Archive for the ‘Baseball’ Category
I did a big-ass chart about the MLB playoffs for Grantland.
You can see it here.
Same seagull as before, just dressed up as an old American League umpire.
More finger painting here.
On a bleachingly hot Sunday afternoon in July saw a few innings of an Intercounty Baseball League game at Christie Pits in Toronto between the Toronto Maple Leafs and London Majors. It was way way way too hot to sit on the grass in the sun behind home plate for more than ten minutes. So I sat under a tree beyond the left field fence. Here’s a drawing of the Majors’ wonderfully-named left fielder Cleveland Brownlee.
I had a dream last night that there were people dressed in papier-mâché spheres. Each of the spheres had the name of an MLB team on them, and as each team was eliminated from its division race, the people chopped off that sphere with an axe. They kind of looked and behaved like the Pokey character in the Shifting Sand Land level of Super Mario 64. So I did a drawing.
See it bigger here.
More finger painting here.
On Sunday afternoon, I went for a walk around the neighbourhood. I live pretty much equidistant between two Metro stations servicing two different lines. One of them I use to getting to friends’ places and for my Spanish lessons; the other I only ever use to go to the baseball games. It’s hardly the worst thing in the world, but, you take the same line often enough, it becomes tedious. I vary it up on the walk to and from the station. I sometimes cut north on this side street, sometimes another. There are about ten such side streets I can choose from. On Sunday afternoon, when I was just ambling around, listening to music on my iPod, vaguely heading in the direction of the huge Corona brewery to the north, near which I’d seen a strange-looking building when I was bombing past it in a car on Saturday. I walked up one of the streets I used more often when I’m heading towards the subway. And it hit me. This walk to this subway station that I’ve done for around 40% of the Diablos Rojos home games this season; this walk is part of the experience. Not a major revelation, I know, but it’s still a part of the experience of being a fan. In theory, the idea of a Star Trek-type of instant transportation to and from the ballpark sounds amazing. I could leave my apartment ten minutes before the game, I could be home a minute after the game ends. That would be damn cool. But would it, really? Isn’t part of the joy of baseball (or any other sporting event) the journey there and back. Before the game, you can ponder what might be; afterwards, re-live moments in your head, or re-live moments that could’ve or should’ve been.
For a weekday game that starts at 7pm, I’d ordinarily leave the apartment at about 5.45pm. I’d load up my iPod shuffle with a couple of hours worth of podcasts, and get to the Metro station, grab a ticket out of my wallet (there’s usually a queue at the ticket booth, so I tend to buy ten of the three peso single journey tickets at one time), walk down two long flights of stairs, down some more stairs underneath the tracks, up the other side, and wait there on the platform. (Tangent: is there a specific name for the part of a subway station which contains the platform and train tracks?) It’s hot down there. And the subway cars are hot. In theory there’s air-conditioning, but it has all the strength of of a 90 year old in a coma trying to blow out birthday candles. Three stations south, then change. A change at a busy station. Loads and loads of people trying to go in different directions. It’s stressful, for a couple of minutes. Thankfully, though, the train I’m changing to begins its journey at this station, so chances are I may get a seat. I’ll sit there, listening to Americans talking about baseball, on my way to a baseball game, surrounded by people who don’t care about baseball. When I arrive at Velodromo station, I always have a look around. There’s rarely anyone in my car with a Diablos cap or jersey, and at the station, there tends to only be a handful at most.
Walking the ten minutes to the park, past a school, past the weird Bowser-like Palacio de los Deportes, along a pavement with open manholes full of trash (I once saw dead chickens in one of them), up some steps to an overpass, down the steps, and there’s Foro Sol, the ballpark. Most occasions, there’ll only be between 50 and 100 people outside the ballpark. For a regular season game, I never bought a ticket in advance, and never waited more than a couple of minutes at the ticket booth.
Foro Sol is not an attractive ballpark. If you look on Google Maps, you’ll notice it’s in the middle of a motor sports track. Until 2000, both the Diablos Rojos and Tigres played at a ballpark called Parque del Seguro Social. A lot more centrally located, it was sold, and now there’s a mall there. Of course. Foro Sol was built in 1993 for concerts. A U2 live DVD was filmed there. And it seems to me, that plonking a baseball field there was more a matter of convenience than making a place that is good for watching baseball. (Foro Sol, by the way, is named after the beer brand. Strange, then, that at baseball games, they sell Corona and Victoria; beer made by Sol’s biggest rivals. I’m guessing it’s because the team themselves are sponsored by Corona.) For reasons I’ve explained before, me and the United States are currently on hiatus. So for the last two seasons, I’ve only seen baseball here and at the SkyDome in Toronto. I’ve been to 110 baseball games since 2005. 70 of those have been at either the SkyDome or Foro Sol. 64% of the baseball games I’ve seen have been at less-than-attractive ballparks. That’s a wee bit depressing. But, y’know, beggars/choosers, and the game is still baseball.
It’s baseball with a mascot that signs autographs for people. Never really understood that. It’s baseball with cheerleaders. They’re not very good. Despite dancing to the same songs every time, they’re always slightly out of sync with each other. And there’s never a consistent amount of them. Sometimes six, sometimes seven. Occasionally five, and one time, just four. I get the feeling that they might have other dancing jobs. It’s baseball at over 12,000 ft above sea level, more than double the elevation of Coors Field. I wonder if they have a humidor here. I doubt it. The Diablos hit 192 home runs this season, 53 more than anyone else. Makes you wonder what sort of home run derby they could have here if Pujols, Bautista, A-Rod, etc. came down here.
Reading Joe Posnanski’s post about leaving Kansas City, having watched “four or five hundred” games at Kauffman Stadium made me think. Made me think of all that I have missed by the simple fact that I wasn’t born on this continent. It’s not overly dramatic to say that baseball is the best thing in my life. This is only my seventh season following the game. A point at which most of the people who are reading these words would’ve been at probably in their earliest of teenage years. For me, I grew up watching soccer. I love soccer. It was my first love, but truthfully, over the last years, I’ve come to love baseball more. Very few things in life are as beautiful as a great soccer game, but very few things consistently make me happy as any baseball game. It’s not like the States or Toronto, and, from what I imagine, other parts of Mexico (mostly in the north) where baseball is popular. Very few people in this country’s capital care about béisbol. Most of the time there are only a few thousand people in the ballpark, but it doesn’t matter. I’ve adopted a Mexican League team, my local team, the Diablos Rojos, and I love being there. I love that over the past few months I’ve got to know the names of the players, their strengths, their weaknesses. I love that there are four or five people in the stadium who recognise me. Mexican people, Diablos Rojos fans, who say hello as I walk to my seat. That is fucking awesome.
The Diablos had the best record in the league (63-40, .614), got through two rounds of the playoffs to the final before being swept by the Tigres. I’ve only been watching for one season. It would’ve kind of been wrong if they’d won it all in my first season as a fan, I suppose. I have no idea if I will still be in Mexico City when the 2012 season starts in March. Maybe. If so, though, I’ll be making that journey from Polanco subway station to Velodromo station, listening to podcasts, with a couple of hundred pesos in my pocket for a ticket and a few Coronas.
Another post about going to baseball games. Last two games of the year for me. The Mexican League season is over. My team, Diablos Rojos lost the final series 4-0. It sucked.
I’m trying to spare any blog readers blabbing on about baseball as much as possible, but if you do like that kinda shit, I write about games that I go to on Flip Flop Fly Ball. Last night’s game was postponed due to rain, but I still wrote about it anyway, goddamn it.
Another goddamn drawing of a baseball game.
See it a wee bit bigger here.
Another boring, yawnsome, tedious drawing of a baseball game.
See it a wee bit bigger here.
Drawing of a baseball game. Yaaaaawn.
See it a wee bit bigger here.
Should you be in the New York area, today’s local edition of the Wall Street Journal has an interview with me and exclusive infographic printed upon one of its pages.
Alternatively, if you subscribe to the WSJ online, you can see it here.
A few weeks ago, in the lead up to the book being published, the guy in charge of publicity at Bloomsbury mentioned that the Yankees beat writer (the guy who follows the team around and writes about every game) from the Wall Street Journal was interested in doing an interview at one of the Yankees vs. Blue Jays games I’d told him I’d be attended here in Toronto. Sweet. It’s been a nice process so far doing bits and bobs of publicity here and there, and Jeremy, the aforementioned Bloomsbury guy, has done a marvellous job.
I told Dan, the WSJ guy, my seat number for Friday’s game, so we could say hello. We met, and he told me I’d have press credentials for the next day. Internal jump for joy. I was all excited, and found it very difficult to sleep, knowing that I could arrive at the ballpark early and hang out there before the game started. Ordinarily, I’d not tell you about a dream I’d had, but it seems relevant here: I dreamt I was at Fenway Park watching a guy build the Green Monster before a game. In the dream, the Monster was made from blocks of that corrugated plastic stuff that For Sale signs are made from. I was chatting to the guy, and he stopped talking, his eyes widened, and he nodded in the direction over my shoulder, and whispered, “Dude, there’s Kevin Millar!”
Up early on Saturday morning. Quick email with Dan re. where we’d meet. He told me we should meet “on the field.” On the field!? It’s funny how normally he mentioned it. And funny how my brain spiralled wondering how the hell that sort of thing works. I showered, dressed, put on my cap, and walked to the SkyDome. At the place where I was supposed to pick up my pass, I told the guy my name, he gave the me the pass, and directed me to take the elevator down to field level. Spoke to another guy there: go that way until you get to the big curtain. Got there, and another guy scanned the barcode on my pass, and directed me down a tunnel. A tunnel which went right to the visiting team’s dugout. Two small steps up from there, and I’m on the field. On the field while the Blue Jays are taking their batting practice. On the field where Yankee pitcher A.J. Burnett was chatting to Blue Jays player, Aaron Hill. It’s very difficult to describe the sense of forced calm one has to hang on to at a moment like that.
Dan arrived moments later, thankfully. We shook hands, and he mentioned that I should take off my Yankee cap because I was today, for all intents and purposes, a member of the press. We chatted, I rubbed the artificial turf with my foot and touched it with my hand and noted that the warning track here is made of the same grade of AstroTurf as the green part of the field, kinda negating the “warning” part of its name. Dan gave me a brief idea of what he wanted to do for the day, which began with hanging around the visitors’ dugout until the Yankees manager Joe Girardi came out to do his pre-game interviews with the press. Right then and there I started to feel uncomfortable around the armpits. The YES camera set up, Kim Jones came out, a bunch of other dudes with notepads and tape recorders got into position as Dan beckoned me to stand next to him, just a few feet away from the Yankees manager. Sweat. So much sweat. I was so nervous. And I felt so uncomfortable. It wasn’t real. Why am I stood here? There’s Joe Girardi talking about CC Sabathia and I can hear him with my ears, not just on a web stream through a computer. Sweat, sweat, sweat. My back is like a waterfall. No exaggeration, sweat is streaming down my back.
At the end of Girardi’s interview, as we wandered across the field to the Blue Jays’ dugout, Dan noticed my nerves, and gave me his notepad and pen, and told me to just pretend to be a reporter; write stuff down. As all the Yankees writers got their turn to talk to the Blue Jays manager John Farrell, all I could do was scribble and notice how huge the man is. Marvel Comics thighs, that man. I looked around on the field. Jays players throwing balls around, Jays (and former Yankees) catcher José Molina chatting to former player and broadcaster Buck Martinez. As the Farrell stuff winded down, I introduced myself to Marc, another Yankees beat writer who I follow on Twitter. He, Dan and I had a chat back in front of the Yankees dugout. I tried to take it all in, what it was like to be on this side of things, looking out at the fans with cameras and balls waiting for player autographs. One thing to note: the area of ground right in front of the player dugouts, on the fake grass, is really sticky. That’s where they spit out their sunflower seeds and bubblegum juice. Moving your feet around is like when you’ve spilled Coca Cola on the kitchen floor. It’s kinda disgusting.
Our field time was up, so we left through the same dugout tunnel. This time, though, I passed by Yankees pitcher Mariano Rivera. Just a few feet away. Mariano Rivera. Just sat there. Mariano Rivera. We were heading up to the press box. Dan suggested we go through the clubhouse. I get my pass scanned again, go through a door, and, oh, y’know, there’s Yankee left fielder Brett Gardner just looking at stuff on a laptop. There’s Freddy García buttoning up his jersey. There’s a bunch of other players sat on couches watching TV highlights of yesterday’s games, and there’s Jorge Posada with his trousers around his ankles. It most definitely isn’t every day that one sees one of the best offensive catchers in history in his underpants. But I did on Saturday. Taking it all in, Dan said we should go. I’m glad I hadn’t already looked at the other end of the clubhouse, cos there sat signing a bunch of merchandise was Derek Jeter. I’d managed to go past some of my favourite players without losing my cool, without even smiling. I had done good.
Up in the press box, the first thing I noticed was the smell of burnt popcorn. And the air conditioning was nice. And it was quiet. Men – and it was virtually all men – chatted amongst themselves, ate lunch, drank sodas. The whole time we were in there, you’d never have known it was Dan who was supposed to be asking me questions: I asked so many questions, about ballparks, teams, his job, players. What’s this guy like? Is that guy a dick? Who’s the nicest guy you’ve dealt with? Who’s the worst. Out of respect for Dan being honest, I can’t tell you what he said about who were the good guys and who were the dicks, but one thing he did say that it was okay to tell you: what you think about most players is probably true. There were only a couple of players that I was wrong about. But mostly, it was fun to hear someone confirm that players I think of as people who might be dicks are dicks.
I took advantage of my press credentials and went outside for a cigarette. Regular Blue Jays customers — like I usually am — can’t re-enter the stadium if we leave, but my fancy pass allowed me to do that. The game was about to begin, so we went into the stadium proper to find empty seats — something else the passes allowed — and watched the game and he turned his tape recorder on, and I started yakking about my book and infographics and the game. We watched a few innings from far and high above the outfield, down closer to the field. We moved around a lot, all the time chatting away. When his recorder was on, his sentences ended with a question mark; when it was off, mine ended in a question mark.
Sat up in the very back row above home plate, we baked in the sun, and stood up for the singing of Take Me Out to the Ball Game, and made our way back down to the press box. So nice and air conditioned. But so very, very quiet. Top of the ninth, Derek Jeter hit a single to center field. It was so difficult not to acknowledge. I wanted to clap, do something, but I put my hands on my knees and quietly tapped. This is the press box. No rooting. Quiet. The aforementioned CC Sabathia has been excellent, giving up one run in the first, but shutting down the Jays for the following seven. Entering the ninth, the Yankees had a 4-1 lead. Time to bring in Mariano Rivera. He strikes out the first guy. Tapping my knees. Quietly. Allows two singles. No reaction, Craig, keep it in. Another strikeout. Knee tapping. And he gets a groundout to win the game for the Yankees. Tap knees. Happy happy inside. It was the first win of the three Yankees games I’d seen so far in Toronto this season (they went on to win Sunday’s game too).
Dan had some post game stuff to do, so I went to meet friends who’d gone to the game as regular spectators, and excitedly relayed as much info as I could, as quickly as I could. We drank beer, and ate nachos in a bar. And generally had a ball of a night. Drinking, and talking about baseball. It was an utterly joyous way to end a ridiculously exciting day.
In all the excitement of getting to see Major League baseball, and more specifically, the Yankees for the first time this year, I forgot to mention this. I had a chart about Derek Jeter in Sports illustrated. Yay. It’s in the current issue, which will as of Wednesday be the previous issue, so should you wish to see it, you should probably hop, skip, or jump down to a newsstand today or tomorrow.
Flip Flop Fly Ball is in stores today. It didn’t really sink in until about 8pm last night. Then it sank in. Then I got drunk. You can order it from these places:
And if you’re still in the mood for me talking about me, I wrote a post for SB Nation about the book, site, my love of baseball, and baseball’s Internet presence:
See it larger here.
Well, today one of life’s boxes got ticked: being in the New York Times. All the credit, though, should go to a man called Jeremy, who is the guy handling promotion of my book. He was the one who managed to get my work in there. So, yes, today’s New York Times, page 15 of the magazine, looks like this:
“Flip Flop Fly Ball: An Infographic Baseball Adventure” is in stores on Tuesday. More info here.