I became a Dad on Tuesday. My wife and I welcomed a beautiful baby girl to the world. She has been flipped my world upside down in the best possible way. Every parent knows how life changes when your first child is born. You do not sleep. Everything she does is the absolute best. The sighs, the burps, the crying, the dirty diapers are all wonderful. I have never been so happy to be so tired.
Wednesday was her first full day in this world, and part of the day was spent with Dad and Daughter watching baseball. Mostly just Dad watching and Daughter sleeping. We will work on her staying awake during games a little later. The Reds tied the game in the bottom of the 9th on a Nick Senzel single to Left, driving in Jose Peraza. Senzel took second on a throwing error by Michael Brantley. The next batter, Jesse Winker walked it off against Houston and Roberto Osuna with a single to Right, scoring Senzel. Cincinnati wins 3 to 2.
It’s important to read to your children. Why not read to them about baseball. (The Winning Run/ DJ)
We will spend countless hours watching baseball together in the coming years. I hope you learn to love baseball as much as I do, but if not it does not matter. My love is not connected to a game, as the game is not important. Spending time with you, watching you grow and learn is what matters. You made me a Dad on Tuesday sleepy little girl. I will not always be the perfect Dad, I will commit errors. I will learn from those errors to be the best Dad for you I can. Sweet dreams sleepy little girl, your Dad needs some sleep. You will want your 3:30 A.M. feeding in less than an hour. The time is already going by too fast.
You can observe a lot just by watching. ~Yogi Berra
The same can be said for listening and reading. Last week was the anniversary of Bill James publishing his Historical Baseball Abstract. Understanding the impact of his work and the creation of sabermetrics, which have changed how teams evaluate players and provided everyone with a greater understanding of how teams win games. Reading more about Bill James and found that he was a 2010 inductee the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame. So naturally, I started researching the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame, as I had never heard of it before.
The Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame was established in 2008. It is located inside Foley’s NY Bar & Restaurant across the street from the Empire State Building in Manhattan. Visitors must use door handles that are wooden baseball bats to enter Foley’s. Once inside the majority of the wall and ceiling space is covered with baseball memorabilia. The memorability ranges from photographs, signed baseballs, jerseys, signs, to bobbleheads, and any other baseball related item imaginable. While there is a lot to see, the displayed memorabilia is not jumbled together, making each item easy to view and interesting.
The inside of Foley’s looks like Mr. Mertles’ home in The Sandlot, only with better lighting. There are pictures of Reggie Jackson’s third home run in Game 6 of the 1977 World Series. Pete Rose fighting Bud Harrelson of the New York Mets during Game 3 of the 1973 National League Championship Series. You have Alex Rodriguez’s 600th home run ball. A Carl Crawford Boston Red Sox jersey hangs from the ceiling. A bobblehead of Orbit, the Houston Astros mascot is on display as well. The list of items displayed by Foley’s continues around the restaurant. It would be easy to spend a full day looking at everything, without repeating.
As quirky as the Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame might sound, and might truly be, it is still important for both baseball and America. It connects the past with people like Manager Connie Mack to the present with nominees like current Met Michael Cuddyer and everywhere in between with Dodgers announcer Vin Scully. It also reminds us that America is a country of immigrants. We have come from all over the world to make America our home. On the diamond, it does not matter if you or your ancestors came from Ireland, Japan, Venezuela, Kenya, or if you are a mixture of cultures. What matters is whether you can play America’s pastime. Every group has its own history in America, but when these histories are put together they create the history of America. The Irish American Baseball Hall of Fame simply tells the Irish story of their place in baseball and in America.
The baseball is curiously often forgotten when people discuss, watch, and play baseball. It is the third wheel between the pitcher and the batter, or the pitcher and the catcher. Only a select few people actually focus on the ball. The norm is to focus on what players are able to do with the ball by throwing, hitting, and catching the ball. Correcting this is part of what The Baseball: Stunts, Scandals, and Secrets Beneath the Stitches by Zack Hample seeks to address. Regardless if you are a lifelong baseball fanatic or a casual fan, this book is written with all baseball fans in mind. It does not become as nerdy as Bill James‘ Historical Baseball Abstract, nor is it as basic as Gail Gibbons‘ My Baseball Book. Hample finds the happy median between being too dense for the casual fan and too simple for the die hard fan.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the history and the oddities of the baseball. Breaking down how the balls are made and how they have changed over time provides a glimpse into the history of the sport. It allowed me to connect different players and events together that I knew about previously, but not how they were related. I also learned new information and tidbits, which is always exciting. The book goes into what happened to some famous and some infamous baseballs, such as Barry Bonds‘ home run balls and the Steve Bartman ball. The short, but wonderful lives of normal game used baseballs are also explored. How a simple baseball, one which nearly every fan in attendance at a game can afford to purchase, can turn a grown man into a 5 year old boy when it goes into the stands and lands near him. While reading the book about how and where balls end up with fans, I was continually reminded of watching Atlanta Braves games on television growing up and the late, great Skip Carey informing the audience that a fan from Peachtree City had come away with the foul ball. Had the fan from Peachtree City known where to align themselves or was it pure luck that they caught the foul ball?
The pure entertainment of the book begins with Hample‘s description of how to secure your own baseball. From being at the game when the gates open for batting practice to understanding the psychology of getting a player to toss you a ball, there seems to be no limit on how a person can catch a Major League baseball. I will admit that much of what Hample says to do I would never do, not because I think it is wrong or that it is beneath me, but because I go to games to watch the game. Shifting in the bleachers or in the outfield based upon your study of the pitcher and hitter could be fun during batting practice, but during a game I think it could become tiresome. I do not mean to say that this approach to catching a baseball is wrong, it is just not how I prefer to enjoy my day at the ball park.
Hample’s writing does not give off a “this is how you have to do it” feel, rather he is simply sharing his experience with other want to be ball hawks. He seems to understand that most people will not do what he does to catch a baseball and he is perfectly fine with that. This is part of the appeal of this book. Every reader can takeaway something different and use it to either improve their odds of catching a baseball at a game or simply learning more about the history of the baseball and the sport. Baseball means different things to different people. It can be a summer afternoon or evening in the stands with a hot dog, or playing in the street until you can no longer see the ball, or simply watching or listening to a game nearly every night with family. There is no correct way to watch a baseball game, just as there is no correct batting stance. Each person has a unique view of baseball, and The Baseball is an excellent example of how one person views the game and his sharing everything he has learned about the sport and how he enjoys it.