That Awkward moment when…

goodyearWe  made it!  To opening day!  That’s fantastic!  But…what happened to the fields in Arizona?  Florida?… What happens next?

Truth be told, I love Spring Training.  Whether it’s in Florida, or in Arizona, for some reason, the excitement and anticipation just bleed through every pitch.  From the veterans who’re just working on their swings, to 18 year-old rookies who are trying to make their dreams come true.  It never disappoints.  However there is one thing that bothers me.  The fact that it just…stops.

The start of the regular season is great and fantastic, but I always feel unfulfilled, and almost abandoned.  I understand that once ST wraps up, the bags are packed, and extended ST begins.  So really, there is no end to it.  Though I would appreciate some sort of “final game” or “final ceremony” to cap it all off.

sdafI am not saying there needs to be a nationally syndicated program all about the final game like the closing ceremonies of the Olympics, but something would be nice.

No?

The thing is, I highly doubt I am alone in this thought process.  To me  it was always confusing.  There is so much lead up to the beginning of Spring Training, such as social media campaigns.  But when it’s over, it’s almost like people just abandon the parks overnight.  You’d think they’d want SOME sort of closure.  Or maybe not.

Maybe it’s just better to move on, and not dwell about the warm weather of our past.

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OPENING DAY!…in the cold(?)

Ladies and gentleman, the day has FINALLY COME!  That day… is OPENING DAY!  I will give you a moment to collect yourself.

…..Good?

….Okay.  Good.

Now that you have that out of your system, let’s go over the checklist of everything you’ll need for the big day.

  1.  Tickets
  2. Money
  3. Jersey
  4. Hunger
  5. A smille
  6. ….a jacket?
  7. ………snow shoes???

Wait a minute… does something seem weird to  you?  Oh yea.. the winter apparel.  But why would you need that?  Baseball is the game of summer!

That, right there, is the question I have been trying to answer for years now.  As a huge Indians fan born and raised here in Cleveland, Ohio, those last two items have been an all-too-real need for me.  Which is the topic of this post.

For most of the fans, even though they live in colder areas, they at least have a dome, or roof, so it can be 72 and sunny year round.

Not Cleveland…or Boston… or New York…

But why?

I understand, domes and roofs are very expensive, and can be technically difficult.  However, I would prefer not to turn purple from frostbite during the 7th inning stretch.  It’s miserable.  Even the players hate it, that’s why some carry a “warm weather” clause in their contracts.

Lucky guys.

So if you live where it’s warm year round (I hate you) enjoy it.  Not all of us will be in T-Shirts on opening day.  Some of use will have to huddle together in our overpriced seats covered in snow.  Though I am used to it by now.

P.S.  Please build a roof, Cleveland.

The Saga of Adam LaRoche

545635465In a short lived, but intense saga, and in one of the most unprecedented moves in MLB history – Adam LaRoche is officially retired from the game.

While this might seem not out of the ordinary for an aging player to step away from the game before his presumably final season anyway, the reason why became headline news, and will have ramifications for years.

If you knew Adam LaRoche, as his teammates do, you would know that his family has always – and will always come first.  While this has led to some extreme circumstances with him over the years, such as his son Drake being around the team constantly, he has always been open about it.  So much so, that a clause allowing his son around the team whenever he pleased was actually agreed upon when he signed his two year – $25 million deal with the White Sox.

Up until now there has, presumably, been no complaint about this over the years.  Even during his time with the Nationals, when his son was also around a majority of the time, there was seemingly no problem.  It was just accepted.

Then things changed.

Suddenly last Tuesday, LaRoche decided that he would retire, after he was asked to choose between baseball, and his son.  This to him, was an easy decision, and he immediately left the team.  However this wasn’t the end of it, and in fact, this is where things just got weirder.

Almost instantly after the decision was made, fingers began to point from all directions.  Management said players were complaining, players said management was to blame, and ownership said it was coaching.  It soon became so convoluted that even the players on the team “threatened” to boycott the rest of spring training.  Though this was never truly proved.

index3216541The White Sox’s star pitcher, soon revealed the gravity of the situation when he openly came forward accusing the front office of “bold face lies” to everyone on the team, and claiming they ruined the good vibes they had going this spring.

You can look into this forever, and ever, and will still be confused.  So to me, it is best to really look at the big picture here, how a kid was banned from being around the game he loves.

A coach was quoted saying “who has a job they can take their kid to every day?”

While his sentiment is true, essentially no one, this really isn’t a “job.”  It’s baseball.

There is no argument that a kid should be around constantly, as it can become a distraction and detrimental, it can also be bad for Drake himself.  This game is clearly a game he loves, he wouldn’t be around so much if it wasn’t.  Who knows, maybe he is the next Sosa… or LaRoche.  Why is it so bad to let him around?

The issue here is that this sets a precedent.  The precedent that kids are once again banned from the clubhouse, and possibly cut off from watching their dreams, and looking into the stars they hope to be.  Sure, this can be overstepped, which LaRoche might have done.  But to act so coldly might set back others, and be detrimental to kids who look up to these players.

All I know, is that if I knew someone who played in the MLB, I would be around them as much as I could be too.  Still would be.

New Rules, New Era

MLB: ALCS-Boston Red Sox at Detroit Tigers

When I was coming up with ideas for what to write about, I always wanted to be that guy who made sure to stay away from the taboo topics such as the dreaded “new rules” debate.  However, seemingly every year, there are new rules that come up, mostly to pace of play (which I will get to), but this year is different.  For this first time in my memory, a rule will be added that will changed the way we play the game.

The “In the neighborhood rule”

If you are any sort of fan of the game, you know exactly what I am talking about, and you know how important it has become.  If you don’t know, it’s the rule that allows either the 2nd baseman, or shortstop to “just get near” the bag to get the running heading to 2nd out when trying to convert a double play.

WasinkHOn the outside looking in, and looking at how the play usually goes down, it would make sense for a rule like this to be put in place.  Almost every time, the runner slides ridiculously close to the fielder, trying to break up the double play.  This can be extremely dangerous, and it leaves the fielders ankle and knee vulnerable, and open to a sliding cleat.

Regardless how you feel about this rule change, there really are only two issues.

  1. Runners can be overly aggressive. – This is true. Especially recently, with the Utley slide that probably started this whole thing, is one.  “Attack sliding” can have devastating injuries, such as this play which resulted in a broken leg.  Even more, 1407109167000-803-ahmedaggressive sliding doesn’t even make sense, as I have only ever seen a runner break up a double play ONCE… EVER.  Nick Ahmed did it for the Diamondbacks in 2014.  So this is the argument for the rule staying.
  2. Fielders can take advantage of this rule, and “tag” second from 10 feet away.  This can lead to double plays, that if played properly, might not happen.  Sometimes they don’t even move towards the bag.  The rule has always been, touch the bag for the out.  To traditionalist, this “new” rule is just what the league needed to get back to its roots.

Whether this “new” rule will aggravate players will have to be seen, though it has  yet to cause any major problem in Spring Training.  As always, the play will be dangerous, and thankfully aggressive sliding will be penalized.  However, how much it actually changes the game can only be speculative for now.

 

Baseball: A Gentleman’s Sport?

Today we live in world of high fashion.  Glitz, glam, and entertainers that always take things over the top.  In fact, it’s almost guaranteed that if you turn on the television every night, there is going to be some soap opera on, or some reality show that is “rotting the minds,” or something like that.

Baseball, ever since it’s inception in the late 1800s, has always been a gentleman’s sport, or at least so they say.  When it first became a commonly played sport, it was reserved for the elite, the rich, and the well to-do.  Hence, how it became a game of honor and standing.

However, recently people (including players),  claim the game of baseball is nowhere near a gentleman’s sport, nor should it be.  People are too stiff, and take it too seriously.  It is a game after all.  In comments that surfaced in the past few days, Bryce Harper of the Nats praised individuals like Steph Curry for being wild, aggressive, and showboat-y.  He felt that baseball should be the same way, allowing people like Bautista to famously chuck his bat after a clinching home-run.  While this holds water, to a point, with most people.  There will always be the purists that want baseball to be different, and I cant really disagree.

…However people can, and DO, take it to the extreme.

bhgtj3z8tkz91xeh3md3After being asked how he felt about Bautista’s insane flip, Hall of Fame reliever, Goose, Gossage, responded with this;

“The game is becoming a freaking joke because of the nerds who are running it. I’ll tell you    what has happened, these guys played Rotisserie baseball at Harvard or wherever the f— they went and they thought they figured the f—ing game out. They don’t know s—.”

…Wow.

A little harsh, don’t you think?  If you were wondering, the “nerds” he was referring to are individuals who own and run MLB teams who have never played before in the league. Because apparently that’s a requirement.

He went on about how Bautista is a disgrace to the game and yada yada yada… but is he really?  Baseball is exciting, it’s thrilling, and it’s moments like that that will stick with the game forever.  Not all those stuffed up snobs, at least in my opinion.

Of course, everything in moderation.  I don’t think fireworks and chest beating should be happening because you got a ground-out, but a bat flip every once in a while?  What’s it going to hurt.

Here’s another quote, one that fits the situation, and one that’s a little bit more moderate;

Baseball was made for kids, and grown-ups only screw it up” – Bob Lemon

Answering the Age-Old Question

If you’re any sort of baseball fan, around this time of the year you will always begin to hear the age-old question surrounding spring training.  Just which is better, Arizona or Florida?  While the answer to some is a simple one, based entirely on their own experiences or preference, there really are pros and cons to both.  Both offer a great experience with some great games.  However, to make the decision a little easier, let’s examine each in detail.

Florida

lol
visitflorida.com

The sun, the sand, the palm trees – sounds like paradise to me.  No matter what your preference for the season, who can deny that Florida is a pretty fantastic place to visit.  But is it the ideal place for Spring Training?

Pros

First things first, it’s Florida, one of the most beautiful places in the country.  So even if this isn’t your first choice, you’re definitely going to love it.  The warm sunshine, the beautiful land… and people.  You really can’t ask for much more.  Florida also hosts spring games for some of the best teams in the league, i.e. Boston, New York, St. Louis, etc.  The entire time Spring Training is going on, it’s like a constant party, and constant baseball.  It’s essentially any fans dream.  You fly down, enjoy a game, then sit on the beach.  If you’re into relaxing, this is definitely the spot for you, and you won’t regret your choice.  However, this doesn’t mean it has drawbacks.

Cons

As stated earlier, Florida is a fantastic place during March.  But… that’s about it.  Unlike Arizona, when the teams pack up their bags and head out of town… so does everyone else.  It’s almost as if training just never happened at all.  If you want a place with constant baseball, this place isn’t for you.  But if you’re into a pretty intense month long vacation?  Pack your bags now.

Another thing.  Since it’s the tropics, it can be humid, and unbearably so.  Coming from someone who lives in Ohio (sometimes more humid than Florida…) take it from me, this is NOT something that is enjoyable.  Its sticky, uncomfortable, and can make even the “luke-warmest” of days into a hellish nightmare.

Florida is also very expensive, and dollar to dollar, almost twice as expensive as a trip to Phoenix.  Finally, not to be blunt, but it is an older crowd.  If you want nice relaxed people (except after the games) Florida is for you.  You want a younger crowd with more physical activity?  Might not want to head to South Beach.

Arizona

az
prweb.com

While it might seem like the desert would be the last place anyone would want to go, once you head out to Phoenix, you will definitely reconsider.  Known as the Mecca of baseball, it’s a fantastic place for any level fan… if you like heat.

Pros

What most people don’t realize about Arizona is the secret beauty that it holds.  The landscape is breathtaking, the culture is vibrant, and even the plant life is unique and stunning.  Where else can you see saguaro cacti?  There might not be beaches, but there are pools around every turn.

Besides the physical beauty, Arizona is also a great choice to head to for Spring Training.  While some of the teams are more of the teams that tend to rank lower, you’re always guaranteed to see great games in great stadiums that consistently outrank all of the Florida fields.  In fact, some teams have even requested to leave FL because of the high quality fields in AZ.  Also, the fields are free to check out when there aren’t games going on, unlike FL.  AZ also has baseball going on 365 days a year.  Whether you see Spring Training, regular season, or even just practice league (which you can watch for free), there is literally something always going on down at the fields.

AZ tends to draw younger crowds, people who enjoy hiking in the White Tank mountains, or Thunderbird Canyon, so you won’t get all the crazy partying FL can come with.  It’s a much more physically active place.  Also, it’s much cheaper than FL.  Games cost, sometimes, half as much as games in FL.  The nightlife, restaurants, and other things are also much cheaper.  But it still isn’t for everyone.

Cons

Just as you would think, AZ is hot… REALLY hot.  While it won’t hit the 120 degree days that August and September can carry, you probably will flirt with triple digits.  The good thing is there is essentially no humidity, so it really is a dry heat… but 110 degrees is still 110 degrees.

As AZ gets more popular over the years, this is causing another con – travel prices.  Plane tickets can be absurdly priced, same with hotels.  You pretty  much have to plan a year in advance…seriously.  Also, if you don’t like hiking or seeing culture… or care about mountains… AZ isn’t for you.  It’s more slowly paced, and the non-baseball events are mostly physical, like  hiking.

If you can handle it however, it’s a great place to check out, and you won’t leave disappointed.

Conclusion

Whether you like beaches, or deserts, there is for sure going to be a place for you to love.  I also suggest trying both out for Spring Training, because who knows, you can always be surprised.

…Or you can head to the ORIGINAL site of MLB Spring Training…Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Why Spring Training is Important, and Why it is so Fun to Watch

Satellite
google.com

Well, it’s that time again.  All the snowbirds head down to their choice of warm and sunny paradise – Florida or Arizona.  Whether you are a fan of the humid, sticky swamps of the Florida lowlands, or the hot and dry sands of the Arizona desert, most people agree on one thing – Spring Training is fun to watch.

To some people, Spring Training seems like a “boring” adventure.  Games where after the 5th inning, the players are people you have never even heard of, and probably won’t for a long time.  However, if you’re a super-fan, this time of the year means something entirely different.  It’s a time when summer is finally around the corner (the best time of the year) and the game we all love so much finally returns.

 

If you’re lucky enough to live near one of the ST hotspot areas, you’ve probably enjoyed a beautiful March game with a smaller crowd and lower gate prices.  Relaxing, watching younger players try to make their way onto the field of the Majors.  Something that has been their dream since they were a kid.  Once the season starts, the crowds will commence, the prices will be raised, and you most likely won’t be on a sunny beach or desert.  It’s also great to watch if you aren’t able to travel.  Games that are nothing but slow paced entertainment that lets the mind, and the body, slow down for a few hours.  This is party the reason Spring Training games have gained popularity in the past few years.

dbacks0224 0221131500mm
azcentral.com

It’s not because the obsession of baseball is growing, but because people are beginning to appreciate the games more.  Spring Training games are nothing but fun, and it almost makes it seem like you can play again (I have thought about this more than once), because you actually get to see people make mistakes.

Spring Training is also important, not just to the fan to watch some exhibition games in the sun, but for the players.  Not just for the rookies, but for the veterans as well.  It’s one of the few times you will get to see veterans make mistakes, and that can actually be nice to see…oddly.  It makes the players seem human, and you can actually watch them work on things, something that really isn’t seen in other sports.  As for the rookies, well, they make mistakes too… but that’s okay.  These players, some which are as young at 18, get to play with players they only dreamed of playing with as a kid.  Sometimes, in the 9th inning of these games,  you get to see young kids come up to the plate, smiling ear to ear, as their dream of playing in the big leagues is finally drawing near.  That, is something to see.

So enjoy it.  Soon, the games will actually mean something, stats will be important again, and you will probably have to go back to a place that doesn’t have a beach.  There’s nothing better than relaxing and watching a baseball game in the sun, and Spring Training is just that, and more.

A New Beginning

Obviously, I have been a little absent lately.  That was partly because I became so busy with other things, but also partly because I wasn’t sure the direction I wanted this blog to go, or how I wanted to have it sound, So I let it sit for a little while.  Well, I am back, and I have some great plans for the future.

I am going to continue to update this as often as I can, likely at least once a week, hopefully more.  I am also still going to make everything I write come from the prospective of the fan… or super-fan.  I think that is important.  However, one thing I am going to work on, is making it more interactive.  I want people to have their input as well, and the more feedback I receive, the better it will get!

So here’s to a new beginning!  Let’s get things going again, better than ever!

 

~PL

Why the Cubs should let Steve Bartman back.

bartman2Whether you are a fan of the Cubs, or a fan of the Marlins, it is almost guaranteed that the date of October 14th, 2003 will stick in your mind, in either a positive way or not.  If that date doesn’t ring a bell, or if you are just trying to block it out of your mind, that is the date of the now infamous “Steve Bartman incident” during game 6 of the NLCS where the Chicago Cubs were taking on the (then) Florida Marlins.  The Cubs were up 3-0 with a 3-2 series advantage.  During the 8th inning, a foul (yes, it WAS foul) ball was blasted to left.  In a seemingly half-attempt of self-defense, Bartman robbed the Cubs left-fielder of a sure out, causing outrage, and the eventual collapse of the Cubs in that game, and the series.  The fans immediately lost it, so much so that he was almost killed, literally, trying to leave the game… where he stayed until the end.  Bartman had headphones on, listening to even the announcers tear him to pieces, as he sat with a stone-cold expression.  He was never officially banned, but he never returned to Wrigley, and eventually had to move out of the state.  The cubs never returned to the NLCS… until now, so why would the Cubs ever want him to come back?  Well, the answer is really quite simple.  Superstition.

Baseball is a game of rituals, and everyone knows that.  Some players have light rituals, such as wearing certain socks in big games, chewing a certain type of gum, or things of that nature.  However, some players, and even teams have rituals that go above and beyond.  Take Wade Boggs for example, a third baseman for the Red Sox.  Before every game he would take exactly 150 ground balls and do sprints at exactly 7:17pm for night games.  So if Bartman is such a bad omen for the team apparently, why on Earth would they want him to come to the game?  Well, to BREAK the curse, obviously.

bartJust like any curse, it can be broken, just ask the Red Sox.  Therefore, this one can be too.  The cubs have been to the NLCS several times, and Even the World Series, the last time was in 1945.  However, they haven’t actually won the World Series since 1908… the Three Stooges hadn’t even made a short by that year, and the president was Teddy Roosevelt. When the incident first happened back in 2003, he was almost killed trying to leave the game, and to this day, he still receives death threats from crazy fans, but believe it or not, the majority of the hardcore Cubs fans want him to come back, and sit in the same exact seat he had when he caught the foul ball.  Which, by the way, WAS a foul ball, and was right to him, anyone would’ve done the same exact thing.  If you don’t believe the fans feel this way, a gofundme was created and actually raised over $5,000 for Bartman to head to Pittsburgh and attend the wild card game, to which he politely declined due to safety concerns, and donated the money to charity.

bart 3Back to the future predicted that the Cubs would win the World Series in 2015, so wouldn’t it be something if the face of the Cubs drought actually attended a few games?  Apparently they might need it, as they are already falling behind in the NLCS.  While the Cubs organization has remained officially silent on the whole ordeal, it is pretty obvious that Cubs fans are desperate to break the curse, and Bartman might just be that key… who knows?

Will he actually show up to a game?  It’s unlikely, he hasn’t even publicly made a statement since 2003 and again last month when he declined the gofundme offer.  However, this doesn’t stop people from dressing up like him.  Baseball is weird, and curses sometimes actually come true, so will the Cubs finally break theirs?  We might just have to find without Bartman.

The beginnings.

baseball playersBlogs can be about anything, anything at all.  They can be movie reviews, movie bashing… or about technology, cars, the economy, or even private thoughts.  So, why out of everything would I decide to start a blog about baseball, and why would I decide to write it in first person?  Well, the answer is simple, but it does require just a little bit of explanation, so I will expand.

funny-tag-out_medium
sbnation.com

Ignoring the fact that baseball has been something I have treasured my entire life, baseball is a sport that is unlike anything else, and any other sport out there.  Some consider it to be a gentleman’s sport, some say it’s “true team” sport, and some consider it to barely be a sport at all (though we won’t talk about those people).  While all of the above can be debated and discussed, there is one thing that everyone can agree on, and that’s that baseball brings people together in a unique way.  A way that no other sport can, and at any level.  Whether you’re playing city league softball, or in the majors, there is something to be said about the camaraderie that develops among the teams, and even the fans.  Maybe it’s because you’re not trying to run into other people at full force like other sports… or get into fights… no one really knows.  The only thing we know for certain is that whenever you step on the field, you become family, something we all need.

I wish I made it into the majors, but for every ball player, we all do.  I never did, obviously, but that’s okay, because I can still experience some of the best parts of the game.  I have played on several leagues throughout my life, from kids league, to high school ball, to city league softball.  While they all had their own things, the one common denominator stayed the same, the fun.  I have become lifelong friends with some people I have met on teams, something that I never accomplished in any other sport.

teamSo, in short, I started this blog simply for the fact that the sport itself can bring people together, and make a family member out of a complete stranger, and what better way to experience that than with a blog?  Will I talk about stats, futures, complaints, etc.?  Of course.  However, that will work hand in hand with the real meaning of the blog, the companionship, which leads me to the other question.

When I first thought about doing this, I knew I wanted it to be in first person, simply for the fact that I too wanted to be a part of the family I hope to create, not just some all-watching, numbers-driven mystery character.  This blog will share stories of experience, what it’s like to go to games, and so much more, and there is nothing I would like more than to join the ride.  Baseball just isn’t about the numbers, it’s about the stories, which usually never make headlines.

Blogs can be little, or so much more, hopefully I can relate to the latter.