Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category
If you’re interested, you can get a print of this (and some of my other drawings) here:
Self-sabotage is something I’m fairly used to. My brain sees things and goes, “Nope, I’m gonna fuck this up on purpose.” There was a point where I stopped blogging. Actually, that happened twice. Both time I stopped, slowly got back into it and found that each time, the audience has gotten noticeably smaller. Entirely own fault. I stopped using Facebook last year, and deleted the Flip Flop Flyin’ page from there, too. I’d half expected the people who followed my work there to shift, but as far as I can tell, that’s not happened. My own fault, and in hindsight, totally understandable. In the electronic age, me saying “follow me on my blog, not on Facebook anymore” is pretty much like releasing a movie on Betamax.
I think that something that ended up being self-sabotage was entirely unexpected: getting into baseball. This happened over ten years ago. Because of that ten year anniversary last summer (Twins vs. Yankees, Yankee Stadium, New York, 27 July 2005) I’ve thought a lot about the ten years that baseball has existed for me. It took about four years for it to really take over, though. When I split off the sport-y stuff from Flip Flop Flyin’ into its own site, Flip Flop Fly Ball, it was purely to allow the FFF followers to look at my drawings without having to wade through baseball-related stuff. But, there was an unexpectedly large amount of interest in FFFB, and pretty soon I found myself with a contract to do a book about baseball.
And that was it for a few years. Looking at the archive on Flip Flop Flyin’, I still did non-baseball stuff, but I did a lot more baseball-related stuff on Flip Flop Fly Ball. That began to swing back last year. I kinda felt that I had less and less to say about baseball. I still enjoyed it, still went to Diablos Rojos games, but on the whole, I was enjoying just enjoying it; it not being part of my “career.” And personally, that has been a rewarding change. I’ve enjoyed doing and concentrating more on art than baseball. Baseball is a hobby. And I very much like having that as a hobby. So much of the Flip Flop Fly Ball stuff was about learning and trying to understand a sport and culture that were alien to me. By the time the book came out I began to feel like I was a part of the baseball world; certainly the baseball corner of the Internet. I had carved out the niche-y-est of niches on Baseball Internet: The English Guy Who Watches Mexican Baseball.
Something else that probably can’t be ignored is the timing of things. At a point when my personal life was an absolute shambles, I had baseball and I had infographics to distract me. It was very very helpful to think about statistics and facts, organising information into neat infographics at a time when my mental state was the exact opposite: unorganised and emotional. If I read a book about the 1970s Cincinnati Reds then I don’t have to think about my failing personal life. If I investigate the history of early 20th century players, I can distract myself from the fact that I am miserable every day.
But, there’s only so long you can fool yourself. Several cities and loads of apartments later and I’m still not mentally splendid, but it’s time to stop distracting myself. Which is one of the reasons why I’m not gonna be doing much baseball stuff on Flip Flop Fly Ball for the foreseeable future. I’m not killing it off, as much as that is tempting, but I am also not gonna feel guilty anymore about not updating it more regularly. If I want to do something, I will, and if I don’t I won’t. That may mean there’s nothing for a few months or for a year. It’s also possible that this simple act of writing about it might free up my mind enough to not feel any pressure to keep going with the site, and stuff might come flooding out. I don’t know. But right now, Flip Flop Fly Ball is on an indefinite hiatus.
Evan Gattis’s head on Tom Jones’ body:
Cal Ripken’s eyes:
José Bautista’s beard-o-clava:
I love seeing dudes go to a game straight from work, wearing a cap with their office clothes.
So, there was a game seven. Diablos lost.
At the end of game six, the stadium announcer told us that tickets for the seventh and deciding game in the series would go on sale at 11am the following day (Wednesday). One of the benefits of being freelance is being able to massage your work day a little and nip out to buy tickets for baseball games. I arrived at the stadium at 9.30am. There was already well over 200 people in the queue. I was very thankful I had a backlog of Radiolabs and This American Lifes on my iPod.
It was a boring time. Achey feet. Four-and-a-half hours in line in total. People would have a wander around and come back with different reports of what was going on. That they’d sold out of all the seats in the infield. Or that they only had solo seats left (ie people not being able to sit together). And once I got to the ticket window, at just gone 2pm, there weren’t many seats left, but still enough to have families of four sitting together.
Back home, I looked in the mirror and saw I had a bit of sunburn on my left arm and neck. It was weirdly exhausting standing in a line for a long time. I took my shoes off, got into bed and relaxed for a couple of hours. At that point, I was very comfortable with the idea of the Diablos losing the game. The thought of any more games, any more queuing for tickets, had drained a lot of the joy of baseball from me.
And when I did get back to the ballpark, an hour before the start of the game, it was pretty subdued. It stayed that way for two or three innings. The crowd, it seemed, all felt the same as me. Then, after taking a 2-1 lead in the first inning, the Toros de Tijuana got five more runs in the top of the third. Diablos 7-1 down. When the first batter came out for the bottom of the third, the atmosphere perked up. It was like we all individually and simultaneously realised: we have to get into this now!
A run in the bottom of the third. 7-2.
A run in the bottom of the fifth. 7-3.
Two runs in the bottom of the sixth. 7-5.
A run in the bottom of the eighth. 7-6.
Close, but not enough.
I’m not a good loser. I hate seeing the other team celebrate. When the last ball flew into the glove of the Tijuana centre fielder, I turned my head and looked away and then at the floor.
The season was over. It began with Tijuana beating the Diablos on opening day. It ended with Tijuana beating the Diablos in game seven of the quarter-finals. In between those two games, the Diablos were by far the best team in the league. That’s what I want to remember from this season.
Diablos Rojos del México, Best Team in the Mexican League, 2015.
From a purely rooting point of view, I want the Diablos Rojos to win tonight. It’s game six in the first round of the playoffs (that is to say, the quarter-finals). The Diablos won the first two games at home last Tuesday and Wednesday, and the Toros de Tijuana won their three home games over the weekend. It’s a best-of-seven series. The Diablos absolutely need to win tonight. And if they do that, game seven will be tomorrow night.
This season, the Diablos’ stadium is a lot smaller (less than 5,000 capacity), and getting tickets is a pain in the arse. They have an online ticket sales but my non-Mexican credit card doesn’t work on their site, so when I want tickets for playoff games, I have to go to queue up when the tickets go on sale. For the first two games of the playoffs, my pal Samuel and I arrived 75 minutes before the advertised start time for ticket sales, and we were about 130th in the line.
Once the Toros won game four and assured us of a game six, they announced the sale of tickets on the next day. I was there about an hour and a half early, and the line was a whole lot shorter, but crucially, when I was choosing which section and row to sit in, I could see on the screen that way more people had used the online booking. Not so many tickets still available in my preferred section.
Which brings us to tonight’s game. There’s a part of me that kinda wouldn’t mind if the Diablos lost. When I am there in a couple of hours, I will of course want them to win, but right now, the thought of the Diablos winning, and not knowing what kind of time suck and ballache will occur tomorrow when I want to get a ticket for game seven… well, it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if they lost. The thought of getting tickets for game seven, and if they win that, the next two home games in the semi-finals, stresses me out, too much. (I’ve typed about ticket stress before here.) Plus, it’s my girlfriend’s birthday on the same day as a possible game one of the semi-finals, and her birthday party on Saturday, the same day as game two. And if the Diablos were to get to the Serie del Rey (that is, the final) then, gosh knows how tough it’s gonna be to get non-online tickets from the ticket booth.
All of this comes down to my semi-ambivalence to the idea of playoffs. The Diablos were by far the best team in the Mexican League. So there we go. End of story. Diablos were the best team. But no, we have to endure the idiocy of playoffs where an eighth best team in the league could still conceivable be “champions.” In my head, I know that my team were the best team this year, yet we still have to go through this charade. Last season, the Diablos were the best team in the regular season, and won the championship in the playoffs, too. My joy – and it was proper joy – was partly because the coin toss-iness of the playoffs had not got in the way of proving what I already knew. And it’ll be the same tonight. I just want them to win so that what I already know will be confirmed by the record books. And if they don’t, well, the record books in my head will keep a note, and I won’t have to stress about tickets anymore.
Update, 26 August: Diablos won 14-1. There will be a seventh game tonight. Tickets go on sale at 11am. I will, of course, traipse over to the stadium to buy a ticket, return home, then go back to the stadium for the game. I’m not gonna say it’s a hard life, just, y’know, it’s essentially 2-3 hours wasted in the middle of the day.
Something interesting happened last night: I picked a seat in a different section at the baseball park. A bit of background: last season was the, err, last season that the Diablos Rojos were playing in Foro Sol. It is a 26,000 capacity concert venue that just happened to be big enough to fit a baseball field, so when the Diablos’ old park got sold in 2000 (I think), they ended up at Foro Sol. Foro Sol was one of those sports venues that objectively is awful but you are fond of it because it’s where your team plays and you have a ton of memories based there. Indeed, apart from apartments I’ve lived in, I have spent more time at Foro Sol than anywhere else in Mexico City. And I’ve deffo spent more time at Foro Sol than any other sports venue in the whole wide world.
Anyway, Formula One motor racing is back in Mexico City this season. Foro Sol is inside the racing track. And with the renovations that will be taking place, they’re putting a corner through the outfield of the baseball field. Thus, the Diablos moved. They will get a brand new city-funded ballpark in 2017, but until then, the team is playing at a local municipal park that they renovated over the winter. It’s called Estadio Fray Nano, and it’s bloody lovely. Dead small, like 4,000 capacity, which makes the somewhat underwhelming crowds seem a lot better. A crowd of 1,800 looks okay in a 4,000 seater stadium, whereas at Foro Sol, it was a bit rubbish.
The biggest difference between the parks, aside from the size and the understandable price increase (tickets in the section I usually sit in used to be 70 pesos, and are now 100 pesos), is that it’s no longer general admission. Your ticket has a seat number now. At Foro Sol I pretty much always sat in the exact same seat. I would rock up half an hour before the game and plonk myself down, six or seven rows above the walkway, just to the right (that is, first base side) of home plate. Now when I buy a ticket, I have to explain kinda where I wanna sit every time. (This also makes the queues at the ticket booths a lot lot slower than before.) At Estadio Fray Nano, I have taken to asking for a ticket in the last row in the middle right above home plate. Last row cos it’s still closer than where I used to sit at Foro Sol, and because it’s nice not having people behind you, and above that last row is the team owner’s box and he has a TV in there so I can peak up and watch replays.
The view from where I used to sit at Foro Sol
The view from where I normally sit at Fray Nano
Last night, though, there were no tickets available in the last row above home plate. This happens at Friday, Saturday, and Sunday games, I’ve noticed. More people means the good seats tend to get snapped up at the online ticket store. I can’t be arsed with buying tickets online. I like a ticket ticket, not an A4 printout. Anyhow, no massive deal, I’ll get tickets for me and three pals in the section to the right, back row, next to the steps. My pals would all be arriving a bit later than me, so I went up to my seat, sat down, ordered a Corona, and watched the players warming up.
Something felt different. Something felt right. It was the feeling that I was sat back where I should be sat, just to the right (that is, first base side) of home plate. They are probably “better” seats where I have been sitting, dead centre, but just to the right (that is, first base side) of home plate is where I belong.
The view from where I sat last night
My mate Samuel arrived, we had a chat, watched the planes flying into Benito Juárez International Airport, watched the visiting Acereros de Monclova get a runner to third with no outs and the Diablos go in without conceding a run. Gabriel and Jorge arrived a bit later. It was Gabriel’s first Mexican baseball game (he’d seen the White Sox before on holiday in Chicago) and Jorge’s first ever baseball game. The sky turned an orange-y pink, the game was 0-0 in the fifth inning, a pretty rare thing in Mexico City.
It was tight, the park was pretty full, the atmosphere was really good, it was a fun night. I was happy. It’s good to have the newcomers with you experiencing a good game. Japhet Amador homered off the first pitch in the bottom of the sixth, and by the end of that half-inning, it was 4-0. Monclova got a couple back in the next inning, and that’s how it ended. A fun game with baseball virgins. A nice swift sub-three-hour game on a nice not-too-hot-or-nippy evening. You know why, right? I was back home. New home, but back home. Section B2, row M, around seat 140-ish. Just to the right (that is, first base side) of home plate.
This is one of eleven infographics I did last September for Sports Illustrated about Derek Jeter’s career. You can see the others here: http://flipflopflyin.com/flipflopflyball/info-derekjeter.html
27 July 2005, ten years ago today, I went to a baseball game for the first time.
Here’s the (slightly-embarrassing) blog post I wrote afterwards:
Here’s a chart I did back in March for the Bay Area News Group regarding the Oakland Athletics’s general manager Billy Beane.
A quite pointless chart re the names of the five main professional sports leagues in the United States.
I Photoshopped all the advertising out of this photograph of [Beer Brand] Field, Denver, Colorado.