The Week In Review … (kinda, sorta)

This week has not been the best for The Baseball Bloggess.

A flat tire on Tuesday resulted in four new tires on Wednesday. (Followed by a brand new flat in one of the brand new tires just a few hours ago. That’s not the way these things are supposed to work, you know.)

Tuesday morning.

Sunday morning.

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It’s Baseball O’Clock

Old scoreboard, Porterfield Park. Orange, Virginia.

On second thought, maybe I owe the Florida Georgia Line a thank you.

(Florida Georgia Line is a country duo. And, I’ll admit I haven’t heard a single thing they’ve ever done. You might think less of me for it, but that’s where we are.)

Last night, the duo I don’t know, the Florida Alabama Line, played in Charlottesville. I’m sure they sold out the place, because apparently I’m the only one who doesn’t know a thing about them.

This would be meaningless except for this …

When bands like the Tennessee Kentucky Line play in Charlottesville, all the accessible parking for University of Virginia baseball games is taken away.

This would be meaningless except for this …

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Baseball Is A Billion Times Better Than Nougat

When I was a kid there was this amazing “Seven Up” candy bar, made by a company in Minneapolis.

seven-up-bar-label

Heard of it?

They stopped making it in 1979, I’m afraid, so you’ll have to wonder about its wonderfulness. A single chocolate candy bar with seven – SEVEN! – little pockets carved into it, and each one was filled with a different flavor.

Mint!  Coconut!  Butterscotch!  Fudge!  Caramel!  Butter Cream!

And, Nougat!

Nougat.

First of all, nougat is not a flavor. Second of all, nougat is horrible.

tom-hanks-big

I don’t think anyone has ever intentionally eaten nougat. And, I’ll bet it was nougat that did in the Seven Up bar. Well, that and a pretty clear trademark infringement with 7-Up soda.

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Life Is Not An “Etch-A-Sketch”

“Turn Etch-a-Sketch upside down and shake and everything disappears.”

When December 31 turns to January 1 on Saturday night, 2016, the good, the bad, the strange, the crazy won’t magically disappear.

No kicking the year to the curb, kids. It’ll still be there, hanging around in your mind with important thoughts like, “Did the cat get stuck in the closet again?”

mookie-in-the-closet

Relax, kids. Mookie’s fine.

I was told I was a little too dour in my sum-up-2016 post from earlier this week, so let’s fix that with just five quick off-the-top-of-my-head things in 2016 that made me smile:

5. Boaty McBoatface. Even though things ultimately didn’t work out with the name.

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All Baseball Is Local.

Most of the world doesn’t have a team playing so late into baseball’s hallowed October post-season.

Los Angeles and Chicago do. Cleveland, too.

And, Toronto. (Even though we all know that no one likes baseball in Canada. And, yes, I’m still steamed about the fan who threw his beer at Orioles outfielder Hyun Soo Kim earlier this month … and the other fan who threw his beer at Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth in 2013. Dear Canada, I don’t forget.)

But, that’s it. Dodgers, Cubs, Indians, Blue Jays.

The rest of us must find the local in our October baseball elsewhere.

Each fall, college baseball teams around the country hold “Fall Ball” seasons or “World Series” intra-squad competitions. It keeps veteran players sharp and gives freshmen a chance to show that they can play at the college level.  And, it gives the rest of us something to do until Spring Training rolls around.

The University of Virginia (UVA) Cavaliers are holding their seven-game Orange vs. Blue World Series this month.

mccarthy-novak-fall-ball-2016

UVA’s Jake McCarthy, Team Orange, considering a steal. UVA’s Justin Novak, Team Blue, waits at short. Or, as Editor/Husband describes the Orange vs. Blue series: “Brother against Brother.”

The games are free and while the stands aren’t packed, you’ll find baseball fans, assorted scouts with radar guns, and the player’s parents, who often sit together and watch with the deep and seasoned concentration of loving moms and dads who have been watching from the sidelines since their sons were in tee-ball.

The games can be surreal. It’s hard to cobble together two full squads from just one team, so one team here plays without a DH or a 9th batter. There’s a “Designated Runner” who’s been sent in to run for a batter who can hit, but because of injury hasn’t been cleared to run. Games can go seven innings or eight … or less or more … depending on the time, the day, or the whims of the coaches. Games can end in a tie.

It is a game. But, the rules of the games get blurry sometimes.

haseley-first-pitch-of-fall-season-uva-2016

Outfielder/Pitcher Adam Haseley swings at the first pitch of the 2016 UVA Fall Ball Season. The 4 p.m. shadows creep over the infield and batter’s box much earlier, quicker, and thicker than in the spring.

orange-blue-uva-weiller-on-2nd-bettinger-on-the-mound

Team Orange’s Jack Weiller waits on second while Team Blue talks strategy on the mound.

The UVA Orange team has won two games and one game ended in a tie for those of you who keep track of those sorts of things. They play again on Friday.

At a time when the world – and our nation – seems so divided, angry, and divisive isn’t it nice to be able to root for everyone?

Because when your home team is playing your home team, all you can do is cheer.

And, you can’t get more local than that.

Photos: University of Virginia Orange vs. Blue “World Series”, Davenport Field. Charlottesville, Virginia. October 2016. © The Baseball Bloggess

In response to WordPress’s Weekly Photo Challenge “Local”. See lots more photos from this challenge here.

 

Sweep. Swept. Swupt.

You may not think “swupt” is a word.

You are wrong. (Technically, you are right. But, today, you are wrong.)

To be swupt is to lose all four games of a four-game series to the Boston Red Sox. Which is what the Baltimore Orioles did this week.

Losing 2-5, 2-5, 1-5, 3-5. Or, to simplify things, losing the series 8-20.

(Orioles Magic? Orioles Tragic.)

Losing ugly and losing, at least for the moment, their hold of a post-season wild card spot.

With just one week left in the regular season, there aren’t many moments left to right this shaky ship.

Broadcasters and managers and players will tell you that it is very hard to win all four games of a four-game series. (They will also tell you that visiting teams hate four-game series for weird reasons … like players don’t like to stay in the same hotel and town for so long. It’s four games. It’s one game more than a typical three-game series. Are players seriously that sensitive that playing one more day is such a burden? You know what’s a burden? Watching your very most favorite team in the whole wide entire world give up five – FIVE! – unearned runs in a single game and then lose that game to the Red Sox, 5-1.)

The Red Sox must have been miserable this week what with the burden of this four-game series and all.

Here’s rookie Red Sox left fielder Andrew Benintendi overcoming the sadness of a four-game series by celebrating following one of their wins this week by dancing like Michael Jackson.

benintendi

Look how happy they are! (The Orioles were happy once.)

Just for the record, the University of Virginia kept Benintendi, then a center fielder at the University of Arkansas, hitless during the 2014 NCAA Regionals Tournament.

I know, because I was there. Here’s an ESPN screen cap of the Baseball Bloggess and Editor/Husband watching it happen.

uva-vs-arkansas-regionals-2014

Sure, no one looks very happy, but Virginia shut out Arkansas that day 3-0.

The Orioles are seven games back and in third place in the AL East. They are a half game back of the second Wild Card spot.

Dear Orioles, There are nine games left to play. Fix this.

 

 

The Cleanup Hitter

The 4th batter in a baseball lineup is the Cleanup Hitter.

(In a perfect world, the Cleanup Hitter’s job is to clean up the bases with a home run or a double. You know, something awesome, exciting, and powerful.)

Today, the Baseball Bloggess celebrates its (her? my?) 4th birthday. And, to celebrate, a bit of cleanup is in order.

I take a lot of photos at ballgames. But, I’m trying to watch and score the game, too – so I don’t capture much of the action … no exciting steals of second, no miracle catches at the wall.

There’s not a lot of dust kicking up in my photos.

Most of the photos I take just sit quietly on my computer, in their folders, like the utility guy on the bench patiently waiting for a chance to play.

So, here’s some cleanup – four recent photos that I’m sweet on, but don’t quite fit anywhere.

Orioles Outfielder Joey Rickard … 

Joey Rickard Orioles vs Angels 7 9 2016

© The Baseball Bloggess

“Bats, they are sick. I cannot hit curveball. Straightball I hit it very much. Curveball, bats are afraid. [C]ome, take fear from bats.” ~ Pedro Ceranno in the movie Major League (1988)

The Baltimore Orioles bats went cold this month.

Power bats slump from time to time, and teams often slump together.

I think Rickard’s putting a spell on his bat here as he comes to the plate.

Poor Joey went on the DL this week and is out for the next four to six weeks with a thumb injury.  Heal up, Joey, the team needs you!

But, I think his spell worked, because the team bats are finding their mojo again … and, hey, look at this …

al east standings

Photo: Los Angeles Angels at Baltimore Orioles. Camden Yards, Baltimore. July 9, 2016.

Another Bunt! … 

© The Baseball Bloggess

University of Virginia third baseman Justin Novak lays down a bunt.

A few days ago I wrote about bunts and how much I love them. And, you all agreed!

I think we love bunts because we are thoughtful and cerebral and strategic. (And, because, at some point in Little League or junior high gym class, we bunted. Sure, we couldn’t hit one out, but, by golly, we could bunt.)

Photo: Georgia Tech at University of Virginia. Davenport Field, Charlottesville, VA. May 14, 2016.

Jubilation …

© The Baseball Bloggess

University of Virginia celebrating a run.

In a pivotal series against the University of North Carolina in April it looked like the University of Virginia had turned their season around.

The turnaround got the Cavaliers to the NCAA Regional Tournament in June, but that’s where their season ended.

Still, this photo is one of my favorites. Because … happy. That’s all. Just happy.

Photo: University of North Carolina at University of Virginia. Davenport Field, Charlottesville, VA. April 17, 2016.

Racing Mascots … 

© The Baseball Bloggess

There’s more to baseball than baseball.

The Washington Nationals Racing President Thomas Jefferson visits Charlottesville from time to time and is here racing – or being chased by, depending on how you look at things – Cosmo, a sheepdog, and “Prairiewether Lewis,” a prairie dog, at a recent Tom Sox game.

(A question you may have: Why does a prairie dog – a species that doesn’t even live in Virginia — represent the Charlottesville Tom Sox? Editor/Husband responds: “In 1805, the explorers Lewis and Clark sent a live prairie dog to President Jefferson at the White House.” Yes, he really knows this stuff.)

Photo: Covington Lumberjacks at Charlottesville Tom Sox. (Valley League) Cville Weekly Ballpark, Charlottesville, VA. July 7, 2016.

Last month, a Facebook exec predicted that in the next five years Facebook would “probably be all video.”

According to Cisco Systems: “It would take an individual five-million years to watch the amount of video that will cross global IP networks each month in 2020.”

Words are, sadly, obsolete.

But, on the bright side, I’ve still got five years to figure out how to use the video camera on my six-year-old Droid phone.

Happy Birthday, Baseball Bloggess … here’s to four – and, apparently, only four – more years.

Also, cleaning up today? Those pesky ads that sometimes appear at the bottom of these posts. I keep worrying that some political ad will find its way on here and ruin your day. You can’t buy me, you angry political meanies! Get off my blog!  Which is to say, those little ads that pop-up at the bottom of posts should now be gone. (But, if you see one, let me know so I can stamp my feet and complain to someone.)

 

“Get Up There & Bunt”

No one really likes the bunt.

Baseball players bunt because their manager tells them to or because nothing else seems to be working.

They bunt – usually as a sacrifice, giving up an out in the process – because they have to.

No one likes the bunt, do they? I mean really really likes it?

President William Taft hated the bunt. And, now he’s celebrated as one of the Racing Presidents at Washington Nationals games …

© The Baseball Bloggess, 2016

“It also came out at the game that Mr. Taft does not like the bunt.  … ‘I like to see them hit it out for all that is in them.’”  The New York Times, May 31, 1909

In 2005, then-Nationals Manager Frank Robinson told The Washington Post that even his pitchers complained when he called on them to bunt.

 

“They cry about it,” Robinson said. “They’ll say, ‘I’m a pretty good hitter.’ I’ll say, ‘You’re hitting .130. How is that a pretty good hitter?’ I tell them to get up there and bunt.”

And, yes, legendary Baltimore Orioles Manager Earl Weaver didn’t like the bunt either: “I’ve got nothing against the bunt – in its place. But most of the time that place is the bottom of a long-forgotten closet.”

Some experts argue that at the college level it’s more difficult to bunt with an aluminum bat. But, I see it at college games all the time.

Justin Novak Bunts UVA E Carolina Regional 6 4 16

© The Baseball Bloggess

University of Virginia third baseman Justin Novak squares to bunt in the 2016 NCAA Regional Tournament

Some fans and players might consider a bunt dull baseball. I think it’s beautiful.

Even Babe Ruth knew a well-placed bunt can make all the difference …

Babe Ruth Bunted NYTimes 10 11 1921

New York Times, October 11, 1921

Babe Ruth “near collapse” wins the game with a bunt!

A batter squares up to bunt – and with that one simple movement and change of position he has told everyone, including every infielder, exactly what he intends to do. He knows that where he drops that bunt is key. He knows he’s going to have to run like hell.

It’s sort of gutsy when you stop to think about it.

Oh, and last week’s Korean All-Star Game included a bunting competition which is sort of like if you took bunting and curling and mooshed them together.

The result is absolutely awesome.

 

The Numbers That Mattered

It was during my junior year in high school that the school math team – the “mathletes” – were one player short. There were four mathletes ready to go, but they needed a five.

I’m not sure why my geometry teacher invited me to join the team. I wasn’t particularly good in his class and I was pretty clear that I hated two things in school – gym and numbers. But, I would always laugh at his jokes. So, I was his choice. Your take away from this: a good chuckle might take you far in this world.

He convinced me to join the team, which was about to go to the state tournament in Minot, by promising we would stop for banana splits on the two-hour drive back home.  Yes, if there was a banana split in it for me, I could spend the day with four geeky mathletes and a teacher who told corny jokes.

I have no memory of the meet except for sitting at a long table, writing problems on pieces of paper, and being forbidden from using a calculator. We didn’t win, but I don’t think I was too terrible.

In any event, the Dairy Queen in Rugby was out of bananas by the time we got there. This is my only clear memory of my one day as a mathlete. Even the worst mathlete knows that zero bananas means zero banana splits.

So, funny that I’ve come to love baseball which is all numbery and statisticfied.

The Baseball Project even wrote a song that is only numbers – comforting and familiar baseball stats. Here are the lyrics in their entirety:

Starting
383
56
715
511
262
61
1.12
191
363
20
49
7
2
632
59
130
4256
5714

Sing along …

I’ve prepared a cheat sheet for you, in case any of these baseball numbers need explaining. It’s here: Baseball Project “Stats” Broken Down

When WordPress announced that their weekly photo challenge for this week was “Numbers,” I thought, this is too easy.

Because, in baseball, players have numbers …

UVA Pregame June 4 2016

Fans have numbers …

my first bleacher of spring 2016

This is me

Look, it’s me! My season ticket bleacher seat … Sweet 16.

Even the walls have numbers …

404 to center field

Straightaway center at Davenport Field, 404 feet.

There are so many numbers, I didn’t know where to start.

But, really, on this hot and humid, three-Gatorade weekend there were only these numbers that mattered …

The numbers that went Virginia’s way …

????????????????????????????????????

Virginia defeats William & Mary in the NCAA Regionals Tournament on Friday, 17-4.

And, the numbers that didn’t …

UVA ECU Final Score June 4 2016

East Carolina stuns Virginia on Saturday night with a bottom-of-the-9th, three-run homer.  

(Virginia lost again today, ending their season.)

See more of Word Press’s “Numbers” challenge here.

Photos: Davenport Field, University of Virginia. Charlottesville, Virginia. 2016 © The Baseball Bloggess

Hit Bull Win Steak

Remember the snorting bull from the movie Bull Durham?

hit bull win steak original movie prop

It stood out in right field. And, included these words …

Hit Bull Win Steak.

Of course you remember, because Bull Durham is Kevin Costner’s best baseball movie.

That bull was a movie prop. There was no “Hit Bull Win Steak” bull in Durham until the movie dreamed it up. This was a little disappointing. I thought the Durham Bulls had long had a steak-feeding tradition. After all, minor league per diems are pretty slim, even today. A good steak could keep a fella going.

I guess it was too much prop to pack up when the movie wrapped – plus, think of all the bubble wrap you’d need – so it was left behind.

Movie props aren’t made to last, so it’s a new bull out there in Durham these days. It’s bigger and it’s out in left field now. And, whenever the Bulls homer, anywhere in the park, its eyes light up, its tail wags, and it snorts smoke.

hit bull win steak hit grass win salad

Today it says:

Hit Bull Win Steak

Hit Grass Win Salad

And, yup, a local restaurant provides a steak to players who hit a home run off of the bull. (No word on whether a ball that hits the grass actually earns a trip to the salad bar, or if anyone has ever asked.)

Last season, The News & Observer in Raleigh noted that since the new park opened in 1995, the bull has been hit only 29 times. (They also report that there is no longer a steak offered to visiting players for their homers off of the bull. Boo.)

Most of the bull-snortin’ home runs come from high fly balls that hit it on their way down. You’d have to really smoke it to line a homer off the bull. You know, smack it right between the eyes.

College baseball’s ACC Tournament is underway this week at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

And, on Thursday, Virginia shortstop Daniel Pinero did this …

“Right Between The Eyes.”

Lots of smoke-snortin’. But, alas, no steak. College amateur rules are fussy about things like that. But, Sports Channel 8 in North Carolina is providing a “steak dinner” donation to the local food bank in honor of Pinero.

Despite the bullish homer, the ‘Hoos lost yesterday’s game against Clemson (and lost to Wake Forest again today).

But, Pinero hit the bull. So, there is that.