The Future Of Baseball

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

Seeing kids play baseball is like reliving your own life when you were a kid. You look at them out there in the grass and it reminds you of something you did during a game a long time ago. (Like dropping the easy fly ball to right. Yup, sometimes the memories are harsh ones.)

But, sometimes you can look at a kid out there in the grass, playing a kid’s game, and you can see the future. Their future.

You can watch a four-year-old kid on the diamond and you can see the game Babe Ruth played nearly 100 years ago. You can see the first game you ever went to. You can see the first ball you ever held in your hand and you can remember exactly how it felt, exactly how it smelled.

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Babe Ruth, 1932

You can watch that same four-year-old kid on the mound and you can wonder where his future will take him.

Or, you can invent his future. And, it’s always a good one. And, he never drops the ball.

It was Grant’s birthday when I found him and his dad playing baseball. It was, his dad told me, the only thing he wanted to do on his birthday … play ball. That was a couple years ago. The original post is here.

Grant didn’t know me and he didn’t pay any attention to me. He didn’t pose. He just played.

I haven’t seen him since.

To see a four-year-old love the game is also to see our future. And, there’s still baseball in it. Whew.

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In response to the Word Press Daily Post Photo Challenge: Future. See more challenge photos here.

 

Fan of the Game

Luke was at Camden Yards in Baltimore last night. He brought this sign.

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O Yeah! Luke & his Orioles Beast of the East sign.

Between every inning and half-inning, Luke stood up and held up his sign trying to get the attention of the camera people so that they would show his sign on the Jumbotron in Center Field.

Luke is awesome. He never faltered and he never lost hope.

Never faltering and never losing hope are incredibly important qualities for any true baseball fan.

Luke told me that his mother actually made the sign – not him. “I slept in,” he admitted.

This is another important quality for a true baseball fan: pacing. The understanding that night games can often run into the wee hours requires the ability to catch a few extra snooze minutes whenever possible.

Luke cheered and clapped, and every time the public address system yelled “Charge!”, Luke yelled “Charge!” Absolute joy for baseball and the Orioles.

Luke’s favorite player? Orioles third baseman Manny Machado. Manny didn’t play last night – he’s out after season-ending knee surgery last month. But, Luke didn’t dwell on that disappointment.

The only thing that mattered was the game at hand.

And, don’t think that Luke’s cheers weren’t heard.

Last season, Baltimore Style Magazine asked Machado if he was aware of the crowd when playing. He said:

“Totally. … [Y]ou can always feel the energy. You hear people in the background. It’s gotten really loud in Baltimore lately. I love it.”

It was loud last night.

Even when the Red Sox got off to a fast 2-0 start.

But, did Luke give up hope? What do you think?

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Final Score: Baltimore Orioles 7. Boston Red Sox 2.

Fan of the Game: Luke.

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Photos: Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Baltimore, Maryland. September 20, 2014

Cotton Candy & The Win Streak Ends

The Baltimore Orioles had a four-game win streak through Sunday.

They lost today, 6-4, to the Minnesota Twins.

A new win streak starts tomorrow.

In the meantime, here’s a kid eating cotton candy.

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Getting all sticky.

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Eating the entire thing.

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And, then looking both wistful and a tiny bit barfy at the end.

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(Hey, why does cotton candy only come in pink and blue?)

Also from our recent trip to a game at Nats Park in Washington, DC, here are the Racing Presidents.

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(George always seems a little embarrassed about the whole running-around thing or maybe he just ate too much cotton candy and is feeling a tiny bit barfy himself.)

Photos: San Francisco Giants vs. Washington Nationals, Nationals Park, Washington, DC.  August 23 and August 24, 2014

(The Giants lost both games, including getting pounded by the Nats on Sunday, 14-6. This may help explain why I spent an entire inning watching a child cover himself in cotton candy. The Giants are currently on a seven-game win streak … and I hope this doesn’t jinx them.)

 

Don’t Trust Children With Anything

A few years ago, when I was quite small, my mom got me this …

wooly willy

(And, by “a few years ago”, I mean, “some years ago” … maybe “a few of a few years past” … and, well … you know, math is stupid.)

Anyway, not quite 100 years ago, my mom got me this …

wooly willy

For those of you who are older than magnets (you know who you are), Wooly Willy’s bare head was surrounded by metal shavings. So, with the “magic” magnetic pencil you could move the shavings around and give Willy hair and a beard and a mustache.

(So, really, you were just creating your own version of the Red Sox.)

As a very precocious youngster, who didn’t quite understand the connection between metal and magnets, I decided it would be interesting if, before fixing Willy’s hair, I could first examine the metal shavings up close. So I broke into my Wooly Willy and poured the shavings on the ground.

(And, by “on the ground”, I mean, on the asphalt, because we were still in the parking lot of Long’s Drug, where we had gotten the thing just five minutes earlier.)

This didn’t improve my understanding of metallurgy. But, it did massively annoy my mother. And, having broken the plastic lid, I never did get to give Willy a metal beard or mohawk, because no way, no how, was my mom getting me another one.

The moral of this story is simple.

Don’t trust children with things.

Really, anything.

Most important, don’t trust children with things that are meaningful to you. Like the foul ball you just caught.

As in St. Louis yesterday …

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Watch here.

OK, you can’t really trust ’em, but that kid was awesome.

Part 2: Grant Turns Four

“Never forget, there is a heartbeat in this game.” ~ Joe Torre, former player & manager (Baseball Hall of Fame, 2014)

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Here’s Grant.

Yesterday, Grant turned four. And, all he wanted to do for his birthday was to play some ball with his dad at the nearby baseball diamond.

We were nearby, too. We had just transported and released a spotted turtle to a lakeside just a few blocks away.

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(Click here for Part 1 and relive the spotted turtle adventure.)

Just as we were driving off, I saw the baseball diamond.

“Let’s stop here,” I said to Editor/Husband when I spotted the diamond. Or, maybe it was something more like a shouted, “HEY! WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU??? STOP!!!” just to make sure we didn’t drive too fast, too far away.

And, that’s where we found Grant and his dad. Playing ball.

Grant would like you to know that he is a Washington Nationals’ fan and Bryce Harper is his favorite player.

Grant has the swagger of a big leaguer. He knows how to swing the bat,

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knock the dirt off his cleats, and dig into the batter’s box.

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“When I hit the ball, I do want to hurt it.” ~ Bryce Harper, OF, Washington Nationals

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He’s got pretty good speed for being only four, and the sort of youthful stamina …

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… that runs out every home run full-tilt as if it was a thisclose inside-the-parker.

He can slide feet first whether he needs to or not.

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And, his very first head-first slide into home is documented here.

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When pitching, he has an intimidating stare …

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… an unorthodox pitching style that occasionally includes standing behind the rubber …

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… and the confidence to shake off the catcher whenever necessary.

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“I’m really trying to be a pitcher out there. I’m not trying to light up the radar gun all the time.”  ~ Stephen Strasburg, P, Washington Nationals

As for fielding …

“A player running the bases shall be out, if the ball is in the hands of an adversary on the base, or the runner is touched with it before he makes his base; it being understood, however, that in no instance is a ball to be thrown at him. ~ The Knickerbocker Rules, 1845.

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Well, they’re working on that.

“I just like to play the game.” ~ Ryan Zimmerman, INF, Washington Nationals

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Happy Birthday, Grant.

You’re why I love baseball.

(Oh, and P.S. I know you love the Nats and all, but couldn’t you just give the Orioles a try?)

Photos: Saturday, May 24, 2014, Fawn Lakes Baseball Diamond, Spotsylvania, Virginia

(Thank you to Grant and his dad, Shane Reid.)

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Part 1 ~ There You Go, Turtle!

 

The Fortune Cookie Speaks

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For 17 hours this week, the Baltimore Orioles led the American League East.  Ahead of the New York Yankees.  Ahead of the World Champion Boston Red Sox.

It was a nice 17 hours, although, truthfully, several of those hours were in the middle of the night when I couldn’t really enjoy it fully.

They say one shouldn’t live in the past, but I hope you won’t mind if I just …

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May 2, 2014

What a whirlwind, crazy, exciting ride it was.

The Orioles promptly lost their next two games.

No more number one.

(I believe at one point today as the Orioles were losing to the Minnesota Twins I said they “suckity suck suck.” This is the clever kind of thing that baseball fans say when they’re being betrayed by the players they love.)

There is a week that comes in every baseball season, when a private, quiet kind of panic begins to set in for fans of teams that are not number one.

This is that week.

A week ago, Editor/Husband and I went to our first Orioles game of the season.  (Yes, it is a six-hour round-trip drive. He is the best.)

The scrappy Orioles played the equally scrappy Kansas City Royals.

We lost 9-3.

But, the sun was shining. 3,500 Little Leaguers were there. I took these pictures. So really the day wasn’t a total loss.

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Here’s Orioles Pitcher Chris Tillman out by the bullpen. Four days later, against the Pirates he would throw 49 pitches in the top of the first and walk in two runs. The Orioles won anyway.

And, as a big fan of the bullpen and relief pitchers, I’m delighted to see they’ve dressed up the place with flowers.

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These are ducks just behind center field.

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These are Little Leaguers. More than 3,500 of them paraded around the ballpark before the game. It took more than an hour. The Orioles said “hi.”

Once again, I am besieged by protective netting. Let’s play “Guess The Infielder!”

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Gold Glove Shortstop J.J. Hardy.

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Second Baseman Steve Lombardozzi.

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It’s a trick! It’s Right Fielder Nick Markakis playing first base, subbing for the injured Chris Davis.

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Obligatory bullpen shot. Hi fellas, stay warm!

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Orioles backup catch Steve Clevenger, born in Baltimore in the nearby neighborhood called Pigtown.

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This is a kid who’s excited to be at a baseball game. He is a wide-eyed innocent who believes in his team and in a world that is just and fair.

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This is a kid whose favorite team is rolling over to the Royals. I think he’s aged a bit this afternoon, and from here on out every smile will be tinged with just a hint of sadness.

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Shortstop J.J. Hardy knew that if he stopped mid-game to pose for my photo he would get to appear in this post twice. Congratulations, Mr. Hardy.

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OK, maybe it’s too early to panic.

We’re number two.

 

Photos: Oriole Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland. April 27, 2014.

Kansas City Royals – 9.  Baltimore Orioles – 3. 

Go Squirrels.

Nathaniel Go Squirrels“I like to play happy. Baseball is a fun game, and I love it.” ~ Willie Mays

Willie Mays is my favorite SF Giant.  Because … because, of course he is … I don’t have to explain that to you, do I?

Play happy.

I love that.

I saw the Richmond Flying Squirrels play on Sunday (they’re the Giants’ AA team).

And, that’s where I saw Nathaniel and his sign.

Baseball isn’t about cheaters and liars and those who dirty up a pure game with bad behavior and boorishness.

Baseball is about playing happy. And, Nathaniel. And, his sign. (And, possibly his brother too, over there on the right, who reminds you that sometimes you’re not that happy about a baseball game.)

The Richmond Squirrels and the Bowie Baysox, the Orioles’ AA team, played to a 5-5 stalemate Sunday, when the skies opened up in the 10th and the game was suspended. They’ll finish it another day.

Play Happy. Go Squirrels.

Unassisted Triple Play!

This video has been out in the ether all season.  Still … one of my favorites.

The triple play is a thing of beauty.  But, the unassisted triple play is much, much more.  It requires a good glove, a good eye, good timing, and a good bit of luck.  A single fielder makes all three outs on a single play.

It’s an extremely rare event.  (According to Baseball Almanac, it’s happened only 15 times in the entire history of major league baseball.)  So, when it’s accomplished by a 6-year-old, it becomes transcendent!

Here … watch!  (Even if you’ve seen it before — it even made it to ESPN — watch again.  It’s only 18 seconds of your day, afterall.)

My favorite part of this may be that the little fella really had no idea that what he had done was anything special.  He just made the outs … 1 … 2 … 3.   He had to hustle a bit.  He had to follow some direction from his coach.

But, all in all, he made it look rather easy.

No fist pumps, dancing, jawing, or heroics for him.  After all, he was just doing his job.