Monday, November 2, 2009

Appeal to Baseball Gods

There are two reasons I want the Yankees to lose.

1) is, obviously, because I am a Yankee-hater. Which means, even if they have gone 9 years without a championship, that does not seem anyway near long enough. I'm a Sox fan. I want to see them suffering from a 100-year drought. Longer. I want them to have the longest Title-less streak of any Major League Baseball team.

In short: I hate the Yankees and want them to lose.

2) I'm not ready for baseball season to end!

I love winter and snow and bright cold days. But man, I hate early November, right when baseball end, and you have an empty spot in your schedule because you aren't checking how your team did last night. At least there are the Awards, but when none of your favorite players are really in contention, there's this sad silence from the baseball world. And I don't like basketball, nor do I follow football, so I am left clutching to baseball and waiting till next year.

So. Don't die yet, baseball! Hang on, Phillies! I want the full 7 games to be forced.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

A Man's World

Photo from

This evening, I was checking one of my favorite baseball sites to see if I could find inspiration for a post. I didn't find it there, exactly, but was led to a bit of wikipedia surfing by my curiosity about the Baseball World Cup. At the bottom of the page, I found a link to the Women's Baseball World Cup.

I am shocked I haven't heard of or found out about this before!

This then led me to something even more exciting: The American Women's Baseball Federation.

Will you look at that? A national baseball league for women.

This is so exciting for me to see. When I was a kid, there was a period when I wanted to be a Major League Baseball player - like many other baseball fans.

Girls who want to play baseball, however, cannot simply play on the girls team - there is no girls team. It's not like soccer or basketball, where you can just sign up and play in a "safe" environment. No, it's more like girls playing football or ice hockey: you have to fight for the right to play.

When I was 12, I went to Baseball Camp at the University of Portland. It was one week, half-day. I was very shy and quiet, and there were about 100 participants.

I was the only girl.

The head coach, and older guy who I remember seeming always grumpy, was not happy to have me there, I think. The other main coach, who is now the head coach of the Portland Pilots, was much kinder, and much more welcoming. In addition to these two, there were several players that took part in the coaching. I only remember one had a shaved head. Most of them were nice.

By the end of the week, I had a position (outfield, which I later realized probably should have been infield), slightly improved batting skills (some is better than none), and a little respect from most of the others. The last day we split into teams for a tournament, and some of the kids on my team suggested we named ourselves the Red Sox. I was the only Sox fan in the group, and the Yankee fan protested, but was ignored.

So I considered it a success.

The following spring I played Little League. Once again, I was the only girl on my team. This time, though, the coach thought it was great that I was playing. The team was split, but it wasn't so bad - half just kinda ignored me, and I had two or three real pals. Unfortunately, my season was cut short by conflicting extracurriculars, a month-long trip to Europe, and injury (just don't ask what). I went 0 for 7 (or 8?) with 7 (or 8?) Ks and one walk. I also reached base once on a passed 3rd strike, and scored one run.

Many people asked why I didn't play softball. The reason, plain and simple, was that I didn't want to! Try telling a 12-year-old whose favorite player is a pitcher to go play softball.

But I wasn't good enough batter. All my childhood, my siblings and I played tennisball in the front yard. This meant baseball, but with tennis equipment, and you didn't stop once you kept going, but often scored 7-run homers. Your fielding skills got good, but hitting a tennis ball with a tennis racket won't make the transition to bats and hardballs easy.

So I gave up the dream of playing a few years into high school. Instead, I wrote history papers on women in baseball, and how Kenesaw Mountain Landis had ruined their chances (also those of African-Americans). I researched great women ballplayers like Toni Stone and Lizzie Murphy. I knew things, for example that Billie Jean King was big on baseball, but since she couldn't play, turned to tennis. (Her brother played in the MLB for 12 years, though.) And how could I forget Jackie Mitchell, who struck out Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig.

So I'm excited that I can now look at the present and the future for amazing women in baseball, and not only to the rather distant past. Because there is a lot more to women and professional baseball than "A League of Their Own".

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Best of British Baseball

The other day I vented on twitter, "can't believe they're making golf an Olympic sport while baseball and softball aren't."

(Actually, it's kind of a good thing they got kicked out because it made the World Baseball Classic a top priority. It sucks for softball though.)

A Dutch friend of mine replied, "It's cause golf is played around the world and... well, the States aren't the world :P"

Oh, people. Especially Dutch people, who don't even know that their country has won the European Championship 20 times, or that it beat the Dominican Republic twice in the last World Baseball Classic. Let alone the fact that they play baseball.

Well, now that the Red Sox season is officially over, and I'll be following the MLB playoffs from afar, I'm returning my focus to baseball on this side of the world. (I currently live in the Netherlands.)

As most fans know, baseball is played in huge parts of Central and South America, and Southeast Asia. South Africa competes in the WBC, though they haven't been very successful. I've heard a little about baseball in Israel.

But very few people seem to be aware of baseball in Europe, and then if they are, even fewer seem to take it seriously. (Hopefully those Dutch upsets of the DR are changing that.)

But today, as I sifted through blogs I follow on my dashboard, I came across an entry on Baseball GB about the first inductees to the British Baseball Hall of Fame.

A little more research, and what can I say? Surely nothing more than they can at those links.

But boy is it exciting to see the game spreading and growing like this. Congratulations to British Baseball and its fans!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

The New Red Sox

It used to be that you could count on the Red Sox to lose in the most spectacular way. As they said in Fever Pitch: "They don't just lose. They raise it to an art form."

All those infamous years that any real Sox fan has memorized. '46 and '75, '67 and '86... they made everyone think they were really going to win, and then they would lose in the worst and most unexpected way.

This year, we lost a different way. We lost in a way that we should have lost, when any other team would be expected to lose. The Red Sox, on the other hand, were pretty much expected to bounce back, but only because they were the Red Sox. So it came as a complete shock when they didn't.

Actually, now that I think about it... it's the same thing that happened last year. The Sox were down 3-1 in the ALCS, came all the way back to force a game 7, and then, just when everybody was sure they would pull it off (as they had, miraculously, in the 1999 & 2003 ALDS, and the 2004 & 2007 ALCS), they blew it.

I won't even try to place all of the blame on Papelbon. They played 3 games, not one, and they lost each and every one of them, with or without Papelbon.

Oh, Please, Gods of Baseball, please don't let it be an L.A. Subway Series. I don't think I could bear it, if the season came down to la-la land.

Red Sox baseball 2009 is over. Here come six months of baseball hibernation. I hate this part.

And when Joe Castiglione read those famous words of A. Bartlett Giamatti's at the end of the broadcast, that's when I fell apart.

"It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart. The game begins in the spring, when everything else begins again, and it blossoms in the summer, filling the afternoons and evenings, and then as soon as the chill rains come, it stops and leaves you to face the fall alone. You count on it, rely on it to buffer the passage of time, to keep the memory of sunshine and high skies alive, and then just when the days are all twilight, when you need it most, it stops..."

Friday, October 9, 2009

"What's not been a factor has been the Red Sox offense so far."

When they said that, in the bottom of the 8th, I was really hoping it would come back to bite them. But unfortunately, the comment remained terribly true.

But there was a bit more vintage Boston. You know, the tantalizing loss. Mike being the tying run at the plate and dashing all of our hopes just as they were starting to gain strength. It's coming back.

Now I want some 1999 vintage Boston, as in Boston losing Games 1 and 2 to Cleveland and then coming back to win 3 and advance. Or even 2003 Boston.

Plus, it's all in the patterns, and this one's worked out great:
2004: we beat the Angels in 3.
2007: we beat the Angels in 4.

So obviously it's gotta take all 5 games in 2009!

Postscript: Yet another complaint about Angels fans - today I saw one wearing what had to be an Angels golfing hat. With a diamond pattern.
And we complain about pink-hat fans? Evidently, it can be much worse.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Whole Lotta Ugly

What an ugly game.

I think the best word to describe Game 1 of the Sox-Angels ALDS is FAIL.

Above all, this game was a prime example of the Umpire Fail. The umpiring was a joke, reminiscent of the 1999 ALCS. What baseball fan, who saw those plays, could actually believe that C.B. Bucknor missed the call?

Not the people who know that he's a horrible umpire. Major League players voted him the worst umpire in 2003. He was awarded the title again in 2006. Wikipedia isn't letting "new or unregistered users" work on his wikipedia page... because of vandalism.

After today's game, I can't blame anyone who would try it. (Whether editing wikipedia is a form of vandalism is another issue for a different blog...)

Then there's the Broadcasting Fail. Considering that this was TBS, it could have been much, much worse. But, after acknowledging that two LA baserunners were out by a long shot, though Bucknor called them safe, they had the nerve to say that "Red Sox defense has been good, but they have three errors."

Without any mention to questionable calls. Come on! Why point that out, if you know that two of those errors should go to Bucknor for Ugly Umpiring?

And, last but not least - rather, worst of all - the Red Sox Fail.

Because we can complain about the horrible calls all we want, but none of them prevented our scoring runs. That was all Boston.

Pitching was fine - Jon Lester allowed a few too many walks for comfort, and obviously Torii Hunter's home run was the key to the game, but he did very well. (Especially considering the two 4-out innings he had to play...) 3 runs should not be enough to beat the Red Sox.

But it was. With only four hits, and these scattered across the innings, the offense was practically nonexistent. No one even made it passed second!

Papi struck out three times! He, along with Jacoby and Youk, went 0 for 4!

This is not the Red Sox I know and love.

Luckily, Beckett is pitching tomorrow. Here's hoping he can get something going, and inspire some offense from his teammates.

The Angels deserve to lose if only for introducing that horrid eye- and earsore, the thunderstick. Call me a baseball snob if you want to, but those things are ugly. They deserve to be banished to the NBA. (I'm ashamed to read that they first broke onto the U.S. scene in my hometown of Portland, Oregon, but that was at a soccer game so I don't really care.) Dear Korea, next time you want to export some fan fun, please send us the singing!

Go Sox!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Tiebreaker

And so it begins: the Phillies have just beat the Rockies and the 2009 playoffs are officially under way.

Yippee! October is here!

I woke up this morning and hurried to check the score of the Twins-Tigers tiebreaker (when I went to bed, it was 4-3 in the 8th inning). It looks like I missed an amazing game. I only hope it's an indication of the weeks to come!

It all seems a little unfair, though. Neither the Twins nor the Tigers were the clear winner after an entire season of 162 games, so how could it all be decided in one little game! (Okay, it could have been littler, seeing as it went into extras...)

And, one little close game. A difference of only one run to determine the division champion, and teeter-tottering scores through all 12 innings.

It doesn't seem like a fair way to choose a winner. I always think of as an even-handed game, with its best-out-of-five/seven-game-series. But, then, no one said it was fair - and as a Sox fan, I've seen plenty to prove it.

And, after all, whichever team won, the team from the Central Division would still be the worst of the four AL playoff contenders, and have a lower winning percentage than the Texas Rangers, who didn't qualify.

Anyway, I'm glad the Twins won. It may be hypocritical, as a Red Sox fan, but I like the whole culture around midwest baseball. The honest way they work, the middle-class type of team. The Red Sox are, unfortunately, like the Yankees - up in their own little penthouse, in one corner of the country, the two of them hitching free agent prices higher through their competitive offers. The Twins are the way baseball probably should be. Less flashy, but still amazing, exciting, and always managing to thrill you.

Okay, I guess the Tigers are that way, too. But the Twins have Orlando Cabrera, and ya gotta like Orlando Cabrera. Especially the way he picked up the pieces for us when the Red Sox management surprisingly and cruelly disposed of Nomar in 2004.

Also, I've been to the Twindome, and I loved the atmosphere. (Now there's an ironic sentence.) The people don't have to be diehards, and still it seemed like a place where everyone not only knew the game, but truly enjoyed it. Not like the games at Seattle, where families come for seven innings and a souvenir picture of the kids with their hot dogs, and where the attendance rises and falls with the winning percentage. Coming from a city that seems to take baseball for granted, it was nice to find a place where people valued it.

So, basically, I'm rooting for the Twins in the ALDS because I had a good experience at their ballpark.

And because I have two teams. You know the ones. The Red Sox, and whoever's playing the Yankees.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Baseball Love meets Book Love

I was just trying to catch up with my google reader list (467 items!) and came across a story on Paper Cuts (the NY Times blog about books), about Novel-T, a company that makes literary-themed baseball t-shirts.

The website has a clever fantasy team roster up, with Hester Prynne at first, Thoreau in right field, and Sawyer on second (you'd think he'd be convincing his friends what fun it is there and once accomplished, he'd nudge Huck Finn out of the shortstop position!).


Wednesday, September 23, 2009

September 23rd is a special day in my life.

In our lives, actually. Because it is the day that all three of us first (and last, in all cases but one) went to Fenway Park. It is the day that we fell in love with the Boston Red Sox. The day that we became diehard baseball fans.

So, today marks the 10-year anniversary of our family's being fans of the Boston Red Sox.

It's been a wild ride, as it has for anyone who's followed the Sox these years. From that 1999 postseason that first reeled us in, to the ever-painful 2003, to the elation of 2004, and the repeat in 2007 (which happened came at 6 am on a Tuesday morning for me), we've loved it.

And it keeps getting better. Even though a core part of being a Red Sox fan went away when they won, we wouldn't give that up for anything. Now we can take more pleasure in the little things - beating the Yankees, for example. Or having a couple of Oregonians, Washingtonians, and even a British Columbian on the squad. We still get those amazing come-from-behind victories and still expect to be figuring in the playoffs - but we'd stick with them till the end, even if we weren't.

It's changed us, too. The most obvious example, in my case, is that I speak Spanish mainly because I'm a Red Sox fan - if I had never gone to that game, I never would have worshiped Pedro Martinez, and then, I never would have lived in the Dominican Republic.

Let me take a moment to remember some of the Red Sox-y things we've done:

-Gone to Fenway Park.
-Seen the Yankees play the Red Sox at Fenway Park. (This only applies to Fran, sadly)
-Built a Johnny Damon snowman (before he went to the dark side)
-Gone to Jacoby Ellsbury's 2007 Welcome Home Parade
-Seen the Red Sox in Oakland - multiple times
-Seen the Red Sox in Seattle - many, many times
-Seen the Red Sox lose in 19 innings
-Gone to see "Fever Pitch" with the whole street, all fellow Sox fans, dressed to the nines in Sox gear and cheering
-Gotten autographs from Jason Varitek, Johnny Damon (before he was evil), Pedro Martinez, John Valentin, and several others
-Cried all night and skipped school the next day when the Sox lost in 2003
-Seen Johnny Pesky speak at Portland's PGE Park
-Watched or listened to Red Sox games at any and all times of day
-Moved to the Dominican Republic in search of the baseball life (this one only applies to me)
-And much more...

So I couldn't let the day pass without taking the time to reflect on the Red Sox and the past ten years.

Now that I have, I think I'll go curl up and watch "Fever Pitch", and relive that amazing year.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Hometown Hero

Today, during the first game of the Red Sox's double header against the Rays, the broadcasters were talking about the emails they had received at Soxbooth. People from South Dakota and Wyoming invited them out to visit. They had heard from The Dakotas, Utah, Tacoma... even Portland, Oregon! "Of course," they added, "the fans in Portland are mighty proud of Jacoby Ellsbury."

True story! We ARE proud of our Jacoby! Of course, he isn't really a Portlander, seeing as he grew up in the town of Madras. But Oregon is small enough - and has produced so few Major Leaguers - that any connection with the state will do.

And Jacoby is Oregonian in a big way: Oregon-born, Oregon-raised - even Oregon-educated, as he stayed in-state for college (OSU). He's probably even more Oregonian than I am.

Oh, yes, we love him. Some members of my family - namely, the other "contributors" to this blog - went to Jacoby's welcome home parade in Madras in 2007.

Francesca took this picture. She was actually that close to Jacoby.

Apparently it really was a hometown affair; F and G say they felt a little out of place, like intruders. But what an experience.

Anyway, I thought it was time for a tribute to the guy who means so much to Massachusetts and Oregon - and all of Red Sox Nation. After all, he just had a birthday on Friday - he's 26 now.

So, Jacoby, this one's for you. Hope you have many, many more years of excellent baseball in your future.

And I hope they're in Boston.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Baseball on the Radio

Tonight, I'm listening to the Sox game. (As opposed to watching it.)

I used to listen to games all the time. That was mainly out of necessity: In Portland, before, there was only Gameday Audio and the occasional national broadcast. Other than that, if you were out of area, the Red Sox were not available on television. You could only listen to it over the radio.

In 2000, I spent summer afternoons, from 4 until dinnertime, upstairs in the stuffy study with a scorecard or my journal, listening to the Red Sox. Okay, not every afternoon, but a huge amount of them. It's a very pleasant memory. Sleepy warmth and good baseball - I especially remember a come-from-behind win on a double off the Monster by Nomar against the Texas Rangers. It was a sweet summer, except for all of the drama with Carl Everett and Pedro getting punched by Gerald Williams of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and barely missing a no-hitter against them.

Lately, though, I've been watching a lot more games. It gets cheaper every year on, and it's nice to know what players look like, to see how they run, how they catch, what their wind-up or batting stance looks like. I heard about Jacoby Ellsbury scoring from 2nd on a wild pitch, but didn't see it - didn't see him play - until months after it had happened. Since then, I've preferred watching to listening.

But there are other benefits to listening to the games. For one thing, I like the announcers better. For another thing, you learn more. The announcers talk more - there's more color commentary and therefore more background information. And I like the commercials, because they're local - to Boston. It makes me feel closer.

Coincidentally, I was surfing the web today, looking for updates about the Portland Beavers, and found this Dwight Jaynes post about building a casino by the Rose Quarter. At first I shuddered. Can you think how horrific that would be? Whenever there's a concert at the RQ the traffic is insane. Imagine having concerts at the RQ AND a casino? And those horrible lights? And the very idea... I kind of agreed with Gov. Kulongoski when he refused to let a casino in Portland to fund MLB, even though I really wanted an MLB team. He was right: baseball and gambling don't mix, as Shoeless Joe and Pete Rose know too well. It was... in bad taste.

But then, while thinking about baseball on the radio, I remembered my favorite commercial: The Foxwood's Casino jingle. "Take a chance, make it happen/roll the dice, fingers snapping/Spin the wheel, round and round we go-o/life is short, life is sweet/grab yourself a front-row seat/and let's meet, and have a ba-all/at the wonder of it all" and then the background people chant, "Meet me at FOXwoods."

Scary, the things we remember, but I loved that jingle, and I was sad when they changed it. I would pick that to sing in a karaoke bar for sure.

And then I realized: there's one casino-baseball connection that isn't so horrible.

Kind of tacky, and really not something you want to associate with baseball.

But I think I'd rather have a casino and baseball than no baseball at all.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Save the Beavers - or Bust

I can't sleep, so I'm downstairs at the laptop, trying to organize my thoughts.

They mostly concern the Portland Beavers.

The Portland Beavers are the local baseball team. They've been around for all but a few years since 1903. They are currently the Triple-A affiliate for the San Diego Padres. And they're being threatened by Major League Soccer.

I've got nothing against MLS. In fact, I'd be thrilled to know the Timbers are being promoted to the MLS if only I could be assured that it wouldn't affect the Beavers. Because I know there are a lot of soccer fans in Portland, and they deserve to be rewarded for being faithful fans.

But I also feel strongly that all of Portland's baseball fans deserve a reward.

I remember a few years ago, when the Montreal Expos were being relocated, and Portland was one of the final cities being considered for the relocation. Boy, did I want that Major League Baseball team. It was so... big. Mind you, I wasn't a kid anymore; I was well into my teens. And yet the idea of Major League Baseball in Portland seemed so magical to me. I could picture the jerseys, brighter white than any the Beavers had worn, against a background of REAL grass (as opposed to artificial turf). My family spent time brainstorming possible team names and colors. We learned the facts and the reasons, Why Portland Is a Major League City.

To this day, we have a bumper sticker on our fridge: "Bring Major League Baseball AND Education to Portland!"

Now we're using those facts and reasons again, but this time it's not run for a promotion to the big leagues.

It's to save our poor triple-A behinds.

Here are some of the facts:
Portland is the third-largest city without a Major League Baseball team (after Sacramento and Orlando).

Five Major League cities are smaller than Portland.

Some say that Portland is not a big league city, judging by the attendance of Beavers games at PGE Park. Many of these like to compare these statistics to those of the Timbers Minor League Soccer team. To those I say: the Timbers play 15 home games a year. Obviously they get bigger crowds than the Beavers, who play about 70 home games each season.

Another reason Portlanders aren't considered diehard Beavers fans? It can be hard to get swept away by players in AAA ball when they're always coming up from AA or going up to the Majors or being traded in clusters for a major leaguer for the parent team. The lack of superstar makes it harder to invest yourself in a team and it's win-loss record.

But that doesn't mean we don't have favorites. The last summer I was home, I went to several Beavers games and always hoped to see Yordany Ramirez playing. If he wasn't, I was pretty happy to watch Pete LaForest. Familiar names such as Manny Alexander, Shea Hillenbrand and Hiram Bocachica come through on breaks from the Majors. And Portland Beaver Chad Huffman received a huge ovation during the Triple-A All-Star Game, and the umpire was severely booed when he was called out on strikes. In his second at-bat, the Beaver was greeted by enthusiastic cheers of "Let's Go Huffman".

I'm sorry to say I've taken the Beavers for granted. Now, however, I got to sleep every night upset at the thought of a Portland without a baseball team. Every morning I read the columns in the Oregonians by people who have ideas for saving the Beavers but no means of carrying them out and almost no support by public figures, such as Mayor Sam Adams, and resign myself to the likelihood that the Beavers will be tucked away in the suburbs, somewhere I won't be able to get to nearly as often. And for what?

So the Timbers can play their 15 games as a Major League team in an improved stadium.

Really, I'm happy for Portland soccer fans. I just think that MLS should not come at the expense of professional baseball, no matter the league.

We may not have a lot of options, but we have some. I hope you'll sign this petition and help us try to keep the Beavers in Portland, their home of nearly 100 years.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Putting the "Home" in "Home Run"

Today was the Minor League All-Star Game Home Run Derby, and boy, what a show.

It was easy to surpass expectations, because ours were relatively low. When the announcer said, "Who doesn't love a long ball?" the three of us looked at each other carefully. Sure, we love a Big Papi Dinger, or a the occasional grand slam that shakes you to your gut. Personally, I was always a big fan of the Brian Daubach come-from-behind shot.

But in general we're not big fans of the home run. They're a little boring. They're exciting, but it's kind of a cheap thrill. A showy, long home run does not seem like good sportsmanship.

The Home Run Derby, however, started with excitement and kept it going all the way through.

It opened with two local high schoolers. The first, Kevin Taylor of Sunset High School, neatly lined eight balls over the right field fence. Eight home runs ended up being the most of any player in the first round. One of these eight was powerful enough to just brush the MAC club balcony and win a free Oregon slider for everyone in the ballpark.

Kinda like that time another Oregonian, Jacoby Ellsbury, won a free taco for every person in the country. (But that's a different story.)

Taylor advanced to the second round, which has to be one of the greatest gifts a guy can get on his 18th birthday, along with Terry Evans (Salt Lake Bees), Portland Beaver Chad Huffman and Shelley Duncan of the Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees, who we soon recognized from certain MLB games between the Sox and Yankees.

This led to lots of booing from the stands (okay, granted, there was a little cheering, too).

The man behind me leaned forward and asked, "So, tell me, why does Portland hate that guy so much?"

"Well, because really, most of us are Red Sox fans," I replied, "or, at the very least, Yankee-haters!"

A quick consultation of wikipedia told us of Duncan's writing negative comments about the Red Sox in a 10-year-old Boston fan's notebook, in addition to spiking Tampa Bay's Akinori Iwamura. We booed with increased enthusiasm.

Taylor did not fare so well in the second round and was unable to get a single ball over the fence. Still, his total of eight was third only to Duncan (nine in two rounds), and Huffman (10).

Duncan started the finals and managed only one home run on four outs. His last at-bat sent a long, high ball out onto 18th Ave, just foul. I may be biased but I believe it was a fair call. Some viewers protested, but Duncan really went too far. In a friendly competition, he refused to simply accept probable defeat, instead staying at the plate and trying to convince the officials that the ball was fair, citing the fans who wanted to have seen another home run.

It draws an analogy, in my mind, to the players who do steroids in order to please a brand of baseball, a public, that relies too heavily on showy home runs. Cheating to please the fans doesn't make it any better.

He was an ungracious loser. You see, Yankees fans really think they have class - you can tell by the way the fans refer to the team's clean-cut image with remarks such as "Johnny Damon had to come to New York so he could learn to take a shower". (Easily countered by stories such as the Roger Clemens bat incident, your choice of A-Rod stories, such as swatting the ball out of Bronson Arroyo's arm, rumors of steroid use, and his alleged affair with Madonna, and Duncan's afore-mentioned spiking incident) They don't realize that they are mostly spoiled to the point of taking wins for granted and being terrible sports.

When Huffman stepped up to bat, he received a larger cheer and ovation. He hit one home run, then a second, and won the competition. (He hit a total of five, earning $500 in prize money.)

So: Local Boy Wows Crowd, Hometown Hero is Home Run Champ!

I complained the other day about an obnoxious Yankee supporter at Saturday's Fan Fest. I saw him again today, but this time with his leg in a heavy-duty splint. I wouldn't wish another bodily harm, not even a Yankee fan, but the combination of this sighting with Duncan's embarrassing performance gave me a pleasant thought to last me all evening:

Redemption is Sweet.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Stankee Yankees

It's been a long time since I've experienced much American baseball culture. Although the last time I was here during baseball season was only two years ago, it seems like a mighty long time since I've come into contact with many other baseball fans.

So I still love the sport, and I still keep tabs on my Red Sox, and I still hate the Yankees, and I still get a thrill when I walk into a ballpark or hear the quickened, excited voice of an announcer calling an amazing play.

But I had forgotten how MUCH I hate the Yankees. I even forgot a big part of WHY I hate the Yankees.

There's that annoyingly high payroll, which we Sox fans can't complain about since we're nearly as bad as they are. (Although we still don't get all the big names the way they do, just picking up whoever happens to be hot. The Red Sox are a more crafted team, thought out in terms of chemistry and specific talent and where we can sacrifice offense for a better fielder and vice-versa, while the Yankees just grab whatever name will take the money.)

There's the stupid clean-cut look of the team, and Evil Steinbrenner. There's the obnoxious way they sing Sinatra's "New York, New York" after all the games. There's the fact that the got a new stadium with a non-commercial name, payed for by the city, while the Mets got Citi Field.

But the thing I forgot about was the fans.

I mean, I knew I hated that part, too. But I forgot just how obnoxious they can be.

Yesterday, we got in line to get some autographs at PGE Park, and who should be in line behind my sister and I, but a Yankees fan.

This guy was a real genuine New Yorker, too.

What's the first thing he did?

"Are you real Red Sox fans?" he asked.
"uh, yes", we said, already on our guard.
He immediately asked us if we'd heard of two old Sox players. We hadn't.

The Sox fan in front of us had, though, and told us when they had played (in the 60's). We protested that we were Sox fans before they won. (Even though we weren't there to see '86, we did experience the heartache of the 2003 ALCS and Aaron Boone, and that's really all you can expect of this generation of Sox fans. That moment, and stories of expectation, hope, and heartache gone by.) We also explained that we had lived in Boston, and surprisingly, he did back off a little.

But a little isn't much when you're talking about a Yankee fan.

As my mom pointed out, there's nothing you can do about them. No matter what you say, they'll have a retort. "You won on luck. That doesn't count." "Oh, so 2007 was also just luck?" "Wait till you win four, five years in a row. Then you can talk." Or, "You only won because of Manny, and he was on steroids." You can bring up A-Roid, but it won't make a difference. He'll find something else to throw back at you.

Now I remember why I hate the Yankees.

About 6 or 7 years ago, my siblings and I would give a relentless evil eye to anyone we saw with a Yankees hat. Of course, in Portland, a lot of people wearing Yankee hats are not the kind of people who care all that much, so they must have gotten really startled. I think it's time to brush up that Evil Eye and start using it on the Evil Empire again.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Baseball, Amsterdam Time - Part II

Or, How To Be A Nocturnal Baseball Fan

This entry is a little out of place here, because I published Part I on my other blog last October: dealing with baseball games at inconvenient times. If the game starts at 7.05 PCT, then I can get up at 4:30 a.m. and still catch the last few innings. If it's a day game, I can watch it here at 7 p.m. if it takes place on the West Coast, or 10 if it's on the East Coast - both entirely doable.

If the game starts at 7:05 on the East Coast, though (which happens a lot with the Red Sox), I'm pretty much out of luck - that's 1:05 a.m. over here.

During the playoffs, I'll go to bed at 8 or 9, get up at 1.30, and go back to sleep (hopefully) around 5. That adds up to a decent 6 or 7 hours of sleep.

That's only for the truly hardcore, though, the do-or-die (the playoffs). When I know I can't justify so many hours of baseball (for example, when there's a gauntlet of schoolwork to run over the next three weeks), I go for Time Difference Option #2.

The Sox are playing the Yankees this weekend, and no Sox fan wants to miss that. For Friday's 7.05 game, I set up my laptop next to my bed and watched the first inning (did you see Jacoby score on a passed ball from second base?! That's my boy!) while I wrote in my journal. Around 1.40, I turned out the light, but left the game on, and set my alarm for 3:40. The alarm would wake me up in time for the last inning or two.

I don't remember waking up for the ninth inning, but because of the sound coming and going for commercial breaks, I woke up periodically. I remember seeing the Sox were losing 4-2.

Next thing I know, it's 5:40, and I'm wide awake. I check my phone and see I've already re-set the alarm for the morning. I check the game. It's the top of the 11th inning.

It's like I have a biological Red Sox clock, or something.

Because what happens in the top of the 11th? The Yankees nearly score - but NO CIGAR!

And what happens in the bottom of the 11th?

That would be Kevin Youkilis. Yes, Youkilis happens. He hits a walk-off home run to end the game.

Can I get a boo-yah?
Then I rolled over and fell back asleep. I woke up happy, if not refreshed, because it's not a good way to get a good night's sleep. But it is a decent way to catch the game, if you happen to be an expat baseball fan.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Foreign Fan

I woke up this morning and saw that Team USA lost to Japan last night.


My brother is always annoyed at my choice of team in international sporting tournaments. In the World Cup or the Euro Cup, I never root for the US, and rarely the Czech Republic (our Dad is Czech), usually favoring France or Italy or, in the last few years, the Dutch team. In baseball, the Dominican Republic has always been a very attractive choice for me.

I think he understands the situation a little better now that he's spent a year in Ecuador and supports their soccer/football, but he still doesn't understand why I never root for Team USA.

The answer is relatively simple: they're boring.

Why would I root for US baseball when I already root for an American baseball team 6 months out of the year?

I love my Boston Red Sox, granted, and I love the players. But the style of play just isn't exciting on the international field.

When the World Baseball Classic came around in 2006, I was astounded at the final game. Japan vs. Cuba - a totally different kind of ball game than I was used to seeing. Each team had very distinct strategies, and each played their own special brand of baseball.

Moreover, if the point of the WBC is to spread the game of baseball, it wouldn't do to have the US clobber the little guys all the time. That is not good motivation for the countries with the up-and-coming baseball programs.

So I'm kind of excited that the US didn't make it to the finals, and it will be Japan vs. Korea. Japan actually has a Sox player on their team (Daisuke Matsuzaka), and there weren't any left on Team USA. Japan and Korea have a big rivalry, and the game should be thrilling.

Monday, March 16, 2009

On the Bright (Orange) Side...

When your team loses, it never looks good - no matter which way you look at it.

But it doesn't have to look bad.

Here's what I have to say about the Dutch national team in the 2009 World Baseball Classic: They played really well.

You've heard it all by now - they were the "Darlings" of the Classic, the underdogs, the team everyone expected to lose every game they played - even after they had proven themselves with two wins against the superpower Dominican Republic and a close loss to Puerto Rico.

Even in Sunday's game, I couldn't believe how quick the announcers were to dismiss the Netherlands. For example, "Japan is scouting whoever they might play next, and in this case it would be the US". In only the 5th inning. And this, just after they had credited the Dutch team with never giving up.

The Brian Roberts story didn’t help – it’s a very dubious situation. The rules surrounding last-minute roster changes such as these are apparently very vague. What it all boils down to is when the second-round pool actually started: when the Netherlands played Venezuela on Saturday, or when the US played Puerto Rico seven hours later. Either way, I think that it is inexcusable that Netherlands manager Rod Delmonico was not informed of the change until the last minute.

I won’t try to displace the blame - the Netherlands lost, fair and square. The pitching, which had been their strength all along, really fell apart. These guys like Rick van den Hurk, Juan Carlos Sulbaran, and to a lesser extent Dennis Bergman and Leon Boyd, who had given stellar clutch performances throughout the first round, were totally inconsistent. Van den Hurk and Sulbaran had a combined 6 runs (4 of them earned).

But the Dutch offense really pulled it together. The Netherlands matched the US in hits with 12 – a huge feat for a team who had been pretty weak offensively, and beat the Dominican Republic in their first game on only three hits (with the help of a few errors).

And besides the fact that they played so well in Round 1 and shocked the baseball world by advancing to Round 2, there’s a second element of pride to their success: They never gave up. Even against the US, when they were down 8-0, they played the full nine innings and went out there swinging, right down to the last out. No matter how well or badly the US does from here on out, I will take considerable comfort in the fact that Team Nederland gave the powerful Puerto Ricans a run for their money, twice, and was never mercy-ruled into a shortened loss.

That’s more than Team USA can say.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Broadcasting Bloopers, part 2

Unbelievable. Since the last game, they've managed to mess up even the pronunciation of Schoop's name, making him sound like an ice cream serving. So much for the broadcasting I was so impressed by in the first Pool.

Broadcasting Bloopers

The broadcast of a baseball game can, at times, be very annoying. I've written about this before. Sometimes the announcers share fascinating bits of information and talk about very interesting aspects of the game. Other times, they say ridiculous, boring, or totally outlandish things that drive the viewers (or maybe it's just me?) crazy.

So far, in the World Baseball Classic, I've been rather impressed with the announcers of the Dutch games. I mean, there have been some exaggerations - for example, an announcer saying that Eugene Kingsale or Sidney de Jong is a household name in the Netherlands. Most of the Dutch people I've met don't even know that the Dutch play professional baseball, let alone thenames of these players.

Really, though, I've learned a lot about the Dutch professional baseball league - the Hoofdklasse - from the commentary, the training camps in the Netherlands and the MLB organizations that have interests in the Netherlands Antilles, and about the multi-national backgrounds of various players and coaches on the national team (including as it does players from the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles, and people like Leon Boyd, who has dual Canadian-Dutch citizenship). I've even been impressed with the pronunciation of Dutch names.

Until Saturday's game against Venezuela. The announcers changed, and so did the quality - it sank, just a little. Previously, they had pronounced "Jansen" - and indeed, most Dutch names - the Dutch way. (In this case, "Yahnsun"). But on Saturday they went with what sounded like "Jantzen". The only exception was Sharlon Schoop, whose name has been pronounced more or less accurately, as "scope" - about as good as one can expect from an American broadcast, as the [ch] sound (the phoneme /x/, a voiceless velar fricative, for any fellow linguists out there) doesn't really exist in the English language.

But the highlight of this reel of broadcasting bloopers?

That came when one of the announcers referred to the Netherlands as a central European country.

The Netherlands has a sea coast. The Netherlands is in Western Europe, in both the geographical and socio-economical senses of the term. Do a quick google search for "central Europe", and you'll find a few images of maps, none of which include the Netherlands. Even the wikipedia article on the subject doesn't mention the Netherlands, except in one rather unrelated parenthetical note about a hundred-year-old military conquest.

Get with the program, guys. There are tons of people compiling background information for you. Maybe, since it's the World Baseball Classic, you should ask for a world map, too.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Guilty Conscience?

I'm up in Vancouver this week, so watching bits of WBC from yet another vantage--Canada's already out, so apparently now their attention rests on the Dutch team.

Maybe this article, in today's The Globe and Mail will ease Grace's mind and heart a bit. It's about Leon Boyd, a pitcher on the Dutch team, who has dual Canadian and Dutch citizenship. And about going to Seattle at age 14 to see his childhood idol pitch. Guess who!

Apparently the Dutch passed on Boyd initially (he got his passport in 2005) and so he got his first breaks with the Hoboken Pioneers (Belgium)--perhaps a team Grace and Francesca saw last summer--before moving on to Dutch teams in 2007 (unclear which team).

Don't you love the way baseball always has a story?

Guilty Conscience

A few weeks ago, I wrote about my conflicting interest in two of the teams that would be competing in the World Baseball Classic. Realistically, I didn't think it would be a big deal. The Dominican Republic is extremely talented and powerful; the Netherlands is an underdog - and before the Classic began even that seemed like a bit of an overstatement.

In game 1, I rooted for the Netherlands, knowing that even if they lost I would be happy in the DR win, or amused by the upset. But amusement was hardly the feeling; it was a mix of shock, excitement and awe.

And then Oranje did it again in the second game against Puerto Rico - barely losing at the last minute, but holding the lead most of the game and staying competitive all the way through.

So last night, in the elimination game between the NL and the DR, I had no idea who to root for. I have strong emotional attachments to both countries, and very dear friends in both. I understand both of these countries and their people - not as a native, perhaps, but as much more than a mere tourist. There was no way it could end well.

During the game I found myself rooting for whoever was pitching. I was rooting for Jimenez to set the new strikeout record, and he did. I was rooting for Pedro to pitch really well and keep the Netherlands off the bases. But whenever the Dominicans got a hit, it felt like they were the opponents. And it was the same way with the Netherlands - I wanted Stuifbergen to get out of the jam in the 4th inning but I was pleased to see them getting blanked by the DR for so many innings.

And it continued that way, until, in the 8th inning or so, with Jimenez and Pedro in the dugout, and Big Papi taken out for a defensive replacement, I realized I not only wanted the Dutch pitchers to hold the Dominicans at bay, but I wanted the batters to get on base and start producing runs.

I was veering towards the Netherlands.

The stress and intensity of the extra innings and that unbelievable Hollywood ending sealed the deal for me, and by the end I was for the Dutch, through and through. They deserved it; they weren't the ones falling apart in the end with sloppy pitching and fielding. No, that was the Dominicans.

Fast forward to this morning, when I wake up and look around my room and notice the oppressive presence of a large map of the Dominican Republic on one wall, the national flag on another. Pedro Martinez, Manny Ramirez and David Ortiz glare at me from their glossy photos above the door. And on the wall next to my bed, a 1996 baseball card of the young and talented Pedro Martinez, still on the Expos, reminds me how indebted I feel to him.

I'm so thrilled for the Netherlands, and I shiver when I think of the game or watch the highlights reel online. But when I look up at the Dominican flag, or a song that expresses the atmosphere of the DR comes on my iPod's shuffle, I can't help feeling just a wee bit guilty and ungrateful.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Baseball Heart

This morning I logged on to find that my sister has written countless posts about the World baseball classic and everything else baseball, when I have one single post at the bottom of the page from last October. Actually it's probably not even on the page anymore.

There are many things I could blame this on, but I won't try, because I know baseball is my first priority. And it's not that I haven't thought abaout baseball, becasue I have. I just haven't got around to writing about it. So, here goes...

It's MARCH!!!!!! My first big reminder of baseball season was a couple of weeks ago when I turned on the TV and found that TiVo had 3 episodes of NEW baseball tonights (This was before we lost cable and I've had to turn to slow and choppy MLB.TV connections)!!! And now I find it everywhere. My school's baseball team has practices every day now, and sometimes I get to sit after school and score a practice game, either in sun or snow (Portland can never make up its mind!).

And then there's the World Baseball Classic. My team this year was Italy. A slightly unusual choice I guess, but I just got accepted to go on exchange to Italy for my junior year. And I was pleasantly surprised by their first game! Sure, they lost to Venezuela, and it was an ugly score, but they were so much better than I expected, especially the defense.... And the Italy team reminded me of why I love baseball so much. The best part about watching baseball, for me, is seeing people like Jacoby, DPed, and Papi. They look like playing baseball makes them happy, and it's the same for the Italian players. They are full of baseball heart! The worst thing is to watch baseball players who look bored... maybe that's why so man people seem to think baseball is boring nowadays?

Seeing the baseball heart on the Italian team makes me even more excited for opening day!!!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Late Night Heartache

It's 3 a.m and I just watched the most amazing game: Netherlands vs. Puerto Rico, Pool D of the World Baseball Classic.

In just two games, the Netherlands are beginning to remind me of the Red Sox of old - the team that always built us up just to let us down.

Tonight's game was really an incredible one. Both teams played very well, until the Dutch pitching broke down and walked 3 guys in the 8th inning - who all eventually scored to take the 1-0 lead the Netherlands had held since the 2nd inning.

Actually, aside from starting pitcher Rick van den Hurk, none of the Dutch pitchers did as well as they did in their first game against the Dominican Republic. 19-year-old Juan Carlos Sulbaran came in and struck out Ivan Rodriguez on three straight pitches to end the 6th, but that was where the good stuff ended.

I'm glad I stayed up to watch the game, even though it's 3 a.m. and I have class in less than 6 hours. But I don't think I'll sleep very well.

No, I'll probably be tossing and turning, knowing that this time tomorrow night I will not be happy with whichever team advances. See, if you like both teams that are playing, it's impossible to just be happy for whichever team wins. I always end up feeling bummed about the team that lost. I wanted the Dominican Republic to go all the way, but I was so excited for a huge Dutch upset.

I guess I'll have to take on a split mentality: One half that can focus on seeing the glass as half-full, and another that can continuously repeat to herself, "Wait till next year..."

Sunday, March 8, 2009

"Upset" is an Understatement

Yes, this is what I call passion, too, Mr. Ponson.

I am so happy that baseball is back. It's like a time machine. Seeing Pedro on the mound sends me back to 1999 when I first got into the Red Sox and baseball. Seeing the Netherlands come up and beat the mighty Dominicans is the perfect way to think of the future of baseball. During tonight's DR game, the announcers said the Canada-US game was like an MLB game. Which is exactly what I don't want, at least not in the Classic. This is when we get to see the different styles, all of the different approaches to the game.

And I'm getting that out of Pool D.

Saturday, March 7, 2009


I'm watching my first baseball game of 2009, and it's Japan vs. Korea in the World Baseball Classic. And it's amazing - only two batters and already Japan has two on and none out and the sight of Ichiro coming up to the plate literally made me shiver.

God I love this game.

I've decided to root for Japan in this matchup, because Ichiro is exciting and the Red Sox' Daisuke Matsuzaka, and I think all of those Japanese Game Shows I watched last night with my houstemates are a good omen.

Oh yeah, look at that! Another single and Ichiro scores from second.

This game will hopefully fulfill my good baseball quota before I watch the Netherlands take on the Dominican Republic tonight. I think I'll root for the Netherlands, but I don't actually believe that they have a chance...

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

WBC Loyalties

Baseball in Barahona, Dominican Republic

I have been looking forward to the 2009 World Baseball Classic ever since the 2006 one ended. The funny thing is, I never expected that I would see them both from two different participating countries, and neither would be the U.S.

In the first half of 2006, I lived in the Dominican Republic. I watched the games in the living room with my host family, or upstairs on my own; whichever way, the atmosphere was electric. I rooted for the DR, of course. No question. There weren't enough Red Sox players on the US team, and there were several Yankees players that I couldn't stand. I was familiar with many of the famous Dominican players who had never played in the US Major Leagues. It was an easy choice.

This year, I'll be watching from the Netherlands. I think I'll be rooting for them as well.

I don't expect the same charged atmosphere I experienced in the DR, and I certainly don't expect the outcome. The Netherlands won only one game in the 2006 classic; the Dominican Republic made it to the semifinals.

But in 2006, the DR had Big Papi.

In 2009, they have - shudder - A-Rod.

The plot thickens when you realize that these two teams are playing their first game against each other.

I hope it's on TV here. The local time would be 7 pm on a Saturday. Maybe some of my housemates could get sucked into it.

Probably not, though. Not when Nederland is going to get crushed by La Republica Dominicana...