Baseball Kid Fix

From April 18th. M and I took Austin to a baseball game on Sunday. We were pretty stoked to see the Twins play in their new ballpark.

There was sky and grass and everything!

M needed a picture of the two of us.

This is what Austin looked like for the first two innings, because our seats came with a free hot dog and lemonade.

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Forced Patriotism

During Sunday’s ballgame, my wife gave me a weird look. That in itself is not an uncommon thing. I am who I am, so it comes up regularly. But I got this look during the 7th Inning Stretch. I was apparently grimacing or furrowing or something.
I have always been bad at concealing my feelings. The look on my face or my posture instantly gives away my opinion on a current subject. It makes my wife’s job of reading my mind most of the time much faster and easier. You’re welcome, honey.

M asked me why I was angry. I told her that I was sick of this false, forced patriotism. The middle of the seventh should be devoted to singing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” and standing in line for the bathroom.

But no. After the choir of grade schoolers finished “Take Me Out” (apropos), another woman came out to sing “God Bless America”. That was when I started getting annoyed.

Aside from the lyrics being trite, why are we bothering to do this? Because we started it after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Fine. It’s been over eight years. We don’t need another reminder that we were attacked and to reaffirm our allegiance to the United States.

I have spent two hours sitting and watching a game of baseball being played in the middle of the North America continent. Is there any doubt where I could be? I have eaten food born from four cultures in two days. Where else does that happen?

Let baseball be baseball, let everything else that surrounds us be great and plentiful, and let the fact of our location be implied. Even when I sat in the freezing wind of a rugby pitch in England, I didn’t go, “Oh no! Where am I? I better check my passport and make sure I didn’t go Brit.” I loved enjoying that game as a part of their culture, just as I love our game as a part of ours.

I don’t need reminders that a) I’m in America, b) people died so we’re singing this stupid song, c) I’m not a believer in half of the lyrics, and d) we’re in the midst of poorly guided wars. Let me watch my baseball, even if the Twins are playing like fools, and forget the fact that bad things are going on.

Then “God Bless the U.S.A.” came over the loudspeakers.

I’ll bet I looked like a kid who just got told he couldn’t have a second helping of ice cream. If “God Bless America” is trite, this song is all-out asinine. Before the game began, there was a high school marching band roaming around the warning track playing Sousa marches, for crying out loud. Is this garbage really necessary?

I pity anyone who has to sit through that nonsense for every game.

Oh, and as any writer or drug addict can tell you: excessive use diminishes effect.

Beautiful Baseball

This weekend I got to enjoy two baseball games. On Saturday I met up with friends who happened to have a spare ticket, then on Sunday the family joined in with others from Austin’s school to sit as a group in the family section.
Such a big deal this was, because we just built a new ballpark here in Minnesota. In case you are unaware, the Twins have been playing inside a giant toilet bowl called the Metrodome for about 20 years. It had a big white roof and artificial turf. Sad.

This was the first week the newly minted Target Field has been open, and I got to go twice. I’m pretty happy about that. And being at the game, among others who enjoy the game, is great to reinvigorate my love for the game.

Baseball is a game of suspense and skill. You sit there in your seat, bouncing your eyes between the pitcher and batter, tensing up along with the pair of players until finally we see the ball and the air. Then it’s a held breath while the mind comprehends just what happened to that tiny speeding object.

I love the game. Its sights and smells, stories and statistics, its ups and downs. Sunday’s game was terrible. Twice the Twinkies left the bases loaded. Twice. Never would you hear the crowd start roaring for a 2-out rally, only to be instantly quieted after a single pitch. But it was great to see the crowd keep rallying to keep their spirits up.

And it’s a fun game to teach. Once I finally got my son’s attention away from the other maniac boy next to him, I was able to get him watching the outs, then the runners, then the balls and strikes. Of course, we got into this when the Royals had a 6-run inning. But he’s getting there, and he likes it.

After the game, we lingered around to take pictures, wandering down to the field level. Then we saw lots of people filing out onto the warning track. Turns out Sunday afternoons, following the game, they let kids run the bases.

We got there in time, snapped some pictures, saw the special grass shipped from Colorado, and the lad ran from First to Home on the very clay the big boys played on. It was so cool. Austin doesn’t fully realize what that fresh air and field of green means, but he’s getting there.

So sit back, drink a cold beer, eat a hot dog and peanuts (or burger, or nachos, or garlic fries, or something on a stick), yell at the ump for being blind, and play ball my friends.

W.S. on the W.S…

I’m really glad my dear dear friend Warren Scott is taking to the blogosphere. Once again he brings up his thoughts on baseball and the current World Series.

At the bottom of the screen there was a caption showing that the first game of the World Series between the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Yankees was starting that night (now last night). The only thought that came to my mind was, “who cares?” Obviously Philly and Yankee fans do. But from a fan of baseball (not just a Giant’s fan) standpoint, I really do not care. That is a strange thought for me. I have not closely followed the post season, nor have I watched a single game since the Rockies and the Twins were eliminated. I had interest until then.

Here’s the reason. In baseball for about the last 10 years, in general, the same teams show up in the playoffs. One or two teams vary each year, but for the most part, it’s the same. As a fan of the game, you get pretty tired of the seeing the same teams in the post season year after year. Phillies? They won last year, I’m ready to see someone else from the National League. Yankees? They’ve been there more than any team in the history of the game. I’m ready to see someone else from the American league. That was one of the reasons I rooted really hard for the Devil Rays last year. They were a small market team that nobody thought would be there.

I always root for underdogs and small market teams. Underdogs because nobody thinks they will make it all the way. And small market teams because when a small market team makes the World Series, the media loses money. The media have almost destroyed the game of baseball, so I love it when they lost money.

Football has it figured out.

So I’m hoping to pry more: what has football figured out that baseball has failed at? I don’t really know much about football; the sport has never interested me after sitting through three hours of commercials during a Superbowl just to see the players get a third flag on the same play. Professionals my butt. But, I digress.

I had a good conversation with a friend of mine a while back on what baseball ought to do. He is a lifetime Twins fan, as well as a big Vikings fan. He brought up a few interesting points:

  • The season is too long. Baseball starts up Spring Training in March, and it goes through playoffs in October. It’s a heck of a long stretch to keep your attention.
  • There are too many games. This is tied to the first item, but I think it makes a bigger point. In football, each teams lays it all out for a single game a week. That’s a lot of tension to build up for all week long.
  • The schedule is funky. I personally haven’t enjoyed interleague play, and think it takes away from the divisional rivalries that are so much fun. Also, each series needs to be 3 games. No more, no less. It would be nice if the series actually meant something, too.
  • Ditch the designated hitter. I was surprised to hear him bring this up, but having grown up with the NL, I appreciate the strategy of going through a lineup (and I love when a pitcher gets his first hit his first game, so he’s batting a thousand).

Now, all that said, he and I agreed that the length of the season and number of games does play into part of what makes baseball special: statistics. Baseball builds up a whole hell of a lot of stats that set up lots of tension and are fun to break throughout the season. I don’t want to lose that for the sake of having a single game a week.

Also, baseball needs to return to its roots of being an easily accessible game. Even at 15 bucks a seat, a family of four is spending 60 dollars, not including parking and food, to see our national pastime. It should be something that you could attend on a whim.

In regards to football, I really don’t care for the giant production that the draft is. It seems like you could go down the list of incoming players and current rosters, see who would do the best and the remaining variable comes down to which teams get the most injuries to their best players. But that’s an admittedly outsider perspective.

So, back to you, Warren. What ought to be done to save our beloved baseball?

Good Old Baseball…

As my throngs of fans on Twitter know, I got a borrowed iPod Touch and the At Bat app for it. Today was a long day made even longer by my wonderful pair of out-of-their-minds children. One couldn’t stop moving and the other couldn’t stop throwing up. While I was making dinner. Fun.
After my small dish of dinner, I took my cocktail and my iPod outside. I turned up the volume as loud as I could and closed my eyes. The sounds of the ballpark came from this tinny little device on the table. The constant buzz of the crowd, escalating as a tough inning was closed by the home pitcher, made up the background for the announcer.

There’s a language to baseball. It’s an auditory game. You can listen to the balls and strikes, the outs, the pitches thrown, who is on base. When you hear all that, the game gets painted into your mind. You know who’s up and who’s waiting to bat. There’s a story forming.

Each half of the inning is its own tale. And there is time between pitches and events to talk about the past, talk about what’s going on in the city around the team, and what other teams have been up to. You feel a part of it no matter how distant.

As the season rolls on, the story gets more interesting. History has been happening, changing the scenery itself behind each and every pitch. As with life, you rarely see it happen at the time. But when you look back, suddenly the world is different.

Still, through it all, it’s all baseball. That tinny little voice on the table next to me, all simply, grainy radio waves with the same commercials between each change in sides.

My iPod has an app that shows the pitch-by-pitch movement of the game. To do that, it connects to my wireless network. From the router creating that network is a wire to a cable modem. The cable modem is what connects my home to the giant and strange ethereal world known as the Internet. At some other point on the internet is the home of Major League Baseball. This is the collective home for all the information and broadcasts coming from all the ballparks across our lovely continent.

So the announcer’s voice goes into his microphone, the signal carrying wire moving it to the local broadcaster. The local broadcaster sends it out to the central company who then distributes it to other outside stations, namely my local station. Then, over the air, that voice manages to reach my device, coming out small and tinny, yet clear, to tell me that there was a popup to left field, the runner on first tags up, the throw to second, not in time!

My son joined me for a bit out there on the deck. We didn’t last outside for long. April in Minnesota is still cold after dark. We sat there, listening to the voice, drinks at our ready. His milk, my adult beverage.

And it’s been like this for what is quickly closing in on 100 years. The adage of the story?

Though the technology may change, the point remains the same.


He hits it high! He hits it deep! This one is… outta here! – Duane Kuiper, through my youth, joyfully over and over again.

Nearly Forgotten…

I’d nearly forgotten how watching hockey playoffs can make one’s palpitate.  Frequently.  My goodness, I have to keep catching my breath.  Oh, and I’m crazy enough to be flipping between the Wild and the Sharks.  I feel like I might die from this.  Gotta love it!
At least I got to also see the Twins get a grand slam against the White Sox.  A 12-3 game there really calms the nerves.

My Holy Sacrament…

Today, the game has returned.  In commemoration of the Great Bambino, I partook of the holy sacrament: a hot dog and a beer.  So far now, it’s the bottom of the Seventh and the Twins are up 3 to 2.
The best part is sharing this with my son.  He’s slowly beginning to grasp who is doing what on the screen and what it means for the game.  It’s great watching him get excited over a swing-through strikeout (though he forgets which team we are rooting for).  It’s grand.  I love answering his questions about what is going on.  I am definitely looking forward to taking him, and eventually the girl too, to ballgames with me.

I also like how watching this inspires him to play.  Better than any cartoon, baseball will make a kid want to run outside with a bat and a glove and take some swings.  I’m already planning out my summer to involve lots of the baby napping in the shade while he and I throw around a ball for a bit.

Oh, by the way, it’s snowing nice and wet and hard, and it has been doing that all day.  Reminds me a bit of a rant from last year.

Play ball, folks!