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
This a three-part series on how I’ve come to recapture my love for America’s favorite pastime.
These are the names that make up some of the earliest memories I have for baseball. Unfortunately, my memories are scattered and it’s hard to put my most vivid memories into a good chronological order. That’s the nature of memory though. The best ones seem like yesterday and recalling the rest is like chasing fireflies at dusk. I hope you enjoy chasing fireflies with me.
I’m a New York Yankees fan. I should get that out in the open since it can be such a polarizing topic. So you may be wondering why a Yankees fan’s earliest memories involve the Atlanta Braves. Because they were the icons for his favorite team. Who is he? My friend, Josue.
Josue and I grew up for a time in the outer suburbs of Washington, DC. We were poor kids in an up and coming suburb (if not at the time, soon to be) surrounded by tech companies, defense contractors, and government security personnel who could no longer afford to live closer to DC. We didn’t have the Nats around then but it wasn’t likely that our parents could have afforded to take us to a game anyway. In our youthful rebellion against the growing wealth around us, we took to swiping things. Baseball cards from 7-Eleven were pretty easy pickings. I’m not proud of it but we didn’t have much nor much else to do. Especially in the summers between school years.
I did get to see a game in Camden Yards a year or two after it had opened though. Because the Orioles were in the AL East with the Yankees, I could see them play regularly. It was a summer day in June of ‘93 and my dad got tickets for his company’s box seats. I had an Upper Deck baseball card featuring Wade Boggs that I adored. He looked amazing mid-swing and he was one of the better players in my collection. When we got to the game, I saw that Wade Boggs was playing for New York Yankees that year. I was so excited to see him play in the flesh and to top it off, the Yankees won that day. It may have been the moment that cemented my love for the New York Yankees to this day.
We got to see a lot Braves games aired on TV as well. I think it may have been that the Braves were the only NL East team that was not a rival city to DC like Philly or New York. It also never really mattered to me. I think seeing such a great team like the Braves of the early 90s on TV may be why Josue was a huge fan.
Baseball has a way of sparking the imagination like no other sport. Why? Ghost runners. You can’t make believe a 40 yard throw to your number one wide receiver. However, you can move that runner on second to third after hitting a short hopper over the guy playing shortstop. Without make-believe, you can’t play a game with less than four to a side. So when you have to bike a few miles from your house to find people who want to play, coordinating schedules and parental permission is a soul-draining exercise in futility. Fortunately, imagination could fill that role.
We used that imagination as we stepped up to the plate, threw our ‘fastballs’ and ‘sliders’, or made diving catches to stop short hops.
“Here’s Nolan Ryan going in his wind up.” I would yell out.
“David Justice looking to hit this one into the upper deck!” He’d yell back.
This back and forth never stopped. Sometimes, Josue would go back and forth between his favorite players. After a while, he’d always settle on…
“Okay! Terry Pendleton coming to the plate hitting switch.”
It’s not like he hit better left-handed or that I had the sort of control over the strike zone to make that kind of difference. We did it because that’s what the stars in our lives did. It gave us a freedom from the restrictions imposed upon us by reality.
I read an article about how kids don’t wander around nearly as far as they did when I was a child. Strangely enough, I never thought I traveled far on my Huffy mountain bike until I mapped it on Google decades later. Sure enough, I generally strayed about three to five miles from my home almost daily to play with my friends. Then I looked at some of the other places that fell into this radius from my home that I never visited. Major highways blocking them all. I may have seemed an intrepid adolescent explorer but I wasn’t a dummy.
But this is what you did so you could have the privacy of living in your fantasy world. We didn’t have many of the things our neighbors took for granted. We didn’t think we were poor because we were doing things away from the judgmental look of exhausted parents. Parents who wanted us to dream but somehow keep it grounded.
I never played organized baseball. Josue did for a while but his parents could no longer make the time to drive him to the nearest team so he could play. We eventually played soccer together and our parents helped each other by carpooling to practice regularly. We played teams from areas with large Hispanic communities and I think that’s when Josue began to identify more strongly with his Mexican heritage. During the buildup to the ‘94 World Cup in the US, he wanted to be Jorge Campos. Now that I look back on it, we may have both been poor but he didn’t think he had the book smarts to succeed. So he looked for heroes where he could.
But no matter how long we practiced penalty shots and dribbling exercises, we always took some time to play some baseball…