field and Minute Maid Park.

The Houston Astros are the team I have watched the most due to the close proximity between my house and the Minute Maid Park.  I have probably seen close to 100 games at Minute Maid Park over the past decade but ironically I have never seen them play a regular season game at any other Ballpark.

I’ve made numerous trips to Florida to see the Astros play in Spring Training games but during the regular season it seems that the desire to see them play far from home just doesn’t exist. In that way the Astros closeness is both a blessing and a curse.

Minute Maid Park became the third ballpark to watch the Rays in when I saw them take on the Houston Astros in 2011.
Photo R. Anderson

There have been years where I thought about making the four hour drive to see them play the Texas Rangers in Arlington but those thoughts were usually quashed quickly at the thought that I could just wait until the Rangers came to Houston.

But there are certainly worse places to watch games than Minute Maid Park.

With the Astros moving to the American League this year the odds of me completing the Single Thirty Club of seeing all 30 teams at Minute Maid Park is pretty high.

I do not have the number in front of me but it seems highly likely that I am less than five teams away from reaching that goal of seeing all 30 teams from the air-conditioned comfort of Minute Maid Park.

Off of the top of my head I know I have yet to see the New York Yankees play there but the other teams that I am missing escape me at the moment. The Oakland Athletics seem like another team that I have yet to see play but with them sharing a division with the Astros that is an easy team to cross off of the list.

Tonight will mark the sixth Tampa Bay Rays regular season game that I have attended and the second at Minute Maid Park earning an inaugural induction into the Triple Double Club as I have seen a pair of games at Tropicana Field, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, and Minute Maid Park.
Photo R. Anderson

I suppose it is entirely possible that the Yankees and Athletics are the only missing teams but I will definitely have to look into that.

I do know that the National League, and in particular the National League Central, is well represented in my list of teams that I have seen multiple times there.

While the focus tonight will be placed firmly on enjoying the Rays and the induction of the first member of the Triple Double Club the festivities will be short lived.

Tomorrow afternoon I will start my way towards the Triple Triple Club as I will be catching a matinee game between the Rays and the Astros.

I guess that means I need to plan road trips back to Arlington and St. Petersburg to complete the Triple Triple Club for the Rays.  I don’t think my arm will be twisted too hard to make that happen.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to decide which Rays shirt to wear to tomorrow’s game.

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Epilogue: In the years since this column first ran, the Tampa Bay Rays joined the Triple Double Ballpark Club following trips to see them play at Minutes Maid Park and Tropicana Field. As such, the Rays are just a trip to Arlington away from making the Triple Triple Ballpark Club. Hopefully a trip to Arlington to see the Rangers and Rays play will be able to take place in 2021. I also was able to complete my journey of seeing all 30 MLB teams play at Minute Maid Park when the New York Yankees came to town.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

 

Tatis, Jr. Slammed for Breaking an Unwritten Rule by Hitting a Grand Slam During a Blowout

A few weeks back, one of the unwritten rules of baseball came into play when Fernando Tatis Jr. ignored a take sign and converted a 3-0 pitch in the eighth inning into his first career grand slam with his San Diego Padres up 10-3 over the Texas Rangers.

Instead of celebrating Tatis hitting the first grand slam of his career, Padres manager Jayce Tingler, issued an apology to the Rangers for Tatis swinging on a take sign. The grand slam also resulted in condemnation from the Texas Rangers.

Rangers manager Chris Woodward, as quoted in a USA Today article, stated that, “There’s a lot of unwritten rules that are constantly being challenged in today’s game. I didn’t like it, personally. You’re up by seven in the eighth inning; it’s typically not a good time to swing 3-0. It’s kind of the way we were all raised in the game. But, like I said, the norms are being challenged on a daily basis. So just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean it’s not right. I don’t think we liked it as a group.”

The Rangers showed just how much they didn’t like the grand slam during the next at bat when Rangers relief pitcher Ian Gibaut intentionally threw behind Manny Machado enacting another of baseball’s unwritten rules. For his actions of perceived retaliation, Gibaut was suspended three games and Woodward was suspended for one game..

With so many unwritten rules to remember, one has to wonder whether it is time to either write them all down to help players keep track of them, or if it is time to build a proverbial snowman and as the song says, “let it go.”

The Texas Rangers responded to an unwritten rule being broken by intentionally throwing behind Manny Machado enacting another of baseball’s unwritten rules.
Photo R. Anderson

For Tatis’ part, he noted that, “I’ve been in this game since I was a kid. I know a lot of unwritten rules. I was kind of lost on this. Those experiences you have to learn. Probably next time, I’ll take a pitch.”

And therein lies the rub, an unwritten rule is only good if those asked to live by it are aware of it. At the heart of the condemnation of Tatis for hitting the grand slam is the notion of not running up the score on an opponent when the outcome of a game is well in hand.

This is where the debate really come in. Even without unwritten rules explicitly stated, athletes are often programmed to try not to run up scores against opponents. The reasoning being similar to the Golden Rule, where they are doing unto others as they would hope others do unto them.

After all, on any given day depending on which way the ball bounces a team can be on either side of a lopsided game. But, this “golden rule” of athletics goes against the try your best to win philosophy that is instilled in athletes from an early age.

While professional athletes are given some leeway to police themselves when it comes to the so-called unwritten “mercy rules,” many youth athletics enforce mercy rules to the point of ending a game once the margin of score reaches a certain point

While professional athletes are given some leeway to police themselves when it comes to the so-called unwritten “mercy rules,” many youth athletics enforce mercy rules to the point of ending a game once the margin of score reaches a certain point.
Photo R. Anderson

Is showing mercy during an athletic competition mercy, or is it patronizing and outside the realm of sportsmanship and fair play? That question is at the heart of many debates related to mercy rules in many youth sports leagues.

Back when I covered high school sports as a reporter, I loved the mercy rule because, lopsided games are no fun to write about, and the earlier a game finished, the quicker I could rush back to the newsroom to write my story. Baseball games would be called if a team was up by 10 or more runs at the end of the fifth inning based on the assumption that the losing team would not be able to score 10 or more runs in two innings.

In other cases, where a game clock is involved, a running clock is utilized in an effort to end the game as quickly as possible to shorten the time a team has to run up the score against an over matched opponent.

Despite the selfish benefit I received at the time in terms of having more time to write my articles, in my mind I was the only one receiving mercy from a mercy rule. Despite gaining the benefit of more time to write before deadline, I always felt bad for the teams that were getting trounced.

Plus, it was newspaper policy to state that the game ended early due to a mercy rule which further showed how off a particular team was. Calling attention to the mercy rule added another degree of shame to their bad night.

One season while covering high school soccer, one of the teams I covered was so over matched that 90 percent of their games were called by the mercy rule before halftime. Late in the season when they actually got to play a full game it was like a victory for them.

While that particular high school had a football and basketball team that routinely won state championships, soccer was an afterthought.

Of course, this self-policing of trying to show sportsmanship by not running up a score can lead to cases of football players falling down at the 1-yard line to not score, versus running into the wide open endzone as their normal instincts would tell them to do.

With so many unwritten rules to remember, one has to wonder whether it is time to either write them all down to help players keep track of them, or if it is time to build a proverbial snowman and as the song says, “let it go.”
Photo R. Anderson

While well intentioned, and certainly a sports writer’s best friend in terms of making it an early night, it can be argued that mercy rules tarnish the spirit of sportsmanship and take away an opportunity for teams to rally and unite through shared adversity.

It also can lead to a patronizing effect where the team on the winning side of the equation is acting superior or starts to consider the other team has something to pity or despise.  Another downside of mercy rules is that the team on the winning side can be shamed for being that much better than their opponent.

The issue of showing mercy in lopsided games is certainly tricky. In my opinion, games should be played in their entirety regardless of the score. Players should also try their best on every play. Asking a player to go against that instinct is asking them to be less than who they are and tarnishes the leave it all out on the field approach of competitive sport.

Yes, lopsided games are painful to watch, and even more painful to write about, but if a team can take their foot off of the accelerator in a lopsided game, what is to prevent them from doing so in other instances? Players should use lopsided games to try new things that can help them in future games versus heading to the locker room early.

Players owe it to themselves, and everyone else, to play their best on every play regardless of what the scoreboard says. Sportsmanship is shown through being gracious in both victory and defeat. Athletes need to go all out on every play knowing that some days they will be on the winning side, and some days they might suffer a terrible lopsided loss.

Those traits are learned in youth sports and carried throughout a person’s life. As such, youth sports need to go the distance and fight through adversity both on the field and off.

While well intended, mercy rules, and the other unwritten rules for lopsided games, have no place in athletics, even if that means that reporters have to work a little later into the night.

In the example of that Padres game against the Rangers, it was the job of the Texas pitcher to keep the ball out of the reach of Tatis’ bat to prevent the grand slam. It was not Tatis’ job to lay off of the pitch and take a walk, or strike out.

Let the players play, and keep the unwritten rules of the game to a minimum when it comes to asking players to forego their competitive instincts at the plate.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some unwritten rules to jot down.

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

Building my Ballpark Bucket List for When the World is Open Once Again Part 1

For the past five years, I have traveled an average of one to two weeks a month. During this time, I saw a lot of hotel rooms, drove a lot of rental cars, and most impressively I mastered the art of snagging a coveted aisle seat close to the front of a completely full Southwest Airlines flight.  On those rare occasions when the seat next to me on the flight was empty, I felt like I had won the lottery as I crisscrossed North America during the carefree days before COVID-19.

Over a five-year span I logged a lot of miles in blue planes just like this one.
Photo R. Anderson

Many of those trips involved visits to Ballparks and other sporting venues. I saw Major League games at Dodgers Stadium, Angels Stadium, Tropicana Field and Coors Field. I caught Minor League games in Colorado Springs and Port Charlotte, among other places.

For good measure, I even visited four hockey arenas. While Coolio sang of living in a “Gangsta’s Paradise,” I was truly spending most my time living in a sports fan paradise.

The era of the non-retractable roof Ballpark as fallen out of fashion in recent years. Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays, is truly the last of its kind. Based on historically low attendance some might argue that the Trop was the first Ballpark to engage in social distancing.
Photo R. Anderson

Of course, that carefree ability to cram into full arenas, full ballparks, and even full blue Boeing 737s, has been put on hold for the foreseeable future thanks to the COVID-19 virus.

Large gatherings of people at sporting events would be the perfect storm for community spread of the virus. So out of an abundance of caution, fans will not be allowed to congregate for a while once the sports world reopens.

I can totally respect that since, a) I really don’t feel like getting sick just so I can see a game in person, and b) drinking Dr Pepper with a straw through a hole in my officially licensed MLB face covering does not sound like fun.

Constellation Field in Sugar Land, TX has a scoreboard that reminds people what state they are in. This can be helpful for fans who become disoriented from the heat.
Photo R. Anderson

Although I will not be able to see live sports any time soon, that does not mean that from the relative safety of my gigaplex 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.

My Bucket list of Ballparks I wanted to visit was already pretty extensive. However, 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 when the world reopens.

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.

For the first installment of our series, I have chosen to look at the five Ballparks I want to see again. While I will always enjoy finding new Ballparks to visit, I also enjoy returning to some old favorites. The five Ballparks on this list are ones that I would visit for every game if I had the chance.

Constellation Field, Sugar Land, TX

A mascot with a water gun is the perfect combo for baseball in triple degree heat.
Photo R. Anderson

Located just a smidge too far away from the gigaplex for me to be a season ticket holder, Constellation Field plays home to the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball.

With reasonable prices on tickets, food, and souvenirs, a game inside Constellation Field won’t break most piggy banks. The action on the field is exciting, and the mid-inning promotions staff provides the usual Minor League Baseball standards to keep the fans entertained.

I do take issue with the team getting rid of the carousel in Center Field a few years ago, but aside from that, this little ballpark is pretty much perfect for catching a game. The Ballpark is in Texas so it does get hot during day games in the summer, but there are thankfully ways to stay cool including a splash pad and air conditioned areas.

Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL

Though it is criticized by many, I find Tropicana Field to be a pleasant place to catch a game while also feeding some wildlife.
Photo R. Anderson

Tropicana Field gets a lot of flak from a lot of people. They complain about the location of the facility as well as the fact that it is one of the last of the multi use large domes that once dotted the sports landscape from coast to coast.

While domes in Houston, Seattle, and Minnesota have given way to single use baseball fields, courtesy of the Ballpark renaissance kicked off by Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Tropicana Field stands as a reminder of what a certain era of Ballpark design looked like. While the Trop has haters, I actually like the Ballpark. It was one of the first facilities to allow people to bring in their own food and also offers an unlimited refill policy on soft drinks.

Paying tribute to the days when the Tampa Bay Rays were known as the Devil Rays, there is even a Ray touch and feeding tank in center field.  Plus, it is hard to beat catching a game in air-conditioned comfort and staying dry during those hot and wet Florida summers that last from March to November.

Coors Field, Denver, CO

During my lone trip to Coors Field I hit a triple with a Pepsi, a hot dog, and a bobblehead.
Photo R. Anderson

Next up is Coors Field, home of the Colorado Rockies. I have only had the pleasure of attending one game at this Ballpark. It was a day game during a Colorado heat wave and the vendors were selling equal amounts of beverages and sunscreen.

From what I could see through my sun screen irritated eyes, the Ballpark has a lot to offer. The game I attended included a bobblehead giveaway, as well as a race between people dressed up as the presidents on Mount Rushmore. Not too shabby.

Coors Field made the list, based on my desire to catch a night game at the Ballpark and to have time to explore more of the amenities without feeling like I was every bit of a mile closer to the surface of the sun.

Dr Pepper Ballpark, Frisco, TX

Dr Pepper Ballpark in Frisco, TX is a great venue to catch a game, just try to avoid day games in August.
Photo R. Anderson

Dr Pepper Ballpark is home of the Frisco Rough Riders, who are the Double A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. It has been several years since I made the drive up to the Ballpark located in a suburb of Dallas, but it is a drive well rough making.

The Ballpark features bullpens that are surrounded by seats so fans can really get a close look at the pitchers warming up. The facility also includes a lazy river and a pool, which is perfect for the sweltering heat that the Dallas Metroplex is famous for.

One major plus of Dr Pepper Ballpark, is the availability to have a cold and refreshing Dr Pepper. I am sure there are people who do not mind Pibb Xtra, but for me it has to be Dr Pepper. With the headquarters for Dr Pepper being located next door in Plano, TX, I feel pretty confident that the Ballpark will keep serving Dr Pepper for years to come.

Blue Wahoos Stadium, Pensacola, FL

Pensacola’s Blue Wahoos Stadium is a true gem among Ballparks and  has a waterfront view that can often include spotting the Blue Angels returning from an Air Show.
Photo R. Anderson

Blue Wahoos Stadium is home to the Blue Wahoos, a Class Double A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. The Ballpark is one of my favorites for many reasons. The location right on the bay is hard to beat.

The concessions are top notch. The Ballpark itself is beautiful and has been named best ballpark in the country by numerous outlets, including being a three-time recipient of the Southern League Ballpark of the Year award. The Ballpark is the smallest facility in the Southern League and this creates an intimate fan experience.

I try to visit Pensacola as often as I can. When the world reopens, and it is safe to move about the country once again, Pensacola will be one of the first trips that I make. Southern League Baseball has always been my favorite league since catching Orlando Sun Rays games with my mom at Tinker Field in Orlando. The Blue Wahoos allow me to keep that tradition alive once every other year or so.

These five Ballparks are definitely places I would go to again and again. There are other Ballparks that I could have included as well on my list of places I love catching a game at.  Be sure to return Friday when I will reveal the five venues that I want to visit for the first time.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about Ballparks has me craving a hot dog and some nachos.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

Texas Rangers Welcome Josh Hamilton Home

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Copyright 2015 R Anderson

A Trio of Meaty Baseball Stories to Sink Your Teeth into

One of local barbecue restaurants I frequent has a plate called the pork three ways that includes pork ribs, pulled pork and pork sausage.

I mention this fact not to make people hungry for barbecue pork, but to point out that sometimes it is hard to pick a single entree leading to the need to combine things into a single meal.

In that same spirit we are going to focus on three entrees from the world of baseball since focusing on just one would not do justice to the other two, much in the same way that just getting ribs leaves out the pulled pork and sausage.

Our first entree comes to us from the Houston Astros who stepped on a player’s moment to create a look at us moment Monday.

For the first time in team history a member of the Houston Astros won a batting title. That player was second baseman Jose Altuve. Altuve not only had the best batting average in the American League but had the best overall average in all of baseball this season.

Jose Altuve won the American League batting title this year and had one day in the spotlight until the team announced it had hired a new manager. Photo R. Anderson
Jose Altuve won the American League batting title this year and had one day in the spotlight until the team announced it had hired a new manager.
Photo R. Anderson

Altuve also set a new team record for hits in a single season.

For a team that has known more about losing than winning the last couple of years this individual achievement by Altuve gave fans of the Astros something to cheer about as another lackluster season came to a close.

Traditional wisdom would say that in a situation like this a team would give the spotlight to the player for a couple of days to give the proper attention to such a stellar achievement such as having the best average in all of baseball.

Instead, the smoldering tire fire that is the Astros front office saw fit to take the attention away from Altuve less than 24-hour after the end of the season to announce that they had hired a new manager.

The Astros certainly needed to fill the vacancy at the manager position. However, was the news that they hired a man with a losing record as a manager, who has been out of the dugout for four years, so important that they could not wait a day or two to announce it? Apparently in their minds it was and thus ended the spotlight on Jose Altuve.

While the hiring of A.J. Hinch left many fans underwhelmed and thinking that the Astros should have hired a more established manager the fact remains that more established managers have enough sense to stay away from the Astros in their current state.

As for the manager the Astros did get, Hinch managed the Arizona Diamondbacks from May 2009 until July 2010, and was fired after a 31-48 start. Hinch served as the vice president of professional scouting for the San Diego Padres from 2010 until this past August.

Not a very successful resume at first glance, but I will wait to see what he can do with his second opportunity to manage a big league club.

Speaking of managers, our second entree takes us to Minnesota where the Twins fired longtime manager Ron Gardenhire after a fourth straight losing season.

While I do not follow the day to day operations of the Twins as closely as I used to, I have been a fan of Ron Gardenhire since his days as the manager of the Orlando Sun Rays of the Southern League.

Ron Gardenhire spent nearly 25 years in the Minnesota Twins organization including the last 13 as manager. Photo R. Anderson
Ron Gardenhire spent nearly 25 years in the Minnesota Twins organization including the last 13 as manager.
Photo R. Anderson

As mentioned before I attended many Minor League Baseball games growing up in Orlando and several of those years were spent pulling for Gardenhire led teams at Tinker Field.

All in all Gardenhire spent around a quarter of a century within the Twins organization, including 13 seasons as manager, and was there for much of the teams success.

Unfortunately in a what have you done for me lately world, past success can only go so far in covering up current problems.

The Twins offered Gardenhire a front office position which he declined stating that he feels that he still has things to offer as a manager.

Personally I would not mind the Texas Rangers giving the reins to Gardenhire if for no other reason than to say that he managed both teams that used to be known as the Washington Senators as the Twins leaving Washington D.C. for the twin cities paved the way for the expansion team version of the Senators that became the Rangers.

Even if Gardenhire does not end up with the Rangers I have little doubt that he will end up in another dugout before too long.

Our third baseball entree takes us to Sugar Land where the Skeeters are hosting the first two games of the Atlantic League Championship Series against the Lancaster Barnstormers.

The series opened up last night with the Skeeters losing to the Barnstormers 10 to 6. Game two of the series is tonight and will find the Skeeters trying to even the series.

Regardless of whether or not the Skeeters hoist the championship at the end of the year they can be proud of what they accomplished this year.

Sugar Land Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti led his team to the playoffs for the second straight season. The Skeeters opened the Atlantic League Championship Series last night. Photo R. Anderson
Sugar Land Skeeters manager Gary Gaetti led his team to the playoffs for the second straight season. The Skeeters opened the Atlantic League Championship Series last night.
Photo R. Anderson

Among those accomplishments are hosting the All-Star Game in June, making the playoffs for the second straight year, and winning the first playoff series in team history against the York Revolution.

It is likely that the Skeeters will continue to build on their success next year during their fourth season of existence as they continue to form an identity

There you have it, three delicious entrees from the world of baseball this week.

As every good three meat plate needs a couple of side dishes, it should be mentioned that the Major League Baseball Playoffs kicked off last night with the American League Wild Card game between the Kansas City Royals and the Oakland Athletics and continues tonight with the National League Wild Card game between the San Francisco Giants and the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about entrees has made me a little hungry.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

Orioles and Nationals Set for Potential Collision Course to Divide a Region

Yesterday, marked the end of the regular Major League Baseball season which makes today the official start of the postseason.

While Derek Jeter enjoys an early start to his retirement, since the New York Yankees failed to make the postseason for only the third time in his 20-year career, other teams and regions are preparing for what the MLB marketing team calls the Hunt for October.

In the nation’s capitol this means choosing between pulling for the Washington Nationals or the Baltimore Orioles with both teams being the first to clinch their respective divisions and punch their playoff tickets.

After winning their divisions the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are seven victories away from facing each other in the World Series. Photo R. Anderson
After winning their divisions the Baltimore Orioles and Washington Nationals are seven victories away from facing each other in the World Series.
Photo R. Anderson

The Orioles captured their first American League East title since 1997 while the Nationals captured the National League East title in equally dominating fashion.

As noted before I follow both the Orioles and Nationals as part of my stable of teams.

The Orioles were the first team I followed growing up in Maryland and through moves to Florida and Texas they are still considered my home team.

Although the Nationals were known as the Expos when I was born, I started following them when they moved down from Canada long after I had left the region.

Of course there was a time before I was born when the region supported two American League teams in close proximity in the Washington Senators and the Orioles.

With only one team in the region when I was growing up it was easy to pull for the Orioles despite living geographically closer to D.C.

Davey Johnson was the manager of the Baltimore Orioles when they won the American League East Division in 1997. He also managed the Washington Nationals to their first winning record. Photo R. Anderson
Davey Johnson was the manager of the Baltimore Orioles when they won the American League East Division in 1997. He also managed the Washington Nationals to their first winning record.
Photo R. Anderson

While the decision to root for the Orioles was easy for me I was curious to know what it was like for people in the shadow of the Potomac River before I was born when they had to pick which team to follow.

As luck would have it, it turns out that my mom is older than me (funny how it works that way) and was alive when there were two teams to choose from, so I called her up to see which team she pulled for growing up.

As I had suspected my mom was a Senators fan growing up. I had suspected this because long after the Senators had left town she would still where her Senators shirt.

Conversely I had never known her to wear anything Orioles related although she did follow the team and encouraged my love of the Orange and Black.

While the Senators only exist to me through old baseball cards that I rescued from a dusty bin at a card shop, the Orioles are full of vibrant memories that shaped the baseball fan that I am today.

In a world where the Senators did not move to Texas it is possible that I never would have rooted for Cal Ripken, Jr.
In a world where the Senators did not move to Texas it is possible that I never would have rooted for Cal Ripken, Jr.

But had the Senators not headed to Arlington, Texas a few years before I was born to become the Texas Rangers, the odds are I would of had an entirely different childhood when it came to baseball.

In this alternate baseball universe instead of the Cal Ripken, Jr. poster on my bedroom wall it could have been replaced by whoever the big star for the Senators was at the time.

Of course, it is likely that I still would have become a Cal Ripken, Jr. fan much in the same way that there are fans of Derek Jeter who cannot stand the New York Yankees. Certain players just elevate beyond team loyalty.

Each year during Spring Training when I was growing up I tried to catch at least one Orioles game. Once the Nationals came onto the circuit I added games to see them as well further cementing my divided beltway allegiance.

Bryce Harper leads a young core of players who have brought playoff baseball back to Washington, D.C. Photo R. Anderson
Bryce Harper leads a young core of players who have brought playoff baseball back to Washington, D.C.
Photo R. Anderson

This support of two teams in the same market was justified by the fact that the only time they would meet in games that really mattered was if they both made it to the World Series in the same year.

I was not counting interleague series play as a challenge to pulling for both teams. For me the only conflict would come in the World Series since I would be divided on who should be crowned World Champions.

With the Orioles undergoing years of mediocrity at the time the Nationals moved into the neighborhood it seemed a safe bet to pull for both teams since the odds of either team, let alone both teams making the World Series was extremely low.

That all changed this year though when I had a hunch that the stars could align and turn Washington, D.C. into a house divided.

Each Spring Training visit includes a stop to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL to see the Baltimore Orioles play. Photo R. Anderson
Each Spring Training visit includes a stop to Ed Smith Stadium in Sarasota, FL to see the Baltimore Orioles play.
Photo R. Anderson

While few could predict the dominating manner that the Orioles and Nationals won their divisions few should be surprised that both teams are in the playoffs.

There really is no clear cut line in the sand declaring, “This far, no farther” when it comes to saying where the Nationals Fans live and where the Orioles fans live.

The closer one gets to Baltimore the more intense the fan base for the Orioles becomes. But, the region in between Baltimore and D.C is where the real battle rages.

In fact, the Orioles have a billboard less than seven miles away from the Ballpark that the Nationals call home.

For people like me who were born when there was only one team to pull for in the region it is easier to justify keeping allegiance to the team from our youth and adding a more geographically friendly one as well.

The Washington Nationals are also a must see during Spring Training. Photo R. Anderson
The Washington Nationals are also a must see during Spring Training.
Photo R. Anderson

The generations that follow now will likely have to choose a side, either Red White and Blue, or Orange and Black much like my parent’s generation had to do during the time of the Senators.

With both the Orioles and Nationals full of talent throughout their rosters it seems likely that postseason meetings between the squads could become a regular thing.

As for the Senators of my mom’s youth who made that western journey all those years ago, since moving to Texas I have found myself rooting for the Rangers. In that way I suppose I am a Senators fan as well. They just have a bit more of a twang now than they did back in D.C.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some postseason baseball to prepare for.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

Championships are Not Won in April but They Can be Lost in April

It has been said that championships are not won in April but that they can certainly be lost.

That is to say that a team’s early success does not always carry over throughout the course of a full season as many things can happen between Opening Day and Game One of the World Series to shape a team’s fortunes and in some cases misfortunes.

While a team winning the bulk of their games early in a season does not guarantee continued success, a team that loses most of their games early on will in most cases continue that trend throughout the season.

While it is certainly neither the time nor place for celebration or despair in any of the 30 Major League Ballparks this early in the season it is certainly worth looking at some early trends in terms of expectations met and expectations that have not been met.

In the American League East few should be surprised that the New York Yankees are leading the standings during the Derek Jeter Swan Song Tour.

With the  New York Yankees in first place in the American League East very few people are likely to bet against them going deep into the postseason during Derek Jeter's Farewell Tour. Photo R. Anderson
With the New York Yankees in first place in the American League East very few people are likely to bet against them going deep into the postseason during Derek Jeter’s Farewell Tour.
Photo R. Anderson

Some may go so far as to suggest that the baseball stars will align so that Jeter’s last game occurs as a World Series Champion. That is not to say that baseball is rigged but there are certainly odd occurrences now and then. I am looking at you Boston Red Sox.

The rest of the American League East offers a few surprises.

Few would have thought that the defending World Series Champion Boston Red Sox who famously healed an entire region last year with a title following a terrorist attack at a marathon would be in last place in the division.

The Tampa Bay Rays who many predicted as a World Series bound team are also struggling a bit due to injuries to their starting rotation but it is likely that they will bounce back from the early season struggles and become the playoff team that many predicted them to be.

While the New York Yankees may be the current frontrunners in the East, one cannot discount Joe Maddon's Tampa Bay Rays since no team has done more with less over the past five seasons. Photo R. Anderson
While the New York Yankees may be the current frontrunners in the East, one cannot discount Joe Maddon’s Tampa Bay Rays since no team has done more with less over the past five seasons.
Photo R. Anderson

The Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles certainly cannot be ruled out as well in what is often the most hotly contested division in all of baseball.

Traveling further down the geographic standings brings the focus on the American League Central where the usual suspects seem to be doing the usual things early on.

The Detroit Tigers will likely continue their reign atop the division while fighting off the advances of the Kansas City Royals who continue to improve each season.

The Chicago White Sox, Minnesota Twins and Cleveland Indians will likely string together some impressive victories throughout the season but it is unlikely that they will rise to the top of the standings based on their early sample of work.

Out in the American League West the Oakland Athletics are in first place and the Houston Astros are in last place.

No real surprises there.

While the Texas Rangers will look to return to postseason play in the post Nolan Ryan era a more intriguing thing to watch in the division will be whether the Astros can break their streak of consecutive 100 loss seasons.

Early indications point to another long season for the Houston Astros. Fans can take comfort in the return of the view of the skyline however. Photo R. Anderson
Early indications point to another long season for the Houston Astros. Fans can take comfort in the return of the view of the skyline however.
Photo R. Anderson

Early indications certainly point to it being another very long season in Minute Maid Park but at least fans have a view of downtown again to entertain them during lopsided losses by the home team.

The Seattle Mariners and Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim will look to get some bang from their hefty payroll bucks and should easily finish higher than the Astros but it is doubtful that they will break the grasp the Rangers and Athletics have atop the division.

With the American League shaping up with few surprises it is time to look at the National League and any potential surprises or unexpected trends from the early parts of the season.

The National League East has the Atlanta Braves in cruise control atop the standings. With their days in Turner Field numbered it would be nice to see the Braves give the Ballpark a final taste of postseason play before it is reduced to a pile of rubble.

The Atlanta Braves look like the team to beat so far in the National League East. Photo R. Anderson
The Atlanta Braves look like the team to beat so far in the National League East.
Photo R. Anderson

The Washington Nationals, New York Mets, and Philadelphia Phillies will try to keep things interesting but the division does seem to have a heavy “tomahawk chop” feel to it with the Braves going the distance.

The Miami Marlins hold their familiar spot at the bottom of the standings showing that a Ballpark without payroll can lead to a very long couple of seasons.

The National League Central is shaping up to look like the division normally looks with the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals near the top and the Pittsburgh Pirates and Chicago Cubs near the bottom.

It is likely that the 100th Anniversary season at Wrigley Field will end like many of the previous years with the Cubs shut out of the postseason.

The Cincinnati Reds will likely hold their familiar spot in third place in the division although Billy Hamilton will certainly give the Reds’ fans something exciting to watch as he scorches the base path with his base stealing speed.

Current Cincinnati Red Billy Hamilton stole a record number of bases in the Minor Leagues  and became immortalized as a bobble head. The real life version is likely to entertain Reds fans for years to come. Photo R. Anderson
Current Cincinnati Red Billy Hamilton stole a record number of bases in the Minor Leagues and became immortalized as a bobble head. The real life version is likely to entertain Reds fans for years to come.
Photo R. Anderson

As for the National League West the Los Angeles Dodgers are leading the pack with the Arizona Diamondbacks currently having the worst record in all of baseball.

The Colorado Rockies, San Francisco Giants and San Diego Padres will keep things competitive but the West has a feel of Dodger Blue as long as they don’t implode down the stretch.

While the standings in all six divisions are likely to change through the course of the season early indications do seem to point to a postseason filled with the usual suspects.

Of course there are no guarantees in baseball. Teams will need to battle through injuries and other factors as they approach October.

The only peak the Astros are likely to see this season will come in the form of Tal's Hill in center field. Photo R. Anderson
The only peak the Astros are likely to see this season will come in the form of Tal’s Hill in center field.
Photo R. Anderson

The teams that peak at the right time are the ones that win it all in the end. For some teams that peak occurs on Opening Day and lasts the whole season long. Other teams are more slow burners and need to build up to their peak.

Then there are the teams who are stuck in the valley where the only peak they see is the pitcher’s mound or in the case of the Houston Astros, Tal’s Hill.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about peaks and valleys has me craving a mountain view.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

 

Rangers Mark 20 Years in Ballpark Tonight

Tonight the Texas Rangers will mark the 20th anniversary of the first game played at the Ballpark in Arlington with a game against the Houston Astros.

The Houston Astros visit the Texas Rangers tonight for the 20th anniversary of the first game at the Ballpark in Arlington. Photo R. Anderson
The Houston Astros visit the Texas Rangers tonight for the 20th anniversary of the first game at the Ballpark in Arlington.
Photo R. Anderson

Aside from serving as the 20th anniversary game for the Ballpark, tonight will also mark the first game of the season between the two in state and, as of last season, American League West Division rivals in what is known as the Lone Star Series.

In recent years the Lone Star Series has been leaning heavily towards the Rangers but with both teams heading into tonight’s game with an equal amount of victories for the season anything is possible in the quest for the silver boot trophy.

While the teams have similar records heading into tonight’s game I tend to think the Rangers have the edge.

In a could not have planned it any better for the anniversary twist the Rangers will send their ace Yu Darvish out on the mound in a night honoring the past and the future of the team.

As far as the Ballpark in Arlington goes, it marked the 20th season with a new 10 year corporate naming agreement as it enters its third decade of service.

While the Ballpark may have a new corporate name as of this season for me it will always be the Ballpark in Arlington.

The Ballpark in Arlington replaced Arlington Stadium 20 years ago tonight. Photo R. Anderson
The Ballpark in Arlington replaced Arlington Stadium 20 years ago tonight.
Photo R. Anderson

While players have come and gone throughout the history of the Texas Rangers franchise the current Ballpark marks only the second home for the Rangers since they made the move from the east coast.

The Rangers begin their baseball life in Washington D.C. as the second team known as the Washington Senators following the exodus of the first Washington Senators to Minnesota.

Crowds over the last couple of years have seen two World Series come through the Ballpark in Arlington. Photo R. Anderson
Crowds over the last couple of years have seen two World Series come through the Ballpark in Arlington.
Photo R. Anderson

Like the Senators before them who became the Minnesota Twins, the second version of the Senators also pointed their wagons, err moving vans, west in search of greener pastures and more suitable Ballpark amenities.

The Rangers first stop in Texas was Turnpike Stadium, a 10,000-seat Ballpark which had been built in 1965 to house the AA Dallas-Fort Worth Spurs of the Texas League.

After it was announced that the Senators were moving to Texas, improvements were made to Turnpike Stadium which after being renamed Arlington Stadium served as the home to the Rangers from 1972 to 1994.

In 1991, two years into George W. Bush’s tenure as Managing General Partner of the Rangers, ground was broken on The Ballpark in Arlington.

A couple of years ago the Rangers got a new neighbor when the Dallas Cowboys came to town.  Photo R. Anderson
A couple of years ago the Rangers got a new neighbor when the Dallas Cowboys came to town.
Photo R. Anderson

The Ballpark in Arlington opened in 1994 which was also the same year that Bush left the team after being elected Texas governor.

While George W. Bush went on to be President of the United States for eight years, the Ballpark he helped create has hosted two World Series among other notable events since it opened its doors.

While it currently is dwarfed by its new neighbor Cowboys Stadium the Ballpark still mixes the charms of an old time Ballpark with the conveniences of a modern Ballpark.

One thing that the Ballpark does not seem to have though is adequate air circulation in the hot Texas summer heat.

Unlike Minute Maid Park, and many other Ballparks built after it, the Ballpark in Arlington does not feature a retractable roof.

While the lack of a roof would not be as big of a deal in places such as Minnesota where the original Washington Senators turned Twins recently left a domed stadium behind for the open air comfort of Target Field, the lack of a roof in Arlington is definitely noticed on most game days.

Some times you really don't want to know hot hot it is as day games in Arlington often prove. It is likely the actual temperature was much hotter than 99 degrees. Photo R. Anderson
Some times you really don’t want to know how hot it is as day games in Arlington often prove. It is likely the actual temperature was much hotter than 99 degrees.
Photo R. Anderson

In fact, studies were done to look into the feasibility of placing a roof over the Ballpark in Arlington to help protect fans from the blistering heat and frequent thunder storms that the area is known for.

The study found that retrofitting the Ballpark with a roof would cost more than the cost of building an entirely new Ballpark so the issue was tabled leaving fans to continue to be exposed to the elements.

It is likely that in 10 years when the current team lease on the Ballpark is up there will be more studies looking into the options of building a retractable roof Ballpark in the Dallas area.

In Atlanta the Braves are abandoning Turner Field after only 20 years so it would not be unheard of to trade in a 30-year Ballpark for a younger model.

Despite the battles with the elements I hope that the Rangers do choose to stay in their current facility since it really is a nice place to catch a game and a tan.

It is likely that fans coming to see the Rangers in the coming years will still see the sky as a study down by previous team owners showed putting a roof over the stadium was cost prohibitive. Photo R. Anderson.
It is likely that fans coming to see the Rangers in the coming years will still see the sky as a study down by previous team owners showed putting a roof over the stadium was cost prohibitive.
Photo R. Anderson.

As a word of advice though if one does decide to venture out to see a game in Arlington I would suggest drinking plenty of water before the game and definitely wearing light colored clothing.

You can also try to schedule your visit around one of the t-shirt giveaway days which will give you something dry to change into for the drive home.

And try not to pay too much attention to that thermometer in center field.

It may say it is only 99 degrees in the shade but it will definitely feel a lot hotter when you are shoulder to shoulder with 30,000 of your closet friends.

Needless to say this is one anniversary game that I will be catching from my couch where there is plenty of elbow room and the temperature is always a pleasant 72 degrees.

Now if only I could find a hot dog vendor to avoid having to go to the kitchen it would be just like being at the Ballpark.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a game to watch.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson