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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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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“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 …

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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.

Jubilation. And, Now The Post-Season

This seemed jubilant.

2 run homer

A two-run homer. University of Virginia defeats Georgia Tech, May 13, 2016. 

But, jubilation probably deserves a little more.

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How about a bases-loaded walk-off walk win? University of Virginia defeats Virginia Tech, May 20, 2016.

walk off part 2

Baseball jubilation often includes a Gatorade shower – a couple cups tossed in the air will do in a pinch.

The NCAA college baseball post-season, and the road to the College World Series in Omaha, begins tomorrow.

There will be plenty of dog piles over the next five weeks.

UVa Hoos dogpile 2014

University of Virginia over University of Maryland. Super Regionals, 2014.

Jubilation, too.

Jubilant Wyatt

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

Photos: Davenport Field, University of Virginia. Charlottesville, Virginia. 2016 and 2014 © The Baseball Bloggess

The Face Behind The Mask

 

Thaiss 2015

“You have to have a catcher because if you don’t you’re likely to have a lot of passed balls.” ~ Casey Stengel

In 1876, Fred Thayer, the team manager of Harvard’s baseball team, took a fencing mask, tinkered with it, and turned it into baseball’s first catcher’s mask. It didn’t take long for other catchers to catch on.

Thayer patent

Thayer’s original catcher’s mask patent.

Fans, according to The New York Times, hated the innovation, considering a protective mask a sign of weakness. They jeered at catchers who wore them.  (Batting helmets? Shin guards? Thumb protectors? Today’s game would drive our great-great-great grandparents nutty.)

The mask annoyed fans, but it changed the game. It allowed catchers to be much closer to the batter. It allowed pitchers to amp up their pitches without worrying about killing their catcher with an errant throw.

By 1878, Spalding had added it to their sporting goods’ catalog.

spalding

Goat hair and dog skin. $3.

Today’s best masks can run to more than $100. (Which, if you ask me, is a pretty small price to pay to keep your nose, cheekbone, and brain intact.) No more dog skin either. Progress.

It’s hard to know what’s going on behind those “tools of ignorance.” It’s hard to see a catcher’s face, especially way out in the bleachers.

Thaiss 2016

Matt Thaiss, gritty catcher for the University of Virginia, is tough as nails.

“He won’t give up,” UVA pitcher Alec Bettinger told The Daily Progress last week. “He could have his legs chopped off and he’d still go out there and catch. He’s just the toughest guy on the team.”

But, sometimes, when you look inside the mask …

Matt Thaiss March 2016

… he seems almost angelic.

Which just goes to show …

I don’t really know what it goes to show.  But, sometimes the face you find behind a mask isn’t always the face you expected to find.

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

Photos: University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. 2015-2016 © The Baseball Bloggess