Free Baseball: 1-2-3 Edition

One A’s pitcher – and former UVa Hoo — tells us about life on the DL.

Two Dodger’s pitchers you may have heard of.

And, three home runs – a dinger, a moon shot, and a slam – from a Met.

Here’s your Free Baseball* 1-2-3 Edition.

1. Doolittle on Doolittle

Sean Doolittle, Oakland A’s reliever, former University of Virginia Hoo, and native South Dakotan (that’s the fancy-pants Dakota), has spent much of this season on the disabled list.

But, he’s been checking in on Twitter …

And, his heartfelt piece on this week about life on the DL is a must-read – for baseball fans, of course, but also for anyone who has had to heal from a serious injury and has had to battle to get back the life their injury took away.

doolittle column

“I’ve found that in this game, all you can ask for is a chance,” he writes. Read here.

2. McCarthy on Greinke & Kershaw

Technically that’s three Dodger’s pitchers, but Brandon McCarthy is writing specifically about Zack Greinke and Clayton Kershaw, and his piece this week on helps explain why they are two of the best pitchers in the world and we are not.

mccarthy guest columnist

Read here.

McCarthy, another pitcher who has spent much of this season on the DL, is a pretty sassy tweeter, too …

3. Yoenis Cespedes

I just wanted to see if I could spell Yoenis Cespedes without checking my work.  (Answer: Yes, I can. But, thank you, spell check for helpfully suggesting “Yemenis Cesspits,” anyway.)

Last night, the brand new New York Met, traded from the Tigers just a couple weeks ago, came through with three home runs against Colorado – a solo homer, a two-run homer, and a grand slam. If he could have mustered up a three-run shot, he would have hit for the Home Run Cycle. I’m not even sure that’s a thing.

That added up to seven RBI … and I believe he snuck a stolen base in there, too.

yoenis homers video

It was, he said, “the best night I have ever had.”

Watch here.

There you go … 1-2-3.


* Free Baseball refers to extra innings that come after a nine-inning game ends in a tie. Here it’s the extra things that don’t quite fit into my regular-sized posts.


Free Baseball: “O, How I’ve Missed You” Edition

Once an Oriole, always an Oriole.

Here are some former Baltimore Orioles playing the game. Only their uniforms have changed.

(What, you thought I’d never mention Nick Markakis again just because he’s a Brave now? And, not share last night’s baby video with you? What do you think I am, some kind of monster?)

10th Inning ~ Nelson Cruz

Sure, Nelson Cruz was only an Oriole for a season, but his league-leading 40 home runs last year helped the Orioles go deep into October. Thank you, Nelly!

Cruz took those home runs and parlayed them into a juicy, rich contract from the Seattle Mariners in the off season.

He returned to Camden Yards this week.

His reception? A warm standing ovation from Orioles fans. (The smattering of “boos” you hear are actually fans yelling “Cruuuuzzz,” just like they did all last season.)

nelson cruz

Watch here.

O’s fans didn’t begrudge Cruz his single. They weren’t quite as happy about his home run in his next at-bat, but they probably weren’t all that surprised.

11th Inning ~ Nick Markakis

I’m still sad about longtime Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis leaving for the Atlanta Braves this season.

I wouldn’t say he’s irreplaceable in right, but so far the O’s have tucked Delmon Young, Travis Snider, Steve Pearce, and Alejandro De Aza over there, and it’s just not the same.

Markakis is doing a-ok over in Atlanta. And, last night, after chasing a foul ball, he stopped to greet a young Braves fan. Watch here.

nick markakis

I still miss you, Nick.

Look close and you’ll see a bonus Oriole! That’s former Oriole closer Jim Johnson on the mound handily getting through a clean 8th inning in the Braves win last night.

12th Inning ~ Jake Arrieta

Jake Arrieta had a challenging few seasons in Baltimore. Everyone insisted he had the talent, but he just couldn’t get it together when it came time to pitch.

Arrieta is the perfect example of how a change of scenery – and a burst of facial hair – can make all the difference. Traded to the Chicago Cubs in 2013, he’s thrived as a go-to starter.

On May 12 he shut down the Mets with 10 strikeouts in a 6-1 victory. Watch here.

(Fun Fact: Earlier this month, the Orioles tried twice and couldn’t beat the Mets.)


If solid starting pitching isn’t your bag, try these cubs instead …


Six bear cubs at the Wildlife Center of Virginia goofing off on the live Critter Cam. Watch here.

They are adorable. Almost as adorable as that Nick Markakis video from last night.



Free Baseball refers to the extra innings that come after a nine-inning game ends in a tie. Here “Free Baseball” are the extra things that don’t quite fit into my regular-sized posts.

Free Baseball: Things Are Not As They Seem Edition

It snowed today. Well, just a little …


Can’t see it? Here, look again …


A dusting of snow and, look, a mystery cat!

Well, it snowed enough that lots of things around me closed for the day.

While this smattering of snowlets has closed things in Virginia, it’s the kind of snow that someone in North Dakota wouldn’t even notice. “It snowed last night? Really? I didn’t notice the dusting on top of the other 20 inches that have been here since September.”

I lived in North Dakota for awhile, I should know.

So, this may not seem like anything to you.

But, sometimes things are not as they seem … and this dusting has upended Central Virginia.

And, as a result, hundreds and hundreds of schoolchildren around here got to sleep in, blissfully unaware for one more day of important things like Algebra, adverbs, and Chester Alan Arthur.

Today in “Free Baseball,” three other things that are not quite what they seem.

10th Inning: Tommy Hunter, Retail Dude

Tommy Hunter is one of the Baltimore Orioles longest-tenured and pretty steady (mostly steady, often steady … or, at least, more-often-steady-than-not steady, 2.97-ERA-in-2014 steady) bullpen relievers. I’m soft on the boys of the bullpen. It’s a thankless job being a reliever. Even when you’re great – or at least steady more often than not – you’re unheralded. You’re probably never going to win a Cy Young (although occasionally relievers do), you’re probably not going to be an MVP of anything, and, apparently, unless it’s the 8th or 9th inning, you’re not going to be recognized, even by your own fans.

Tommy went “undercover” to work at the Orioles Fan Store in nearby York, Pennsylvania last summer.


 “The Hunter jerseys just came in, man. I’ve got a couple of them, too.”

Watching him hawk Tommy Hunter jerseys is why I believe bullpens – and the boys who live there – are one of the best parts of the game. Watch here.

We (heart) Tommy.

11th Inning: Baseball in Japan


“It’s not just baseball. It’s something else. It’s something more.”

Each spring dozens of high school teams from around Japan come together at Koshien for a nine-day tournament that captivates the country. Like “the Super Bowl and World Series rolled into one,” it is one of Japan’s biggest sporting events.

In “When 772 Pitches Isn’t Enough,” writer Chris Jones tells the story of Tomohiro Anraku, a 16-year-old pitching phenom from Saibi High School and one of the top baseball prospects in the world, and his appearance at Koshien.

The culture of youth baseball in Japan – the dedication to perfection at any physical or emotional cost – is fascinating. And, when you read of how Anraku throws 772 pitches over five games in nine days, it’s also frightening.

The article first appeared in ESPN: The Magazine, and, most recently, in the 2014 Edition of The Best American Sports Writing.  Read here.

12th Inning: The Birth Of A Twins Fan


Because I am a loyal (some would say annoying) Orioles fan, people assume I live in Baltimore. Not true. Although I lived in nearby Northern Virginia for a number of years, I’ve never lived in Baltimore. To get to Camden Yards today takes us a good three hours, usually in terrible I-95 traffic. When we’re about halfway to Baltimore, I will thumb my nose at much-closer Nationals Stadium as we pass by it. I’m a loyal Birdland Girl.

This week Verdun – who writes the fabulous Verdun2’s Blog – explained how he, a lifelong Dodgers fan, inadvertently turned his son into a Minnesota Twins fan simply because of one seemingly innocuous act when his son was small.


It’s a great read. Read here.

(Although, had he handed a Yankees card to his son on that fateful day, it would have been a tragic and sad story. Whew!)

Pitchers and Catchers Report in just 35 Days!


Free Baseball refers to the extra innings that occur after a nine-inning game ends in a tie. For me, “Free Baseball” are the extra things that don’t quite fit into my regular-sized posts.


Free Baseball: Hoos, Ostriches & Vultures Edition

When the game is tied after nine, baseball goes to extra innings.  Free baseball!

Here are some extras that I have lying around …

10th INNING ~ Go Hoos!

If you’re shopping for baseball players, the first round of the Major League Draft was last night. Three members of the University of Virginia Cavaliers were chosen in the first round: Nick Howard, RHP (Cincinnati Reds), Derek Fisher, OF (Houston Astros), and Mike Papi, IF/OF (Cleveland Indians).

But, before heading off to their new paying jobs, there’s still this business with the College World Series to attend to. Good luck this weekend in your games against Maryland. Go Hoos!

Would the #1 ranked college team please put your glove in the air?

daniel pinero uva.jpg

Thank you, UVa Freshman SS Daniel Pinero.  (Hey Susie, he’s Canadian!)

(Watch the University of Virginia Cavaliers vs. the University of Maryland Terrapins Saturday and Sunday at noon, EDT on ESPN2. Game 3, if necessary, is Monday at 4 p.m.)


11th INNING ~ Ostriches

I thought it couldn’t be real. They call it an Ostrich Pillow, a napping, pillow-y, cave-like thing that makes you look kind of dead. It creeps me out and mesmerizes me all at the same time. It’s real … sweet apple cider, it’s real!

ostrich pillow

Orioles Fans, Is your starting pitching falling apart again and it’s only the second inning? Tuck into Ostrich Pillow!

NFL, Still refuse to acknowledge your ugly concussion crisis? Here, stick your head in!

Editor/Husband, Wondering how much longer this game can go on? Answer: MUCH longer. How about a half-inning snooze?

Endless meetings. Dinner party guests that just won’t leave. Mind-numbing political rants from the drunk uncle who gets all his news from Fox.

Ostrich Pillow.

ostrich pillow2

I’m so glad it’s real!

12th INNING ~ Keep Calm & Carrion

Buttercup is a black vulture that lives at the Wildlife Center of Virginia.

buttercup photo


Vultures – or buzzards as some people call them – are one of the world’s greatest recyclers. They eat the rotting meat of dead animal carcasses lying on roadsides and in fields that would otherwise spread disease and kill us all. Vultures are our great protectors.

Vultures are also misunderstood.

It is ok to dislike the New York Yankees because they upset the economics of baseball with their pocket-change millions. It is NOT ok to dislike vultures because they’re a bit wrinkley on the outside and like to fly around around in circles overhead looking for a snack.

(And, yes, they do pee on their legs sometimes, but really, who doesn’t?)

They are sociable creatures with amazing stomach enzymes. (I’m talking about the vultures here, not the Yankees.) Thousands of humans might go down, but a vulture would never succumb to food poisoning on a cruise ship.

Celebrate vultures and Buttercup with the Wildlife Center’s new “Spring Carrion” line of tee-shirts and tote bags. You’ll be helping a great organization and helping spread one of the best worst puns ever.

buttercup and raina

Buttercup and bag

(P.S. If you’re planning on using your Ostrich Pillow outdoors, please watch out for vultures.)

13th INNING ~ Yay!

Oh, how I love the hidden ball trick.  And, this is one of the best!

Florida vs. College of Charleston. May 30, 2014

Watch it here.

Isn’t college baseball grand?


Free Baseball: “How Did Everything Go So Bad, So Fast?” Edition

Free Baseball refers to extra innings in a game.

You know the ones.Your team has a cozy, comfortable lead going into the late innings, and then the bullpen comes out, but things somehow start to go badly, the pitchers go sour and give up runs, lots of runs, homeruns, all sorts of runs, and the comfortable lead vanishes and suddenly the game is tied, and so the game continues for a few more innings, but your bats are cold, no one can hit, and you run out of relievers, and then you give up the game-winning run to the other team, and then the game is over, and you lost.  Then you go out and do the very same thing the next day.

Just hypothetical, of course.  Unless you’re a Baltimore Orioles fan, in which case, this is suddenly reality.


So, for your extra innings today … a few things to help settle the bullpen down, and to kill some time because it hurts just a little too much to talk about baseball today.

10th INNING ~ Get Smarter

Maybe our bullpen pitchers need to sharpen up the old coconuts. Get a little smarter, sharper, quicker.

A friend of mine recently turned me on to, which offers you a few minutes of games and puzzles each day as a means to keep your mind sharp and your brain supple. My friend is pretty smart, so I thought I would give it a go. I’ve been at it for a month or so. I still don’t understand physics, but maybe I am a bit quicker at finding my car keys in the morning. So, progress.


There’s a free version and a subscription version, which offers a few extra games each day. Try it out and let me know how you do feeding all those bloody confusing fish in that stupid koi pond.

11th INNING ~ Get Peaceful

Science has shown that meditation can soothe the mind and quiet the brain. Maybe it’s time to get your OM on. I heard a story this morning that reported on how meditation can help repair damage to the brain in soldiers suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). You can find it here.

But, everyone can benefit from a bit of stillness. And, even if you’ve only got a minute … good enough. Try a one-minute meditation, here.

Maybe the bullpen pitchers can try a bit of quiet reflection, rather than flirting with the girls nearby, or throwing sunflower seeds at each other.

12th INNING ~ Get Bears!

So, if your team just got swept, your batters and your bullpen let you down (and no, my blog post about bullpens this week did not jinx them … it couldn’t of, could it?), then the only thing left are bear cubs.

The Wildlife Center of Virginia has 16 of them … and they’re all on the Critter Cam. You really do need to watch them. You’ll forget all about how your favorite team let you down this week.  Watch here (try Cam 1 … that’s where they’re usually hanging out.)


photo courtesy of the Wildlife Center of Virginia

Oh God, they’re so cute.

Enjoy this free baseball … the Orioles’ amazing comeback begins tomorrow!

Free Baseball: “I Hate The All Star Game” Edition

“I disliked the All Star Game before it meant something (like most of my life). Now that it ‘means’ something I both hate it and think it is useless.” ~ our friend Jay

Who hates a vacation? Our friend, Jay.

Baseball is a 162-game, six-month undertaking. (Eight months, if you count spring training and if you are good enough to make it to the post-season.)

Tucked into that stretch is a four-day break that includes the All Star Game. That little baseball vacation begins Monday.

Our friend Jay is a Red Sox fan. He hates the All Star Game because it temporarily stops the “real” baseball season. But, he does have lots of very good qualities, too.

I am pretty sure that I am a baseball fan because of him. I sat next to him at the very first major league game I attended. It was some 25 years ago.

I have been pestering him with baseball questions ever since.

He always responds. Patiently. Kindly. Wisely. (If you ask him how to throw a screwball, he will provide detailed instructions. If you ask about baseball broadcasters he will rate nearly every one. The Red Sox broadcasters are ranked quite highly, incidentally.)

Jay plays. Jay watches. Jay knows a lot about baseball.

Occasionally my questions stir him up.

Like when I asked about the All Star Game.

For me, I like the mini-vacation. I like watching the All Stars (especially when five of them are Orioles). It’s a long season; I don’t begrudge the players a tiny break at this mid-way point.

But, Jay thinks …

Well, here, he’ll tell you …

Baseball is an endurance contest — 162 games in six months. And then, in the middle of that we give players (making $16 million or even a paltry $1 million) four days off to go fishing and rest up? What’s that all about?

The greatest thing about baseball is that they play every day (and sometimes twice — in what other sport do they say ‘Let’s play two’?) But, no, the All Star Game says, “We pause from this important season to bring you this unimportant game.” (And, no, having it determine home-field advantage does not mean this is for real. If it was for real Clayton Kershaw would pitch seven innings.)

The touchstones for me for baseball are the “Morning Question” – how did the Sox do last night? – and the “Afternoon Question” – who is pitching tonight? I look for the box scores in the paper every day. How many games up (or behind) are we? … All winter I wait for baseball season to start so I can go through my daily baseball rituals — and then in the middle of July they stop it.

[Former Red Sox] Manny Ramirez’s grandmother used to “die” each year at All Star time so Manny could go home to grieve with the family. My attitude is like Manny’s Granny’s – “Who cares about the All Star Game? Nothing important is happening so I might as well die again this year.”

(Jay is exaggerating … but here’s the back story on Manny. And, here.)

The best thing about baseball is that there is a game every day, so let’s play. (That is why I hate days off, rain outs, and All Star Games.)

These are just the highlights. Jaylights.

But, I’m feeling sort of bad that Jay will have to endure the next four days without baseball while the rest of us are watching the Home Run Derby (Monday) and the All Star Game (Tuesday).

So, here are some things that can pass the time until the season begins again on Friday:

1) Watch NY Giants Pitcher Carl Hubbard strike out Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, and Jimmy Foxx in order. It was 1934 at the Polo Grounds. It was the All Star Game. Watch it here.


Or, watch Babe Ruth hit the very first homerun in the very first All Star Game in 1933. Watch here.

2) Explore the arts. Mike Carmichael of Alexandria, Indiana has been painting a baseball – coat by coat – since 1977. The baseball now has more than 23,000 layers of paint and weighs more than 4,000 pounds. If you visit, he’ll let you paint a layer on the ball. See it here.

painted baseball

Photo courtesy of Mike Carmichael

Perhaps the baseball in your garage is artwork in the making.

3) Learn a second language. Orioles outfielder Nate McLouth speaks fluent Spanish, allowing him to chat easily with his Latin American teammates and give interviews to the Spanish-speaking press. While most foreign-born players must learn some English to get by in the game, very few American players take the time to learn their teammates’ languages. Nate es maravilloso. Click aquí.


4) If you can’t watch baseball, play it. In Nicaragua, baseball is El Deporte Rey, the king of sports. NPR’s Only A Game recently had a story about a camp in Nicaragua that allows boys and girls a chance to slip away from the hard realities of poverty for a week of baseball. “[T]his chance to play on a real field coached by a real professional will make a beautiful memory. And even in wealthy countries, beautiful memories aren’t easy to come by.”  Listen here.

nicaragua camp

Jay is my baseball guru (except for that Red Sox thing). He has a blog too. Although he only updates it when he goes to baseball camp each winter. He should keep it up year-round. Visit it here and pester him to write more.

geezer baseball

Jay’s Blog.

Enjoy the All Star Game (or not). “Real” baseball resumes on Friday.

Continue reading

Free Baseball: Dekes & Dogs Edition

Free Baseball – the extra innings that come when a game is tied after nine. Today, three extra innings. A beautiful deke from a high school pitcher, the furriest bat boy in baseball, and the simplicity of baseball among the Amish.

10th Inning ~ Deke Out!

I love a good deke. That’s when a player fakes out a base runner by pretending to have – or not have – the baseball. When an entire team is in on the ruse … even better!

With the game tied in the 7th, Pitcher Wyatt Short of Southaven High in Mississippi turns to pick off the runner on second. His throw sails into the outfield. Or does it?

Click here to watch.

11th Inning ~ Dog Days

Some historians say that baseball descended from the ancient games “One Old Cat” and “Two Old Cat.”  The Cat games used pitchers and batters just like baseball, so maybe?

It seems odd, though, that a game that may have evolved from a game of Cat could be so dog crazy.

Teams invite dogs to join their people at “Bark in the Park” games, offered by more than a dozen major league teams, as well as tons of minor league teams, every season.  (Here’s the 2013 list.)

stevie closeup

(Sadly for Stevie, baseball has no “Purrs In The Park” days.)

Being a fan is easy for a dog. Growl at the umpires, bark at every base runner, and sniff around under the seats for hotdog scraps. Really, how hard can it be?

But, put a dog to work at a game – now that’s something!

Chase the Golden Retriever has been the official “Bat Boy” of the Trenton Thunder (a Yankees’ Double A team) since 2002. Now 13, Chase is retiring and will fetch his final Thunder bat on July 5.

Chase Bat Dog

Click here for Chase’s story.

And, click here to watch him do his bat boy thing!

12th Inning ~ Baseball With The Amish

For baptized Amish adults, baseball is forbidden – sinful and unnecessary, like iPads, zippers, and central air.

But, for the young Amish, who have yet to be baptized and renounce their sinful ways, baseball is alive and well.

The Amish kids don’t know much about performance enhancing drugs, or All Star scandals, or million-dollar salaries. Their game is free of all that baggage. Just throw the ball, hit the ball, and find a way to get home.

Kent Russell wrote an interesting piece on baseball in Amish country for the The New Republic in March. Click here.

New Republic

Free Baseball: Chilly Spring Edition

Today, a sweet Dodger, some Giants recreate a historic Delta House moment, nine cubs (the real kind, not a Chicago lineup), and the latest on the Squirrel Uprising.

“Free Baseball” refers to games that go to extra innings. You only paid to see nine innings … so, the extra ones are free. On here, it refers to the videos, stories, and online stuff I stumble upon and love, but that don’t quite merit a post of their own. Hence, they’re extra.


10th Inning  Matt Kemp is a LA Dodgers superstar.  I will, on occasion, make snarky wisecracks about him.  But, that ends today.  Because, I just saw this sweet video of Kemp visiting with a young fan.  It’s a short clip, genuine, and it made me cry.  It wasn’t overwrought.  It was just Matt Kemp doing something amazingly kind and precious.  I will never utter a bad word about him again. Ever.  Click here.

matt kemp

11th Inning Have you ever wondered what a squirrel would do if he had to go out and get a real job? Well, I hadn’t, until today.

Apparently squirrels in Arizona have been scamming humans and passing themselves off as “service animals.” You know, seeing eye dogs … so, seeing eye squirrels? I have no idea what exactly the squirrels are up to (except they are clearly planning to use this to their advantage in a Squirrel-Human war).

The squirrels became such a threat that Arizona found it necessary to pass a law forbidding them from ever again being hired as “service animals”. If they gotta pass a law, you know those squirrels were up to something. Squirrels may be wily, but they can’t make laws.  So, count this as a win for humans.

Click here for the story.

What’s next? Will the squirrels try to take over our baseball games too? What? They already did? Watch this squirrel infiltrate a college baseball game just last week. Click here.

squirrel chase

Prepare yourself for the Squirrel Uprising. It’s begun.

12th Inning Two things you should know …

1) The World Series Champion SF Giants came back from the brink of defeat in the National League playoffs last season. They attributed part of their amazing comeback to the inspiring cheerleading of their right fielder Hunter Pence.  (He’s been on this blog before with his special brand of crazy … click here).

2) Animal House is the greatest movie ever made. Really. I’m not just saying that so you can roll your eyes and beg to differ. I can offer up great chunks of that movie line-by-line (movie-quoting is usually a trait reserved for men, but on this count I can quote up against the best of them).

Here’s what happens when you put a bunch of Giants in a room and ask them to recreate the greatest scene from the greatest movie ever made.  (Interesting side note, these Giants are so young not one of them had ever even seen Animal House. Which is a tragedy.)

Click here.


And, here are the two scenes side-by-side.  Click here.

side by side giants

13th Inning And, finally, bear cubs … lots of bear cubs … courtesy of the Wildlife Center of Virginia (where my husband works). They are currently caring for nine cubs – the same number as a Chicago Cubs lineup, but, with apologies to Chicago, these fellas are much cuter.

Feeding Time, click here.

feeding time

Medicine Time, click here.

medicine time

P.S.  Good healing vibrations are going out today to Toronto Blue Jays Pitcher J.A. Happ who was badly injured last night by a line drive that hit him in the head. It’s a reminder that even a simple game can change everything with just one pitch. He remains in the hospital as of this writing.  Wishing you a quick and full recovery, Mr. Happ!

And, thank you to the Toronto Blue Jays broadcasters who were incredibly respectful during last night’s incident. They did not replay the injury over and over, did not become animated or overwrought. They simply described the unfolding situation quietly, and with respect and concern.

It’s Spring!

“People ask me what I do in winter when there’s no baseball. I’ll tell you what I do. I stare out the window and wait for spring.” ~ Rogers Hornsby (legendary 2nd baseman from 1915-1937, .358 career batting average)

Waiting For The Ball, by Clinton Helms

Waiting For The Ball, by Clinton Helms

There’s a moment that comes, long about February, when the need for the spring becomes more than just a gentle, sweet longing.  It becomes much more urgent, almost primal.  As though you’ve gotten so chilled to the bone … there’s no telling if you’ll ever thaw out.

It’s in that moment of urgency that you know that finally – finally! – you can begin to count.

Five, four, three, two …

Not the days ’til spring.

The days ’til Spring Training.

For those whose calendars failed to remind them, pitchers and catchers report in Florida and in Arizona on Monday.

And, while February 11 isn’t spring. It’s close enough.

Because baseball is there to remind you that spring will come, despite the cold and the snow and the dark.

Here in Virginia, it’s still winter. Sure, there’s no snow on the ground (sorry, New England) and today was almost pleasant (apologies, North Dakota). (And by pleasant, I mean I bundled up snuggly in a wool sweater, extra long scarf, and fully buttoned winter coat, but the kid playing outside at the grocery store was in shorts and a tee shirt.)

But, it’s still winter.

Photos of Minor League Baseball, by David Deal at the Arts Center in Orange

Photos of Minor League Baseball, by David Deal at the Arts Center in Orange

Until, you walk into a room filled with baseball.

And, the sun is shining through the windows at just the right angle, and you swear it’s the bone-warming sunshine that comes in May. And, the room is brighter and more golden than any room you’ve been in for months. And, you look all around and you’re surrounded by spring … and summer and baseball.

Even here, in Orange, Virginia, where the Orioles Spring Training camp is – by Mapquest’s calculations – 14 hours and 40 minutes away, and the first day of spring is farther still.

Even here, like even everywhere, baseball brings the promise of new life and the hopes of spring.

This week, the Arts Center in Orange, in downtown Orange, Virginia, opened a warm and sweet multimedia exhibit called Spring Training.  All things baseball, by a talented group of local artists.

Right here, in my little town. Baseball.

If that don’t beat all.

And, it made my heart jump alittle. And I felt the promise of springtime seep through the lining of my coat, through the scarf and wool sweater.  Right into my bones.

Finally. Warm again.

“That’s the true harbinger of spring, not crocuses or swallows returning to Capistrano, but the sound of a bat on a ball.” ~ Bill Veeck (20th-century baseball owner & innovator)

For some, baseball is history …

Ball Park Blessing by Susan Harb

Ball Park Blessing by Susan Harb

For some baseball is youth …

By John Strader

By John Strader

“Don’t tell me about the world. Not today. It’s springtime and they’re knocking baseball around fields where the grass is damp and green in the morning and the kids are trying to hit the curve ball.”  ~ Pete Hamill, journalist & author

For some, baseball is memory …

Memories, by Chee Kludt Ricketts

Memories, by Chee Kludt Ricketts

For some, baseball is a game …

Venus Flycatcher by John Strader

Venus Flycatcher by John Strader

For some, baseball is religion …

By Susan Harb

Baseball Candelabra by Susan Harb

For some, baseball is life …

"A Very Long Season" by John Corrao

“A Very Long Season” by John Corrao

“Love is the most important thing in the world, but baseball is pretty good, too.” ~ occasionally attributed to Yogi Berra (Legendary Yankee, #8) … and sometimes to an 8-year-old kid.  But, hey, let’s give this one to Yogi.

You should wander your way to Orange and check out the Arts Center.  (Lots of cool other things besides baseball, too.  Yes, there are other things besides baseball.  A few things anyway.)


On Exhibit at the ARTS CENTER in ORANGE

129 East Main Street, Orange Virginia

February 7 thru March 30, 2013

Monday thru Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

No charge, although donations are gratefully accepted

All images are the copyright of the artists.  Images used with the kind permission of The Arts Center in Orange.  A special thank you to Laura Thompson, Arts Center Executive Director.

Ball in Hand, by David Deal

Ball in Hand, by David Deal

Free Baseball!

I love that broadcasters call extra innings in a game “Free Baseball”. 

No one calls it “Free Basketball” or “Free Football”.  (Do they?)

Basketball has “overtime”, which is probably the dullest thing they could have come up with.

Football has its “sudden death”, which is appropriately violent, and, given the frightening increase in head injuries and permanent debilitating damage the game does to many players, is probably a fair-enough description.

But, “free baseball” is a gift.  You’ve sat through two … maybe three hours already … and still, the baseball gods shower you with more. Ten innings, 11, 12 … in the case of the Baltimore Orioles, don’t be surprised if you get to 18 innings before it’s all done (and the right fielder ends up pitching).

That the Orioles have a crazy major league record in consecutive wins in extra-inning games (16 in a row at last count, the most consecutive wins by a team in extras since 1949) makes it a bit sweeter, I know.

But still.  “Free Baseball.”  Yay!

My last blog post was way too long. Consider the last 200 words “Free Blog”. Even though the whole thing was free, the last 200 words was even more free … a little bonus gift to those of you who kindly slogged through the first 500 words.

So, I want some “Free Baseball” on this blog, too. So, here are some things floating around on the Internet that are free and perhaps even baseball related.

Just a few bonus innings this time.  Enjoy!

10th Inning ~ Shoeless Joe Jackson, 2012 Edition

Only A Game is a terrific NPR sports show. A few weeks back they did a story on ballplayer Joe Jackson, a many-times great nephew of Shoeless Joe Jackson. Jackson, the Shoeless one, is arguably the greatest ballplayer to ever swing a bat in Chicago. He, sadly, lost his legend when he got mixed up in the 1919 Black Sox scandal. This is one of those quirky, sweet baseball stories, that reminds you how important the rich lore and history of baseball is to the love of the game.  Click here to listen.

11th Inning ~ Charlie Mars

Charlie Mars is a Mississippi singer/songwriter. We saw him in concert last week and he was very, very good. His tie to baseball? Well, I was following the Oriole game on my phone at the show. OK, a tenuous tie at best. But, the Orioles won and I really like Charlie Mars, and his new song is currently free on Amazon. So there you go. Click here for the song.

12th Inning ~ Oakland A’s Do The Bernie Lean

I love teams that truly embrace and encourage their crazy fans. Those are the fans who love their team unconditionally, and will do whatever is necessary to cheer them on. This year, the Oakland A’s celebrate those fans who dance the “Bernie Lean” at games. The Bernie Lean is, if you don’t already know, the zombie-like, arm-flailing dance born from the “Weekend At Bernies” movie from 1989. Bernie was dead in the movie, by the way, which greatly influenced how he got around in the film. Here’s the video from Oakland … it’s crazy, stupid. But, the A’s get in on the joke, and I like that in a team. Click here to watch (Bernie Leaning, optional).