“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.

Continue reading

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.

 

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

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.

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

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

 

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.

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.

ballplayer

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

 

Happy Place: There’s No Place Like It

When The Daily Post asked bloggers to show their “Happy Place” on their blogs this week I wasn’t going to play along. After all, what do you expect me to say?

Mid pleasures and palaces though we may roam,

Be it ever so humble, there’s no place like home;

A charm from the skies seems to hallow us there,

Which seek thro’ the world, is ne’er met elsewhere.

Home! Home! Sweet, sweet home!

There’s no place like home! There’s no place like home!

~ From the 1823 opera “Clari, or the Maid of Milan.”

happy place

© The Baseball Bloggess

Funny thing. 1823 is also the year that we can find the first known references to the game of “base ball”:

“I was last Saturday much pleased in witnessing a company of active young men playing the manly and athletic game of ‘base ball’ at the Retreat in Broadway.” ~ The National Advocate, April 23, 1823.

Coincidence? Of course not.

There’s no place like home.

Photo: The University of Virginia vs. the Ontario Blue Jays. Davenport Field, Charlottesville, Virginia. October 13, 2015. (Taken behind the netting. Sorry about that.) © The Baseball Bloggess

UVa defeated the Canadian squad (an 18-and-under team featuring some of the best young players in the country) 12-5 last night in a strange 14-inning “exhibition” game that was a more a showcase for scouts, I think, than an actual game. Players batting out of order. Pinch runners pinch running and then disappearing. Really odd.

But, still … even really odd baseball is Happy Place worthy.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Happy Place.”

Boundaries: Game 162

Every fan knows that baseball mimics the seasons.

plate1

© The Baseball Bloggess

The year starts with the freshness of spring when anything — everything — is possible.

plate2

© The Baseball Bloggess

On to summer, when the sun runs high and hot, the nights turn steamy, and the hottest teams go on sweaty win streaks and the homers fly out like crazy because, as every fan knows, baseballs love the heat and humidity.

plate3

© The Baseball Bloggess

Now it is fall. Game 162. Things have grown chilly and the teams drop away, one by one, like the leaves on a tree. Until no one is left.

plate4

© The Baseball Bloggess

The season gets rolled up and tucked away. Just a bunch of games that all run together when you try to remember where you were when …

plate5

© The Baseball Bloggess

And, then you count the days until you get to do it all over again.

rake and home plate

© The Baseball Bloggess

Those are the boundaries of a baseball fan.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Boundaries.”

Photos: Orioles Park at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland. 2015 © The Baseball Bloggess

Good Day. Good Advice.

Mondays are rarely singled out as good days.

I mean, how can they be better than Saturday, right?

But, good days come in all shapes and sizes. And, this Monday was good.

Let’s check the “Good Day” box score …

Time in my day – and some jingle in my pocket – to sit down at Miso Sweet for lunch. Good!

miso sweet

Ramen. And, Donuts. Charlottesville. Very Good!

I know that not everyone has the time to sit down for lunch or the money to have a nutritious meal. It is not lost on me.

In the bathroom I find this note:

good advice

Good advice!

Photo: My trusty four-year old Droid. Permanent thumbprint on the lens. Not a good photo, but then, sometimes, even on good days, you are caught camera-less and only have one thumbprinty photo to show for yourself.

After lunch, I still have time to get to my Yoga studio for my own practice before my classes start. Awesome Good!

Yoga classes are full. Bountiful Goodness!

Sure, the Baltimore Orioles were swept by the Twins over the weekend. Sure, they will lose again on Monday night … and Tuesday night.  Sure, they look not so good and that’s six straight losses and the chances for Orioles baseball in October are looking a little like this:

cat gif

But, still. Delicious lunch. Good advice from a restaurant bathroom. Yoga.

All good.

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Today Was a Good Day.”

“Soon No Off Season”

off season 1

© The Baseball Bloggess

“Pretty soon the ball player will not have rest enough between seasons to get acquainted with his folks.” ~ The Sporting News, November 7, 1912

In response to The Daily Post’s weekly photo challenge: “Off-Season.”

They call it “The Grind.” That long baseball season. That life ballplayers choose.

For the pros, it begins in February at spring training and, if you’re lucky, it will extend to the far reaches of October.

College ball starts in February and stretches through four months, then summer league teams, and a “bonus” fall season tucked in before the snow falls.

Whatever’s left, that’s your “off-season.”

I thought “off-season” was a baseball term that had worked its way into the rest of the language. But, “off-season” is a business term that was first used in the 1840s.

soon no off season 1912 headline november 7 1912

The Sporting News, November 7, 1912

In 1912, The Sporting News complained that Charles Comiskey, President and Owner of the Chicago White Sox, was running his players ragged by shortening the off-season and putting his team on a train to California in the middle of February to begin spring training, forcing his players into exhibition games along the way, stopping at any place where a pick-up game might put extra “coin” into the owner’s pocket.

We don’t lay fallow much. There’s not much off-season for anybody these days. Apparently, there never was.

off season 2

© The Baseball Bloggess

Photo: Davenport Field, The University of Virginia, Charlottesville, Virginia. The end of the “Fall Ball” season. © The Baseball Bloggess