My goal is to add perspective to subjects other than the regular headlines.
Contact Stephanie at s.betweenthelines@yahoo.com



Monday, April 27, 2009

Another Rick Reilly Article

Well, not much to write about tonight after the Sox vs M's rainout... so if you're down for a good read, here's an article from Rick Reilly back on April 8th, 2002. Enjoy =)

You think it's hard coaching in the final four? You think it's tough handling 280-pound seniors, freshmen with agents, athletic directors with pockets full of pink slips? Please. Try coaching seventh-grade girls. After working with boys for 11 years, I helped coach my daughter Rae's school basketball team this winter. I learned something about seventh-grade girls. They're usually in the bathroom.
In one tight spot I was looking around madly for my best defensive guard to send in. "Where is she?" I yelled.
"In the bathroom, crying," our little guard in the blue rectangular glasses said. "Her friends kicked her out of their group today."
Worse, when one girl ran to the bathroom crying, three others automatically followed to console her, followed by three others to console them, followed by three others who didn't really want to go but were sucked in by seventh-grade-girl gravitational pull. This would always leave just me and the girl in the blue rectangular glasses, who would slurp on her Dum-Dum and shrug.

Students at Rae's small school are required to go out for at least one sport a year, and 11 girls came out for basketball. Buy you never had the idea the game was more important in their lives than, say, Chap Stick.
For instance we had a forward who never stopped adjusting her butterfly hair clips, even during our full-court press. Before the opening tip-off of our first game, she came back from the center-court captains' meeting and announced, "O.K., the ref said whoever wins the tip thingy get to go toward that basket."
Well, that would be an interesting rule.
Another difference between boys and girls: Girls have many questions. Our team meetings were sometimes longer than our practices. Apparently girls use team meetings as a chance to process feelings, whereas boys use team meetings as a chance to give each other wedgies.
During our first meeting we had long, emotional deliberations over what our huddle cheer would be and whether we should wear matching bracelets. Then one of our best dribblers stood up, took a deep breath and said, "I have an announcement. I am not going to bring the ball up this year, because last year Sherry got yelled at by everybody because she didn't pass them the ball, and I don't want to get yelled at." As if!
During one game our best rebounder slammed the ball down and stomped off the court. "Everybody's yelling my name, and I'm sick of it!" she said, and ran to the bathroom- followed by the mandatory nine other girls. I looked at the little guard in the blue rectangular glasses, who popped her Dum-Dum out of her mouth and said, "Don't worry, Coach. She's having her period."
You think Red Auerbach ever had to deal with this stuff?
Coaching girls was fun. It was rewarding. It was awkward. When they came off the court, it was difficult to know how to give them their "good job" pat. On the... Nope. On the... Nope. I always ended up just tapping them lightly on the top of the head. But not so I messed up their butterfly hair clips.
One thing about our team: We were always polite. One time my tallest and gentlest player tried to block a shot and accidentally hit the shooter on top of the head. Out player covered her mouth in horror with both hands, enabling the other girl to drop in a layup. "I thought I hurt her!" our player explained. I believe that started my facial tic.
We lost worse than Michael Dukakis. We got creamed our first eight games, losing one 23-2 and another 19-1. Yet the girls were over it the second the games ended. (Quite often, in fact, they were over it in the third quarter.) Afterward they headed to the one place they loved to be together- the bathroom.
Finally, in our ninth game, all heaven broke loose. For the first time we hit the cutter for a layup. Our shooting guard hit three running 15-footers. We hadn't even hit a 15-foot pass to that point. We came from behind and won 16-15 in a shootout, capped by the little guard in the blue rectangular glasses setting up the most beautiful pick to free up the player who made the winning layup.
In all my years of coaching, I never felt more giddy than after that win. In the delirious celebration, I grabbed the shoulders of the little girl in the blue rectangular glasses and yelled, "That was the greates pick I've ever seen!"
And she screamed, "Whats a pick?"
-S

Sox vs. Mariners Scouting Report, 4-27-09

VS
I have one hour until I leave for the Chicago White Sox versus the Seattle Mariners game tonight. Anyone else who will be going to this game or watching from home will see Seattle rookie right hander, Chris Jakubauskas take on Chicago's southpaw, John Danks tonight. Seattle sits at 12-7 record so far this year, first in their division by 3.5 games, and will look to start off the 3 game series with a win against the 9-9 Sox who currently sit at 2nd in the AL Central behind the Detroit Tigers.

Jakubauskas will be making his 2nd start tonight in place of the injured Ryan Rowland-Smith. In his first start this year, he lasted only 3 1/3 innings against the Rays while surrendering 6 runs on 10 hits. Jakubauskas is known for his control, which was clearly not present in his last start. In 2008, he started the season in single-A Everett, but made his way up to double-A West Tennessee, and finished the season in triple-A Tacoma for the M's. Over the 3 team season, he posted an 8-1 record, throwing 91 innings while yielding 78 hits, 19 earned runs, and 6 home runs to the opposition. He also struck out 79 batters and walked only 21, thus proving his pin-point control at all levels. The most impressive stats accumulated last year were his 1.88 ERA and 1.08 WHIP. He continued that success against Major League hitters in spring training this year, but his rough outing should have been a rarity. I expect to see Jakubauskas go at least 6 innings tonight and strike out 5-7 batters. The weather could be an issue, as it is scheduled to rain on and off throughout the night, and if so both pitchers many not pitch as many innings and it could be left to the bullpens.


Pitching on his home turf tonight is a 2003 first round draft pick, John Danks. So far this year, Danks has shown why he was the 9th overall pick back in '03. In his 3 starts this year, he has a 2-0 record, and in 19 innings pitched has compiled a 0.95 ERA and a 0.84 WHIP while only allowing 9 hits and 7 walks and striking out 16. While Danks has never beaten Seattle before, tonight may be different. Lifetime he is 0-3 with a 7.31 ERA in only 16 innings against Seattle. But, he's coming off a strong outing versus the Orioles where he retired 19 of the last 21 batters he faced, while only allowing 1 run and 4 hits over 7 innings. Expect to see another good outing from Danks and another win to add to his record, but only if he gets some run support.


The game is scheduled for a 7:11pm CT start at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. Plus it's half-off Monday at the Cell and tickets are still available throughout the whole park, so if you're coming out to the ballpark, let me know! Otherwise I will be back blogging tonight or tomorrow!

~S

Saturday, April 25, 2009

MLB Walk Up Songs

Most players embrace the chance to choose a walk out song, and sometimes they even put in a lot of time thinking of "the perfect song." Some feel it makes them play better. Some say it just makes them more relaxed, or puts them into a routine. Sometimes players have reasons for choosing a certain song, and sometimes they just like the beat. Whatever the reason, most stadiums feature a players song as they are getting situated for their at bat or warming up on the mound. Here's some 2009 updated walk out songs for hitters, and warm up songs for pitchers:

Stephen Drew- Who Wouldn't Want To Be Me, Keith Urban
David Eckstein- Counting the Days, Collective Soul
Conor Jackson- Say Yeah, Wiz Khalifa
Adam Dunn- Sister Christian, Night Ranger
Mark Reynolds- Iron Man, Black Sabbath
Chris Snyder- Mosh, Eminem
Put You On Game, Lupe Fiasco
Marco Scutaro- Gasolina, Daddy Yankee
Aaron Hill- Slow Ride, Foghat
Adam Lind- If I Ruled the World, Nas
Scott Rolen- Viva La Vida, Coldplay
Lyle Overbay- Jeremy, Pearl Jam
Casey Blake- All These Things that I Have Done, The Killers
(Or a few different Killers songs)
Russell Martin- Purple Haze, Jimi Hendrix
I can't drive 55, Sammy Hagar
Andre Ethier- Tres Delinquents, Deliquent Habits
Manny Ramirez- S On My Chest, Lil Wayne
James Loney- Got Money, Lil Wayne
Chad Billingsley- TNT, AC/DC
Eric Byrnes- Your Love, The Outfield
Brandon Webb- Jam On It, Newcleus
Dan Haren- Faint, Linkin Park (War Up)
What You Got, Colby O'Donis (Walk Up)
Doug Davis- Ants Marching, Dave Matthews Band
Max Scherzer- Never Gonna Get It, Akon
Wake Up, Rage Against the Machine
Chipper Jones- Let's Go, Trick Daddy
Brian McCann- The Boss, Rick Ross
Rockstar, R. Kelly
Jeff Francoeur- These Are My People, Rodney Atkins
Mike Hampton- Rough & Ready, Trace Atkins
Charlie Morton- Who Did You Think I Was, John Mayer
Rafeal Soriano- Fuego, Pitbull
Joba Chamberlain- PSA, Jay-Z
Mariano Rivera- Enter Sandman, Metallica
Robinson Cano- Independent, Webbie
Derek Jeter- Candy, Cameo
You Gots to Chill, EPMD
Johnny Damon- Bleed It Out, Linkin Park
Jacoby Ellsbury- Cherub Rock, Smashing Pumpkins
Dustin Pedroia- F**k Wit Dre, Dr. Dre
Kevin Youkalis- Push It, Rick Ross
Jason Bay- Alive, Pearl Jam
Mike Lowell- Iron Man, Black Sabbath
Jason Varitek- Me and My Gang, Rascal Flatts
Josh Beckett- Rockstar, Nickelback
Tim Wakefield- How Bad Do You Want It, Tim McGraw
Jonathon Papelbon- I'm Shipping Up To Boston, Dropkick Murphys
Garrett Atkins- The Way I Are, Timbaland
Brad Hawpe- Rockstar, Nickelback
Chris Iannetta- I Can't Dance, Genesis
Troy Tulowitzki- The Anthem, Pitbull
Ryan Spilborghs- Thriller, Michael Jackson
Todd Helton- Back in the Saddle, Aerosmith
Brandon Inge- Make it Rain, Fat Joe
Joel Zumaya- Voodoo Child, Jimi Hendrix
Dan Uggla- Bust a Move, Young MC
Jeremy Hermida- Stricken, Disturbia
Justin Morneau- Big Gun, AC/DC
Jason Kubel- Click Click Boom, Saliva
Joe Mauer- Joe Mauer Theme Song (explicit), A&R
Nick Punto- The Way I Are, Timbaland
Adam Everett- Face Down, Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Joe Nathan- Stand up and Shout, DIO
Mike Timlin- Black Betty, Ram Jam
A.J. Pierzynski- Set It Off, Audioslave
Jim Thome- No Leaf Clover, Metallica
Paul Konerko- Harvester of Sorrow, Metallica
Brian Anderson- Lovestoned, Justin Timberlake
Carlos Quentin- 4 Minutes, Madonna
Bobby Jenks- Boom, P.O.D.
Joey Votto- Black Betty, Ram Jam
Jay Bruce- Iron Man, Black Sabbath
Fausto Carmona- Stronger, Kanye West
Albert Pujols- Clap Yo Hands, ISM
Brian Wilson- Rise Up, Disciple
Tim Lincecum- Paranoid (remix), Linkin Park
Jake Peavy- Hillbilly Deluxe, Brooks & Dunn
Brian Schneider- Cyclone, Baby Bash
Carlos Beltran- El Esta Aqui, David and Abraham
David Wright- Good Life, Kanye West (He has about 4-5 songs that rotate)
Mark Teahen- Kansas City, Sneaky Sound System
Joakim Soria- Welcome to the Jungle, Guns and Roses
Chone Figgins- Speedin', Rick Ross
Torii Hunter- Umma Do Me, Rocko
JJ Hardy- Flower, Moby
Ryan Braun- Go Getta, Young Jeezy
Bill Hall- Got Money, Lil Wayne
Cole Hamels- Thunderstrck, AC/DC

It's definitely a cool perk of the ballparks when you get to hear the specifically chosen song by the player himself. Most the time fans connect with the players through these songs, because they get to learn more about their favorite players personality. The Cubs and the A's are two clubs that don't feature walk out songs. Some parks play funny songs for the visiting club, like the Desperate Housewives theme song for Evan Longoria. When Joe Crede came back to the Southside for the first time with the Twins, the Sox played "I'm all out of love" by Airsupply. It livens up the ballparks and the fans get a good laugh. Its a powerful moment for the ballplayer as he gets ready for his at bat, and it can completely change his approach and get him in the right frame of mind. Some have told me that it helps them drown out the crowd and focus on the at bat, too.

Currently, the Oakland A's are getting the fans involved to pick out a warm up song for their closer, Brad Ziegler. Their choices? Breathe into me, which was his song in 07 and 08 in the minors, Duck and Run by 3 Doors Down, Fade Away by 12 Stones (he loves the guitar intro), Haunted by Disturbed, or One X by Three Days Grace (his walkout song in 2006). It really turns into a capivating experience for a player and the fans, but is sometimes overlooked by others. I know I typically don't even notice walk out songs because I spend the majority of my time at a field that doesn't feature them- Wrigley. Although, when Kerry Wood became our closer last year, I loved being a part of the voting as the fans got to help him chose his song to warm up to, Welcome to the Jungle. Closer's songs tend be the most electrifying throughout the stadium- think Hell's Bells and Enter Sandman, for example.

Many baseball purists prefers the original house organ music or sometimes not even anything at all. I don't especially prefer that myself, but it is what I am use to. In the stadiums that do have walk up music, there tends to be common trends, espeically when it comes to the genre of music choice. ESPN held a poll of the top 50 players in the majors and found that 51.2% of them had some type of rock song. (See diagram below)

For most players, their walk out music is an important part of their warm up routines. One player said to me that it's an adreniline rush and helps him get hits. Players are always looking for consistancy, and the music is a part of that routine. The most common response I got from players was that it makes them comfortable at the plate. When looking back you'll notice that its a newer addition to baseball, as most coaches and former players will tell you that 6 or 7 years ago they didn't have it in their games. The coaches I talked to were split in their opinoins about walk out music. Some believe that it's a mental stimulus for the kids, because it makes them feel more confident at the plate and thus helps them succeed. Some are completely against it- they feel its a distraction and they say that kids get carried away with it. Others just say it's simply a fun part of the game. And why shouldn't the game be fun? It is a game after all.

Thanks for reading!
~S

Friday, April 24, 2009

Statistics in Baseball

You see them everyday, throughout every game, and spoken by every analyst: baseball statistics. They are thrown at you in abundance in order to keep you up to date, informed, and knowledgeable. But, what tends to happen through all this excess of information is the loss of value for what these stats actually represent. For example, our minds are conditioned to believe that a player batting .250 is mediocre, while a player hitting .300 is elite. Take for example the consistent, everyday player who plays in 162 games a season and gets at least 4 at bats per game, which is roughly 650 at bats per season. Since batting average is defined as the number of hits per at bat, it translates into that player going 1-for-4 in each game to secure a .250 batting average for the season. (In other words, he needs 162 hits in 650 chances.) In order for that same player to hit .300 for the season he would need to compile at least 195 hits in the same number of chances. That's a difference of 33 hits to go from a .250 hitter to a .300 hitter for one season. With approximately 24 weeks in a typical baseball season, that's roughly 1.4 hits more per week or 5.5 hits more per month. That's its- a mere 5.5 more hits per month separates the elite hitters from the average hitters. That's a simple side of reasoning with statistics. The rest of this will take stats to a completely different level.


For those of you who hope to gain a more thorough comprehension of statistics, you will be happy to know baseball has relevance rooted in two different types of statistics, cumulative and rate, both being extremely important in the information we receive. Cumulative statistics gather and record information in a tally system, such as home runs, singles, hits, walks, strikeouts, etc to give you an exact number to answer the question of "how many?" Rate statistics on the other hand measure frequency, which is any stat that is expressed as a percentage, ratio or average. But most stats are used with the aid of one another, like slugging percentage, which uses cumulative statistics (total bases divided by at bats) to determine a rate at which a player's power is defined.

You also have to acknowledge the environments in which stats are achieved and how that can skew the data. Some ballparks are considered to be hitter friendly, typically meaning there is more ground for the defense to cover creating more holes for hitters and the fences are usually shorter, giving the hitter a clear advantage. The players who make these fields their home turf for 82 games of the season generally have a curve in their favor, whereas players who hit at pitcher friendly parks may not get that extra hit per week needed to raise their average. Weather conditions affect a players home field as well. Cold weather favors the pitchers and warm weather, especially humidity, are a huge bonus for hitters. Parks in the southern states who experience a warmer climate are more apt to yield higher batting averages, home runs, etc to its players, but they are also very effective to help the ball move more by the pitchers. Teams that play in the cold for the beginning and latter parts of the season will favor the type of pitchers who can rack up a lot of strike outs due to the frigid hitters. Another factor that affects statistics is the range of skill at each level. Take into account a minor league player who makes his way into the majors. He has seen different playing skills at each level thus changing his approach more often then not. The term that encompasses all of this type of information is called the Park Factor. Basically it is the set conditions at a given field that determine the effects of run scoring at a given time under given conditions. And, like players who are rated, the same is done with ballparks based on their run scoring conditions. A neutral ballpark is a 1.000. Anything above 1.000 favor hitters more favorably, while anything below that mark favors pitchers. As determined by the 2009 Baseball Prospectus the most extreme values for a pitchers park was a 0.902 for Petco Park in San Diego, and the most extreme value for a hitters park was 1.067 for Coors Field in Colorado (ix).

If you are a frequenter of fantasy baseball leagues you are probably already aware of the predicted performance evaluations of players stat known as PECOTA (which stands for Player Empirical Comparison and Optimization Test Algorithm). The 2009 Baseball Prospectus states that the system created by Nate Silver is one that "projects future player performance based on existing trends in the historical record," (viii). PECOTA projections take into account quantifiable numbers based on metrics while also incorporating a players' personal qualities. For example, a PECOTA projection for a player will include his batting average, slugging percentage, and any other measurable production value while also using metric rates like plate appearances, career length, and their minor league duration in order to predict their future value. A big factor in this equation is that it also takes into account personal attributes such as that players bat speed, height, weight, hand eye coordination, etc while also taking into account the defensive position the player holds. The main time when PECOTA is extremely valuable is when determining a signing bonus for amateur players. It is then compared with other prospects at the time and current Major League players that they compare to. All of this makes it possible for baseball analysts and statisticians to more correctly determine a players future impact.

Statistics are my favorite part of the game. Their value and ability to predict the chance for an outcome enthrall me, to say the least. I don't simply look at a line score and try to memorize it. I like to look at the value of the stats and figure out either how they were achieved or how they could be achieved. Statistics provides us with endless opportunity to gain insight towards tomorrows outcomes. They help us understand that the game is more than numbers and box scores, and is not simply a game of chance. I tend to keep score a lot during games, especially when I sit pretty close to the plate, but I apt out of just recording outs and hits and I focus on few things to help me analyze the game I'm watching. Yesterday at the White Sox vs Blue Jays blowout, I kept track of first pitch strikes versus balls, the type of outs made (run scoring, ground outs and fly outs while noting the direction it was hit and if runners were on base, pitch count, pitch sequence, and velocity). I did that because I was specifically interested to analyze Gavin Floyd's approach to success, which turned out to be a failure for the night. But, his fastball consistently sat at 90-91 mph throughout 4.1 innings, and he yielded 6 ground outs, 2 fly outs, and 5 strikeouts. Alex Rios was the only one who hit a sac fly. Floyd also threw 94 pitches, 56 being strikes, while allowing 5 earned runs over 9 hits (1 unearned run). Despite the teams poor performance, I am sure that if the offense had showed up for the Chicago White Sox, the pressure would not have been as severe on Floyd and he would have had a better outing.

-S

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Rick Reilly Article

Here is something to read before you doze off tonight. As you know I am a fan of Rick Reilly, so every once in a while I will post an article of his that I liked enough to want to share with all of you. So, I hope you enjoy this one, it's another personal favorite of mine.

Earning Their Pinstripes, by Rick Reilly
September 23, 2002

So, kid, you want to be a New York Yankees Batboy? Hang out with Derek Jeter? Ride in the parades? Great. But, first, maybe you'd better take a look at a batboy's typical day. 2 p.m.- Pete Shalhoub, 17, shows up for a 7:05 game and starts setting up the dugout. Sure, most of the players won't be arriving for at least two hours, but so what? Pete'll be here two hours after the players have left, too.
You think batboys still only run out and get Johnny Blanchard's bat? Get real. Pete and the six other Yankees batboys- clubhouse boys are valets, cabbies, maids, deliverymen, shrinks and short-order cooks. And they're not 12 years old anymore. They're all 16 and older because the average sisxth-grader doesn't do well when he's also working 75-hour weeks.
Some nights Pete has to show up at 3 in the morning to help unload the road-trip truck, do laundry and set up players' lockers. That takes four hours. Then he goes straight to high school in Jersey City, and then right back to the Stadium, where he'll work until about 1 a.m., go to bed at 2 and get up again at 6 the next morning to go to class.
"It's like I tell him," says Joe Lee, another member of the crew. "In this job you've got to sleep twice as fast."
3:45 p.m.- One of Pete's 1,000 jobs is mixing Gatorage for the dugout. That can be dangerous. A few years ago former visiting team batboy Joe Rocchio made green, not knowing volcanic Cleveland Indians star Albert Belle drank only red. Belle spit it out, knocked the jug over in the dugout, and Joe had to clean it up. Galmourous job, no?
4 p.m.- When players arrive, batboys start hopping. They're each player's little Jeeves. "Anything they ask for, they pretty much get," says Pete. That includes everything from, "Go get my wife a birthday present" to "Go get my brother-in-law at the airport." From going to a player's home to pack his bags to making dinner reservations. One player asked Lee to go to the ballpark every day during a 12-day road trip and idle his car for a half hour. "Keeps the engine clean," the player said.
Of course, there are rewards. When Jason Giambi was with Oakland, he sent an A's batboy to McDonald's. Giambi got three hits that day, so he kept sending the kid for the rest of the season. When Giambi won the MVP, he tipped him $5,000.
4:30 p.m.- A new kid shows up, the winner of a contest to be a batboy for a day. He's lucky he doesn't get the initiation Craig Postolowski got. To start, Jeter sent him off to look for the key to the batter's box. Then Joe Torre told him to go get the knuckleballs ready. Then Don Zimmer needed the lefthanded fungo bat. Finally, when Bernie Williams asked him to get a bucket of steam from the shower to clean home plate, he realized he'd been had.
5:45 p.m.- It's Pete's day to shag flies in the outfield and run the balls back to the batting practice pitcher. This is a gas. There's other cool stuff too. Some nights the clubhouse is lousy with celebs. You get to be inthe team photo. And players have been known to lend batboys their sweet sleds for the prom. Of course, two years ago Manny Alexander of the Boston Red Sox lent his car to a batboy. Problem is, the kid got pulled over and police found steroids in it. Oops. Always check the glove compartment, Kid.
7:05 p.m.- Tonight Pete works balls for the home plate umpire. Another guy works the rightfield line, snagging foul balls, and another works bats in the dugout. (The rest are stuck in the clubhouse.) Problem is, sometimes a kid will be so tired from lack of sleep that he'll be out there nodding off in front of 50,000 people. "I've done it," says Lee. "I'm just glad a line drive didn't wake me up."
10:30 p.m.- Game's over. The real, nasty work starts. "Everybody thinks this is when we go home," says Pete. "But we've still got two hours of work to do." They pick up dirty uniforms, vacuum, straighten lockers, make food runs, empty trash, clean and polish 40 pairs of shoes. And they've got to do it all while dodging flying jocks, socks and towels thrown at their heads by millionaires. Fwomp!
12:30 a.m.- O.K., everything's done. Pete's spent, but he'll be in bed before 2 a.m. for once. At least he saw some baseball. The boys who worked the clubhouse have to watch the highlights later.
So there it is, Kid. And remember, don't ask for tickets, autographs or a raise. With the Yankees, you get the minimum, $5.15 an hour, even if you've been on the job 10 years. Hey, don't forget your boss is George Steinbrenner!
So, you want the job? Kid? Kid?
Goodnight!
-S

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Moneyball, the Movie

The famous book, Moneyball, that told the story of Billy Beane's attempt to create a competitive Oakland Athletic's team on a low payroll, is now going to be made into a movie by director Steven Soderbergh under Columbia Pictures. The adaptation will star Brad Pitt and Demetri Martin, while former Major Leaguers, David Justice and Scott Hatteberg, will play themselves. Daryl Strawberry and Lenny Dykstra will also be in the film being interviewed about their personal experiences with Beane and his development into a baseball scout.

Pitt will play Beane, and Martin will play Paul De Podesta, one of the main factors that enabled Beane to look beyond original statistics to discover valuable and more essential stats that put together a low cost, yet competitive team. For example Podesta, a Harvard grad, used his statistical skills to develop "Earned Run Value" which completely changed the tactics of baseball scouting. As most now know after reading the #1 National Bestseller, Moneyball, Beane himself was an extremely smart man and turned down the opportunity to go to Stanford in order to play pro-ball. Later on in life he continually mouthed his displeasure with his choice to go straight for the money versus the education, but he ended up finding it thoroughly rewarding by changing the scouting process of baseball through statistics. Because of him, many teams have now hired educated statisticians and have a more knowledgeable scouting base to form teams. When the Red Sox employed Theo Epstein, he brought with him this new culture of baseball- the same that Michael Lewis made famous when he wrote about Beane's new system- and helped build the Red Sox into a championship franchise.

If you haven't read the book yet, it should definitely move to the top of your list of things to do. Especially if you are interested in the things that go on behind closed doors and not just things as they happen on the field. Billy Beane is responsible for the new culture of baseball that is practice by most teams today. Any knowledgeable fan will enjoy the read, and you'll end up feeling even smarter after reading this book, I promise. Also, the movie will be released August 14th, so it'd be great to have the book read by them in order to get the most out of the movie.


-S

"What is this, the World Series?"

My friend Theresa sent an article my way that she said "gave her goosebumps." So of course I read it right away, and I felt the exact same thing. Theresa is a die hard Cardinals fan, and obviously I'm a die hard Cubs fan so when our two teams play each other we acknowledge the rivalry for what it is and it's usually a big event for us and our friends. But it's not just us- The entire Midwest feeds off this rivalry and it's intensity. But after being at Wrigley all last weekend for the games versus the Red Birds I found myself saying to my friend Brad how friendly this rivalry is. The fans are always smiling and its always a good game. There are not half as many fights (actually I didn't even see a single one all weekend) as there are when the Brewers come in town or we go up to Miller Park. Talk about fights... there was a girl last September who stole a sign from us by jumping on my friends back to grab it, run away with and proceed to start it on fire and tear it. Jeez... talk about hate. But not here; Cubs vs Cardinals is a storied rivalry that brings out stellar competition and great times for all. So, CLICK HERE to read the article Theresa sent me. Busch or Wrigley, the crowd is always fun, and no matter which city you are in, you will always see Cub and Card fans partying together at the end of the game.

Here is an excerpt from the article if you don't have time to read it:
"It's a great rivalry," Johnstone said, "but there is no animosity. It's not like other rivalries I've been a part of … like the Dodgers-Giants or Yankees-Red Sox, where there is real hatred."
Hudler agreed.
"Everybody in the stands always has a smile on their face," he said. "I used to get ragged on by the crowd at Wrigley Field, but it was a friendly kind of ragging. It's not like an Oakland Raider crowd. I enjoyed interacting with the fans at Wrigley -- even when they were giving me a hard time -- because they had so much fun with it."
Thanks for the article T!
-S

Monday, April 20, 2009

Cubs vs Cardinals Weekend

I went to a few more games this weekend, and got to see some great baseball. Friday and Saturday I sat in the bleachers at Wrigley and got to see 2 great come from behind wins by the Cubbies, then on Sunday we had bleacher tickets again, to the ESPN Sunday night game of the week between the Cubs and Cards, but it was rained out. So here's the recap from the 7th and 8th games I have attended this year:

Game 7: Chicago Cubs vs St. Louis Cardinals
Friday, April 17th, 2009 1:20pm @ Wrigley Field
Final Score: Cubs 8 Cards 7
WP: Heilman(2-0) S: Marmol (2) LP: Perez(0-1)

Soriano struck out three times prior to his at bat in the bottom of the 8th when he jacked a 2 run homer into the left field bleachers off a slider from Chris Perez. It was his 5th homer in 10 games so far this season for the Cubs and the second times he's had the game winning hit this week. We sat in left field for the game but more towards the foul pole, but we got a great view of the homer and celebrated with the bleacher bums! “It was very low but I like low pitches and I put a good swing on it,” said Soriano in his post game interview. “Well, not only low. I like everything. High. Inside. Away. Just throw something close to home plate and I’ll hit it.” Also, memorable from this game was the start by PJ Walters who made his major league debut in place of recently injured Chris Carpernter for the Red Birds, and who also fanned an anxious Soriano three times. So in his 4th approach for the day, Sori shortened his swing and forgot about his previous at bats. Zambrano had a rough start yielding 2 home runs to the cub killing, Ryan Ludwick. Ludwick came up to bat in the top of the 9th against Marmol with runners on base and Marmol threw three straight sliders right past him striking him out. All the Cardinals hits came off Big Z today, but thankfully the bats where there in the end to pull out an exciting win for the Wrigley Faithful. The picture I took above shows everyone singing "Go Cubs Go" and waving the free give away for the day, white 'W' flags. A beautiful day in the bleachers again!

Game 8: Chicago Cubs vs St. Louis Cardinals
Saturday, April 18th, 2009 2:40pm @ Wrigley Field
Final Score: Cubs 7 Cards 5
WP: Guzman(1-0) S: N/A (2) LP: Reyes(0-1)


We sat in our usual seats in the bleachers today, right center field, and got to see another great come from behind win by our team. We even had Jay Cutler sing the 7th inning stretch to cap off a perfect day! Aramis came up big with a 2 run homer in the bottom of the 11th to get the 'W' for the Cubbies, after going 0-5 in his previous at bats. Dempster had a decent start for his first home start of the season, but compared nothing to his 2008 form where he posted a 14-3 record and a 2.86 ERA at the Friendly Confines, but he'll be fine this season. Other highlights: Theriot recorded a tripled, Pujols went 0-4, and Gregg looked fantastic featuring some nasty pitches.
In his post game interview Rammy said, “You win now, you have less to worry about in September. One win now counts the same as a win in September." And just like that, we're off! Playoffs, here we come! Alright, maybe it's a little early for that, but after this weekend in Chicago sports we can't help but feel optimistic. On Saturday we had the Cubs, Sox, Bulls, and Blackhawks all win, with the Bulls and Hawks winning playoff games. It's a great time to be a Chicagoan, and it's the reason we put up with the weather in Chi. I took this picture of a billboard on my way to the game Saturday...

Perfect? I think so! Anyways, we had tickets to the game on Sunday night but it was rained out, so now we will be attending a day night doubleheader on July 12th, can't wait!

-S

Baseball Fan Etiquette

Just a few simple rules to follow when attending a game. You'll see the reference to "that guy" a few times. "That guy" is not a good thing to be. Act accordingly. Thank you!
  • Take off your hat during the National Anthem. Just be respectful. And ladies, if you're wearing a hat this goes for you, too. "That guy" wears his hat because his hair is not up to par and wants to look good for the ladies.
  • Take a look around you and survey the area. If there are children around, limit the swearing, especially the profane words. "That guy" typically yells the 'f' word every few minutes because he doesn't care who is around him or who hears that type of language.
  • Tip the vendors. "That guy" needs his 50 cents back.
  • Wait until the inning is over to get up. "That guy" stands up to get a beer when the bases are loaded with two outs.
  • Don't stare down opposing teams fans like they are doing something wrong. Yes, the other team has fans... not everyone was raised in your state.
  • Get to the game on time.
  • If you do come late (traffic, work, whatever), wait until in between innings to find your seat. Don't be "that guy" in a suit with a beer and hot dog standing up looking for his seats for ten minutes while people behind you can't see. Just because you were late does not make it okay to ruin the game for other people.
  • Don't leave the game until it's actually over, if you can.
  • Don't throw trash on the field, its disrespectful to your team and the fans.
  • Remember that most the people around you paid a lot of money to be at the game and in those seats, and be respectful of everyone.
  • Girls- please don't come to the game to gossip and have happy hour. Watch the game and pay attention.
  • Old men- please do not hit on young girls. It's never going to happen and you're so old you remind us of our dads. It's just wrong.
  • If you come to the game wearing a jersey/hat of a team that's not playing in that stadium that day, expect the attention that comes with it. Please don't be "that guy" and start a fight with everyone that says something to you. What did you expect?
  • Do not get plastered drunk to the point of bothering those around you. If you are there just to drink you may want to find a section of the park (generally the bleachers) where its more common. Try to avoid the family section and expensive seats.
  • Everyone- do not reach over the railings and interfere with the players just for a ball. Please. Go to batting practice if you really want one.
  • Be nice to the ushers. They are good people.
  • There's absolutely no excuse for getting personal with the players or fans. Feel free to boo the players all you want, but do not cross the line and be "that guy" who yells obscenities and talks about the players family, race, religion, etc. It's just wrong.
  • Stay off your cell phone if possible. Mostly, refrain from conversations on the phone, its rude to people around you who are trying to enjoy the game.
  • Don't be "that guy" behind home plate waving frantically because he/she is on TV. There is nothing more annoying. Just appreciate the good seats you have, maybe do a small wave if you need to, but then watch the game. Please, just enjoy the game from your amazing seats.
  • Don't be pessimistic. You're there to have a good time and the people around you paid to be entertained. Don't be "that guy" who pouts and rattles on and on about every negative thing of the team. And if your team is down in the bottom of the 8th, please don't cross your arms and pretend you could manage the team better. Just cheer for your team with the people around you.
  • If no one else around you is standing, please sit down. It's okay to stand but not when it affects peoples sight behind you.
  • On the other hand, if it's a 3-2 count with runners on base and 2 outs, please stand with everyone else. Don't act bitter or angry. You are there to have a good time and cheer for your team, so do it.
  • Be nice to the people around you. Say "excuse me" when you need to walk through the aisles, ask people how they are doing, and make eye contact with people. Don't pretend you are the only ones in your section who exist. If you don't like people, you should probably watch the game from home.
  • Understand that not everyone is perfect- some people will cheer for the opposing team.
  • If you are a guest in someone elses stadium, don't be rude. Realize you are in minority and don't start fights with other fans. If you do make a big production out of cheering and harassing other fans, you will get negative feedback and probably kicked out. But, please don't lack enthusiasm at all, just represent your team with respect.
  • Please do not do the wave, unless your at a stadium that supports it. Wrigley is no-wave territory and when you come in our home and try that, it makes us angry. Now, if you are at a wave-friendly stadium, only do it during blow outs. Attempting the wave when the score is close/tied just shows you have no idea how to enjoy a baseball game, and you should probably go home and save your money.
  • Be a loyal fan, but please do not be violent.
  • Don't be obnoxious. Take this as a general rule in life.
  • Don't buy racists shirts that you think are funny. "Horry Cow" with a picture of an Asian-cub with over sized glasses on it is something "that guy" does and Fukudome does not like it. If you do buy these shirts, expect people to be offended.
  • Remember that the conversations you have with your buddy next to you can be heard by the people in front of you very clearly, and I'm almost positive they do not care if Johnny and Kelly broke up again because Johnny cheated on Kelly with 3 more strippers (True story).
  • Appreciate being at the ballpark and have a good time.
  • Lastly, to the away team players on the field: Have fun with the bleacher bums (you don't need to ignore the people), don't taunt fans (if there is an issue tell security and they will remove them from the game), and don't flip us off (if you do that, you deserve everything that comes your way).
-S

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Rick Reilly

Rick Reilly is a different type of sports writer, and one of my favorite writers ever. He is most well known as the former author of the sports article that use to occupy the back page of Sports Illustrated. In June of 2008, he left SI and took a job with ESPN. With his writings, he leaves a the reader thinking beyond sports. The premise of his articles are always related to sports somehow, but he takes each one a step further. In one very memorable article, Reilly writes about nets. He says,

"We need nets. Not hoop nets, soccer nets or lacrosse nets. Not New Jersey Nets or dot-nets or clarinets. Mosquito nets. And according to the World Health Organization, transmission of disease would be reduced by 60% with the use of mosquito nets and prompt treatment for the infected. Three thousand kids! That's a 9/11 every day!"

He takes sports context and looks beyond it to the actual people. He directs this article to anyone who has "ever gotten a thrill by throwing, kicking, knocking, dunking, slamming, putting up, cutting down or jumping over a net" to donate to the SI endorsed site, UNFoundations.org/malaira. He continues on to grab the attention of anyone who is a "coach, parent, player, gym teacher or even just a fan who likes watching balls fly into nets" to donate to save lives. He even challenged Dick's Sporting Goods: "You have 225 stores. How about you kick in a dime every time you sell a net?" He challenged NBA, NHL, and tennis stars: "how about you donate $20 every time one of your shots hits the net? " He then connects himself with nets, and estimates the frequency of the word in his every day work. He writes, " I tried to think of how many times I have said or written the word 'net' in 28 years of sports writing, and I came up with, conservatively, 20,000. So I've already started us off with a $20,000 donation." A few more paragraphs follow with information on the fund and how badly it is needed to save lives, and also how 100% of the money donated is directly used for these nets. He finishes his article with a personal anecdote. He writes,

"A few years back, we took the family to Tanzania, which is ravaged by malaria now. We visited a school and played soccer with the kids. Must've been 50 on each team, running and laughing. A taped up wad of newspapers was the ball and two rocks were the goal. Most fun I have ever had getting whupped. When we got home, we sent some balls and nets. I kick myself now for that. How many of those kids are dead because we sent the wrong nets?"

From this one page article on the back page of Sports Illustrated on May 1st, 2006, 17,000 people contributed enough money ($2 million dollars) for 150,000 nets. Reilly found out that most the nets were hung in Nigeria, the poorest and most hard hit country for malaria. So he went there and saw for himself the nets, and he says the people were extremely grateful. "They fell on their knees and kissed our hands," he writes. "They threw us festivals and soccer matches and dances/ The one thing we heard the most was, 'We need more!'" So he urged his readers to spread the word and continue giving. He got the NBA and the United Methodist Church to sign on. He even got Bill and Melinda Gates to donate $3 million. The final things he says on the issue is this: "Still, to cover the entire continent would take 300 million nets. Hey, why dream small? Go to NothingButNets.net, send $20. Beats losing it to your bookie, right?"

I read this article in his book, Hate Mail from Cheerleaders and Other Adventures in the Life of Reilly. Published in 2008, it is a compilation of his 100 best articles ever printed in Sports Illustrated from 2000-2006. Each story is a few pages long, which make for very quick reads, and each story is touching in its own way. I found myself completely changed after reading this book. It gives you a different view of athletes and it makes you see the human in the sport, which goes beyond the game itself. The "Nothing But Nets" story was chapter 58 in his book, on pages 190-192. Just three pages of a book had that tremendous of an affect.

Another story I want to share is one towards the beginning of his book. It's the forth chapter in Hate Mail From Cheerleaders, and was written for the Sports Illustrated article on September 24, 2001. It was so touching, I decided to just include the entire article, so I hope you enjoy it:

"The huge rugby player, the former high school football star and the onetime college baseball player were in first class, the former national judo champ was in coach. On the morning of Sept. 11, at 32,000 feet, those four men teamed up to sacrifice their lives for those of perhaps thousands of others.
Probably about an hour into United Flight 93's scheduled trip from Newark to San Francisco, the 38 passengers abroad the Boeing 757 realized they were being hijacked. The terrorists commandeered the cockpit, and the passengers were herded to the back of the plane.
Shoved together were four remarkable men who didn't much like being shoved around. One was publicist Mark Bingham, 31, who helped Cal win the 1991 and '93 national collegiate rugby championships. He was a surfer, and in July he was carried on the horns of a bull in Pamplona. Six-foot-five, rowdy and fearless, he once wrestled a gun from a mugger's hand late at night on a San Francisco street.
One was a medical research company executive Tom Burnett, 38, the standout quarterback for Jefferson High in Bloomington, Minn., when the team went to the division championship game in 1980. That team rallied around Burnett every time it was in trouble.
One was businessman Jeremy Glick, 31, 6'2" and muscular, the 1993 collegiate judo champ in the 220-pound class from the University of Rochester (N.Y.), a national-caliber wrestler at Saddle River (N.J.) Day School and an all-state soccer player. "As long as I've known him," says his wife, Lyz, "he was the kind of man who never tried to be the hero- but always was."
One was the 32-year-old sales account manager Todd Beamer, who played mostly third base and shortstop in three seasons for Wheaton (Ill.) College.
The rugby player picked up an AirFone and called his mother, Alice Hoglan, in Sacramento to tell her he loved her. The judo champ called Lyz at her parents' house in Windham, N.Y. to say goodbye to her and their 12-week-old daughter, Emmy. But in the calls the quarterback made to his wife, Deena, in San Ramon Calif., and in the conversation the baseball player has with a GTE operator, the men made it clear that they'd found out that two other hijacked planes had cleaved the World Trade Center towers.
The pieces of the puzzle started to fit. Somewhere near Cleveland the passengers on Flight 93 had felt the plane take a hard turn south. They were now on coarse for Washington, D.C.. Senator Arlen Specter (R., Pa.) believes the plane might have been headed for the Capitol. Beamer, Bingham, Burnett and Glick must have realized their jet was a guided missile.
The four apparently came up with a plan. Burnett told his wife, "I know we're going to die. Some of us are going to do something about it." He wanted to rush the hijackers.
Nobody alive is sure what happened next, but there's a good reason to believe that the four stormed the cockpit. Flight 93 never made it to Washington. Instead, it dived into a field 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh. All passengers and crew perished. Nobody on the ground was killed.
In the heart of San Francisco's largest gay neighborhood, a makeshift memorial grew, bouquet by bouquet, to the rugby player who was unafraid. Yeah, Bingham was gay.
In Windham, a peace grew within Lyz Glick. "I think God had this larger purpose for him," she said. "He was suppose to fly out the night before, but couldn't. I had Emmy one month early, so Jeremy got to see her. You can't tell me God isn't at work there."
In Cranbury, N.J. a baby grew in Lisa Beamer, Todd's wife, their third child. Hearing the report last Friday of her husband's heroics, Lisa said, "made my life worth living again."
In Washington, a movement grew in Congress to give the four men the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest award a civilian can receive.
At a time like this, sports are trivial. But what the best athletes can do- find the guns to carry it out- may be why the Capitol isn't a charcoal pit.
My 26-year-old niece, Jessica Robinson, works for Congressman Lane Evans (D., Ill). Jessica was in the Capitol that morning. This Christmas I'll get to see her smiling face.
I'm glad there were four guys up there I could count on."

Sometimes people forget that athletes are people. They are heroes to us on the field, and some are even heroes off the field. If you've never heard of Rick Reilly before, look him up. If you want to read his best work, buy the book. Or borrow it from me, if you know me. Some stories are sad, like the one above, and some are extremely funny and happy. Either way, they all provide a message to the deeper side of sports. I have always believed that any life lesson can be taught through sports, and Reilly proves that it can be true. Any good quality characteristic of humans can be taught through team or individual sports. If your interested in buying a used copy of the book you can get it for only a few bucks on amazon.com. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves sports and enjoys playing them, and to anyone who just feels like reading some good articles to heighten their lives. Enjoy!


To see the work that is still going on today to help saves lives through the use of nets, visit http://www.nothingbutnets.net/

-S

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Honoring Jackie Robinson

Today you will notice that wearing #42 is no longer optional. Instead, Bud Selig decided that this year each player would wear Jackie Robinson's retired number in order to honor the monumental breaking of the color barrier 62 years ago. It was 1947 when he became the first African American to play in the Major Leagues and he did so with perseverance and mighty determination. In this same year, he won the Rookie of the Year award commemorating his admirable work and courage. In 1962 he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame and finally, in 1997, 50 years after his first professional game, Major League Baseball retired his number and to this day it is still the only number to be retired uniformly throughout the Majors. Now, every year on April 15th, teams and fans around the majors celebrate the change he brought into our world. We honor the legend of his name with a deep understanding and acknowledgment of what he went through to better the world for future generations.

(This is a picture I found from 2007, the first time players wore his number to honor him. Griffey pictured in the middle)
Two years ago, Ken Griffey Jr. had the idea of wearing #42 to honor Jackie Robinson, and he went to his wife, Rachel Robinson, to get her approval. She accepted it as an honor and since then players have had the option to wear the number on this one day to honor the legend. Today when you turn on any of the 15 games being played, you don't need to hear a word to understand his lasting impact. Looking at the mass collection of 42's on the field is enough to let you know the tremendous effect Jackie Robinson has left not only on the game of baseball, but in the world. As Jimmy Rollins put it, "He was more than just an athlete, he was more than just a baseball player, he was a political figure." No one player is above the game of baseball, besides Jackie Robinson. Because of him we have advanced the ability to embrace all cultures that make up our diverse world. Gordon Wittenmyer wrote an article today in the Chicago Sun Times, (Click here to read) which I found to be written under complete bias and exaggeration. His awful wording and harsh, pessimistic statements imply that people today have not advanced one bit in the acceptance of one another and makes the fans, specifically Cubs fans, out to be nothing short of KKK members. Here's the truth. Does racism still exist? Unfortunately, yes. I'm not that naive to believe that everyone is accepting of others. I know some people still do not embrace all races and cultures, but to stereotype an entire fan base upon assumptions and a few verbally documented incidents completely diminishes your credibility Mr. Wittenmyer. Racism is universal, it is not simply in the bleachers at Wrigley Field. There are idiots everywhere, there are drunk fans at every stadium, but the real baseball people, the purists and passionate people who work in the field know that to judge an entire fan base on the actions of a select few is the epitome of bias beliefs and is simply another form of hatred through stereotyping more people in this world. Have we not advanced at all Mr. Wittenmyer? Your article is a display of another type of hatred. By taking an entire fan base and stereotyping them with negative comments and basing the actions of few to demonstrate the whole is a direct display of hatred for a group of people. Jackie Robinson went through a lot to get to where we are today, and I choose to look at today as a day to honor him. He struggled and sacrificed for the betterment of the world, and because of him millions of African Americans were given the chance to succeed. Because of him the world took a huge step forward in creating a better place for our future. Won't you move with us? Take a look at the good in people, Mr. Wittenmyer and open up your eyes. You will see that the majority of people embrace and respect the men who play on the field.


(These are two pictures a friend of mine took at Jackie Robinson day last year, 2008)

"You start thinking about what he's done in our world, to diversify, not only the game of baseball but our world in general. To be able to cross those lines and when Pee Wee Reese put his arms around him and said, 'This is my friend,' it was a message that was sent, not only in baseball, but in a world that was divided by segregation. Understanding that it was more important than him to advance others," -Harold Reynolds
People like this make an impact on our lives and it is up to us to continue to change the world for the better. He left a remarkable presence with all of us, and his impact has resonated throughout the nations that celebrate this magical pastime. There is a quote of Jackie Robinson's that I live by. It's written in almost all my books, notebooks, and I even have it printed out by my computer desk and written on my mirror in my bathroom. It says, "A life is not important except for the impact that it has on other lives." Everyday as I'm getting ready for work, class, or whatever I am doing, I see that quote (along with a few others) and I remember that the things I do impact other lives. The words I say are heard by others, and the things I do are seen by others eyes. It is up to you how the future will look, how accepting our world will be. Even if you don't agree with something or someone, at least be respectful. Every once deserves to be treated with respect. Thank you Jackie, for everything you have done for all of us. You have certainly made the world a better place. #42
-S

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

2009 Season

Every year I go to about 45 MLB games, while maintaining good grades and a steady job. It's definitely busy and sometimes chaotic, but I make it work because being at the ballpark is the most rewarding experience, whether my team wins or loses. I look back on the last couple years and I realize that some of my best friends today are the people I have met randomly at games all over. All of my friends are just like me in that we are always at the ballpark, even if we can only get standing room tickets. So far I have been to 6 games this year- 4 White Sox, 2 Cubs.

Game 1: White Sox Home Opener vs KC Royals
Tuesday, April 7th, 2009 1:05pm @ US Cellular Field
Final Score: Sox 4 Royals 2
WP: Dotel(1-0) S: Jenks (1) LP:Farnsworth (0-1)
Mark Buehrle matched up against Gil Meche in the Sox home opener, which I watched from sec 157 row 25 (left field area, behind the Sox bullpen). I went on company tickets (pictured with coworkers Rick and Veronica) and the weather was beautiful (sunny and 50 degrees), so it was pretty much a perfect start to my season. The White Sox won on a clutch 2-out 3-run bomb from Jim Thome in the bottom of the 8th. From our seats we had a perfect view of the game and were in complete sunshine, the ushers/vendors were very hospitable, we were surrounded by excited fans with no fights breaking out thus making it an overall great game.

Game 2: Chicago White Sox vs Kansas City Royals
Wednesday, April 8th, 2009 7:11pm @ US Cellular Field
Final Score: Sox 0 Royals 2
WP: Greinke (1-0) S: Soria (1) LP:Floyd (0-1)
This game was a complete pitchers duel featuring Gavin Floyd vs Zack Greinke, with Greinke the victor for the Royals. For this game we sat along the right field line (sec 115 row 25) in my friend Brad's season ticket seats, with our friends Matt and Sean. The view there is great too. Basically anywhere on the first level is a great view, I have found. This picture is taken from the Fan deck in center field, where you have to make a trip the next time your at US Cellular. There, and only there, is where the popcorn chicken is sold for $4 and it is phenomenal. I made sure to make the trip out there when the Royals where in the outfield because I love Coco Crisp (in CF for the picture). In fact, I have to name all my children after him because in the 2008 playoffs when he came up to bat for the Red Sox I said out loud that if he tied the game up that I would name all my children after him. This was of course the game where they were facing elimination against the Rays and where down 7 runs to come back and win the game. He drove in the winning run, so I'd like to apologize early to my future children who will all have the middle name Coco (I never specified which name, haha). So, I do love him for that to say the least and I'm glad to see him with KC who probably won't be great this year but should be in a few years. Plus he gets to play in Kauffman Stadium which looks incredible after some off season improvements.

Game 3: Chicago White Sox vs Minnesota Twins
Friday, April 10th, 2009 7:11pm @ US Cellular Field
Final Score: Sox 5 Twins 12
WP: Dickey(1-0) S: N/A LP: Contreras (0-1)
Welcome back to Chicago, Joe Crede! The Sox had a great video montage on the jumbotron before the game commemorating Crede's best times in Chicago. Here is a video I found on youtube that someone took of the actual video played.



It was weird seeing him in a Twins jersey because I have cheered against him for the past couple years while on the Sox and now I find myself in awkward territory- although after a HR in his first at bat against his former team, I was sold. All the Sox fans were classy too, giving him a standing ovation in his first visit back. I can imagine it was heart breaking to see him go, but they have promising talent in Josh Fields who took over his position at third. The best part of the night was seeing all the Twins fans around the ballpark and our great seats in section 125 row 25 behind home plate. It was a tied game up until the 7th inning when the twins broke the game open in top of the inning scoring 7 runs. The White Sox also have a new screen in right field which has great graphics and updates of the other teams around baseball. If you haven't been there yet, try getting there on their next home stand which starts the 24th. I'll most likely be there and hopefully Halladay will be pitching for the Blue Jays.

Game 4: Chicago Cubs @ Milwaukee Brewers
Saturday, April 11th, 2009 6:05pm @ Miller Park
Final Score: Cubs 6 Brewers 5
WP: Heilman(1-0) S: Marmol(1) LP: Villanueva (1-1)My first Cubs game this year and it's up in Milwaukee. This is one stadium I am not a fan of, it feels more like a circus rather than a ball game. And unlike the other stadiums I have been, the seating at Miller Park is not great unless you have close seats on the first level. We sat up in sec 430 on the third base side as far up and you can get but in the 2nd row. Still there was a railing blocking our view of third base and the plate, so we were constantly shifting around to get a good view. They do have great food though; right behind home plate there is a stand called "Cactus League Nachos" where you can get loaded nachos for $6.75. Pricey of course, but real good. The game was another nail biter taking us into the 9th for the deciding run to score. And of course, we all flipped out when Soriano jacked a homer into the left field pavilion area scoring him and Reed Johnson to take the lead. Then Marmol came in to close the game, and the Cubs fans voices were heard as our team prevailed and we walked out of the stadium in mass numbers celebrating. I no longer wonder why Brewers fans are so bitter. We come into their home, call it "Wrigley Field North," then leave victorious singing "Go Cubs Go" with any blue shirt we can find. I know the season just started, but I am proud of this Cubs team and it's passionate fans.

Game 5: Chicago White Sox vs Minnesota Twins
Sunday, April 12th, 2009 1:05pm @ US Cellular Field
Final Score: Sox 6 Twins 1
WP: Buehrle(1-0) S: Jenks (2) LP: Blackburn (0-1)
How did you spend your Easter? Mine was at a game, surprise! Might as well be, since baseball is my religion. We had great seats again at the Cell, this time in sec 119 row 14, but since the stadium had a lot of open seats we moved out to the bleachers in left-center around the 6th inning to be in the sun and warm up. Blackburn had a good start, giving up only 3 runs (1 earned) before leaving the game. There was no mass scoring by my Twins this time, but they did manage 5 hits and had some opportunities, except when they made 3 critical errors. I did buy a new Twins Authentic batting practice hat before the game, so I hope I made my dad proud. He's been a die hard Twins fan since he was a kid. In fact, if I was a boy I would have been named Carew after his favorite player, Rod Carew #29. Anyways, it was a great day to spend at the ballpark, cold but manageable when in the sun, and tailgating is always fun. Another good ballgame for the books- Thome went deep again as well as Jermaine Dye. Crede almost made a sick play along the foul line, and Delmon Young went deep to homer for the first time this season for the Twins. I did predict the Twins to win the division, but no worries yet, there's only been a week + of baseball- give them some time. As you can see by the picture below, I was none too happy with the score of the game, but I do love my new hat.
Game 6: Chicago Cubs Home Opener vs Colorado Rockies
Monday, April 13th, 2009 1:20pm @ Wrigley Field
Final Score: Cubs 4 Rockies 0
WP: Lilly
(2-0) S: N/A LP: Jimenez (1-1)
If you've never been to opening day at Wrigley, then you are missing out on one of the best times you could possibly have, if you are a Cubs fan. The bars in Wrigley open at 5am, so Brad and I got to Harry Carey's at about 6am to begin the festivities. Ernie Banks was there and there was a live broadcast from the Mix (Eric and Kathy show) who put on a great show and partied with Cub fans for hours. Shortly after we got there, we were joined by some more friends, some who even flew in from Arizona just for the game. The group just kept growing by the minute, and by 10am we were in line waiting for the bleachers while even more people joined the group. By this time it began to rain, and believe it or not, it rained the entire rest of the day, yet we still got the game in! And what a game it was- even after an hour+ rain delay and freezing temperatures, the bleachers remained packed and cheering. I always feel for the poor singer who gets picked to sing the Star Spangled Banner on opening day- you can't heard a word they are saying, because the whole stadium (especially the bleachers) is so psyched for the game to begin that everyone is singing as loud as they possibly can. There is no doubt that it is heard around the neighborhood! No one sat down in the bleachers until the third inning when crowd control finally gained some control, but even then we were up and cheering the entire time. Definitely a game that ranks high in my mind as incredible, and not just because of how fun it was. Ted Lilly took a no-hitter into the 7th inning with 2 outs before it was broken up, and despite the freezing temps and nonstop rain, everyone in the stadium knew and cheered him for the effort. It was a beautiful outing by Ted, plus our offense was on target, taking walks and ringing up 4 runs on 9 hits. I can't even imagine how angry the Rockies were that the game was actually played. I'm willing to bet that anywhere else it would have been postponed to the next day. They managed 1 hit over the entire game with no runs and they made an error. New closer, Kevin Gregg came in and got the save, although scared us a bit, but got the job done, and then we sang GO CUBS GO for the first of many times in the beautiful Wrigley Field. This is the year!Note: To everyone who was with me in the bleachers yesterday, thank you for a great time! I love you all and I'm psyched about our season this year. You're the best friends a girl can ask for! Pat, Kedzie, Brad, Casey, Gen, Steph, Marco, Ari, Amanda, Jacob, Jackie, John... had a blast!

Upcoming games I will be at: Friday, Saturday, and Sunday all at Wrigley Field for Cubs vs Cardinals. See you there!
-S

October 27, 2004

The best day of my life was October 27th, 2004 when I was only a senior in high school. Three days prior was my 18th birthday, so as a gift from my dad, he offered me the opportunity to go to the 2004 World Series; Boston Red Sox vs St Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium for Game 4. I grew up watching the Red Sox and learning about the history of the team. I was raised learning about the religion of Red Sox baseball and from that I had a deep connection with the team. I felt the pain of the fans which was encompassed by eight decades of seemingly cursed baseball all the while the long suffering fans growing more passionate with each passing year. It's a feeling I now have for the Cubs as well, except I still have yet to see a Cubs World Series. When that happens, it will definitely be the greatest day of my life. Until then though, October 27th, 2004 will be a day I will never forget, and the greatest I have ever experienced.

It was October 26th, 2007 when my father surprised me with a ticket for the World Series game 4, and with extreme anticipation, I jumped and screamed and reveled in what was to come the following day. He knew I had to be there to see my team win it in person. We spent the whole night making plans with my Aunt who already had tickets for her family, who are all die-hard Cardinal fans. My one cousin and I still needed a ticket, so our parents decided they would take us out of school at 1pm that day and we would drive to the game together and scalp a few extra tickets. Well, you can imagine me at school all day- I was as psyched as could be, telling everyone and anyone that I was going to the World Series! So around comes 1pm and I'm sitting in my Advanced Math Applications class and finally the note gets delivered to my room to excuse me from class for the remainder of the day and I don't remember much else after that, until game time. I was a frantic mess running down the halls to get to my locker to pack my Red Sox stuff in my oversized purse. I finally get in the car with my cousins, Aunt, and Uncle, am I just shaking in anticipation. Half way there we pull over to get some snacks, use the bathrooms, and fill up with gas and while doing so I proudly announce that I will be cheering for the Red Sox and I pull out my hat and t-shirt! Being in a car with ALL cardinals fan, they jokingly threaten to leave me at the gas station, but we continue on our way this time with me completely off the walls excited unable to control myself. By the time we got there the sun was setting on the old Busch Stadium, and while we did some sightseeing, my uncle proceeded to find some extra tickets outside the stadium. Finally we got them- the 3rd deck in left field, Big Mac Land, for the bargain price of $750 per ticket. And it was completely worth it. I couldn't have asked for a better birthday present.


(My actual ticket stub)


The game was perfect. Gretchen Wilson sang the Star Spangled Banner, Lou Brock threw out the first pitch, and then Johnny Damon hit a home run to lead off the game in the very first at bat! In the 3rd inning, Manny singled to secure another hit to make it 17 consecutive post season games with a hit. Big Papi and Trot Nixon each hit doubles to score runs, and Trot hit 2 more in the game. Lowe started the game and pitched a gem, and Foulke came in to close the game. My own father has never been to a clinching World Series game, yet I was given this opportunity because of him. A team I had loved and followed since I was a child, because he raised me educating me about this franchise, was about to win the World Series for the first time in 86 years and I was about to witness it in person. Edgar Renteria made the last out for the Cardinals, and he wore the same number that Babe Ruth wore... #3. Weird? You bet. The last thing I remember clearly is watching Gabe Kapler and Johnny Damon running towards in the field with their jersey numbers "19" and "18" side by side, after that it all gets blurry. I never had more goosebumps in my life. It was a beautiful picture. And then as the celebrations continued, Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon where on the field filming a scene for "Fever Pitch." I saw the whole game, the final out, the champagne. I experienced an the end to the 86 year world series drought, against all odds. It was surreal, to say the least.

We came back from a 3-0 deficit in the ALCS against the Yankees. The Yankees were finally the ones who choked, not the Red Sox. It was a monumental collapse; a historic comeback that defied all odds. HBO came out with a great movie called, "Reverse of the Curse of the Bambino," in which some of the most prominent Boston fans relive the greatest day in all of Red Sox history. For me, watching the Red Sox win was a feeling that has gone unmatched in the years proceeding. Never once in my life have I ever been so happy, relieved, and thankful all while crying, smiling, clapping and yelling all at once. I was in a state of shock for weeks, maybe months after. That Christmas I got all Red Sox World Series memorbilia.

To this day, my voicemail message is Joe Buck's broadcast at the end of the game where he says "Red Sox fans have longed to hear it! The Boston Red Sox are World Champions!" This is also why Fever Pitch is one of my favorite movies. The curse was finally reversed! That year everyone fell in love with the "Idiots" on the self-named Championship team. My love just continued, and I was rewarded after my years of faithful following. People get very emotional at times like this. You go through an up-and-down rollercoaster ride with a team for 162 game season and in the postseason your emotions are at their peak as you revel in passion with the prosper of your team. I feel fortunate I was able to experience this with one of my teams. Being a Red Sox fan is forever changed- no more suffering, no more deep intense pain. October 27th, 2004 was a life changing day for me, and that is why I will always believe that anything is possible.

Believe.
-S