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Thursday, March 8, 2018

Three Cheers for Ichiro!

I know, I know; it's been a while since I've blogged, but let's face it - February was just a crappy month.  But Spring Training has started, the days are getting longer, and I've almost come to terms with my hatred of Scott Boras (more on that a bit later).  Despite my snarky comments and harsh criticisms, I do try to be a positive person, so I've been waiting for something fun and exciting to happen in baseball in order to share the news with all of you.  My wish came true yesterday, when the Seattle Mariners signed Ichiro Suzuki for one year at $750,000.  Yeay!

Now, if you're a regular reader of this blog, you know that I love Ichiro; not like I love Max Scherzer and DEFINITELY not like I love Iván Rodriguez - it's more like a "this guy is super-cool and has charisma and is just so darn likeable!"  When Ichiro became a free agent at the end of last season, I told my husband that the Mariners should sign him so that he's able to finish his career with the team that originally signed him over twenty years ago out of Japan.  Well I'm glad someone finally listened to me, because having Ichiro in Seattle is absolutely storybook perfect (I know most people think of Derek Jeter's career as "storybook," but I've always liked Ichiro better!).  

Last season, Ichiro appeared in 136 games with the Miami Marlins, hitting .255 (with an On-Base Percentage of .318 and Slugging Percentage of .332) across 215 plate appearances - more than half of them coming as a pinch hitter.  Over the past five seasons, split between the Marlins and New York Yankees, he hasn't been able to replicate the success he enjoyed in Seattle, hitting .263 in 725 games.  Still, the Mariners are very happy to have Ichiro on board (time to sell more jerseys!), and they insist (as does Ichiro himself) that this is not just a "swan song" thing - he's going to play regularly, and he's going to make a difference for his team (which I believe to be true, because the guy can still hit).  Ichiro is not planning a retirement tour this season akin to those of Jeter and David "Big Papi" Ortiz - he just wants to play, and if you ask him, he'll tell you that he wants to do so until he's at least 50 years old (you GO, Ichiro!).  The only downside of having Ichiro in Seattle is that he won't get much TV coverage unless the Mariners make it to the playoffs, but hey - it's just nice knowing that a decent guy like Ichiro will be around for at least one more year.

Sigh!  Now about Scott Boras...  For those of you who don't know him, Boras is a greedy, selfish, money-hungry and arrogant sports agent with clients such as Bryce Harper, Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer, and yes - Iván Rodriguez.  He's a "player's agent" - the guy who will get you the lucrative contract and will "show you the money".  But the downside to that is when you put a price tag on a player and that price is too high (especially when the player is a pitcher).  This is the case with Jake Arrieta, a free agent who is currently unemployed.  This former Oriole and Cub has a Cy Young award, a championship ring, and All-Star game appearances.  At the age of 32, his fastball has slowed down just a tad, but not enough for him to be unemployed at this point in the off-season.  Yu Darvish (also 32 years old) was able to sign as a free agent (even after Tommy John surgery and a not-so-stellar job in the playoffs with the Dodgers).  Why was Yu able to get a job and Jake is still sitting around waiting for Boras to do something?  I just think that Boras is asking for way too much money.  Teams don't want to spend a lot on a pitcher when they know that players like Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, and Clayton Kershaw will become free agents at the end of the upcoming season (and no team wants to pay the luxury tax).  So why not lower the price on Arrieta?  Because Boras is an idiot!  The Nationals, Phillies, and Brewers have all shown interest in signing Arrieta for less than what Boras is asking, so why not lower the price on the poor guy a little?  This is what annoys me about professional sports - when they're treated like cattle!

Oh, and one more thing about Boras:  He has a Doctorate in Pharmacy and a law degree.  There's nothing wrong with that (says the woman who has a Masters in Sports Management but owns a kitchen shop!), unless you use both degrees to work defending pharmaceutical companies against class-action lawsuits.  I won't even GO there or tell you about the many cases he defended and millions of dollars he made for pharmaceutical companies - let's just say I have very strong opinions regarding pharmaceutical companies, and now that I know that Boras was involved, I'm not surprised.

So what do us die-hard baseball fans do to not get disheartened by the ugliness of the business side of baseball?  Well I, for one, have been listening to Spring Training games during the workday, and that has me excited for the upcoming season.  We have a lot to look forward to - the All-Star game being played at Nationals Park, Manny Machado trying his hand at shortstop, Shohei Ohtani making his US debut with the Los Angeles Angels, and the Miami Marlins trying to put together a team now that most of last year's players are gone (I'm guessing J.T. Realmuto will play all nine positions at once!), Adam Wainwright just being his hot and sexy self...  Whether it's Ichiro making $750,000 or Darvish making $21 million, we just want to watch these guys play.  Just a few more weeks to go until we hear "Play ball!" 

Friday, January 26, 2018

Chipper and the Gang

The Baseball Writers' Association of America (you know - that elite group of writers and journalists who know as much about baseball as I do but whose columns aren't nearly as entertaining as my blog) just announced its newest class of inductees into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.  The class of 2018 includes Vladimir Guerrero, Chipper Jones, Trevor Hoffman, and Jim Thome.  I would have voted for three of these four guys, choosing Edgar Martinez instead of Hoffman.  But hey - three out of four is pretty good, and I'm confident that Martinez will make it in the next year or two (especially since they seem to be including a lot more statistics and analytics into the selection).  So what do I think of these four guys?  Well I'm glad you asked!

Chipper Jones was a shoo-in.  Whoever thought Jones wasn't going to get in on his first year of eligibility is an ignorant idiot.  With a career batting average of .303, 468 home runs, and 1.623 RBI, this eight-time All-Star has the most career RBI for a third baseman.  Chipper was part of those Atlanta Braves that I loved to hate that won 14 straight division titles and joins teammates Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, and Tom Glavine (and manager Bobby Cox) in the Hall.  Chipper is one of those guys who still looks like he's in his twenties, and I can actually tell my kids that I watched him play in person several times.  An interesting fact about Chipper is that he hit his first major league home run against the Mets at the old Shea stadium, and it's probably the reason why his oldest child is named Shea.

Vladimir Guerrero, a former outfielder who played many of his years with the Montreal Expos, could hit just about any pitch that was thrown at him.  He had the biggest hitting zone I've ever seen - he would get these wild and crazy pitches that only he could hit for a single or double, and I remember laughing several times and saying to myself "Did he seriously just hit that?"  With a career batting average of .318 with 449 home runs and 1,496 RBI, this latest pride of the Dominican Republic definitely deserves to be in the Hall.  Interesting to note, Guerrero's son, Vladimir Guerrero, Jr., is an up-and-coming third baseman in the Toronto Blue Jays organization.

Then there's Jim Thome, an infielder who was always on my "badass" list.  He is currently eighth on the all-time home runs list with 612, and he was one of those guys who always stood straight up and pointed his bat at the pitcher right before getting in his stance.  I used to mention him a lot when I first started blogging, because I loved watching him play.  Thome will go into the Hall as a Cleveland Indian, so if they're not going to win a World Series, they might as well have a Hall of Fame member to cheer about.

Finally there's Trevor Hoffman, who was chosen in his third year of eligibility (I would have voted him in next year, but nobody asked me).  This reliever who entered each game to AC/DC's "Hells Bells" when he was with the San Diego Padres, had a nasty change-up that helped him earn 601 saves (which is only second to Mariano Rivera's 652).  Hoffman becomes only the sixth pitcher who was mostly a reliever to be inducted into the Hall.  Can you name the other five?  I was only able to come up with four before having to look the other guy up:  Dennis Eckersley, Goose Gossage, Rollie Fingers, and Bruce Sutter.  The other guy is some dude named Hoyt Wilhelm, who played for a bunch of different teams and was inducted into the Hall in 1985.  I feel dumb now for not knowing who he was!

So other than Edgar Martinez, who else was snubbed this year?  Why Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens, of course!  And Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire, and Manny Ramirez too.  Sorry dudes - you juice, you lose!  There are many who believe that these guys would have produced Hall-of-Fame-worthy numbers despite their use of performance-enhancing drugs (PEDs), but to me that's not the point.  They cheated, so they don't deserve enshrinement.  One former baseball official even went as far as to say that these guys should be in the Hall because Babe Ruth is in the Hall, and Babe Ruth would not have been such a great player if he had faced some of the pitchers from the Negro Leagues.  What??? What does one thing have to do with the other?   That's like me saying that the meatloaf that I made for dinner wasn't tasty because it was raining outside.  Reading that got me so worked up!  But I took some deep breaths and am fine now; you just can't fix ignorant.

On a lighter note, pitchers and catchers will report to Spring Training in less than three weeks!  Yeay - can you believe it?!  But there are still some pretty good players (like Yu Darvish, Eric Hosmer, and Jake Arrieta) who haven't been signed yet - yikes!  Let's hope these guys find jobs in the next couple of weeks, because they're all players who still have some good years left in them.  If anything earth-shattering happens, you know I'll fill you in (despite not being a member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America).

Saturday, January 6, 2018

New Year, New Trades, and New Opinions

Happy New Year, baseball fans!  I took it upon myself to write a blog post today because it's a gazillion degrees below zero and I needed to think warm thoughts.  Realizing that Spring Training starts in less than 40 days instantly warmed me right up with thoughts of pitchers casually tossing to catchers, rookies seeking advice from veteran players, and Adam Wainwright in a Speedo - I mean, in a uniform.  So what has happened baseball-wise during the off-season?  It hasn't been as exciting as in years past, but it has definitely been productive.  Here's a run-down of who has been traded, who has been signed, and who is still unemployed.

The biggest news of the off-season was the signing of Japanese "phenom" Sohei Ohtani.  This kid can both hit and pitch, so he was annoyingly being called "the next Babe Ruth."  Don't do that, people - there's only ever going to be one overweight, difficult-to-get-along-with, womanizing alcoholic who was amazing on the field but an absolute mess in his personal life.  I didn't fall for the Ohtani craze, because I think the kid has a lot of "proving himself" to do; not that Japanese baseball is inferior to Major League Baseball talent-wise (their players are just as good), but just because you kick ass in one league doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be the best in another one.  The rumors of which team would sign Ohtani were all over the place - the Mariners need someone exciting, the Cardinals and Giants could use him as a pitcher who could actually hit, the Tigers could use him as a Designated Hitter... The kid ended up surprising everyone and signed with the Los Angeles Angels, so now he will team up with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols to provide some excitement to the American League fans in LA (by the way, do any of you still refer to this team as the California Angels or Anaheim Angels?  I know - I'm old!).  I'm OK with Ohtani being out west and I'm probably not going to see much of him because of it; I just hope he stays healthy, easily adjusts to life in the US, and if he really is as wonderful as they say he is, I hope it gives the sport of baseball a positive and uplifting boost.

Let's see... what else?  Oh, Derek Jeter decided to become CEO and part owner of the Miami Marlins, and he's not being well received by the Miami media, the fans, or the players themselves.  Those Marlins are going to be really really good... twenty years from now.  To say that this will be a "rebuilding year" for the Marlins is quite the understatement - they got rid of MVP Giancarlo Stanton (welcome to the Yankees, Giancarlo!), second baseman Dee Gordon is now a center fielder for the Mariners, and Marcell Ozuna was sent to the Cardinals.  Next on the trading block?  Rumors point to Christian Yelich and J.T. Realmuto, and many Marlins players (current and former) have let their disapproval of these trades be known (gotta love when athletes tweet!).  So who will make up the Marlins' roster this season?  Let's hope they have a lot of young talent coming up for Spring Training, otherwise they'll have to ask one of the hot dog vendors at Marlins Park to grab a glove and play the outfield for a game or two.  I personally think that Jeter secretly wants to come out of retirement as a Marlin and is getting rid of all his players in order to make room for himself.  I say bring back Ozzie Guillen as manager, but I think I'm the only human being who wants that.  Hey, Ozzie was a passionate guy - there's no denying that!

Then there's the soap opera of Manny Machado.  The Orioles' best third baseman since Brooks Robinson is rumored to be either a Yankee or a Red Sox - both "Public Enemy Number One" teams of the Orioles.  The Yankees claim that Machado wants to to be on a contending team, and the Red Sox just want him because the Yankees do.  Machado reportedly wants to move to shortstop, but will Orioles fans allow him to achieve greatness at the position that will always belong to Cal Ripken?  Here's another issue:  Machado will become a free agent at the end of the 2018 season.  What does that mean?  Well, if I was the Orioles' GM, I would keep Machado at third base, trade him before the July 31st deadline to a contending team (since the Orioles have no pitching to contend and their closer, Zack Britton, ruptured his Achilles tendon last month), and get a bunch of prospects for him (so that us Frederick Keys fans have some up-and-coming players to watch in the Minors).  I'm not bashing the O's season before it's even started; I'm just trying to be realistic.  And Machado can be like Yu Darvish was this past season with the Dodgers - go to a contending team for a couple of months, play in the World Series, and then use your free agency to get yourself a hefty contract with another team right after that.

Oh wait!  Yu Darvish is one of those free agents who hasn't been signed yet!  He joins pitchers Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb, as well as J.D. Martinez, Lorenzo Cain, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakis in the list of top free agents who have yet to be signed by anyone.  And for those of you who think that free agents never re-sign with the last team they played for, pitchers CC Sabathia and Brandon Kintzler signed to continue with the Yankees and Nationals, respectively.  And rumor has it that the Nationals want to keep Bryce Harper even after he's eligible for free agency at the end of the 2018 season.  So there you go - "franchise" players are still a thing!

Still unsigned and therefore unemployed are old men Jayson Werth and Ichiro Suzuki.  Now, as much as I like Werth (my son dressed as him for Halloween one year, bearded mask and all), it's time for him to go and enjoy retirement (but don't drive too fast, Jayson; remember how that landed you in jail for a couple of days several years ago!).  But Ichiro?  Really?  No one wants a 44-year-old right fielder who batted .255 with 3 home runs in 196 at-bats for the Marlins last year?  Hey, the Marlins don't have ANYONE in the outfield - they may want to take this guy into consideration!  If the Marlins don't want him, then someone should sign him just so he can retire with dignity and every team he visits can give him a proper farewell.  Come on, Seattle Mariners - show some love to the guy who brought fans to your ballpark for many years and is likely to wear your cap in Cooperstown!

So there you have it, my friends - a recap of what has happened and what is to come for the 2018 baseball season.  If Manny Machado ends up with the Yankees, make sure to check back with me because I will surely have plenty to say about that.  In the meantime, stay warm, and please continue to pray for the people of Puerto Rico, who still suffer from plenty of power outages almost 4 months after hurricane María ripped through the island.  Gracias, amigos! :-)

Friday, November 17, 2017

Not Everyone Gets a Trophy

Post-season awards were handed out by the Baseball Writers Association of America (a group I would steal a loaf of marble rye from an old lady to be a part of!), and there weren't any real surprises.  For Rookie of the Year, voters unanimously chose Aaron Judge of the Yankees and Cody Bellinger of the Dodgers.  This award was a no-brainer, because both guys had great seasons (even though Judge got a bit "cold" after the all-star break).  I would have voted for both of them; no surprise there.

For the Cy Young award, the AL winner was the Indians' Corey Kluber (who won his second Cy Young award) and the Nationals' Max Scherzer for the NL.  Yes, THAT Max Scherzer - my current baseball crush!  It's Scherzer's third Cy Young, and I'm just glad that someone other than Clayton Kershaw won it this year.  It was a tough decision, because all of these guys had spent a bit of time on the Disabled List this year, so it wasn't a runaway vote like Rookie of the Year was; but hey, my man beat out Kershaw and fellow teammate Stephen Strasburg, so I'm happy about that.

For MVP, I was a bit nervous.  There was speculation that Aaron Judge would get the award for the American League, beating out the Astros' José Altuve.  I personally think it's rude to win more than one of these awards in the same year (Fred Lynn and Ichiro Suzuki have been the only ones who have done that), but as the player, you have no control over who these baseball writers are going to vote for (and I love Ichiro, but I would have voted for Roberto Alomar for MVP in 2001 so Ichiro could get one award and Alomar could get the other one).  Plus isn't Rookie of the Year a more special award because you can only win it once?  I was relieved when Altuve was named as MVP for the American League, because I had told my husband that if Altuve wasn't the winner, I would run around the neighborhood naked.  Luckily my neighbors were spared.  In the National League, the Miami Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton was the MVP, and I'm OK with that.  He hit 59 home runs (I was really rooting for him to reach 60), and he's pretty bad ass.  Congratulations to all of this year's winners.

Speaking of Giancarlo Stanton, the Miami Marlins are interested in trading him during the off season.  This is a pretty big deal, because not only does it mean that the Marlins realize they're going to suck next year and Stanton is better off playing somewhere else, but it could potentially make Stanton a very very VERY rich man.  And with Derek Jeter being part owner of the Marlins, us baseball nerds have seen a lot of video of him lately talking about how, yes, trading Stanton is a definite possibility.  The main thing I've gotten out of these videos is the fact that Jeter looks way better in a baseball uniform than he does in "real people" clothes.

Also newsworthy so far this off season are both a death and a retirement.  At 40 years old, former Blue Jays and Phillies pitcher and Cy Young award winner, Roy Halladay, died while flying his single-engine plane that crashed off the Gulf of Mexico on November 7.  I always liked Halladay when he was with Toronto, but as soon as he joined the Phillies, I automatically disliked him.  The eulogy that his wife gave at his memorial service was heart-wrenching and emotional, especially since they were just starting their new lives after Halladay's retirement in 2013.  So sad!

And after 20 years in professional baseball, Puerto Rican Carlos Beltrán announced his retirement.  Beltrán is one of those classy old-school guys you just can't help but love - he always played hard, was constantly smiling, and was always known as an excellent leader and faithful teammate.  I have a soft spot for Carlos because he threw me a baseball during batting practice when he played for the Mets and I acted like a crazy Puerto Rican to get his attention (some would say I wasn't acting).  My husband was always bothered with Beltrán being a "mouth breather," but I like him anyway (at least Beltrán probably doesn't snore, because he breathes through his mouth, which is more than I can say about my dear husband who keeps me up at night!).  Let's see if Jayson Werth and Ichiro Suzuki follow in Beltrán's footsteps and announce their retirements too - while some of us would like to think that Ichiro could play forever, he's 44 and not as marketable as he once was.  He will definitely be missed.  And Werth?  Yeah - it's time to call it quits, old man!

What else is there to look forward to during this off-season?  Let's see... Which team will sign Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani?  Apparently this kid can pitch, hit, run, and solve complex mathematical equations while mastering all levels of Candy Crush.  He's being touted as the most perfect free agent ever (which automatically means he's over-hyped) and is being compared to Babe Ruth (!!!), but he won't require a ton of money, so he'll be easy to sign once all the bureaucratic red tape has been taken care of (apparently he's still technically under the ownership of his Japanese team, so there are some "t"s to cross and "I"s to dot before he can be signed by a Major League team.  Stay tuned.  What else?  There are other free agents out there, like Yu Darvish, Wellington Castillo, Jonathan Lucroy, and yes, CC Sabathia (he's still got it at 37 years old).

This off-season promises to be interesting, with the signing of free agents and trading of players like Stanton (and will the Nationals please trade Tanner Roark so he can actually get some playing time and some respect?).  I'll be paying attention so you don't have to (unless you really want to), and I'll keep you all updated as events warrant.  In the meantime, have a wonderful Thanksgiving, support your local businesses during your holiday shopping, and enjoy your time with family and friends.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

The Tall and Short of It

At the age of 45, I am 5 feet, 1 inch tall.  I'm aware of my height challenges - having to climb on top of my kitchen counter to reach for something in an upper cabinet shelf (because I'm too lazy to get a stool) is a reminder.  Having to shop in the petites section of clothing stores is a reminder.  Not being able to find a nice pair of over-the-knee boots because my legs are so darn short has been the most recent reminder (fashion blogs say that us shorties shouldn't even be wearing tall boots, because they make us look even shorter.  Thanks a lot!).  I don't need anyone pointing out the fact that I'm short - I'm well aware of it.  It's not like someone comes up to me and says "Oh my gosh, you're so short!" and I'm like "Really?  I had no idea!"

From Dolly Parton to Prince to Yasser Arafat, the world has been full of "vertically challenged" people who have made a difference in one way or another for as long as the world has been around.  No one seems to care that Lady Gaga is short, Voltaire was still a successful writer despite being short, and Beethoven wasn't too bad of a composer despite only being 5'3.  So why is the media making such a big deal of José Altuve's height?  He's short... so what?  Are all athletes supposed to be at least 6 feet tall in order to be successful?  Ask Muggsy Bogues, Diego Maradona, or Lionel Messi - they're all under 5'7.  If being tall makes you a good athlete, then Altuve is proving everyone wrong.

José Altuve, the all-star second baseman for the Houston Astros, finished this year's regular season as the Major League batting champ with a sick .346 batting average (that's right up there with Pete Rose and Ted Williams - you may have heard of them).  And his 204 hits, 24 home runs, and 32 stolen bases this past season were nothing to jest at.  Oh, and in the first game of the American League Division Series against the Red Sox, Altuve hit THREE home runs (two of them off ace Chris Sale).  Not too shabby for a short guy!  How did 6'7 Aaron Judge do on HIS first ALDS game?  He struck out at all 4 plate appearances.  In your face, tall dude!

Speaking of Aaron Judge, the media was all aflutter during the All-Star Game this past summer when Altuve and Judge were standing next to each other, filling social media outlets and newspapers with pictures of the two side by side.  Don't you think Altuve was well aware of the height disparity?  He didn't need to be turned into a circus act just because he's a whole foot shorter than the tallest guy currently in baseball.  Just like Judge doesn't want to be known primarily for being so tall, I'm sure Altuve would rather be known as dedicated, consistent, and badass than being called "little man" or "unlikely hero" or "diminutive."  This native of Venezuela is the top contender for the American League MVP award, and if he doesn't get it, I will wear white after Labor Day, which for someone as fashionable as me, will be quite a travesty.

Is José Altuve going to be a big factor in the upcoming World Series against the Dodgers?  You betcha!  So WHAT if Clayton Kershaw is six-foot-four?  Who cares that Yu Darvish is six-foot-five (the tallest Japanese person I've ever heard of)?  I predict that Altuve is not going to let these "big guys" intimidate him.  I apologize to my uncle Junior, my cousins, and my pal Tim who are all die-hard Dodgers fans, but I'm picking the Astros to win the World Series.  I rarely side with an American League team, but with Altuve, Puerto Rican phenom Carlos Correa, and pitchers like Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel (nasty-looking beard and all), I'm thinking the Astros can take the Series in seven games.  My only issue with that is that they would end up clinching the pennant in LA, and I always hate when teams win when they're not at home, but I'm rooting for the Astros all the way.  It's time for the rest of America to notice José Altuve and realize that big things do come in small packages, and us short people can kick ass just as much as the tall "giants" of the game.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

To Kneel, or not to Kneel?

The "Star-Spangled Banner" is as much a part of sports in America as tailgating, "Fenway Franks," and overpriced ballpark beer.  It has consistently been played or sung before sporting events since the days of Babe Ruth and World War I.  When sung correctly (Whitney Houston), it can bring people to tears of joy and national pride.  When sung in mockery (Roseanne), everyone is horrified and Francis Scott Key rolls in his grave (which is just a few blocks from where I'm typing this).  Sports sociologists (yes - that's a thing!) defend this practice by saying that our National Anthem is a battle song (there's that line about rockets glaring and bombs bursting and what-not), and it should motivate athletes to perform their best while in "battle."  It's supposed to get them pumped up and basically ready to kick some ass, and since sports are a microcosm of society and all we want to do in life is kick ass, then it's OK.  But not everyone agrees.

From Colin Kaepernick and Jeremy Lane in the NFL to several members of the Virginia Tech women's volleyball team and even some football players from nearby Watkins Mill High School, many athletes at all levels have decided to "take a knee," give their backs to the American flag, or not stand up at all while the National Anthem is being played.  The first Major League Baseball player to express public opposition to the National Anthem was Oakland A's Bruce Maxwell, who this past weekend decided to kneel while holding his ball cap to his chest while the song was being sung.  As a result of this, Maxwell's team posted the following statement on their scoreboard immediately after, which I thought was appropriate and diplomatic and very cool and California-ish: "The Oakland A's pride ourselves in being inclusive.  We respect and support all of our players' constitutional rights and freedom of expression."  Why are athletes protesting the National Anthem?  Some of them feel like not all their liberties are being protected in this country, while others protest as a way to promote positive changes for the betterment of the country.  Whatever their reason is, they have the constitutional right to express their beliefs, and I'm totally ok with that (especially since I myself always stand for the Anthem but choose not to put my hand over my heart.  I personally think that's silly but I stand up out of respect, kind of like "when in Rome...").

Without getting political (Barack Obama referred to Kaepernick as “exercising his constitutional right to make a statement" while Donald Trump said "maybe [Kaepernick] should find a country that works better for him," but no - I'm not going to get political here!), I'm wondering if the solution to this controversy is to get rid of the National Anthem at sporting events altogether.  I personally don't think it's necessary to play the National Anthem before EVERY sporting event in America.  Do I have to wait for the National Anthem to play in order to run a local 5K race?  Can a Little League baseball game begin without a pitchy ten-year-old singing the Anthem while unable to hit the high notes?  Before you start saying that I'm not patriotic and that I need to go back to my country (which is actually a territory of the US), just hear me out.  Singing the "Star-Spangled Banner" at Yankee Stadium on September 17, 2001 on the first baseball game being played since the 9/11 attacks, with President Bush throwing out the first pitch?  Totally appropriate.  Playing the National Anthem when an Olympic athlete is receiving his/her gold medal?  Super cool and emotional.  Having the "Star-Spangled Banner" played or sung 162 times during the baseball season?  Completely unnecessary.  Why not save this song for special occasions, like a presidential inauguration, a championship game between the US and another country, or some sort of important military thing (whatever those may be)?  Don't complain that baseball games take too long when you're spending five minutes having the colors presented, having giant flags being unfurled, and listening to an "American Idol" reject trying to belt out a song that was meant to be an ode to Fort McHenry.

So if the athletes want to keep protesting, I say let them (because they have the constitutional right to do so).  But they should do it nicely and respectfully (removing your cap and "taking a knee" is way more appropriate, in my opinion, than not standing up at all), and they should be prepared to get some flack for it (especially if they sound like ignorant illiterates when they Tweet their reasons for their protest; that's another thing - athletes who Tweet!  A blog topic for another day!).  Keep "God Bless America" during the seventh-inning stretch - it's a nicer and more positive song anyway.  And we can appreciate "the land of the free and the home of the brave" without having to sing about it every day before the start of a baseball game, marathon, or local baton-twirling competition.  Those of us who live here truly appreciate our rights and freedoms - we don't need a tedious and outdated song to remind us of it.

That, my friends, is just my opinion. :-)

Friday, September 8, 2017

Mother and Son at the Ballpark (My Husband was There Too!)

My seventeen-year-old daughter has just begun her Senior year in high school, so for the past three years, our lives have been consumed by countless track meets (and corresponding pasta parties), college visits all over the Mid-Atlantic, and numerous meetings, appointments, and activities related to my daughter's academics, athletics, or extracurricular activities.  All along the way, my thirteen-year-old son has tagged along (many times begrudgingly) and served as photographer, stopwatch operator, bag carrier, or whatever "other tasks as assigned" have been thrown at him.  But he's been a pretty good sport (especially since each college visit came with either dinner at Panera, a visit to the college ice cream shop, or a stay in a hotel with a pool).  Constantly in his sister's shadow, he still manages to maintain a sense of humor while my husband and I try to accommodate his concert band schedule around everything else going on in our busy lives.  

One thing that has helped our bond is baseball.  He has been watching baseball with his mother since he was in utero, and despite "retiring" from Little League over a year ago, he still enjoys watching and following the sport with his overenthusiastic and highly competitive mother.  He went trick or treating dressed as Jayson Werth one year (complete with full bearded mask), has a respectable baseball card collection, and owns a wide assortment of Washington Nationals apparel.  He doesn't just watch baseball because it's what's on TV; he actually sits down, asks questions, and follows certain players' statistics (and admittedly, he's learning how to heckle.  Who could be teaching him that?).

One recent Sunday, my son, husband, and I traveled to Washington, DC to catch a game at Nationals Park.  The Nats were playing the Mets, the weather was perfect for an evening game, and we scored great seats for a decent price (just a few rows behind the Nats' dugout).  It was game two of a day/night doubleheader - a make-up of a previously rained-out game from July.  Tanner Roark was on the mound, and despite many of their big players being on the Disabled List (Bryce Harper, Jayson Werth, Trea Turner...), it was refreshing to see a lot of the younger guys playing so well.  The Nationals won the game 5-4, but that's not why we had such an unforgettable time.

There was the walk from the parking lot to the park.  The area around Nationals Park has really undergone a tremendous development, and there were new outdoor dining venues, numerous street vendors, and many sights that were not there since my husband and I were last there a year ago.  My son was all over the fact that you could buy a bag of peanuts right outside the park for less than half of what they charge you inside (yes - we bought one to share).  He has always enjoyed people-watching, so standing in line waiting for the gates to open was entertaining for him (he's not one of those teenagers who is constantly on his phone - he actually keeps himself occupied looking at his surroundings and making good observations and occasional snarky comments.  He is my son, after all).

Once inside the ballpark, we perused the gift shop, where of course my son wanted one of everything (actually, so did I!) but was horrified at the prices.  Now he knows that we're not willing to pay $113 for a jersey; time to revise your Christmas list, kid!  We walked around a bit, showing him things he had never noticed before (his last two visits to Nationals Park earlier this summer were with "boring people," according to him) and then found our seats.  My son was AMAZED at how good our seats were - his other visits came with outfield seats located in a section where you couldn't see the big scoreboard.  So he marveled at the wealth of information shown on the big screen - lineups, statistics, highlight videos...

When the game began, he put on his "focused" face.  This kid can get so focused sometimes that I swear he could perform microsurgery on a human brain while wearing headsets so he could direct "Sully" Sullenberger to safely land his airplane on the Hudson River.  He intently watched every pitch, every swing, every catch, only getting up once to get some ice cream.  We laughed at the drunk people behind us, at the frat boys in front of us who kept buying beer after beer (despite my son insisting that they did not look twenty-one), and at the Racing Presidents in the middle of the fourth inning.  One drunk guy had us laughing so hard, I don't think I had ever heard my son laugh so non-stop.

When I asked him on our way home what his favorite part of the evening was, he said he liked feeling like a real fan; not just a spectator.  Aw! I don't know if he'll remember this moment as fondly as me, but spending those few hours on a beautiful Sunday evening with my not-so-little-anymore boy taking in a game of baseball was a definite highlight for his mother.