Asking the Hard-Hitting Questions About Bobbleheads in a Ballpark

Here at the gigaplex news desk we like to tackle the big issues from time to time in honor of our days as a hard-hitting news reporter pounding the pavement in search of a scoop.

We do this, because ink runs through our veins, in addition to doing it in order to keep those journalistic skills sharpened in case this whole sports thing falls apart, and it is back to days of covering school board meetings, investigating pet crematoriums, and interviewing families living on lead tainted land.

There are so many stories to be told if one just stops to listen, and asks the right questions to get the answers that need to see the light of day. Good journalism brings those stories to the masses.

So, it is in that spirit of hard-hitting investigative journalism that we find ourselves asking the question that is no doubt on everyone’s mind. If a bobblehead falls in an empty ballpark, and no one is there to see it,  does its head go up and down?

In warehouses and store rooms around the world there are boxed bobbleheads waiting for a chance to be given away once fans return to Ballparks.
Photo R. Anderson

I mean, the simple answer is that if you ask the bobblehead, they will no doubt say yes. This should not come as a surprise to anyone, since literally the only answer a bobblehead can give to any question is yes. Because, you know, the whole fact that they are a bobblehead whose one job in the entire world is to nod up and down.

Of course, wearing our hard news hat, we were not going to just take a bobblehead at their world. I mean can you really trust a yes bobble? At least a Magic Eight Ball has the decency to tell you, “Reply hazy, try again,” if it is not ready to answer a question without just always answering in the affirmative.

So, once it was determined that a bobblehead could not be trusted to answer truthfully, the investigative issue became how best to get to the bottom of answering this bobbleheaded conundrum that has no doubt caused numerous philosophers to at least give it a minor bit of thought.

We could be sitting on a huge conspiracy theory, that is about to blow the head bobbing lid off of the entire thing. Either that or we could just be sitting on a big pile of cardboard boxes.

Perhaps that is why Major League Baseball is still at an impasse related to whether to start the season. People were getting too close to the truth and they needed more time to hide the answer along with the Illuminbobbleati.

The question on everyone’s mind is what did the bobblehead know and when did he know it?
Photo R. Anderson

(Mental note, stop binging X-Files into the wee hours of the morning, it is making you paranoid. Who said that?)

Just think about it. Right now, Ballparks across the country are likely filled with boxes of bobbleheads that were set to be given away to fans during games this year. With no fans, and no games so far, the bobbleheads are just sitting in a store room in the bowels of a promotions closet haphazardly stacked there by an intern who quite possibly can’t believe that they are getting college credit to stack boxes of bobbleheads.

Of course, it is also possible that thanks to the impacts on international shipping, brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, that the nation’s 2020 bobblehead inventory is sitting in a warehouse somewhere in China, and that the intern never had the chance to stack them in that aforementioned promotions closet. After all, the gloves I ordered from China three months ago still have not arrived, so there is definitely some shipping delays on the slow boats from China.

What really goes on inside a bobblehead’s box when no one is there to see it?
Photo R. Anderson

In the big picture, with no games and no fans in the Ballpark, it does not really matter whether the bobbleheads are stateside, or still in their country of origin since they won’t be getting passed out any time soon.

So, with this new wrinkle of the nation’s supply of bobbleheads potentially being trapped overseas, we sought to go right to the source and really explore the issue with the full resources of our entire Action News Team of one.

We then realized that international travel is kind of hit and miss right now, so, flying to China to witness how the bobbleheads are made was probably not the best thing to do.

So, with travel to China ruled out, we did the next best thing and asked Google how bobbleheads were made in an attempt to see whether something in that process would tell us whether they would indeed bobble after a fall in an empty ballpark. Google basically told us that the most common bobbleheads are made from resin and plastic and that they involve a spring.

Dodger Stadium has an impressive display of bobbleheads but it is still unknown whether a bobblehead falling in an empty Ballpark nods its head up and down.
Photo R. Anderson

I am not sure what additional details I was expecting Google to have given me, but the response was entirely underwhelming. I mean I can look at a bobblehead and know that it is resin and plastic with a spring. Worst of all, now my browser and Gmail are clogged with ads telling me about the bobbleheads I can buy, and I am no closer to answering the question that started this all.

On a side note, if anyone is interested in commemorating the Spring/Summer/Fall/Winter of COVID-19 I did learn that they can order bobbleheads of infectious diseases experts Dr. Fauci and Dr. Birx.

In our investigation into bobbleheads we encountered some bull.
Photo R. Anderson

In the end, it was determined that the world may not be ready to learn the truth of what happens when a bobblehead falls in an empty Ballpark.

For now, it shall remain an open case, just like the age-old debate pertaining to how many licks it takes to get to the center of a Tootsie Pop. I never did trust that Mr. Owl. I just know he is hiding something underneath those big glasses of his.

While I failed to get to the bottom of my investigation of bobbleheads, to all of my fellow journalists out there working tirelessly day and night to tell the stories that need to be told, keep up the good work.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to watch some more X-Files. I really hope the Smoking Man is in this one.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

MLB’s Push to Play Ball in 2020 is Heading into Extra Innings

Negotiations continue to heat up between representatives of baseball owners, and representatives of baseball players, in an attempt to salvage some sort of 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season.

One of the latest rumors floating around, as reported by several outlets, includes a proposal from the owners to play a 50-game season, followed by expanded playoffs and a World Series. The players representatives have proposed playing as many as 114-games starting around the July Fourth Weekend.

As I have stated many times, I miss baseball and would love to see it played again. I have also said many times, in many ways, that I do not miss baseball to the point that I would want to see a fan-free condensed season just so someone can pat themselves on the back and say, “hooray, we had a 2020 MLB season.” Fifty games a season does not make. Even at 114 games, the risk trade of having a season, versus not having a season does not come out in favor of playing ball.

As part of the proposals being floated around it was reported that players will have the option to sit the season out if they do not feel safe playing ball in the era of the global COVID-19 pandemic. While players would not be paid if they sit the season out, they would get credited with a year of baseball service.

Baseball in the olden days, like during Spring Training of this year, involved crammed dugouts. The baseball in the new time of COVID-19 will look very different.
Photo R. Anderson

Any final agreement on playing the 2020 baseball season must allow players to opt out, and I applaud that position being addressed through the negotiations.

While I am firmly entrenched in my stance that baseball just needs to sit this year out and try again next year, I know that there are people who will disagree. This other side of the coin from my position feels that having baseball, any baseball, is just what is needed during these times of pandemic and civil unrest.

Although I do not agree with that position, I respect that position, just as I would hope that people on the other side would respect mine. Society works best when people can have a healthy productive debate on an issue, agree to disagree, and part with respect for the other person’s opinion.

But from where I am sitting, I have yet to hear a strong enough case that baseball, any amount of baseball, this year would be in the best interest of all involved. Let me state my case.

I get that there are huge financial stakes for both the owners and the players if baseball is not played this year. I also understand that the players in the Minor League Baseball (MiLB) ranks are being hardest hit by a lack of games, as in many cases they are about to lose their paychecks.

Sean Doolittle and other members of the Defending World Series Champion Washington Nationals, committed to give MiLB players within the Nationals organization financial assistance during the time without baseball.
Photo R. Anderson

In regards to the players of MiLB, I am encouraged by the stories of MLB players, like, David Price of the Los Angeles Dodgers, and Sean Doolittle and other members of the Washington Nationals, committing to give MiLB players financial assistance.

In making the announcement on his Twitter page, Doolittle noted that, “All of us were minor leaguers at one point in our careers and we know how important the weekly stipends are for them and their families during these uncertain times.”

I am also encouraged by the stories I see of MiLB Ballparks, like the home of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos, and Sugar Land Skeeters, finding creative ways to generate revenue inside their facilities during this absence of games.

I do not pretend to believe that financial hardships do not exist in baseball, but in many cases the financial strain that they are feeling is a drop in the bucket compared to the issues being faced by small businesses and employees across the country who have lost their livelihoods and jobs as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

A word to baseball as you air your grievances about trying to make sure you get your money by having some sort of season, know the room. You may find that many of the fans that you count on to support you will get a bitter taste in their mouths by reading stories of you arguing over millions of dollars, when many of them are wondering which bill they won’t pay this month in order that they can eat.

The Pensacola Blue Wahoos listed their ballpark on Airbnb as a way to generate revenue during the stoppage of baseball brought about by COVID-19.
Photo R. Anderson

If baseball, any baseball, is played this year, of course the players should be paid.

Furthermore, they should be paid well for risking their lives during a pandemic just to bring people at home some distraction from the world events around them. They just need to ensure that the discussions regarding how much they should get paid do not come off as ignoring the suffering around them, and the bigger picture.

This is a tricky point, as well as a sticky point. With no fans in the stands, creating a strictly made for television game so that networks and teams can make revenue to pay players for playing that game can come across as rather tone deaf.

But wait, the owners will say, “in some cities we are allowed to have up to 25 percent capacity in our Ballparks, so there will be fans in the stands for the games.”

And how exactly is the 25 percent decided upon?

I am sure most teams have season ticket holders for more than 25 percent of the seats in a Ballpark. Let us also not forget all of those corporate funded luxury suites that surround many Ballparks. So, do season ticket holders and suite users get first crack at seeing a game in person, versus someone who just buys a couple of tickets a season? Don’t even get me started on how one would be able to socially distance at a concession stand.

Do teams set up a Hunger Games style lottery where everyone puts their names in a hat and hopes that the Ballpark fortunes are forever in their favor?

I welcome being shown if there is a way to equitably pick 25 percent of a fan base to sit in the stands for a game. Until then, from my seat here, I conclude that more problems are created than solved by starting to let fans into the Ballparks at reduced capacity.

As part of any return to action, players would be socially distanced within the dugout and would be prevented from any physical contact with each other such as high fives, hugs, etc.
Photo R. Anderson

Another issue to consider is the health of both players and fans attending these games. As part of any return to action, players would be monitored for symptoms of COVID-19.

Additionally, as I noted in a previous column, players would be socially distanced within the dugout and would be prevented from any physical contact with each other such as high fives, hugs, etc.

Even if I am willing to concede that players could be socially distanced in the dugout, and on the field, there is still the issue of dirty balls. Most balls I have seen put into play are touched by a lot of people.

A ball that is part of a routine double play has the potential to be touched by up to four players, and that is before the ball goes around the horn in the infield. And telling a pitcher that they can’t lick their fingers before a pitch is probably not going to go over too well.

How to socially distance during mound visits is one of many areas that will need to be figured out before baseball returns during the COVID-19 era.
Photo R. Anderson

Again, make no mistake, I miss baseball. But I have yet to see a proposal where the benefit of a return of baseball outweighs the risks. And I am sorry, but the champion of a shortened, round robin, regionally based, season does not deserve to be called World Series Champion in the same light as a team that battled for a full season in the past.

The record books of baseball would be much better served by a line item saying, “the 2020 season was cancelled due to a global pandemic brought about by COVID-19, but returned even stronger in 2021,” then trying to pass off a team that played a third of the games in a normal season as the champion.

If players and teams want to stage a 50-game exhibition season as a measure of goodwill that is one thing. But, don’t try to play 50 games in empty ballparks and try to call it a season. You are so so much better than that baseball.

So, in conclusion, stay home baseball. Take care of yourself, and I will hopefully see you next spring. I care too much about you to have you risk your health, and the health of those who play you just so somebody can unfurl a “mission accomplished 2020 World Series Champion” banner inside your Ballparks.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some books about baseball to catch up on.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Pondering What My Dream Ballpark Would Look Like

The other day I was asked to describe what my dream Ballpark would consist of, if money were no object, and I could include anything that I wanted inside it.

I have always hated questions like that. Not because I do not have a vivid imagination; I can dream big along with the rest of them. No, I hate questions like that because it usually involves a scenario where one ignores reality and instead focus on a utopian vision of what could be, without first providing a plan to address what is.

Dodger Stadium is the third oldest MLB Ballpark. Instead of getting replaced for something shiner, it is undergoing renovations to ensure that the view from the ravine remains intact. If only they could do something about the drive to the Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Too often Ballparks are torn down, or abandoned in place in the prime of their useful life because an owner wants to add some new luxury boxes, or other revenue generating avenues, instead of trying to make the Ballpark they were dealt with better.

That is not to say that money should not be spent to maintain Ballparks. Money will always be an object, but just throwing money at a situation does not make it better, since the root cause of the problem is always there just below the surface.

Ballparks, like life, are messy. They involve many moving parts and elements. Each element is fine by itself, but when they are joined together for a single purpose, they are even greater.

Take for example a hot dog. Hot dogs are tasty just about anywhere, and are one of my guilty food pleasures. But a hot dog inside a Ballpark is always just a bit more enjoyable.

Over the past five years I have had the privilege of eating many Dodger Dogs. You know if you are going to erect a statue to the dog, it must be good.
Photo R. Anderson

So, in my dream Ballpark scenario, hot dogs would be affordable for everyone, regardless of whether they were rooting for, or against, the home team. And of course the condiments to put on the hot dog would include everything one could think of.

Of course, fans would need a safe place to eat that hot dog. So, in my dream Ballpark every seat would include a folding airline style seat tray.

Seriously, how has no one ever thought of this? Ballpark seats are getting about as small as airline seats, and the average time of a game and flights are pretty similar. So why not include a tray for eating?

The seat back tray tables would serve another purpose besides providing a flat surface to eat on and keep score on. Much like the tray table on an airplane deters people in the window seat from crawling over the other two people in the row to form a line at the lavatory, the Ballpark trays would force people to actually sit and watch the game.

Baseball has parts that are hard to watch, and people like shiny objects and can be easily distracted. But you came to a Ballpark to watch a game, so sit down and watch the game until the captain turns off the fasten seat-belt sign.

One of my biggest pet peeves at the Ballpark is people who talk the entire game and pay very little attention to what is going on between the foul poles.

I highly recommend the King’s Hawaiian Dodger Dog.
Photo R. Anderson

Inside the confines of my dream Ballpark it would be well known that while sports can provide a distraction for a few hours, along with tasty, reasonably priced hot dogs, they cannot replace the need for real dialog around the water cooler outside of the Ballpark on a variety of issues gripping the world.

From a sports perspective, many people dig in their heels and consider their team to be the best, and despise people who wear a different uniform than their beloved home team. This attitude can be tricky to maintain when someone’s favorite player gets traded to one of those dreaded other teams. Does one suddenly turn on the player that they cheered for until they grew hoarse just because, through no fault of their own, they were sent to another team? Or, do they remember the good times and realize that we are more than the uniforms we wear?

So, in my dream Ballpark, all of the fans would be given special glasses that made all of the uniforms on the field look the same. This way, people can just enjoy the game without worrying about who is wearing what uniform, and whether they hate that player just because they wear a uniform different from their own. The glasses would also cut down on the heckling and harassing of fans of other teams inside the Ballpark since all of the clothes in the stands would also be the same color through the lenses.

In my dream Ballpark, all of the fans would be given special glasses that made all of the uniforms on the field look the same. This way, people can just enjoy the game without worrying about who is wearing what uniform, and whether they hate that player just because they wear a uniform different from their own.
Photo R. Anderson

By seeing the game through the same colored lens, the man-made differences and barriers disappear and suddenly everyone is the same and can enjoy the ball game together. If only the glasses were able to work outside of the Ballpark as well.

Even if baseball resumes this year, it is going to be awhile before people are back inside Ballparks. So, my recommendation is that now would be a good time to listen to your neighbor and see what the world looks like from their perspective, even without the special Ballpark glasses. Really take the time to listen to them, from a social distance due to COVID-19 perspective, but not from a social distance from an empathy point of view.

Throughout my career I have been fortunate to interview many people from all walks of life, and can safely say that from my experience we are all way more similar than we are different when one takes the time to really listen.

Over the past few months, I have been thinking a lot about the Native American story of the two wolves. There are several variations of the story. My favorite version is noted below.

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

Pondering about dream Ballparks is certainly a distraction from the current state of the world, but deciding which wolf to feed is a much better use of one’s time and effort. May each of us always strive to feed the right wolf as we await the return of some semblance of normalcy, while also knowing that we have much work to do on numerous fronts when the world reopens.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a wolf to feed. I wonder if he likes hot dogs.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Many Situations in Life Would be Better with Walk up Music

Go to any baseball game from Little League to Major League, and odds are that when a batter is coming up to the plate, they will be serenaded by walk up music.

The type of walk up music selected varies depending on the player. Players often alternate their walk-up music between the guitar driven hair band standards, as well as pop music depending on their moods. Other players may even select country music or hip hop for their walk-up theme.

During the Washington Nationals’ 2019 run to the World Series Championship, Gerardo Parra, united a team, and a fan base, by walking up to the song ‘Baby Shark.’ Nats Nation took the Baby Shark craze to extremes with fans dressed up in shark suits in Nationals Park. An engraved shark was even included on the Nationals World Series Championship ring as a tribute to the role that baby shark, mommy shark, and daddy shark played in bringing the title home to Washington D.C.

During the Washington Nationals’2019 run to the World Series Championship, Gerardo Parra, united a team, and a fan base, by walking up to the song ‘Baby Shark.’
Photo R. Anderson

Whether the music selected is hard rockin’ or bubble gum poppin’, it serves a key purpose when it comes to the battle between the pitcher and the batter.

Or as Ebby Calvin ‘Nuke’ LaLoosh from Bull Durham would say the players use the music to, “Announce their presence with authority.”

Granted it would be hard for a batter to announce their presence with authority by walking out to the pop styling of Carley Rae Jepson’s Call me Maybe?, but it could be a good call maybe if it made the pitcher laugh so hard that he couldn’t throw a strike.

As with everything in baseball, there are rules to the walk-up music. The songs chosen need to be family friendly and the music is supposed to stop once the player enters the batter’s box.

Of course, a really good walk up song can lead to players lollygagging their way to the batter’s box to hear more of their “theme” before facing the pitcher.

A few years back while catching a Blue Wahoos game in Pensacola, FL, I had the pleasure of watching the home plate umpire make sure the plate was spotless so that more of Neil Diamond’s, “Sweet Caroline” could serenade the people in the grandstands. I must say, that it was so good, so good, so good.
Photo R. Anderson

A few years back while catching a Blue Wahoos game in Pensacola, FL, I had the pleasure of watching the home plate umpire make sure the plate was spotless so that more of Neil Diamond’s, “Sweet Caroline” could serenade the people in the grandstands. I must say, that it was so good, so good, so good.

While there is not an exact Archimedes stepping into the tub and shouting “Eureka” moment when it comes to the invention of walk up music, most baseball people point to the 1993 Seattle Mariners as the fathers of the walkup.

While certain individual players had used walk up music before, the Mariners are widely credited with being the first team to come up with a song for each of their players in the lineup.

It seems fitting that the city that brought flannel and grunge to the world of music would also be the city to bring music to the batter’s box.

An idea that some felt was stupid turned contagious in 1993 when the city that brought the world grunge music brought walk up music to Major League Baseball when the Seattle Mariners became the first MLB team to have walk up music throughout their lineup. Soon the idea was in bloom throughout all levels of baseball.
Photo R. Anderson

After the Nats claimed the World Series title in 2019, the Seattle Mariners became the only MLB team to have never appeared in a World Series. Still, despite never appearing in a World Series, the Mariners can at least lay claim to being the champions of the walk up.

Of course, theme music is not limited to batters. Pitchers, especially closers, have also gotten into the act of having music introduce them.

Retired New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera famously walked out from the bullpen to the sounds of “Enter Sandman” from Metallica.

And of course, who can forget Charlie Sheen as Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn walking out to “Wild Thing” in the Major League franchise.

The cinematic walk up music predates the Mariners walk up trend by about five years, and is also often pointed to as being instrumental in the evolution of walk up music.

The Ballparks of the world are mostly silent now thanks to the COVID-19 virus. Or, put another way, as John Candy’s security guard character told Clark Griswald in National Lampoon’s Vacation, “Sorry folks, park’s closed. Moose out front shoulda told ya.”

Of course, just because the Ballpark is closed, it doesn’t mean there can’t be walk up music in other areas of life. Just think how much more exciting life could be if all of our big moments were preceded by music.

Just picture the boardroom scenario where someone says the following. “Now up to present the quarterly earnings report, Joe Smith” (cue the music).

After a few bars of (insert song here) Joe knocks the earnings report out of the park while his coworkers serenade him with Queen’s “We are the Champions” and fist bump each other on the way out of the conference room. (Editor’s note: fist bumping may be changed to socially distanced air bumping to avoid contact in the post COVID-19 working remotely world.)

Of course, different situations in life would require different music.

While some situations might call for some Pearl Jam, others may require heavy organ sounds of Bach. Others situations might even find people moving their hips and nodding their heads like yeah.

Pearl Jam and Walk up music are two Seattle originals still going strong for over two decades and counting.
Photo R. Anderson

Just cue up the appropriate song for whatever situation comes up and one is ready for anything that life throws their way.

Your curbside grocery pickup order didn’t have any missing items? Well, that calls for some “Back in Black” by Def Leopard as you drive past the people still waiting for toilet paper.

While it is unlikely that the walk-up song idea outside of the Ballpark will catch on any time soon, it is certainly something to think about the next time you’re listening to the radio, or filling out that dreaded TPS Report before video conferencing with your boss.

In the spirit of promoting everyday walk up music, I guess my walk-up music in this new era of COVID-19 would be the Kenny Loggins classic “I’m Alright” complete with dancing gopher from Caddyshack.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a strange urge to listen to some Neil Diamond while brushing away invisible dirt with a tiny brush.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

 

Dear Baseball, I Hope This Column Finds You Well in These Uncertain Times

Dear Baseball, it is me Ryan.

I know it has been a while since we have seen each other at the Ballpark. These are definitely crazy times. I hope you are doing well.

I have been thinking a lot about the fun we used to have together back before the world was turned upside down by that uninvited party crasher COVID-19.

Remember that time my mom had me called out of class in elementary school so I could see you in a Spring Training game between the Minnesota Twins and the Baltimore Orioles for my birthday? The entire time I was walking to the exit of the school I thought for sure that someone in my family had died. Imagine my relief when I learned that everyone was alive and well, and I was getting to spend an afternoon at the Ballpark with you.

One of my best baseball memories was getting Earl Weaver’s autograph at Tinker Field.
Photo R. Anderson

Another memory that makes me smile, is that time you gave me the opportunity to meet Earl Weaver on the third base side of Tinker Field. I was definitely start struck at meeting a man I considered to be larger than life, but I was relieved to learn that he was fairly down to earth, and was not just the fiery dirt kicking, base throwing manager I had seen on TV.

Baseball, you have not yet afforded me the opportunity to meet Cal Ripken, Jr., but I guess I will let that one slide since you did give me such good memories following his career during “The Streak” and beyond.

Sadly, not all of my encounters with the men who played you were as encouraging as meeting “The Earl of Baltimore.” Through my attempt to meet Frank Robinson, you taught me the valuable lesson that not everyone who wears your uniform is a hero to be looked up to.

While it is entirely possible that the outcome would have been different on another day, my attempt to meet Frank Robinson soured my opinion of the man, and taught me a valuable lesson in the dangers of heroes letting you down.
Photo R. Anderson

It was a hard lesson for me to learn at the time, but it has helped me separate talent for the game from being a hero off the field. It is possible to respect what a player can do on the field without expecting them to be perfect off the field.

There are of course players who shine both on the field and off, but you let me see that those people are exceptions to treasure, versus the rule.

My joy in you was not limited to just being in the Ballpark. I spent hours collecting your cards and trying to compile complete sets of them each year. I kept checklists in my wallet to know which cards I needed whenever I would find myself at a card shop. I even tried my hand a running a small card shop in my neighborhood for my friends. Grandstand Cards was my first business venture, but it was far from my last.

Every Saturday I rode my bike to the neighborhood 7-11 for powdered doughnuts, a Sunny-D, some baseball cards, and a comic book. Those were much simpler times. While I cherished those days at the time, I cherish them even more now.

I still have those cards, as well as the team scrapbooks that I made for the Orlando Sun Rays and the Baltimore Orioles. Each time I pull them off the shelf the memories return, and I am transported back to those days of going to the local baseball card shop, and sitting in those well-worn grandstands at Tinker Field.

While I saw numerous Spring Training games at Tinker Field, it was Minor League Baseball that really grabbed my attention and stoked the desires of younger me to work in sports promotions at a ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

While my three seasons of attempting to play you did not lead to All-Star numbers, you taught me that I could make a career out of telling your story through the various news outlets I worked for.

You even gave me the opportunity to have a full-ride scholarship as a collegiate baseball team manager, which a younger me turned down to go to a different school. It all worked out in the end, and to this day I can still legitimately say that I turned down a full-ride baseball scholarship. I just leave out the part about it not being as a player.

Then there was that 21-inning high school playoff game that I covered as a high school reporter at the old Baseball City Stadium. Man, I sure learned my lesson that night about not leaving the warmth of the press box before the final out. I spent 12 extra innings freezing behind the dugout while my colleagues mocked me from their warm perch.

Despite that unseasonably cold Florida night, and all the other nights shivering in your stands, you taught me that one of life’s simple pleasures is sitting in your Ballparks and getting caught up in the action. You also taught me to never write the lead to an article while the game is still going on, since very few leads are safe once teams are forced to go to the bullpen.

I also learned from you, Baseball, that whenever possible, get a seat in the Ballpark next to the scouts. The times I have been seated in the scout section at Spring Training and Minor League games, I have been entertained by hours of stories of baseball behind the curtains. Sadly, scouts are a dying breed as more and more of your teams are taking a strictly statistical look at how you are played, versus relying on gut feel.

Very little tops a day at the Ballpark.
Photo R. Anderson

Baseball, you have given me the chance to interview many coaches and players. Some of them gave thoughtful answers, while others allowed me to play cliché bingo.

One manager even trusted me enough to write my own quotes for what I thought he would say. To keep it real, I even included some clichés in his quotes. At the end of the season of covering his team, he invited me into his office and said that he had never sounded better than he did when I “quoted him.”

I have thought a lot lately about those post-game interviews under the unforgiving Florida and Texas sun, as well as the interview in the rain that killed my recorder right after I transcribed the quotes. On that day Baseball, you taught me to never rely solely on a recorder, but to write down quotes in real time as well.

Just when I think that you have run out of things to teach me, Baseball, you give me new lessons through this delay in the action brought about by COVID-19. Through the virus you have taught me that player strikes are not the only thing that can cause the games to stop, and that we should not take you for granted when you do return.

More importantly, Baseball, you have reminded us that there are more important things than you, and your other sport siblings. Taking care of ourselves and others is far more important, no matter how badly we want to throw caution to the wind and cram inside your hallowed halls and watch you “play ball” once again.

The Atlantic League of Professional Baseball was the first to use a pitch clock when the Sugar Land Skeeters and other teams implemented it as part of a test with Major League Baseball..
Photo R. Anderson

When you do return, Baseball, either this year, or next year, some people will no doubt continue to complain that your games are too long, that pitchers need to not take so long between pitches, and that umpires need a robotic voice in their head telling them how to call balls and strikes.

Ignore those people, Baseball, and try to resist the calls to constantly tinker with your game. Part of what makes you perfect are your perfect imperfections, and the fact that there is no game clock to say when the game ends.

Baseball, you will come back stronger, and will once again fill those summer nights with the sights, sounds and smells, of the National Pastime.

Hang in there Baseball, I know we will see each other again soon when it is safe to do so. Until then, thanks for the memories you have given me so far, and thanks in advance for the memories yet to come.

Now if you’ll excuse me, this trip down memory lane has me craving some powdered doughnuts and Sunny-D.

Sincerely yours,

Ryan

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson