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. 

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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

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

“Gateway To The Majors”

“Within the ball park, time moves differently, marked by no clock except the events of the game. This is the unique, unchangeable feature of baseball and perhaps explains why this sport, for all the enormous changes it has undergone … remains somehow rustic, unviolent, and introspective. …

“Baseball’s time is seamless and invisible, a bubble within which players move at exactly the same pace and rhythms as all their predecessors.” 

~ Roger Angell

Baseball keeps me close.

It keeps me close to my dad who didn’t even really like baseball, but it keeps me there nevertheless whenever I hear Vin Scully’s voice (less often now) or see a Dodger’s logo. Even though my dad’s been gone for years.

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“Welcome Fans!”

“Virginia is a team that more than deserved to be a very high seed and host a regional. Why that didn’t happen, I don’t know.” ~ Jim Schlossnagle, Coach, Texas Christian University Horned Frogs

Last Sunday, the NCAA named its 16 host teams for their post-season Regional Tournaments which began yesterday.

The University of Virginia — ranked #13 in the country by D1 Baseball, #11 in USA Today‘s Coaches Poll, and #10 in the Baseball Writers Poll — was not among them.

In the scope of injustices in this world, the NCAA’s slight is plenty misguided, sure, but still pretty teeny-tiny.

And, sure you can argue that Virginia is still one of the 64 teams competing in the post-season this weekend. Look at poor Miami, left out for the first time in 44 years.

Yes, you can argue that at least Virginia gets to play today.

(Don’t try to make me feel better. I’m steamed about this.)

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Our Season In The Blue Seats (part 3)

Sure, I know I’m wearing out my welcome, but here’s one last look from our season in Virginia baseball’s blue seats.

Last post on this. Promise.

If you’re playing catch-up … here’s “Our Season In The Blue Seats” (part 1) and (part 2).

I have a college chum who is an accomplished photographer. He tried to help me understand how carefully manipulating the wheels and buttons and levers on my camera can create a beautiful photo. But, I just can’t seem to ever get it right, especially when I’m trying to shoot through — and wash out — the protective netting at a game while actually also watching the game.

So, my pictures are frustratingly not right most of the time. Which is ok, because if people like me could take a great photo with ease, all the good photographers in the world would be out of work. Which is to say, I’m keeping all the professional sports photographers in business, which makes me a job creator. You’re welcome.

I took a lot of pictures while we watched Virginia baseball from the coveted blue seats this season. A lot.

These were all shot through the protective netting. They are my favorites.

Virginia Pitcher Teddy Paisley.

I’ve been waiting all season to tell you about Teddy Paisley.

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Our Season In The Blue Seats (part 2)

I’m the person you meet at a party who wants to show you a picture on her phone and then as she’s sweeping through hundreds of them she stops to show you a bunch of unrelated ones that have made her nostalgic (well, as nostalgic as a picture from 2013 can make one). She ultimately forgets the one she was looking for in the first place, which is ok, because one more tiny picture from last summer’s family reunion filled with people you don’t know is going to end the friendship.

Just a few more pics from our season in baseball’s blue seats at the University of Virginia. I promise it won’t take long.

(What? You missed ‘Part One’? Poor dear. Start here.)

Today’s theme – ACTION!

My camera doesn’t catch much action at the game. Blame the camera. (All of these photos were shot through the protective netting.)

Sure, I missed catcher Caleb Knight’s homerun swing, but I did get Virginia’s celebration in a game versus Pittsburgh.

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Our Season In The Blue Seats (part 1)

Editor/Husband broke his leg on New Year’s Day.

You might think that this was a terrible thing and it was. Not for me, of course, but for him. It was a lousy thing to happen.

But, look at the bright side.

His bum leg wasn’t ready for steep steps. And, our season tickets for University of Virginia baseball are out in the bleachers and up some very steep steps. We had to figure this out. Because I don’t care whose leg is broken, we’re not missing baseball.

So before nearly every home game this season I stood in line at the ticket window – sometimes for nearly an hour – in the hopes of upgrading that day’s tickets to closer-in seats that would be an easier commute for Limpy.

Those close-in seats are the ones that fans like us, with our bleacher tickets, dream about.

The blue seats.

Real seats with sturdy backs, not the long backless benches that line the rest of the park. When you’re in the blue seats you can put your bottle of water beside your feet and not worry that someone will accidentally kick it into the opening in the bleacher floor where it will disappear into the abyss.

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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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“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.

Embed from Getty Images

 

“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.