Category Archives: Minor League Baseball

Way Back Wednesday: Remembering that time COVID-19 Lead MLB to Cancel the Field of Dreams Game as Cases Among Players Continue to Rise

Editor’s Note: As part of our occasional Way Back Wednesday feature, today we travel back one year and one week ago to August 3, 2020 when Major League Baseball (MLB) cancelled the highly touted Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa, near the set of the 1989 movie of the same name as the game.

Fast forward to 2021, and the St. Louis Cardinals have been replaced by the New York Yankees as the team facing the Chicago White Sox among the corn stalks. But to be fair, MLB had always wanted the Yankees to be involved in the game but had only added the Cardinals back when they switched to a regional schedule for the 2020 baseball season.

Of course, the change in White Sox opponent is really the only thing that has changed between last year when the game was cancelled, and this year when it will be held. COVID-19 cases are still raging like a California wildfire across the country, but apparently people have grown tired of listening to science and decided just to play ball while banning mandates on masks to protect children and others in society.

As noted many times, Field of Dreams is one of my favorite movies. I often quote it as well as Bull Durham, but struggled to find words from either movie to try to make sense of the senseless acts being committed in the name of trying to stay on brand while Rome burns. What I finally came up with is that many people seem determined to “go the distance” to appease a twice impeached one term president even if it means killing people in the process by tying the hands of people actually trying to be helpful and save lives.

We will delve more into the Field of Dreams game in future writings, until then, please enjoy this column from August 3, 2020 to see how little has changed between now and then aside from the fact that hundreds of thousands of people who were alive when this column was first written are now dead thanks to COVID-19 and the actions, or in-actions of certain public officials.

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It turns out that if you build it in the middle of a global COVID-19 pandemic, they won’t come.

Such is the case for the highly touted Major League Baseball (MLB) game between the Chicago White Sox and St. Louis Cardinals that was scheduled to be played August 13 in Dyersville, Iowa amongst the cornfields made famous by the movie Field of Dreams.

On Monday word spread that the game was canceled amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19.

Announced last year, the game was to feature the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees “having a catch” on a specially constructed, 8,000-seat Ballpark near the movie’s iconic diamond. The Cardinals replaced the Yankees on the program after MLB opted for a regionally based schedule.

The cancellation comes as the St. Louis Cardinals became the latest team to get put in time out after multiple players and staff tested positive for COVID-19.

For comparison, the National Hockey League (NHL) reported Monday that zero players, or other personal inside their two bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton have tested positive for COVID-19.

First announced last year, the “Field of Dreams” game was originally set to feature the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees “having a catch” at a specially constructed, 8,000-seat Ballpark near the movie’s iconic diamond. The Cardinals replaced the Yankees on the program after MLB opted for a regionally based schedule. On Monday word spread that the game was canceled amid concerns of the spread of COVID-19 within the ranks of MLB.
Photo R. Anderson

Bubbles work, but MLB owners burst the bubble approach by demanding that they be free to move about the country, or at least move about regionally, to play ball in their Ballparks.

It is no secret why MLB wanted to be bubble free. Houston Astros owner Jim Crane was brutally honest when he said he wanted as many fans as possible in the Ballpark buying t-shirts and concessions in order to recoup some lost revenue. As I noted at the time, that was one of the most tone-deaf statements I ever heard an MLB owner make.

COVID-19 cases continue to rise from coast to coast, and within MLB dugouts. As a result, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred warned over the weekend that the season could be shut down if players do not do better containing the spread of COVID-19.

During an interview with ESPN Manfred stated, “the players need to be better. But I am not a quitter in general and there is no reason to quit now. We have had to be fluid, but it is manageable.”

Manfred made those remarks, as 20% of the league was sidelined in an attempt to combat two separate coronavirus outbreaks.

The “I am not a quitter,” and it isn’t my fault, remarks reminded me of a couple of other people who were faced with making tough decisions as the reality of a situation bigger than themselves crashed in upon them.

On August 8, 1974, President Richard Nixon resigned from office by uttering in part, “I have never been a quitter. To leave office before my term is completed is abhorrent to every instinct in my body. But as President, I must put the interest of America first. America needs a full-time President and a full-time Congress, particularly at this time with problems we face at home and abroad.”

Putting the interests of America ahead of his desire to finish his term, Nixon became the only U.S. president to resign from office.

Rob Manfred could learn a lot from Richard Nixon in how to, as the late Kenny Rogers would say, “know when to fold them.” No, I am not saying that Manfred should resign, although I have seen rumblings from others thinking that he should.

It is time for MLB to resign themselves to the fact that the 2020 season is a lost cause. MLB tried to have a season. No one can take that away from them. Walking away now, and canceling the season before it gets worse is the honorable thing to do.

Instead of making a graceful exit, and doing a proverbial flyover in Marine One, Manfred seems determined to follow the example of another Republican president by using the blame and deflect game as he puts lives and careers at risk to seemingly serve his own self interests of proving that he isn’t a quitter and we would have had a season if not for those meddling kids being kids in the middles of a pandemic.

Yes, some players are leaving their hotel rooms when they travel and are potentially getting exposed to the virus. But they are just as easily exposed during the constant travel from ballpark to ballpark.

For Manfred’s apparent role model for taking zero responsibility, consider the actions of the 45th President of the United States who has blamed nearly everyone under the sun for making him look bad with the spread of COVID-19.

For MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred’s apparent role model for taking zero responsibility, consider the actions of the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, shown in Lego form, who has blamed nearly everyone under the sun for making him look bad with the spread of COVID-19, while seeming to take zero responsibility for trying to contain a virus that has killed over 156,000 Americans. Manfred, is blaming players instead of taking ownership of a failed plan to avoid a bubble approach to returning to action and it may cost him the season he fought so hard to have.
Photo R. Anderson

Yes, Mr. President over 156,000 Americans willingly died of COVID-19 just to make you look bad. That is some next level narcissism for someone to believe that.

Instead, over 156,000 Americans died in part due to a lack of centralized leadership and messaging coming out of the White House. Oh yeah, and the rush to reopen everything when we hadn’t flattened the curve didn’t help either.

In lieu of a national plan, we get attacks on doctors and the media who are both engaged in trying to get the truth out and help save lives as they try to fill the leadership void. We also get attacks on governors for not managing the one of 50 different ways the United States is attacking COVID-19.

Like the effort to combat COVID-19, MLB is also suffering from a lack of leadership and messaging. If MLB was playing games in a bubble, I would give them way more leeway to try to get the situation under control. But they aren’t, and it isn’t.

Perhaps showing that players are not really buying into a belief that MLB has their best interests at heart, more and more players are opting out of the 2020 MLB season.

I cannot blame the players for deciding that the risks to their health are not worth playing ball in the current COID-19 climate.

It is time for MLB to ease the players pain and try again next year. The National Football League and College Football also need to take notice and realize that sports outside of a bubble don’t work.

MLB let greed guide them over science. If the NFL and NCAA play football in the fall it will be an equally greedy endeavor.

I have said it before, and it bears saying again, how on earth did we let ourselves get here? We really have no one to blame but ourselves. Thankfully we can also all be part of the solution.

It is time to corral COIVD-19 and not try to return sports and other areas of live to normal while over 1,000 people a day are dying. These aren’t normal times, but they could be if everyone would just commit to wearing a mask and keeping their distance.

The change in White Sox opponent back to the New York Yankees is really the only thing that has changed between 2020 when the game was cancelled, and 2021 when it will be held. COVID-19 cases are still raging like a California wildfire across the country, but apparently people have grown tired of listening to science and decided just to play ball while banning mandates on masks to protect children and others in society.
Photo R. Anderson

Such simple things to do, yet thanks to political lines being drawn, and a leadership vacuum, we are all left to fend for ourselves and hope for the best.

There is an empty Ballpark nestled among Iowa cornfields ready for baseball to return there in 2021, it is time for the 30 MLB Ballparks to do the same.

Of course, if we fail to get a handle on COVID-19, there may not be any baseball next year either. Much like He-Man of the Masters of the Universe franchise, we have the power. We don’t even need to hold a magic sword aloft as we recite a mantra. We just need to wear a mask, socially distance, avoid crowds, wash our hands and act as one nation.

It isn’t rocket science, but it is scientifically proven to work. If we fail, we have no one but ourselves to blame.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have some bubble hockey to watch.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

A Patriotic Ode to the Hot Dog

Yesterday, July 4th, the United States of America celebrated the 245th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence from British rule, and the first anniversary of the declaring independence from COVID-19 with coast-to-coast fireworks and mask less and social distance free celebrations galore as a weary nation partied like it was 2019.

While time will tell whether declaring independence from COVID-19 was premature, one cannot argue that we are not in a better position this year than we were at the time a year ago.

The US celebrated the 245th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence from British rule, and the first anniversary of the declaring independence from COVID-19 with coast-to-coast fireworks as a weary nation partied like it was 2019.
Photo R. Anderson

In addition to fireworks, another truly American Fourth of July tradition is a celebration of gluttony in the form of the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.

Each year competitive eaters descend upon Coney Island, New York and stuff their faces with as many hot dogs and buns as they can while the world watches on ESPN.

When all of the bun crumbs settled Joey Chestnut, the world record holder with 76 hot dogs and buns consumed, earned his 14th Mustard Belt title in 16 years.

While part of me refuses to accept Joey Chestnut as my hot dog champion ever since the questionable dealings that led to the ousting of Takeru Kobayashi in 2010, I fall well short of driving around town with a “Joey is not my Champion” flag waving from a pickup truck.

In addition to fireworks, another truly American Fourth of July tradition is a celebration of gluttony in the form of the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest.
Photo R. Anderson

For starters all of the eligible hot dogs and buns were counted in a free and fair hot dog contest, and second, I don’t own a pickup truck or a flag.

So, while each July 4th I pour a little deli mustard out for Kobayashi, I find no need for a recount from the Cyber Buns.

But I digress, this is not a column about Chestnut and Kobayashi. This is not even a column about the ways Americans flaunt their abundance of riches on the world stage while many other nations beg for life saving vaccines that a wide swath of Americans refuse to take.

Instead, this is a column about my love of eating hot dogs at the Ballpark. Over the course of my life, I have eaten my fair share of dogs from coast to coast. I cannot wait until I return to a Ballpark to consume another cased meat treat.

It is always best to not dig too deeply inside the casing of the hot dog. While I try to eat healthier hot dogs, at some point one has to realize that one does not eat a hot dog as part of a health and wellness plan.

Nope, hot dogs, like America at the moment, are a hot mess full of competing ideas and doctrines and various parts of animals, yet somehow when they are combined together and boiled, fried or grilled the various parts of the hot dog make culinary magic.

Hot dogs, like America at the moment, are a hot mess full of competing ideas and doctrines and various parts of animals, yet somehow when they are combined together and boiled, fried or grilled the various parts of the hot dog make culinary magic.
Photo R. Anderson

Perhaps if more people thought of America like a hot dog there would be less divisions along party lines. I mean if fans of the San Francisco Giants can eat a Dodger Dog in the Ballpark of their most hated rival Los Angeles Dodgers, there really is hope for the rest of society to bond over a coney, or as some people prefer to call them a wiener.

Major League Eating (MLE), has sanctioned the Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Contest since 1997 and while I will never be a member of that sanctioning body, I am nonetheless a Major League eater. At least a Major League Baseball eater.

In addition to eating hot dogs at dozens of Minor League Baseball and Spring Training Ballparks through the years, I have consumed hot dogs at seven MLB Ballparks.

My first professional Ballpark hot dog was an Esskay hot dog at Memorial Stadium for a Baltimore Orioles versus Philadelphia Phillies game. In hindsight, it is fitting that my Ballpark hot dog tradition would start watching a game from the city where the Declaration of Independence was signed.

As a side note, Esskay hotdogs are so popular in Birdland that they are shipped down from Maryland to the Orioles Spring Training ballpark in Florida each year lest the Orioles fans be forced to consume a different type of hot dog.

The Dodger Dog is such a big deal in Los Angeles that Dodger Stadium features statues of a hot dog mascot.
Photo R. Anderson

My other MLB hot dogs were consumed at the home Ballparks of the Rays, Astros, Rangers, Rockies, Angels and Dodgers.

It was during trips to Dodger Stadium that I truly experienced the elevated Ballpark hot dog experience in the form of the famous Dodger Dog.

The Dodger Dog is such a big deal in Los Angeles that Dodger Stadium features statues of a hot dog mascot. The Dodger Dog is available steamed, grilled, or fried. And starting in 2021, a plant-based Dodger Dog was even added to the lineup.

Of course, all is not copasetic in the house that Vin Scully built as the long-time meat packing supplier of the Dodger Dog did not have their contract renewed after the 2019 season.

That means that for the first time in nearly 50 years the Dodger Dog will not taste the same. At least the Dodgers got a World Series title in 2020 to soften the blow of losing the Farmer John Dodger Dog.

Los Angeles Dodgers fans consumed 2.7 million hot dogs in 2019. While I did not contribute to the 2019 numbers, I did eat my fair share of Dodger Dogs during the 2018 season. Sometimes I even ate my Dodger Dog with a fork and knife on a real plate.
Photo R. Anderson

I am not alone in my love of hot dogs. According to hot-dog.org Americans spent more than $7.68 Billion on hot dogs and sausages in US supermarkets in 2020.

Los Angeles was tops on the hot dog and sausage consumption scale, which kind of blows SoCal’s rep of being all about avocado toast and juice cleanses.

Going back to hot-dog.org one learns that Los Angeles residents consume about 30 million pounds of hot dogs annually. Los Angeles Dodgers fans consumed 2.7 million hot dogs in 2019. Across the major leagues, fans enjoyed 18.3 million hot dogs during the 2019 season.

My memory is a bit foggy from the nitrates to know how many of those 18.3 million hotdogs I consumed in 2019.

While I did not spend yesterday in a Ballpark, I went to the local hot dog shop and selected a New York dog, a polish sausage, a Chicago dog, and two chili cheese coneys to continue my dog on the Fourth of July tradition.
Photo R. Anderson

While I did not spend yesterday in a Ballpark, I went to the local hot dog shop and selected a New York dog, a polish sausage, a Chicago dog, and two chili cheese coneys to continue my dog on the Fourth of July tradition.

The hot dogs were tasty but they definitely had me yearning for the Ballpark experience. I don’t know when I will see a Ballgame in person again but know that when I do a hot dog will be involved. I am hoping to visit a favorite Ballpark in September. Until then, my occasional hot dog cravings will be satisfied through drive thru windows.

During a trip to Denver’s Coors Field, I became a member of the Mile High Hot Dog Club during a game between the Rockies and Marlins. That’s a thing right?
Photo R. Anderson

I doubt the founding fathers had hot dogs and baseball diamonds in mind when they decided to break away from the British in 1776, but I am certainly glad that they did declare independence to allow such things to occur in the centuries that followed.

Otherwise, activities today might be filled with watching cricket and shouting “pip, pip” while sipping Earl Grey tea, hot.

Not that there is anything wrong with cricket or Earl Grey tea mind you.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all this talk about hot dogs is making me hungry.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Supermarket Shooting Shatters Safe Zone and Reignites Gun Control Debate

When the news first broke earlier this week of a shooting inside the King Soopers in Boulder, CO I found myself flooded with various emotions. When news broke later that 10 people lost their lives, the emotional flood continued along with a realization that mundane, every day activities like going grocery shopping are no longer safe.

The tragedy struck me on several fronts. While people dying inside a grocery store, or anywhere else, is tragic, I had driven past this particular store several times during trips to Colorado. I also have many friends who live in that part of the state so my mind immediately started to wonder whether any of them had been in the store at the time of the shooting.

Waiting to hear whether any of my friends were among the victims was an especially trying period. Thankfully, my friends were not among the victims. However, for the friends and family of the 10 people who were killed, their lives will never be the same.

Aside from feeling a connection to that particular store, I also have a tie to the grocery industry as a whole. When I was a senior in high school, I started working part time at a local Albertson’s grocery store. I would end up spending four and a half years in the grocery trade before hanging up my apron at college graduation and entering the world of journalism full time.

And while those days working retail are long behind me, I have always felt a sort of kinship to those people working within the grocery industry. During the past year during the COVID-19 pandemic I was especially thankful for grocery store workers as they ensured that the shelves were stocked and that customers had the opportunity to do curbside pickup if they did not feel safe going inside the store due to COVID-19.

On November 8, 2018, one day after a gunman killed 12 people, including a police officer, at the Borderline Bar and Grill in Thousand Oaks, CA, I took part in a moment of silence at the Staples Center before an L.A. Kings hockey game. Over two years later, another mass shooting, this time at King Soopers grocery store in Boulder, CO that ended with 10 people killed, once again leaves a community and nation to wrestle with the issue of mass shootings and gun control.
Photo R. Anderson

Now, thanks to a shooting inside a grocery store that left 10 people dead, people may have an entire new reason to not feel safe doing something as simple as going inside the store to pick up a loaf of bread.

The grocery store I worked in was one of the first in the area to have a bank inside it.

It also dealt with a lot of cash with the registers. The thought that the bank, or the store in general, could be robbed was always in the back of my mind. However, we were trained to just let the robbers take the cash and to not resist. The thought being it was not worth dying over money. We also had plains clothes off duty police officers in the store during the more popular times as mitigation to prevent shop lifting.

Of course, that philosophy does not work when the person bringing a gun into the store is there not to rob it of money or products, but to rob the people inside it of life.

There is no perfect defense for a gunman intent on causing harm, versus someone just trying to grab some cash, or snow crab legs and go. That is a sobering and scary change in the threat level for people in a grocery store as well as people in any public place.

Of course, school aged children have had to face the constant fear of active shooters for over 20 years. One of my first post college graduation professional newspaper assignments was interviewing a man who ran a company that trained students and school staff on what to do during an active shooting event.

Sadly in the years since that interview the business of training people to avoid gunmen in public places has only grown in importance, and the shootings have gone from primarily taking place inside schools to occurring everywhere from movie theaters, concerts, clubs and big box retail stores to massage parlors and grocery stores.

A week before the grocery shooting in Colorado eight people lost their lives at the hand of another gunmen in Georgia who went to three different massage parlor locations on his killing spree.

There will be discussions in the coming days, weeks, and months about gun control. These discussions occur every time there is a mass shooting. The result of the discussions is usually one step forward and two steps back.

I am not going to get into the politics of gun ownership vis a vis the Second Amendment and all of the gun lobbies, Republican senators from Texas whose names rhyme with Fred Snooze, and other factions that tend to resist any calls to curb the access to high powered firearms.

And yes, there is the tried-and-true argument that always gets brought up following mass shootings that, “Guns don’t kill people. People kill people.” One could just as easily argue that water doesn’t drown people, swallowing too much water drowns people. But I digress.

Most gun owners are responsible people who are not going to go on a shooting spree. However, for those irresponsible gun owners there needs to be a way to prevent senseless loss of life.

While stopping short of diving into the political quicksand that talk of gun control seems to generate, I will just say that mass shootings and vaccine hesitancy seem to be mostly American concepts.

One could argue that it is the very freedoms that Americans enjoy that cause the high incidents of mass shootings and vaccine resistance, but that would be too simple of an answer for a complex issue.

Until the root cause of mass shootings is identified and addressed, there will likely be more cases of heavily armed individuals killing innocent people who are just trying to go about their daily lives.

One person I saw talking about the shooting in Boulder even brought up the possibility that the isolation and restrictions of COVID-19 may be behind the shooting. Short of the gunmen directly saying what motivated him to do what he did, the experts on TV are free to hypothesize and generalize as they try to rationalize the irrational.

As the world prepares to reopen and gatherings get larger and larger it will be interesting to see if people return to normal activities in large crowds, or if the fear and isolation brought about by the restrictions of the past year cause people to think twice before heading to that packed Ballpark for a game.

Personally, I have not decided how ready I am to cram shoulder to shoulder with thousands of people inside a Ballpark once attendance restrictions are lifted. Of course, I was already tired of being crammed in like a sardine in a can before COVID-19 closed things down. Life in the press box definitely spoiled me.

So, any apprehension of returning to sitting butt cheek to butt cheek with perfect strangers has nothing to do with COVID-19 and everything to do with it being way more comfortable to watch games from home.

I will likely still attend some Minor League games and the occasional Major League game but any desire to have season tickets has gone away. Of course, whenever I do attend a game, I will continue my long-held tradition of having enhanced situational awareness of exit routes and my surroundings.

Thanks to the events in Boulder, that enhanced situational awareness will now be needed whenever I venture to any public place.

I have many fond memories of my time working in a grocery store. However, now I will be a little more cautious and aware of the people around me whenever I go inside one. I will also likely rely more heavily on curbside pickup. However, some victims of the Boulder shooting were killed in the parking lot so even curbside is no longer 100 percent safe.

I never thought that I would need to be on high alert making a Dr Pepper run. Sadly, recent events have shown that danger is all around and even the simple act of getting a massage or buying a soda and a candy bar can turn deadly.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I am off to try to make some sense out of all of this senselessness.

Copyright 2021 R. Anderson

Astros Making Sugar Land Skeeters a Farm Club Proves Nothing Gold Can Stay

When I was a senior in high school, I memorized the Robert Frost poem “Nothing Gold Can Stay” as part of an English assignment. In the years since, I have often referred back to that poem during times when things I considered golden in my life became tarnished, or lost some shine.

Such was the case when I learned that the Houston Astros were nearing a deal to make the Sugar Land Skeeters their AAA farm team. As part of the deal, the Astros will own all or part of the Skeeters.

On the surface the idea that the Sugar Land Skeeters are leaving independent baseball and becoming an affiliated team should be good news. But when one digs deeper, they realize that all of the things that made the Skeeters appealing could be taken away as part of the larger effort to give Major League Baseball absolute control of the Minor Leagues.

As part of a massive realignment of Minor League Baseball the Sugar Land Skeeters are slated to go from an independent team in the Atlantic League of Professional Baseball to the AAA Affiliate of the Houston Astros starting in the 2021 season.
Photo R. Anderson

The desire for the Astros to keep their AAA team close to the big-league club follows a trend other clubs have followed over the past decade or so.

In fact, in 2013 when the Astros AAA club was based in Oklahoma City there were rumblings that the Astros wanted to relocate a team to the Woodlands, north of Houston to “expand the brand” and “counter moves made by the Texas Rangers,” according to Astros officials at the time.

Fast forward seven years and buying into the ownership of an existing team with a Ballpark is certainly easier than building one from scratch. The Skeeters would join the Astros owned AA affiliate Corpus Christi Hooks as Texas based feeder teams.

The Texas Rangers will likely move their AAA team back to Round Rock, which the Astros are vacating to move to Sugar Land. In the event that the Rangers move back to Round Rock they would join the Astros in having their AA and AAA teams located within the Lone Star State since the Rangers AA farm club is the Frisco Rough Riders.

I have written extensively this year about how I went from a supporter of the Astros to a former fan who wants nothing to do with them as a result of their trash can cheating scandal. But, if any of the other 29 MLB teams were buying into the Skeeters, I would be equally sad.

To be absolutely clear, although I despise what the Astros organization represents based in part on the lack of sincerity in their apologies for the cheating scandal, I would be sad at the thought of the Skeeters changing from independent to affiliated ball regardless of what team they were affiliated with. The fact that it is the Astros just makes it hurt a bit more.

With the exception of the pandemic year of 2020, I have been a fixture at Skeeters games since the team arose out of the former sugar cane fields in 2012. As mentioned, many times before, if Sugar Land was located just a few miles closer to the Gigaplex I likely would have been a season ticket holder and spent most spring and summer evenings at Constellation Field watching the Skeeters.

For the majority of my baseball loving life I have preferred attending Minor League Baseball to Major League Baseball. There is just something about a Minor League game that cannot be matched at the Major League level.

Much like a face palming mascot named Swatson, the news that the Houston Astros were going to be involved with the Sugar Land Skeeters caused my head to shake and my palm to be planted firmly on my forehead. It also reminded me of the words I memorized years ago that nothing gold can stay.
Photo R. Anderson

Part of the charm of going to see the Skeeters play was the fact that tickets and concessions were reasonably priced and the action on the field involved former MLB players as well as people who were trying to continue their careers for just a little bit longer.

As an affiliated Astros club, I fear that the owner of the Astros who famously said in the middle of a pandemic that he wanted fans in the stands so he could sell them “beer and t-shirts” will likely not keep the prices as low as they had been on the current regime. Of course, Skeeters tickets will hopefully still be cheaper than Astros tickets but Goliath has definitely defeated David in this example.

Based on the amount of people who wore Astros gear to Skeeters games, I know that I am likely in the minority when it comes to being sad that the era of Skeeters as I knew them is likely coming to a close. There is likely social distanced dancing in the streets at the news that the Astros will have their AAA team a mere 27 miles or so away from Minute Maid Park.

They may even try to make the Skeeters Ballpark, Constellation Field, look like a mini Minute Maid Park. Of course, the city of Sugar Land owns Constellation Field so they would have a huge say in any major renovations to the Ballpark.

Come next season, one of my favorite Ballparks will be home of the AAA farm club of the Houston Astros. As part of the new relationship Constellation Field could start to look like a mini Minute Maid Park with Astros fans as far as the eye can see.
Photo R. Anderson

But even if major renovations are not done, make no mistake the Ballpark will become a mini Minute Maid packed to the rafters with Astros fans cheering on the top prospects.

I could even envision a scenario where they try to adjust the schedule to ensure that the Skeeters home games coincide with when the Astros are on the road to maximize the amount of dollars that can be made.

Like Mulder told Scully, I want to believe that the worst-case scenario I am picturing will not take place. I want to believe that come Opening Day 2021 COVID-19 will be on the way out and Swatson and the Skeeters will be there like a warm binkie reminding me of a time before the world went bat guano crazy.

Although I want to believe, I am also not naïve. There will be changes to the way the Skeeters operate. Some will be good; some will be bad. Time will tell whether the changes are something I can live with, or if I need to find another Ballpark to call home.

I really do not want to leave the Skeeters behind. They were my oasis and anti-Astros representing all that I remembered about baseball growing up. Unfortunately, that form of baseball is getting harder and harder to find.

Each year the game of baseball gets more commercialized and sanitized. The days of baseball being an afternoon or evening escape where on can just absorb the sights and sounds are fading. Efforts to streamline and modernize the game will continue until baseball as it once was may cease to exist. There are already examples of that, but the years to come are likely to involve some of the most radical changes to the game that have been seen in centuries.

As part of the musical chairs that is Minor League Baseball the Houston Astros and Texas Rangers appear to once again be swapping out calling the Dell Diamond home for their AAA ballplayers.
Photo R. Anderson

I am too young to be the cranky old guy chasing kids off of his lawn and rambling under his breath  about the way things used to be back in the day.

However, I am old enough to remember that baseball used to be a lot less commercialized and people did not need a million distractions in the Ballpark to keep them amused. Back then people actually went to the Ballpark to see a baseball game from their seats.

Back in high school when I was just kicking off my professional writing career, and attending Southern League games at Tinker Field, baseball was still in a nostalgic era. It was also in the middle of the golden age of the baseball movie.

As for the poem that started this all, memorizing the Robert Frost poem senior year was tied to S. E. Hinton’s novel The Outsiders. In the book, and for those with shorter attention spans that seem to be the target audience of the new era of baseball, the movie, Johnny Cade tells Ponyboy Curtis to “Stay gold.”

In the same way now I am asking, pleading, begging even, for the Skeeters to stay gold and not become just another cookie cutter affiliate where fans are mere commodities to be monetized and fleeced for beer and t-shirt sales.

Sadly, my rarely wrong gut knows that nothing gold can stay. As Robert Frost wrote nearly a century ago:

Nature’s first green is gold,

Her hardest hue to hold.

Her early leaf’s a flower;

But only so an hour.

Then leaf subsides to leaf.

So Eden sank to grief,

So dawn goes down to day.

Nothing gold can stay.

Another Robert Frost poem that I often think of is The Road Not Taken. Two paths are in front of me as I decide whether to accept the road that the Skeeters appear to be heading down, or if I choose another one. But that is a poem, and a column for another day.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a sudden urge to reread The Outsiders. Stay gold, Swatson.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson

Baseball Movies Spark Long Gone Memories and Show What Can be Right in the World

I like baseball.

I like movies.

I like movies about baseball.

Anyone who has read my writing through the years, or has spoken with me in person, will also know that in addition to liking movies about baseball, I enjoy quoting baseball movies. Classmates during my M.S. in Sports Management Program were often subjected to quotes from Bull Durham and Field of Dreams as I tried to make a compelling argument about whatever the issue of the day was in school that particular week.

In the same way, in my column writing over the past three decades I have often found occasion to drop a quote or reference from one of my favorite baseball movies to make a certain point of emphasis. I definitely do not lollygag when it comes to finding ways to drop in a Bull Durham reference.

Over the past three decades I have often found occasion to drop a quote or reference from one of my favorite baseball movies to make a certain point of emphasis. I definitely do not lollygag when it comes to finding ways to drop in a Bull Durham reference.

In addition to quoting baseball movies, for years I have compiled a list of what I feel are the Top 10 Baseball movies and count them down leading up to opening day.

With the 2020 Major League Baseball (MLB) season, and the year in general not being like anything that we have seen before thanks to a global COVID-19 pandemic, coin shortages, murder hornets, and sports in bubbles, among other things, it seems only fitting that I would discover a new baseball movie 33 years after it first came out. That movie is Long Gone.

Long Gone, is a 1987 made-for-TV film, based on a 1979 book about a minor league ball club in the Florida panhandle. The film is set in 1957 and aired on HBO. The cast includes William Petersen, Dermot Mulroney, Virginia Madsen, and Teller of Penn and Teller fame.

The movie tells the story of the Tampico Stogies, a team competing in the Alabama-Florida League, battling the odds, and segregation, in an effort to be better than they deserve. The movie also shows players as human beings dealing with real-world problems instead of as larger than life saints incapable of human follies and desires.

If the story of a rag tag bunch of Minor League ballplayers in the south sounds familiar, it should. A little over a year after Long Gone debuted on HBO, 13 months to be exact, a little film called Bull Durham hit the cinematic landscape; and the rest as they say was history.

The late eighties and early nineties are referred to by some as the golden age of the baseball movie based on the number of baseball movies to debut during that time. In fact, four of the Top 10 movies on my yearly countdown were filmed from 1988 to 1989. Those movies were, Bull Durham (1988), Eight Men Out (1988), Major League (1989) and Field of Dreams (1989). By coming out in 1987 it can be argued that Long Gone kicked off the end of the decade baseball movie trend in the late eighties.

Since the movie was filmed as a made for TV movie during a time before streaming services and DVD releases, finding it on DVD or Netflix can be difficult. Thankfully, I found the movie on You Tube and watched it the other day.

While watching the movie, part of me thought I had seen it before as certain scenes were familiar. Other parts of me thought that I had not seen the movie and was mistaking it for something else.

Regardless of whether I had or had not seen the movie before, the fact remains that it is a delightful time capsule of a forgotten era of Minor League Baseball and shows a side of baseball that helped the game become America’s Pastime.

Or to quote Walt Whitman about baseball, “It’s our game . . . it has the snap, go, fling of the American atmosphere; it belongs as much to our institutions, fits into them as significantly as our Constitution’s laws.”

The love affair with baseball has certainly soured over the years as other sports have grabbed hold of a sports population with short attention spans who want games that move quickly and entertain them with shiny baubles and artisanal beer at the Ballpark.

While I certainly enjoy my share of shiny objects, I have noted for years that part of baseball’s allure is the fact that it does not have a play clock and anything can happen on any given night. The unpredictability of the game and the desire to remember a past era is probably why I prefer Minor League Baseball (MiLB) over MLB.

The 2020 MiLB season was cancelled due to COVID-19. If the powers that be get their way in 2021 MiLB as it has been known for over a century is likely to be radically altered. Some affiliated clubs will likely be contracted. The very league structure of MiLB itself could fall under the umbrella of MLB and cease being an independently governed league. I will mourn deeply for minor league ball should it just become another arm of the multi tentacled MLB.

Independent league baseball is likely to flourish if major changes are made to affiliated MiLB. Thankfully the Sugar Land Skeeters are close enough for me to go see. So I will still have baseball to watch in person once the games resume next year, or whenever a COVID-19 vaccine allows normal operations of life to resume on a large scale.

Independent league baseball is likely to flourish if major changes are made to affiliated MiLB Ballclubs in 2021. Thankfully the Sugar Land Skeeters and Swatson are close enough for me to go see.
Photo R. Anderson

In the meantime while we await the day where Ballparks will once again come to life with the sounds, tastes, and smells of the game, cinematic baseball movies like Long Gone and Bull Durham show all that baseball can be if people just get out of the way and let the players play. Too much micromanaging of the game to suit the artisanal crowd could impact the game in negative ways that cannot be undone. We are seeing a little of that in some of the changes that have been rolled out the last couple of seasons in MLB.

On a personal note, Long Gone was filmed at historic McKechnie Field, located in Bradenton, Florida which serves as the Spring Training home of the Pittsburgh Pirates, as well as the home of a Class A Florida State League team.

I mention this fact because for years my grandmother who lived in Bradenton Beach, FL wanted to take me to see a game at the Ballpark. Sadly, she died before we ever made that goal a reality. However, I am forever thankful to have watched games with her at Tinker Field in Orlando, FL and for the part she played along with my mom and other grandmother in instilling within me a love of the game of baseball.

I still hope to make it to Bradenton one of these days for a game at what is now known as Lecom Park. Although my grandmother, Mom Mom, will not be there in person, I know she will be there in spirit if I do make it to the Ballpark.

Baseball is a sport where memories can be made and promises can be kept. It is a simple game at heart. You throw the ball, you hit the ball, you catch the ball. Sometimes it rains, and sometimes you watch a movie that reminds you of your grandmother.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a 2021 trip to Bradenton to plan.

Copyright 2020 R. Anderson