2015 has been a wonderful year for baseball. Baseball has been everywhere from Spring Training and Opening Day to playing catch in the backyard and playing a friendly season of fantasy. The big moments like the Royals winning the World Series can be just as special as feeling the pop of the ball when it hits your glove. Everyone experiences baseball differently. As 2015 comes to an end the staff of The Winning Run wanted to share our best moments from baseball in 2015.
Spending three days going through the National Baseball Hall of Fame was the highlight of 2015 for me. I literally moved inch by inch through the museum, reading every plaque and sign, look at every picture and artifact on display. Seeing everything from the baseball used in the first game in which spectators had to pay to watch, to the glove used by Willie Mays to make The Catch, to the Hall of Fame Plaque Gallery. Three days and at least 24 hours may seem like an extraordinarily long time to spend inside of a museum, however when it was time to leave Cooperstown I found myself rushing to finish seeing everything.
Visiting Cooperstown and the National Baseball Hall of Fame only increased my passion for the game. While the museum is just a building and Cooperstown is just a small town, there is something magical about both. 2015 has been a year of transitions for me personally and professionally. Visiting Cooperstown allowed me to be a kid again, even for a weekend. Walking through the Hall of Fame with the same wide eyes I have had since I first fell in love with the game only solidified why baseball is and forever will be special.
Fantasy baseball. I was mesmerized by Madison Bumgardner and the SF Giants in the 2014 World Series and was really excited to get back into watching baseball in 2015. Fantasy was such a pleasure because it helped me keep on track with news and yet had to pace myself to get through the week and season. There were plenty of great baseball moments but the overall winner that made the experiences more enjoyable started with playing fantasy baseball this season.
So 2015 is almost over and we think back on what a year it was. That’s a tough assignment when I’m sitting outside grilling in shorts in the last week of December. I should have a baseball game on instead of Christmas lights. But this does aid in recapping my best memory of baseball this season.
This season was my year of watching it on tv. I did not get a chance to travel and catch any games and only saw a handful of Atlanta and Gwinnett Braves games. A lot happened around the league but I’m going to share a personal trip to a Gwinnett Braves game in June. I remember the day because I was stuck on the stairs watching Max Sherzer flirt with perfection. I took the family to what turned out to be Back to the Future Night at the stadium so it was fairly attended. I got us seats down the first base line but in the outfield part that juts back into the field. I brought my glove this time and was determined to catch a foul even with the pessimist behind me ho thought no baseball could make it that far. As luck would have it a foul came my way in the fourth and I made a pretty spectacular play in my opinion and snagged in on the fly while crashing onto someone who ran into our row. I high fived and showed the girls our souvenir much to their non-caring.
By the seventh they mentioned the silent auction going on for the jerseys the home team was wearing for the promotion, so after conferring with our other writer Jesse, who’s as much a Back to the Future fan as a baseball fan, I decided to try my luck. I brought the older child and found a relief pitcher with no bids. I bid with a few minutes left and had the child stand in front and smile at other potential bidders. This guy was ours. We won, paid and were told to come back so we could go on the field to aquire our winnings. I brought the family unit down, hung out til the final out, and then was allowed on field to wait for our guy and his “game worn” jersey that did all of allowing him into the bullpen without credentials. He autographed the jersey for the girls and even signed my fly ball from earlier.
Even though the game was only seen by the crowd in attendance and didn’t help the standings at all, it brought memories and a story I can share for many years to come. I believe baseball is more than just what is happening in the majors or in the headlines. It’s about experiences and sharing your enjoyment of the sport with the ones you love. I am happy that my best memory of 2015 was personal and shared with my family. Happy New Year.
The best things that I ended up doing and/or experiencing baseball related in the year of our Lord, two thousand and fifteen are as follows (dates and order are questionable at best) Any pics that aren’t noted as being borrowed from the internets were taken myself or another member of the Winning Run. Enjoy.
For such a small town, the amount of fun that I had there was better than I could have expected. Only thing I’m disappointed about is that I didn’t see the ball that Benny “the Jet” Rodriguez busted the guts out of.
The National Baseball Hall of Fame, Cooperstown, New York (The Winning Run)
Walking among the legends of baeball. (The Winning Run)
Otsego Lake, a short walk from Main Street and the Hall of Fame. (The Winning Run)
Baseball game for my Dad’s birthday
Managed to score some pretty low seats at the Braves on the 3rd base side for my dad’s birthday. Just went with my mom and dad. We were low enough that we were able to see Ron Gant a few rows in front of us. Sadly, he doesn’t seem to check his Twitter account very often. I was hoping to get a pic of him and Dad together.
Jesse enjoying a Braves game with the parents on Dad’s birthday. (The Winning Run)
In a quote I picked up the pages of history (not sure if it comes from Napoleon or Stalin, don’t care) “quantity has a quality all its own.” Thanks to the beauty of online retail and a secondary ticket market, I was able to see a MUCH larger number of MLB games this year. Yay internets.
Thunder and lightning on and off the diamond in Atlanta. (The Winning Run)
The sky was on fire. (The Winning Run)
It is never a bad day if it is spent at the ballpark. (The Winning Run)
The Force is strong with these Tomahawks. (The Winning Run)
After working in an unairconditioned shop in the middle of summer near the exact center of the Everglades (the place was exactly 2 hours from EVERYWHERE in Florida, a true geographic anomaly), I decided to drive to Miami and look for Will Smith. I didn’t run into him, sadly, but I did manage to go to a Marlins game and have very low seats. I was probably as close to Ichiro as I’ll ever be, and that was titillating all on its own. Also, if for nothing else, the bobblehead museum is worth the ticket price.
Inside Marlins Park, watching Ichiro up close and personal. (The Winning Run)
The Bobblehead Museum at Marlins Park in all its glory. (The Winning Run)
Minor League Baseball
Minor League Baseball is my jam. I love the stuff. I can’t say that there is a better bang for your buck in the entertainment world. This year I managed to sit directly behind the net at the local team (the Gwinnett Braves), thanks to buying an A/C, I saw a dog act as ball boy AND run the bases (Myrtle Beach Pelicans), and I walked up to a craft beer and unlimited hot dog night (Chattanooga Lookouts). That was a fun night on the Twitters. It was a good thing that I was only walking two blocks back to the hotel that night.
The batboy for the Myrtle Beach Pelicans at work. (The Winning Run)
Watching the Chattanooga Lookouts play on a warm summer eveing. (The Winning Run)
The Myrtle Beach Pelicans shoot to thrill. (The Winning Run)
Baseball, beer, and hot dogs. What more do you need? (The Winning Run)
Enjoying a lookouts game and a beer. (The Winning Run)
No food is more baseball than hot dogs. (The Winning Run)
Fantasy Baseball has become a great way to sit and talk about the minutia of the day’s baseball awesomeness. This year I managed to get my girlfriend, and now wife, talked into playing. Once she got the basics of what should be going on, she became dangerous. Dammit.
I’ve only watched a few college games live, but this year’s first game was at Gardner-Webb University. Yay baseball’s back.
The 2015 playoffs were some of the most enjoyable to watch in a long time. I simultaneously wanted the Cubbies to win to fulfil their Back to the Future density (yes I meant “density”. Watch Back to the Future if you don’t get it), but I longed for the curse to stay in tact at the same time. Daniel Murphy seemed to be able to do no wrong (until the WS at least). Then there was the “slide” Take a look at the pic, you’ll remember it.
My now son/stepson/boogerface (still working on the naming conventions) confided in me that his favorite team wasn’t the Braves. Mind you that he isn’t much for baseball, of which I intend to learn him in the ways of the base on balls, but he came to me in a bit of a quiet tone to inform me that he liked the Marlins. I was a little take aback, UNTIL I heard the reasoning. His favorite player is Ichiro. He likes the way he tugs at his shirt when he comes to the plate. Sounds like a great reason to me.
Hell Froze Over
Citi Field. It was cold. We were in the nosebleed. It was cold. We rode the 7 train. It was cold. It was cold.
I found a complete set of Fleer baseball cards from 1989 at a Habitat for Humanity ReStore (kinda like a Goodwill for non clothing stuff). Welcome to the Bigs Mr.Griffey. Also, I sadly got the edited version of Billy Ripken’s card. So close.
My First True Doubleheader
Manage to make it to my first true MLB doubleheader on the last day of the regular season. That seems like an awesome way to go into the dark dreary non baseball time of year.
It’s a beautiful day for baseball, let’s play two. Lots of fans came dressed as empty seats. (The Winning Run)
I got a baseball signed by Matt Cain to go along with my ticket from my perfect game. Time to make a display for that awesomeness.
The Nationals didn’t win.
2015 was the most exciting and successful year for The Winning Run. There was so much in and around baseball that we were able to experience. Baseball is special in that you can always feel like a kid even when you have played, watched, and followed the game for decades. While it is impossible to see and experience everything that makes baseball wonderful, we will not stop in our quest to achieve the impossible. We hope our efforts in sharing our love and knowledge of the game have added to your enjoyment of baseball in 2015.
Happy New Year,
The Winning Run
There is nothing better than watching a baseball game in person. The crack of the bat, the pop of the glove, the smell of the field, the taste of the hot dogs. It all makes for a great time watching a ball game. In 2013, my brother and myself had the opportunity to watch a game in several different ball parks. Some were large Major League stadiums, some were minor league or independent league stadiums, others were fields where kids get to play the game they love. Enjoy the tour of our 2013 baseball season.
Gwinnett County Parks’ Special Needs Field
Grizzly Baseball Complex, home of the Georgia Gwinnet College Grizzlies. NAIA collegiate school.
CMC-NorthEast Stadium, home of the Kannapolis Intimidators. Single-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox.
BB&T Ballpark, home of the Charlotte Knights. Triple-A affiliates of the Chicago White Sox.
PNC Park, home of the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Turner Field, home of the Atlanta Braves.
Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Braves. Best seats in the house. Triple-A affiliate of the Atlanta Braves.
Howard Johnson Field at Cardinal Park, home of the Johnson City Cardinals. Rookie League affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals.
Fluor Field at the West End, home of the Greenville Drive. Single-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox.
Joseph L. Bruno Stadium, home of the Tri-City Valley Cats. Single-A Short Season affiliate of the Houston Astros.
Tropicana Field, home of the Tampa Bay Rays.
Bears & Eagle Riverfront Stadium, home of the Newark Bears. Cam-Am League game.
Yankee Stadium, home of New York Yankees. Watching Mariano Rivera pitch against the San Francisco Giants.
Citi Field, home of the New York Mets.
Rogers Centre, home of the Toronto Blue Jays.
Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. Memorial Day weekend.
Each of these stadiums has its own unique feel to it and make the experience of watching a game at its field special. Hopefully the 2014 season will allow us to attend a game at more stadiums and enjoy a day at the ball park.
In the past week numerous players in Major League Baseball and in the minor leagues have not been offered a contract for the 2013 season. While not being tendered a contract can seem like riding through a desert for some players, for others it can create new opportunities. These players are usually not the Josh Hamilton’s or the Prince Fielder’s of the world, but they can be the key pieces of a team which help lead them to the playoffs. The blockbuster trades and the big free agent signings grab the headlines, but it is the lesser publicized signings that often play a major role in the success or failure of a Major league team.
The list of non-tendered players has plenty of solid Major League veterans on it, all of who are capable of helping teams win in 2013. Every player takes a different path once they reach the end of their contract. Let’s look at three: Wil Nieves, Peter Moylan, and Mark Reynolds.
Wil Nieves, C- Age: 35; 2012 with Rockies and Diamondbacks: BA .301, OBP .330, SLG .410; Career Average BA .229, OBP .274, SLG .301
Wil Nieves played for the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondback in 2012. In 32 games he hit .301 and had a .987 Fielding Percentage; both respectable numbers in limited action. Nieves has been a backup catcher for the Padres, Yankees, Nationals, Brewers, Rockies, and Diamondbacks during his nine year career. His playing time has decreased as he has gotten into his thirties, but this does not mean his value to a team has decreased with it. His knowledge of the game and his ability to work with pitchers should enable him to remain on a Major League roster for a few more years. The number of catchers who have gone on to become Major League managers, 11 current managers were catchers, gives Nieves a blueprint to follow if he wants to manage.
Peter Moylan, RHP- Age: 33; 2012 with Braves: Innings 5.0, ERA 1.80; Career Average: Innings 260 2/3, ERA 2.59
Australian Peter Moylan established himself as an excellent relief pitcher for the Atlanta Braves since he signed with them after the 2006 World Baseball Classic. In his three full seasons Moylan averaged 84 games, 75 1/3 innings pitched, 61 hits allowed, 59 strikeouts, 34 walks, and a 2.46 ERA. The numbers and his effectiveness for the Braves have never been questioned. The battles for Moylan have been with his own body. In 2008, he appeared in only seven games before having to have season ending Tommy John Surgery. In early 2011 Moylan underwent back surgery. After recovering, he pitched well in 13 games before needing to have rotator cuff and labrum surgery. So long as Moylan can remain healthy he will continue to provide tremendous relief for a Major League team. Most likely Moylan will sign a minor league contract with the Braves and report to the AAA Gwinnett Braves to begin the season. This would enable Atlanta to keep a deep bullpen if injuries arise during the season and to bolster it once rosters expand in September. Every team wants a Mariano Riveria, however closers would not get as many opportunities to save games if it was not for the middle relievers like Moylan bridging the gap between the starting pitcher and the closer. These pitchers as critical to every teams’ ability to win games.
Mark Reynolds, 1B- Age: 29; 2012 with Orioles: BA .221, OBP .335, SLG.429; Career Average: BA .235, OBP .332, SLG .475
Mark Reynolds was non-tendered by the Baltimore Orioles after he hit .221 with 23 home runs and 69 RBI in 2012. The problem which the Orioles, and many other teams, have with Reynolds is his strikeout total. In 2012, he struck out 159 times which is his lowest total since his rookie season in 2007. Reynolds led the National League in strikeouts in 2008, 2009, and 2010, and the American League in 2011. In the four year time span between 2008 and 2011, Mark Reynolds had more strikeouts (834) than Barry Larkin (817), Lou Gehrig (790), Ralph Kiner (749), and Wade Boggs (745) did in each of their entire careers. Power hitters sell seats, but few people want to pay their money to see a hitter strike out during nearly a third of his at bats. As he ages, Reynolds needs to work on making more contact with the ball instead of swinging for the fences every time. Power hitters rarely grow old gracefully in the post steroid era, thus the one year contract Reynolds has signed with the Cleveland Indians should serve as a wake up call to work on building himself into an all-around hitter, not just a power hitter.
The plight of the non-tendered player is different for every player. Wil Nieves, Peter Moylan, and Mark Reynolds should all be on a Major League roster in 2013. Mark Reynolds is the only one of the three to have been signed by a team this off season. He has found his way out of the desert, although his one year contract may only serve as a brief oasis. Nieves and Moylan will each be an important part of the team they play for in 2013. Their signings will likely not elicit the media coverage that Josh Hamilton and BJ Upton did, but Nieves and Moylan will help their team win in 2013.
Happy Birthday to Hall of Fame pitcher Phil Niekro. Winner of 318 games over his 24 year career. He was a master at fooling hitters with his knuckleball. He played for the Braves franchise in both Milwaukee and Atlanta for 21 of his years in the major leagues. He is currently 16th in wins in Major League history and 1st among pitchers who primarily used the knuckleball. Bobby Murcer said when asked about facing Niekro, “Trying to hit Phil Niekro is like trying to eat jello with chopsticks. Sometimes you get a piece but most of the time you get hungry.” Also on Niekro’s list of honors is the Knucksie sandwich which is served at Atlanta Braves and Gwinnett Braves, AAA, home games. The Knucksie is an open-faced sandwich with a corn muffin base, a pile of barbecue pork, caramelized onions, pickles, cole slaw, two sauces and green onions.