Season Tickets … At last

Things not to do ever again:

  • Never leave town for two weeks vacation just before the start of baseball season.
  • Never have multiple deaths in the family at the beginning of a year (or anytime, really.)
  • Never change managers at work just as you’re trying to figure out if you made the right career choice in 1982.

If you do, you may suddenly realize the day after the Meet & Greet that you haven’t actually paid for your season tickets yet. Oops.

That’s done,  now. We thank the team for their patience.

We’re paid up. We’re ready. Season opener is May 17th – as in, a week from tomorrow. That was closer than usual.

50 home games again this year. Same seats, same manager, mainly different team. It should be interesting. It always is.

Hairy Moments

Sometimes, a team has a slump. It’s usually a number of unfortunate occurrences simultaneously. Luckily, there is a time-proven method to busting a slump.

All you do is change things up. The beauty of that statement is that “things” can be almost anything. However, it usually is follicle-related for some reason.

Last year, our (former) manager Pete Incaviglia had a rather impressive mustache and the promotions staff decided to hold Mustache Monday in its honor. Have a mustache, get a half-price ticket (I think – I have season tickets, so it didn’t really apply, although it was a good excuse to stop shaving for a month.) The AirHogs were in a slump coming up on the fated day, so Pete shaved his mustache off the day before Mustache Monday. I remember my wife asking “Why would he do that?” I said “Gotta change things up.” I was never really sure what that meant, but I had heard it at the ballpark a lot. Just before the Mustache Monday game started, my wife asked Pete, “Why did you shave?” He said “Gotta change things up.”

This year, it’s not shaving. The team is dying. Well, one of the team, anyway. We will soon have a second baseman with a jet black Fauxhawk. I know this because there is a series of videos documenting the preparation on Facebook. Ah, technology. (RIP Flip cameras.) You know what the posting before the videos says? “Gotta change things up.”

Maybe I should put the mustache back on. Gotta change things up.

 

[Update: Black Beard is 1-0. Apparently, a FauxHawk can hit a home run.]

Walk-Up Songs

Most ball players have a walk-up song – that song that plays as a batter approaches the plate or a pitcher approaches the mound. In fact, through the wonders of Google, I found I was not alone in considering the topic. Luckily, that article is well-organized, which makes up for this one.

Some random thoughts, then, on walk-up songs.

When you’re at the ballpark, if you have an Android or iPhone, you can get a great app called SoundHound to help you figure out what the songs actually are, assuming (like me) you’re older than the players by a generation and have no idea what that racket is these kids are listening to these days.

I think everyone should have a walk-up song, even if you’re not a ball player. Can you imagine a librarian wander in between the shelves, while “Bleed It Out” blares over the speakers?

I want “Pictures of Matchstick Men” to start playing as I approach my computer in the mornings. I don’t know why that song came to mind, but the opening guitar riff would be a great walk-up. It would also scare the hell out of the dogs and the Spousal Unit, but that’s just a bonus.

Wouldn’t a walk-up song be an easy item to change if a hitter is slumping? The songs always seem constant throughout a season. Maybe it’s not your stance, maybe it’s not your swing. Maybe it’s just the wrong song. Perhaps Linkin Park would be a bit more motivating than Katy Perry, say. Of course, if you started changing walk-up songs regularly, this would require even more statistics – on-base percentage could be affected by the genre of the song, the sex of the singer and other musical variables.  Eventually, there would be a statistician dedicated to choosing the right song based on the pitcher, the number of men on base, the number of outs, and so forth. In retrospect, maybe one song is enough. Work through the slump.

It would be interesting to discover what the royalty structure is when the team plays the various songs in public – I assume the park just pays ASCAP or BMI (or both) a flat fee since there is music playing almost constantly during some games, but if you weren’t happy with your salary structure, you could pick a really expensive walk-up song and then laugh inwardly every time you went up to bat.

If you’re a struggling musician, you should consider writing and recording a really loud metal or rap song called “See that Ump? Kill that Mutha.” It would probably get a lot of playtime during the spring and summer months.

When the umpires come out before the game, they really should play “Three Blind Mice”, at least until someone records “See that Ump? Kill that Mutha.”

My favorite comment about walk-up songs was the night a woman sitting behind me mentioned loudly that the opposing team’s songs all seemed to be (how to put this delicately) a bit less than manly. They were playing the usual suspects – “Sexy Lady”, “She’s A Lady”, and so forth. I then overheard her date gently explaining to her that if you’re from out of town, the press box picks your song for you – nobody actually asked for “She’s A Lady” to boom out over the speakers as he approached the plate. Perhaps somewhere there is a player so masculine that playing “I Am Woman” would be seen as ironic as he strode to the plate, but I doubt it.

If  you chose the Star-Spangled Banner as your walk-up song, would the game start over every time you came up to bat?

Pass The Bucket

One of the interesting (charming?) traditions at QuikTrip Park is the passing of the bucket. There is actually a hand-out for new fans explaining the practice, since many have never seen it done before.

When an AirHog batter hits a home run or an AirHog pitcher tosses a three-up, three-down inning, the ushers wander the park and collect donations for the batter or the pitcher, respectively. On a good night, a player could probably bump his  salary, or at least cover his bar costs after the game. We know it’s important to the players, because if the press box forgets to announce it, they complain in the dugout. We’ve had to text the announcers or Tweet Ace Bacon to get it announced before. (This may be a bit crazy – we actually are asking that they come take money from us.)

The first season, the team only passed the bucket for home runs, but the pitchers must have complained, since after that, someone added 3-up, 3-down which is as close to a home run as you will find for pitchers.

I usually try to give $2 or $3 depending on the number of singles in my wallet, although I’ve given $5 or $10 for critical RBIs or pitching performances. Some of the players are still talking about the $20 somebody [my little brother] dropped in one night.

[A side benefit – you can have a load of singles in your wallet and your wife won’t ask where you’ve been.]

I was rather surprised that they didn’t pass the bucket in the Frontier League, since it’s basically the same level as the American Association – when one of the Lake Erie team hit a home run, I instinctively reached for my wallet, and then realized I was alone.

It’s not done in the affiliated minor leagues, which says the players are paid reasonably well. I guess.

That said, tt seems to me this is a great motivator for any baseball players, and it could be used on more levels of the sport.

Specifically, it occurred to me that if Derek Jeter hit a home run at Yankee Stadium, there would probably be 50,000 fans to pass a bucket around. (I looked it up just now and there are 52,325 seats.) So, figure a quarter of the people donate an average of $2 each – some of the people are cheering for the opposition, some are just cheap, some will ask if they take plastic. Still, that’s over thirteen thousand people donating to the home run buckets. That home run just made Mr. Jeter over twenty-six thousand dollars.

At that level of income, this could be quite a motivational tool. (Plus, I’d just like to see the usher tossing a roll of cash that big into the dugout for delivery!) It not only motivates the players, it could lower the salary cap. Owners? A plastic bucket costs $10. Figure you need 50 of them in Yankee Stadium. $500 bucks worth of buckets and training some ushers to wander around – which they are supposed to do anyway. Jeter hit 24 HRs in his best season, he hit 10 last year and he probably averages 15 or so. Wouldn’t you like to pay him $392K less because the fans are paying him directly? You could almost pay off your boat. Well, one of your boats.

Maybe the bucket needs to be called up to the big leagues.

 

The Pain of Baseball

These days, baseball is generally played at night. It’s cooler for the players and fans (assuming there’s a breeze) and it means people can go to games after work, instead of having to sneak out in the middle of the afternoon.

There’s only one problem – night games are at night.

The beginning of the game is not too bad – you get off work, maybe grab a snack or a quick drink and then you head to the ballpark.

The game itself is not too bad, assuming your team wins, but actually, I’d rather watch a good game that my guys lost than many other events.

There’s usually not a lot of traffic on the way home – getting out of the parking lot at some parks can be challenging, but it gives you time to discuss the outcome and all of the manager’s decisions that made no sense.

Then, you get home. Now, the fun begins. Depending on the length of the game (and baseball is unpredictable) and the length of the drive home, it’s anywhere between 10pm and midnight.

You’re wired.

You’re on a high because your team prevailed, or you’re crushed because the umpires stole another one from them.

It’s time to go to sleep. Who can go to sleep at a time like this?

So, busy work. Walk the dogs. Check some email. Maybe a little TV. Maybe both. Review the scorecard online to see if there really were that many errors. Update your blog. Update the game database you’re keeping. Have a quick snack. Check email again. Check Facebook.

Look at your work calendar for the next day. Hmm. You have a meeting in six hours. This is not good. Think about calling in sick. Realize you can’t call in sick until somebody else is actually at the office. Think about emailing in sick. Realize that you can’t call in sick 48 days in a year just because you have season tickets.

Think baseball is probably the reason you’re so tired and cranky.

Lie in bed, trying to force yourself to go to sleep. Stare at the ceiling. Think you’ve never been quite this tired and cranky.

Start to drift off. Realize there’s another game tomorrow (which at this point, is technically today), and you’re going to have to go through this all over again. Fall asleep happy.

The Five Stages of Baseball

(with apologies to Dr Elizabeth Kubler-Ross)

Baseball fans go through very similar stages to the stages of grief experienced by those with a terminal disease, especially when their favorite teams is suffering through a losing streak. I realized this tonight as I watched my guys take a 15-0 spanking from a team they should be able to beat. So it goes. I suppose this means watching baseball is a terminal disease.

Denial
I can’t believe this! These umps suck! They hate our team! What is the matter with them! This crew should be reported! It’s not our fault! We’re great and we’re being punished.
Anger
He’s stealing! Throw him out! Are you blind? Call the damn ball! Talk to each other! Swing your damn bat! WTF is wrong with you? I could play better than you can!
Bargaining
Please, Lord. Just one freakin’ hit. I’m not even asking for a win, but that would be nice. A run. Just one run, so it’s not a skunk. Not even that. Just a single. Anything. A walk. Please? A base runner?
Depression
This sucks. I hate my life. I can’t eat. I can’t sleep. Please, someone just end this.
Acceptance
Tomorrow’s another day! Let’s play two! (Further down the season, this becomes “We’re rebuilding! Next year, championship!”)

A Fan Entrance Exam

Sometimes, I really think baseball stadiums need an entrance exam. Now, baseball has always had its share of kooks, both in the stands and in the dugout, but most of them actually knew something about the game. These days, even that doesn’t seem mandatory.

This was originally going to be a tirade against specific people, but it’s getting more general as time goes on. First, it was going to be an apology to the players for a couple of specific people who are obviously idiots. Specifically, it was a litany of sins from one particular “fan” that is making people crazy in and out of the stands. Finally, I realized that there are enough annoying people paying their six bucks to get a seat, and we need a way to filter out the true idiots.

Hence, the entrance exam.

Now, I’m not totally against heckling the players – I even understand people who heckle their own team (I am a Cubs fan, after all), as long as it’s from passion. If you really want to know what someone was thinking when he hit into an inning-ending, drive-crushing double play, you probably have the right to ask him. Loudly. Just remember – he knows what happened, he probably wants it back, so don’t expect much of an answer.

I’m against two basic classes of “fans” – the oblivious and the pseudo-groupies.

The oblivious can be found in every sport – I was just surprised to find them at a minor league game. Most of the time, they’re sitting in really expensive seats at games because some company is using the tickets as a write-off. In that case, it makes perfect sense – they’re only there as a prop, so why pay attention to the game? In the minors, I assumed everyone would be there because they chose to be – or they would be in the suites, safely out of the way of the game, and blessedly out of sight.

Now that I’ve seen a couple of people get beaned, I know that there are oblivious fans everywhere.

Every sport has groupies – the women (and perhaps some men) that want to be Mrs. Player (or at least Mrs. Player-for-the-Evening) and all the guys trying to recreate their glory days that may or may not have ever occurred. They are probably at best a minor distraction to the players. Eventually, most will get the hint and wander away.

The pseudo-groupies are the worst. They cling to the team like a fat guy to a donut. They seem to be everywhere. They’re seen with all the players. Some are gently escorted out of the clubhouse after they wander in, uninvited. However, when you start listening to them, you realize they are completely clueless.

I expect a fan to do some basic research. If you come to only a couple of games, you’re exempt. Get a scorecard for the game, and you’re done. I expect someone who attends games regularly to know something about the team, and I expect a fan with a media pass to not only know something about the team, but also to know where to find out about changes to the roster.

If you’re asking someone why he’s in a different team’s uniform three weeks after he was traded, you’re a poser. Go away. If you ask the equipment manager why he’s never playing, it might be that he’s the freakin’ equipment manager and not a player. (Bonus hint – people with the same last name are not automatically brothers. Do some research.)

So, here’s the first draft of my entrance exam. I reserve the right to edit it later. Please don’t contact me for the answers. If you don’t know, go watch poker on TV.

Basic Knowledge

  1. What teams are playing in today’s game?
  2. Which is the home team?
  3. What sport will they be playing?
  4. How long do you expect the game to last?
  5. In what inning would you expect the seventh-inning stretch?

True/False

  1. Nothing ever happens after the eighth inning, so if one team is ahead, that’s a good time to beat the traffic out of the stadium.
  2. Players never think about the game on the field, so asking for autographs when they’re in the on-deck circle is acceptable.
  3. If you yell really loudly at the dugout, someone will give you a baseball.
  4. If you do get a baseball, you should immediately ask for two more for your friends.
  5. Anyone with a number on a jersey is a player.
  6. Each team has a website with player information, schedules and more.
  7. Players can be traded, waived or released at any time. The league website shows these transactions.
  8. If a player steals a base, he has to give it back.

Multiple Choice

  1. The home team bats a) once b) twice c) every inning.
  2. The players sitting around away from everyone are a) on strike b) very smelly c) the bullpen d) b and c
  3. The older guy near third base waves his hands because he’s a) swatting bugs b) sending signs to the base-runners c) waving to fans d) epileptic
  4. A manager trades players a) to strengthen the team b) to annoy the public c) randomly d) by order of the Lollipop King.
  5. The clubhouse is for a) the public b) ticket-holders c) anyone with a media pass d) the club.

Essay Questions

  1. I friended all of the players I could find on Facebook because I expect …