Ahhh, Sports …

“You could be a kid for as long as you want when you play baseball.” ~ Cal Ripken, Jr.

© The Baseball Bloggess, 2021 regular season

Kids, these days.

The Virginia Cavaliers will play Dallas Baptist in the Columbia, SC best-of-three NCAA Super Regional which begins today (Saturday) with Game 1 at noon EST. (It airs on ESPNU.)

All baseball is good baseball, but there is a wonderful je ne sais quoi to college baseball.

Where something like this can happen to a team that, just a few weeks ago, wasn’t even expected to make the post season …

Columbia, SC Regionals last weekend.

Where something like this can happen on a Tuesday:

Tuesday. Game 5, ODU vs UVa, Columbia, SC Regionals. 

Continue reading

In Praise Of Mays

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“Willie Mays makes us young again. He makes us feel good about ourselves, our environment. He makes us reflect and smile. He makes us want to do better and be kinder.”

~ John Shea, sportswriter and co-author, with Mays, of 24: Life Stories And Lessons From The Say Hey Kid

Willie Mays turns 90 today.

He is the oldest living member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. That he still attends games, visits the clubhouse to encourage players, does interviews, is one of the game’s greatest ambassadors, and has time leftover to write a memoir, is testament to his legend and greatness.

“I like to help people when I go to the ballpark,” Mays told Shea recently. “Help the Giants. Do what you can do. That’s all. That’s my goal. They helped me when I was a young man, a teenager. They signed me out of Birmingham.”

I have often written on here that Babe Ruth was the greatest ballplayer ever.

But, I think I was wrong. It is Willie, not Babe, who is the greatest ever.

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Playing stickball with neighborhood kids, circa 1954.

“I was always aware that you play baseball for people who paid money to come see you play,” Willie said in his memoir last year. “You play for those people. You want to make them smile, have a good time. Sometimes I’d hesitate, count to three, then I’d get there just in time to make the play. You’d hear the crowd. Sometimes you had to do that in order for people to come back the next day.” Continue reading

Re-Opening Day

What did we talk about before covid became all we talked about?

If there were no vaccine waiting lists to talk about … or rumors of covid outbreaks in the next town over … or side-eye mentions of unmasked neighbors … or whining about all the things that are still closed … what, exactly, did we talk about?

I don’t remember.

Even when we’re not talking about covid, we’re talking about covid.

Which brings me to baseball.

On March 13, 2021, Editor/Husband and I – double-masked and with a fresh bottle of hand-sanitizer in my bag – carefully inched our way back to baseball.

368 days.

It had been 368 days since we had last sat outside … scorecard open … game unfolding.

But, then … yesterday happened.

Things are not normal yet. But there is just a glimmer of a kinda-sorta-almost normal’ish life out there.

I don’t suppose you’re all that interested in how the Virginia Cavaliers were trounced 12-4 by Notre Dame yesterday.

Good. Because, I have more important things to cover.

1) Socially Distanced And Masked Means … Socially Distanced And Masked, People.

The University of Virginia is slowly, slowly letting people dribble back in to baseball. And, yesterday, we got to be part of the dribble. Where you sit is assigned and clearly marked (and if one should sit outside their approved “safe seats” an usher will politely assist in proper re-seating). Masks, always. Hand sanitizer stations everywhere.

We had an entire row to ourselves … no one directly in front, no one directly behind. No one nearby. It was luxurious. Continue reading

Patience, Time (… And Baseball)

“The two most powerful warriors are patience and time.” ~ Leo Tolstoy, War And Peace

It’s game day. Today, at 3 p.m., Virginia plays George Washington at nearby Disharoon Park in Charlottesville.

The Cavaliers are off to a wobbly 4-3 start. But, I’m not worried. They are a stacked team. They will be fine.

Today, at 7 a.m., I am having my coffee. I should be scouring the weather report, calculating temperature and wind speed to determine how many layers I will need to sit through an early March baseball game.

I should be scanning the rosters, recharging my camera, making sure the scorecard is ready to go.

These are little nothing chores. Things I rarely think about as I’m doing them. The routine of a baseball fan.

I should be doing all these things.

I am not.

Only a few fans can attend and they must be spread widely through the park.

Where I Am Not.

Instead, I’m sitting here wondering where the past year went.

One year. March to March. One big blurry uncomfortable inconsiderate wasted lost year. Continue reading

The Bubble Bloggess

Baseball’s annual All-Star break would begin tomorrow … if this were a normal, pandemic-free world. Which it’s not.

It is …

… a cheese on apple pie, Wile E. Coyote catches the Roadrunner, messed up, all wrong, pandemic-full world.

It is a cat’s hairball atop a dead cactus atop that moldy slimy thing in the back of the fridge atop the mouse that died under the couch that we didn’t know about until … that smell … world.

It is horrible.

It is a world where Mike Trout’s mother tweets a photo of Mike Trout wearing a mask while playing because she wants to encourage people to wear masks because a lot of people seem to not understand the concept of how masks work to mitigate the spread of disease.

And, “Wear a mask so you won’t die or make other people sick” is, apparently, not encouragement enough for some people.

Sorry. Wandered off. Continue reading

This Is Not My “Happy Place”

I shut everything down.

When things shut down around me in the past few days, I knew that mitigating a fast-spreading virus like COVID-19 would mean more than just shuttering all sports, museums, concerts, and big things.

It meant even little businesses like mine should shut down, too.

So, I closed my Yoga studio, cancelled my massage clients. And, here I sit.

Because, isn’t this what it means to “do your part”?

But, if the bars and restaurants and movie theaters are still open and people are still going, am I just wasting my time?

As I said to some of my clients, “I don’t want to see you on Monday and then have to call you on Wednesday and say, ‘Hey! Guess what I just tested positive for?’”

If closing is the right thing to do, why do I feel so terrible about this?

OK, that helped to say all that.

Now that you’ve kindly read through my “stress dump,” we, of course, need to get to the nut of things …

This virus has taken away baseball. It has taken away sports. It has taken away my “Happy Place.” Maybe your “Happy Place,” too.

I have no back-up “Happy Place.”

On Tuesday afternoon – playing hooky – I sat in the stands at the University of Virginia’s Davenport Field in our luxurious new season seats that look straight through home plate and right down the third-base line.

©The Baseball Bloggess

Freshman Max Cotier, on third and thinking about maybe, just maybe, stealing home. He didn’t steal, but he did score. (See, I told you … great seats!)

Virginia beat UMass-Lowell on Tuesday afternoon 24-5.

When it seemed clear that the game would be a major blow-out … and, you know, blow-outs and batting around in multiple innings can take some time (ultimately, three hours and 32 minutes) … we thought about leaving. It was getting late. Continue reading

The Troubling Story Of Baseball’s Douglas Neff

I could tell you about baseball.

I could tell you that Douglas Neff – or D.W. Neff, as he was called from time to time – was a star athlete at the University of Virginia, played 33 big league games in 1914 and ’15 for the Washington Nationals, then retired, fought in a war, and faded into the much-less-documented world of ordinary life.

I could tell you about Harrisonburg, Virginia where Neff, the son of a prominent local doctor, was born in 1891.

Harrisonburg is on the “other” side of the Blue Ridge Mountains, on the western edge of Virginia.

I could tell you about Boboko, Harrisonburg’s tiny Indonesian restaurant and its delicious food, which you will find just across the street from the Harrisonburg Farmers Market.

Delicious.

Neff’s childhood home is gone. But, I can show you where it once was.

Here …

… where this parking lot is now – also across from the Farmers Market.

Harrisonburg is home to James Madison University, with 21,000 students, and Eastern Mennonite University, with 1,100 more. Add another 54,000 residents, and Harrisonburg has sprawled so big and so wide that it now has two – two! – Walmarts.

Like this – only sprawlier.

I had it all planned out – to tell you about Neff and baseball, and Harrisonburg and Boboko, the tiny Indonesian restaurant.

But, some things don’t go as planned. Continue reading

Real Baseball. Games In February. Games That Count.

You can cheer for spring training and it might be warm where you are. But, it’s not quite spring – not quite, not yet – in Virginia.

Last week.

But, it is baseball season. And, not the warm-up-the-bones-in-games-that-don’t-count variety that the big leaguers are playing in Arizona and Florida right now.

Real baseball. Games that count.

The 2019 University of Virginia baseball team began their outside team practices back in January. In cold, snowy, polar votex’y Virginia.

Their regular season began two weeks ago. (Ok, their regular season began two weeks ago … in Arizona. I’ll give you that. But, your nit-picking is missing the point. My point.)

Last weekend, they played Villanova in Charlottesville and it was cold. Bone-chillingly-butt-numbingly-nose-frozenly cold.

(Ok, so maybe it wasn’t that cold on Sunday, and, yes, some people wore shorts to Sunday’s game. But, people who wear shorts in not-freezing-but-still-not-warm winter weather are not to be trusted.)

It was cold – 45-degrees cold – on Friday.

And, before you interrupt me again to tell me how soft people are today and how back in the day people lived without heat or fluffy parkas or polartec or hand warmers, let me point out that the University of Virginia baseball team 100 years ago – the 1919 team – had not even ventured outdoors until the middle of February because their baseball season would not begin for several weeks and it was too cold to practice outside. Continue reading

In Praise Of “Peculiarly Hypnotic Tedium”

Good news, baseball fans!

All your griping about long and slow baseball games has paid off.

Games are shorter!

Last year the length of the average baseball game dropped – dropped! – to 3 hours and 4 minutes. That’s a savings of 4 minutes per game over 2017.

I hate math, but check out this wizardry …

With a 162-game season, there were 2,430 regular season games scheduled in 2018. At 4 minutes saved per game, that comes out to 9,720 free minutes or – and this is going to blow your mind – 162 hours saved!

Pulitizer-winning novelist Philip Roth once called baseball’s pace “peculiarly hypnotic tedium” and, just to be clear, he meant that in a good way.

I’m sure you put your 4-minute-per-game savings to good use last season.

Maybe you used your free minutes to watch Bongo Cat play Africa

 

The average American shower takes 8 minutes – so you could have had half a shower, which is time enough to soap, but maybe not enough to rinse.

Fun Fact: The 3 hour, 4 minute average baseball game is almost identical to the length of an average NFL football game, but without all the brain-damaging concussions.

(It’s odd that some people who complain about baseball games being too long and slow are the same ones who complain that the off-season – without baseball – is also too long and slow. I watched the Orioles lose 115 games last season. What’s your hurry?) Continue reading

“All Up For The Lucky Seventh”

There are three lessons I hope you will learn from The Baseball Bloggess today:

1) The Seventh Inning Stretch has a special place in baseball history. It’s been around longer than you have. It’s what sets baseball apart from sports that make no demands of its fans.

2) The Seventh Inning Stretch is not a suggestion. It is not an invitation. It is a requirement. It is a job. Your job. All the instruction that you need can be found in its title. During the seventh inning, you stretch. It’s not hard to figure out. It’s not the balk rule, people. It’s simple.

Who – You.

What – Stretch.

Where – Are you here? Then, here.

When – The Seventh Inning.

Even a cat could figure it out.

3) Sitting can kill. Continue reading