Saturday, December 27, 2014

The Mysteries of Matt Kemp

One mystery is solved; Matt Kemp will be playing in San Diego next year. The Dodgers' outfield was crowded so they thinned the herd by trading "The Bison," eating $32 million in salary to do so.

Padres fans got an early Christmas gift last week from rookie GM A.J. Preller, who acquired two more outfielders in a 24-hour-period, Justin Upton from the Braves and Wil Myers from the Rays, and then went out and got A's catcher Derek Norris and Boston third baseman Will Middlebrooks.

Still a mystery is the state of Kemp's health. The center fielder missed 150 games over the last three seasons. Kemp underwent a major shoulder operation in 2012 and had ankle surgery in 2013. He finished strong last year—leading the major leagues in slugging percentage after the All-Star Game—but a pre-trade physical reportedly found severe arthritis in both hips.

Most mysterious of all, however, is the question of who gave me a Matt Kemp figurine.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Bud Norris, Two Times

We saw right-hander Bud Norris twice this year, although only Melvin took note of the fact. We watched him in a mid-July minor league start during the MLB all-star break and more recently as the Orioles completed a three-game sweep of the Tigers.1

Bud Norris pitches to Ian Kinsler; bottom of the first, Game 3 of the 2014 ALDS.

The division series game was, as my trilingual brother would say for effect, the ray-ZHON-det-TREAHR for the short October trip. However, any visit with Melvin and Watson is a profound pleasure whether or not baseball is involved and we spent our time together well.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Major League Squash

I saw this pumpkin on Halloween, two days after the Kansas City Royals' disappointing loss in Game 7 of the World Series. I am sure there is some clever way to verbally connect this totem to the 2014 post-season, but I wasn't able to find it. In fact, these statements replace what was originally written here.

Addendum: The next day, I read a headline on, "Here are the 10 best MLB player Halloween costumes of 2014."

I thought perhaps major league baseball was copying my idea of dressing up as a player. However, it was a selection of players in costume, several of which are pretty funny.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Meeting Chicks on Twitter

My job requires considerable outreach to the public and so, a decade into the 21st century, I attended a seminar on social media. One of the take-aways was, register your preferred Twitter name now, even if you don't intend to use it immediately. You don't want, we were told, to be like those companies that thought the Internet was a novelty and later discovered someone else had snatched up their domain name.

Do not follow us on Twitter, but don't hesitate to follow us on Baseball Byways. We've gone from one follower, to eight followers, to the current nine.

Following this advice, Melvin and I have had but not used @BaseballByways. Despite not composing a single tweet, we managed over the three years since to acquire five followers ... all of the female persuasion.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Third Time's a Charm, the Second Time Wasn't Too Shabby Either

Or, the 2014 New York-Penn and Eastern league all-star games in brief, with tasting notes, travelogue and sundry observations

Encouraged by Pharrell Williams to clap along if they felt "like a room without a roof", this Happy couple put their hands together at MCU Park, home to the 2014 NYPL all-star game and like most baseball stadiums, a room without a roof.

Despite my general antipathy towards all-star games, I completed a hat-trick begun in June by attending a match between the best players in the New York-Penn League. A month earlier, Melvin and I saw the Eastern League' game, which for reasons we never learned was called the all-star "stop." The High-A contest retained its claim to most enjoyable but all three games were pleasurable in their own right.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Byways, but Little Baseball

A birthday weekend in northwest Massachusetts was the most enjoyable trip I have taken in a while, even if it included only three scoreless innings of collegiate summer league baseball.

What the trip did have was contemporary classical music, predominantly post-minimalist, contemporary art, often large-scaled installations, tasty food and a short walk in the woods.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Nothing but Net

Sometimes sitting right by the net is awesome (Jacksonville, Florida).
As promised and as a kind of footnote, here are some thoughts on nets. Sitting close to the game is a good thing. Sitting behind home plate or at least in the area between the dugouts is also a good thing. We do it whenever possible. We've seen a lot of games from perspectives like the one above. But it is not an unmitigated pleasure. 

The South Will Rise Again

Outside Castle Otttis
Following on the Easter debacle, we wrapped up our latest southern itinerary in Jacksonville. It's faintly amazing to me that after three trips to the South, we have at least two more tours to go--one cleaning up all the teams in North Carolina we haven't yet seen, another returning to Birmingham and heading south to Pensacola and, next year (maybe), Biloxi. And oh yeah, the rest of the Appy League—make it three trips.

Rising Up, Rising Down

It is risen. Or possibly coming down.
What, Fourth of July weekend already? Happy birthday, 'Merica! What better way to celebrate than with a comically overdue post on our Easter adventure in Daytona Beach? But first, some backfilling.

When last Rob was describing our April tour through Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida, things were going swimmingly—which was appropriate, given the monsoons we negotiated—until Blogger disappeared a post that would have been epic. Now we have always been at war with Oceania, and we've covered only the games we saw in Rome and Augusta.

But the truth is that not all towns and not all games are equally worthy of coverage. And so, leaning heavily on photos so as to get on to the Easter tale, here's a pathetically quick survey of our time in Myrtle Beach, Charleston, and Savannah.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Groff on Ferris on the Indescribable

Tidying up around the house, I found a copy of the May 18, 2014 New York Times Book Review, open to page 21. There, novelist Lauren Groff reviews, "To Rise Again at a Decent Hour," the third novel by Joshua Ferris.

Photograph by Beowulf Sheehan

In her review, Groff quotes a passage
"Baseball is the slow creation of something beautiful. It is the almost boringly paced accumulation of what seems slight or incidental into an opera of bracing suspense. The game will threaten never to end, until suddenly it forces you to marvel at how it came to be where it is and to wonder at how far it might go. It’s the drowsy metamorphosis of the dull into the indescribable."
That is marvelous, although baseball games have a variety of rhythms and watching them unfold is a great deal of the charm. Still, the statement captures beautifully some of the wonder without the "self-regard ... of the George Will school of condescending baseball writing."

Friday, June 20, 2014

I'm His Mom

The working title for my post on the 2014 California and Carolina leagues' all-star game was, "Three Degrees of Separation." For the past eight months I have worked with Erin Buchanan née Wright, sister of Cincinnati Reds' prospect Ryan Wright, who is buds with teammate Kyle Waldrop, one of three players on the Bakersfield Blaze to make the all-star squad.

Despite tearing it up in Bakersfield (.345, .498, .843), Wright was not one of them. I drove to Wilmington ready for the next best thing, to root on Waldrop. When he came up to bat in the second I called out, "C'mon Kyle!" The woman next to me asked, "Is he your son?"

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Deuces Wild

Gal-pal Sarah and I attended the home opener of the Brooklyn Cyclones on Saturday. The Mets' New York-Penn League affiliate scored twice in the second, third, fourth and seventh innings, beating their (alleged) cross-town rivals, the Staten Island Yankees, 8-2.

It was Sarah's first baseball game since she saw the Blue Jays in their inaugural season at the SkyDome (she thinks). Twenty-five years later, she still remembers the name George Bell. (Nobody remembers his real name, Jorge Antonio Bell Mathey.)

Thursday, June 12, 2014

deGrom can(not) do it all

On Memorial Day, David Bragdon, Kevin and I saw the Mets and Pirates. The star of the show was Mets rookie starter Jacob deGrom, who through three starts had an 1.83 ERA, .800 batting average and an 0-2 record. What's a guy gotta do? Offensively weak, New York scored only four runs in deGrom's three trips to the mound.

It was my second visit to Citi Field in less than a week, after not seeing the Mets once in 2013. Bragdon topped that on the following Thursday when he managed to see the Pirates three times in nine days; against the Orioles in Pittsburgh, our outing and in Los Angeles.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Wilbur and Orville

Two wrongs don't make a right but:

(a) two Wrights can build the world's first successful airplane.
(b) two rights can set up the left hook.
(c) three rights are the equivalent of a left.
(d) I have made it my life work to find out how many it will take.

Anyhow, Melvin and I went to Citi Field last night, where we sat behind these guys and watched the Dodgers beat the Mets, 9-4.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Ef You, Blogger

I almost completed a post Wednesday evening, reporting on the middle four days of our recent trip to Georgia, South Carolina and Florida. All I had left to note was our visit to the Daytona Beach campus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, and the two games we saw between the Tampa Yankees and the Daytona Cubs.

While trying to center some text near the page jump, text that the html indicated was already centered, the entire editor went blank, deleting hours of work. Ef you, Blogger. I guess you get what you pay for. Oh! Wait! WordPress is free too.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Dinner and a Game with Barb and Herb

One reason for Watson traveling with us on the first few days of our trip was the opportunity to meet some of Melvin's family, which she and I did on Tuesday, April 15. Melvin's Aunt Barb, Uncle Herb and their son David joined us for a chilly game at Lake Olmstead Stadium, in Augusta. We made up five percent of the crowd, and later more.

Savannah second baseman Jeff McNeil takes a pitch

All Roads Lead There

All roads lead to Rome, although in our case we arrived on Georgia S.R. 53. Personally, it followed long and tortured travel. The Martin Luther King National Historic Site was our most significant destination but Ria's Bluebird was the highlight of the day-and-a-half that ended with the Lexington Legends punishing the Rome Braves; Monday, April 14.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Future Is Now

We became interested in Dippin Dots in 2002, when, at a game in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, a young man eating some near us exclaimed to his buds, "Dude, it's from the future." This exclamation was based, of course, on the Pavlovian fact that the Dippin Dots carts were all emblazoned with the phrase, "the ice cream of the future."

Anyway, I'm here to report that that future is necessarily now. We, friends, must be the people who are sending Dippin Dots back into the past, so that our compatriots in earlier eras can enjoy the freeze-dried magic of days yet to come. I know this because these days, as the photo above shows, Dippin Dots is no longer billed as "the ice cream of the future." It's just plain Dippin Dots. We have caught up with Dippin Dots. We are finally living in the future. 

The irony is that Watson and I spotted this—and I should clarify that Watson noticed the vanished slogan, not me—today at Turner Field in Atlanta, which if all goes according to plan will be the next stadium consigned to the dustbin of history after the 2017 season. And Turner Field itself is in the nominal shadow of its predecessor, Fulton County Stadium, whose walls still shape the parking lot, much as that now obsolete Dippin Dots slogan shaped that young man's wonderment. The past is everywhere with us, too.