Girls can be legitimate baseball fans – and not just butt watchers

Archive for September, 2014

The Final Curtain

Just over twenty-four hours ago, I wrote that I didn’t have appropriate words to write a tribute to Derek Jeter. I was able to write a little something personal about what his career meant to me, but it was nothing special. There are a million other people out there who could write far better tributes to a legend than I can. But here I am again, writing about the same guy I couldn’t write about yesterday, because he played such an emotional final game in New York I couldn’t possibly ignore it.
Prior to last night’s game, I never thought any player could possibly top Mariano Rivera’s exit from the game a year ago. There was perfect weather and a wonderful ceremony for Mariano Rivera Day. A few days later, he was pulled from the game by his friends Jeter and Andy Pettite in a fitting end to his career. The whole experience, in my opinion, was perfect. I believe in God, and I believe all things happen for a reason – and I believe God blessed Mariano Rivera in 2013 with such a beautiful final series and exit from baseball.
Jeter’s last game looked like it might end up a disaster. Rain hit New York all day and was expected to go all night. There were doubts as to whether the Orioles and Yankees would even be able to play. The same rain storm hit DC the night before, cancelling the Mets and Nationals game I had tickets for. It didn’t look promising for Derek Jeter’s last game in the Bronx.
Looking back, there’s no doubt that God blessed another departing Yankee.
Joe Girardi said he had planned for Jeter to walk around the field, eventually joining former teammates to leave the field for the last time. It would be a symbolic way for his friends, who he considers his brothers, to say “the end is here, it’s time to come with us.” That ending would have been beautiful, and undoubtedly Yankee fans would have loved it. Some fans speculated that Jeter’s parents would somehow pull him out of the game – very fitting for the two who raised him, and who have been through every game of his life right along with him. But neither was meant to be.
Hiroki Kuroda (in maybe his last game ever?) started out by giving up two solo homeruns in the top of the first. Luckily, the Yankees answered right back and scored two runs of their own in the bottom of the first. Kuroda somehow goes on to pitch a magnificent game, as though it was completely normal to start a game by giving fans a heart attack and then be untouchable the rest of the game.
The homeruns go to right, and right center. Seeing Ichiro Suzuki in right field, I can’t help but wonder if this is his last game too – or maybe just his last game in pinstripes? He needs less than two hundred hits to reach 3,000 career hits in the MLB (not counting his hits in Japan). Does he call it quits now or make a push to reach that milestone? But that’s a thought another thought for another day.
We all know the rest of this story – even if you weren’t watching the game you have heard the rest of the story. Admittedly, I am a big fan of David Robertson, I think he’s done great job trying to replace the world’s best closer, and I want him back next season. As he gave up the two homeruns, blowing the save and potentially costing my team the game, I started to feel unsure about that. But that inning – the walk to Nick Markakis, the homeruns by Adam Jones and Steve Pearce – were meant to be. David Robertson was meant to fall apart on the mound. As pissed as Yankee fans were about Robertson “ruining” Jeter’s last game, their glimmer of hope was that The Captain would bat in the bottom of the 9th for (maybe?) one last time. We don’t know if we’re going to extra innings for bonus Jeter or not. Maybe he’s got a little more magic for the Bronx?
And as it goes, Jose Pirela hits a single. Antoan Richardson is the pinch runner who moves to second on Brett Gardner’s double, then scores the winning run on Jeter’s base hit. Ballgame over – history made.
Some people theorized that Evan Meek, Buck Showalter, and the Orioles played soft so Jeter would get the hit and his big moment. I am absolutely certain that did not happen – just as certain that no one on the Orioles team did any favors for Derek Jeter, the Yankees, or this historic night. This Orioles team plays hard no matter what the circumstances; that’s why they have been so successful this season, and that’s why they’re headed to the playoffs. (And good luck to them!)
More significant than Jeter’s hit – and it was a fantastic one! – was Richardson crossing home plate safely. Obviously he needed to score the run for Jeter to have the game winning RBI. But, I live in Orioles territory, have seen many Orioles games this season, and I thought for sure Richardson would be thrown out at the plate – because of Nick Markakis. Richardson certainly had the speed to make it – otherwise he wouldn’t have been the pinch runner – but Markakis has a cannon of an arm in right field. The throw he made to the plate was just about in time, but just a little off target up the third base line, and was merely average. I don’t consider Nick Markakis an average right fielder. (I’ve seen him throw runners out at the plate from a lot deeper.) I do not believe Markakis slacked on the play at all – but the throw wasn’t meant to be a typical Nick Markakis defensive throw.
The rain stopped. Robertson blew the save. Jeter hit a single. Markakis’ throw was uncharacteristic. Richardson crossed home safely.
Say what you will about the events that happened, but I believe it was a force bigger than anything on earth. If you ask, it was an act of God that so many things should line up so perfectly. No one could have scripted a better ending to Derek Jeter’s career in pinstripes, in the Bronx, and at shortstop.

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Farewell Captain

It’s no secret that Derek Jeter is retiring. We are all aware of this, and we have been for many months. With his final game at Yankee Stadium just hours away, it’s becoming more real by the minute.

There has been no shortage of tributes to The Captain from various sources, and understandably so. With the Hall of Fame worthy career  he’s had – he deserves every tribute. For nearly two decades he’s been the shortstop for the Yankees, and has conducted himself beautifully.

That being said, Jeter has never been one of my favorite players. In no way do I dislike him – he’s just not my personal favorite. So I haven’t written a tribute because I can’t write something as touching as so many other fans have.

But today, I read a blog post from Bleeding Yankee Blue about Derek Jeter’s dash. When his plaque goes up in Monument Park, there will be a start year, a final year, and a dash between. What matters the most is what you do in that dash.

For me, Derek Jeter’s dash represents all the years I know of baseball. From the day I started watching baseball in 1997, Derek Jeter has been the shortstop for the Yankees. Baseball has changed a lot in that time, and Jeter has always been the constant.

When he leaves the field for the last time, I know my heart will break. It will feel like a best friend is leaving – and even if you see each other again, it will never been the same.

Baseball will continue on as it always has. There have been captains before and there will be captains again. But for a younger baseball fan, I only know Derek Jeter as the Yankees captain. It’s an unsettling feeling going forward and knowing that won’t be true in 2015.

Somehow, I failed to realize this until today.

So – farewell, Captain. I wish you all the best for the future, and thank you for all your dash represents to me, and to everyone.

Reflections on the 2014 season

This past summer, I made a goal for myself: I wanted to see my three favorite baseball teams play in their home stadiums. I was successful in making my goal, and now that baseball season is almost over, I’ve spent a good amount of time reflecting on what I’ve been able to see and do in just this one season.
The first game I attended this season was June 22 – the Orioles and Yankees at Yankee Stadium. (Reason for this game: Yankees are my favorite team.) My trip to the Bronx required a lot of planning and coordination between myself and my two friends who traveled with me. None of us live in New York – in fact we all live in three different states 300-400+ miles away. We picked a random weekend that worked with all of our schedules – and we wound up choosing Old Timer’s Day/Goose Gossage Day as our gameday of choice. Before we even made it into the stadium, as we like to tell the story, I was almost run over by Derek Jeter as he was arriving for the game. Long story short, I was acting like a total tourist on the sidewalk in front of the parking garage gates as Jeter was driving up the stadium. Had I not pulled my head out of the clouds sooner and moved out of the way, I wouldn’t have blamed him for running me over on the sidewalk. I was actually so focused on everything else going on, I realized it was Jeter in the car too late to take a photo (even though my phone was already in my hand on camera mode).
Anyway, after all the excitement on the sidewalk, it was time for the ceremonies and celebrations. There were many former Yankees present from many different eras – including the visiting manager, Buck Showalter. (His introduction was a little awkward.) After the old guys were done playing, it was game time – and in another stroke of good luck, the Yankees starting pitcher was the seemingly unbeatable and incredible Masahiro Tanaka. Baseball people were talking about this guy – even people who hated the Yankees and had nothing good to say about the “Evil Empire” were talking about how impressive Tanaka was.
And yes, he was good – prior to the game I went to. It ended up being only his second loss since coming to the United States, and was a horrific 8-0 loss to the Orioles. Shortly after, Tanaka was diagnosed with a partially torn UCL and placed on the disabled list. I still consider myself lucky to have seen him pitch at all, and even though it was a loss (and only his second) it’s still historic.
For Orioles fans, I also witnessed Caleb Joseph’s first career homerun.
Next stop on my baseball tour was Progressive Field in Cleveland on July 7 to see the Yankees (again) and the Indians. (Reason for this game: Cleveland is my hometown.) I went into this game totally unconfident due to the fact the Yankees were starting a rookie who had never started in a major league game before. My seats were next to the visiting bullpen, so naturally I stood at the wall to stare at the rookie while warmed up. He was a sight to see – a tall skinny kid who, even during warmups throws to Francisco Cervelli, was clearly nervous. He would throw a few pitches, step off the mound a few steps to calm down, and then fire a few more shots to Cervelli. I felt a little more confident when he left the bullpen to start the game, and I was right to feel that confidence. Not only did Shane Greene earn his first career win in his first career start, he went on to have a very impressive rookie year as a starter for the Yankees. At the end of the game, another tall and unknown pitcher took the mound to wrap things up – and I witnessed Dellin Betances’ first career save.
My third stop on the stadium tour lead me to Orioles Park at Camden Yards to see the Mariners take on (obviously) the Orioles, in Baltimore, on August 2. (Reason for this game: it was my husband’s birthday gift, he is a lifelong O’s fan, and I now live in Maryland, so the Orioles are my new hometown team.) The game itself was rather unexciting – the Orioles lost to the Mariners. I was able to see Manny Machado, my favorite player on the Orioles roster, play the whole game. He started the season on the disabled list after knee surgery, and will end the season on the disabled list after surgery on his other knee. Strike while the iron is hot – and go to Baltimore between Machado’s knee surgeries.
For what I had hoped to accomplish this baseball season, these three games met all my goals. But, life had a few pleasant surprises for me. In addition to New York, Cleveland, and Baltimore, I’ve already went to one Washington Nationals game and will be attending another game next week. I will have seen seven different teams in four different cities/stadiums at the end of this season. Even after planning to see one Orioles game, my husband (the Baltimore fan!) actually came up with the idea to see Derek Jeter’s last game at Camden Yards, and so we bought the tickets.
This past Sunday, I was among tens of thousands of my closest Maryland friends to see Derek Jeter take the field in Baltimore one last time in his professional career. It was a horrible game for a Yankees fan. We were tied going into the top of the 9th when Brian McCann hit a solo homerun to put the Yankees up 2-1. In the bottom of the 9th our closer David Robertson came on (his third consecutive day pitching), likely pitched one of the worst appearances of his career, and the Orioles won 3-2. The game was nationally televised on ESPN and I swear, anyone watching at home could hear my heart break in the stands. The game was my last hurrah for the 2014 Yankees and my excitement all fell apart in the bottom of the 9th.
Ironically, the game winning hit came off the bat of Kelly Johnson. Johnson was somewhat of a joke in 2014 having started with the Yankees, being traded to the Boston Red Sox, and then finding his way to Baltimore. He was the starting third baseman for the Yankees the day I attended the game at Yankee Stadium. I already had no use for the guy – who I had seen routinely have bad at bats, and bad fielding – all season long. For any other Orioles player to come up and get that hit for the game winning RBI, I would have still been upset, but accepted it. But instead it was Kelly Johnson, who caused me to yell obscene words in the Bronx due to his terrible on field performance.
So here we are at the end of the season (as far as I’m concerned). What did I accomplish as a baseball fan this year? Not only did I see my top three teams at home – I saw my favorite team play in my top three cities. I saw Masahiro Tanaka pitch in his first year in the US – hopefully one of many incredible seasons he has in pinstripes. I saw Derek Jeter’s last game in Baltimore, and witnessed the end of his twenty year career. Admittedly, I am not a huge Jeter fan; I like him, I respect him, but he’s not one of my favorite players. Him leaving the game after twenty years is reflective of my time as a baseball fan – he was just starting out when I seriously started following baseball. For me personally, as a baseball fan, his retirement signifies the end of an era. There are very few players still active nearly two decades later.
One thing the Yankees have had this year is good pitching – generally from the starters, sometimes from the relievers, and usually from the setup man and closer. Shane Greene and Brandon McCarthy have been personal favorites of mine. While I wasn’t able to witness a McCarthy start this year, I did get to see Greene. I’m not sure I’ll ever see McCarthy pitch in pinstripes since his contract expires at the end of this season – but I hope the Yankees front office have taken notice of the impressive season he’s had since coming to the Bronx and they bring him back. Then, I can add seeing him pitch to my 2015 wish list. Hiroki Kuroda is not a particular favorite pitcher of mine, and so far he has been the only opening day starter who didn’t require time on the disabled list – and he’s been pretty solid the whole year, even at 39 years old. There’s speculation about whether he will come back next year or not, but if he doesn’t, he deserves it and I can say I witnessed him in person.
As far as relievers, Dellin Betances has been nothing short of impressive this year – so much so that his stats are already being compared to Mariano Rivera’s. He could become a closer in the future, perhaps even a historic one like Rivera, and I’ll always be able to say I saw his first save. I also saw him pitch a solid 8th inning in Baltimore. In my opinion, David Robertson has been the best closer the Yankees – or any team – will ever find to replace Mariano Rivera. Even though his attempt to close in Baltimore was ill timed and a horrific mess, I was able to see him pitch. There’s also question if he’ll be back next year with his contract also expiring. Much like McCarthy, I hope the Yankees front office is paying attention and keep their homegrown closer in New York.
What more could I have asked for in 2014? Third base was a mess for most of the season due to Alex Rodriguez’s suspension. True, no one can say if he would have been better or worse than the substitutes – including Kelly Johnson – who tried to play the position, but most Yankees fans (maybe even baseball fans) agree that the subs just weren’t cutting it. In July, the Yankees traded for third baseman Chase Headley who has really done a great job. I would always prefer to see Rodriguez at third, I will admittedly be critical of anyone else playing that position, but I have liked Headley. Unfortunately, he was traded after the game I saw in Cleveland, and was hit in the chin three days before the game I saw in Baltimore, so I wasn’t able to see him play. Headley’s contract is also expiring this year, and with a soon-to-be-forty Rodriguez coming off a season-long suspension, it’s anyone’s guess whether Headley remains with the Yankees.
Finally, I am excited to have Jacoby Ellsbury playing for the Yankees although he has been very streaky this season. His fielding is always great, and when he gets into a hot streak his bat can be just as impressive. This year I wasn’t able to witness him have any fantastic at bats – I didn’t even see an spectacular defensive plays – but there’s still time. He still has at least six years left on his contract so I am hopeful that one of the games I see in 2015 he will be in a hot streak.
All in all, aside from the Yankees missing the playoffs, it’s been a good season for me personally. I never thought I would accomplish so much as a fan, especially since I had intended to just see three games in three cities. I am excited to see what the 2015 season brings – and hopefully this time next year I’ll be reflecting on many more baseball fan accomplishments.

Girls Like Baseball Too

We’ve all witnessed the scene – whether it’s in a movie or real life – where a girl attends a sporting event, has no idea what’s going on, and embarrasses herself because of her ignorance. It provides some entertainment, makes you laugh, and builds up the stereotype that women and sports do not mix.
Of course that statement isn’t entirely true, and it seems to be less true as time goes on. The majority of my girlfriends who follow any sport tend to be football fans. I’m not sure if that’s the normal for all women, or if it’s just my friends in particular. Personally, I couldn’t care less about football. One of my best girlfriends is an avid hockey fan and could probably put most men to shame when discussing the NHL. While I do like hockey, I wouldn’t consider it to be “my” sport. “My” sport, without a doubt, is baseball.
Yes, girls like baseball too. And not just because we like looking at ball player’s butts in those tight pants.
Many times over the last few weeks I’ve thought to myself “Girls like baseball too – I’m going to write about that!” but never actually sat down to write anything down. Obviously I’m not the only girl in the world who likes the sport of baseball (and is not a professional butt watcher at games, as a friend of mine claims to be), but it seems like female baseball fans are a significant minority, or we aren’t taken seriously as legitimate fans.
It’s incredibly ironic how I started writing about this. This morning I sat down at my computer wearing a pink and purple dress. My hair and makeup was nicely done. I typed the words “girls like baseball too” and realized how unbelievable this had to look. Yes, here’s a girlie girl at her laptop getting ready to write about baseball. This is certain to turn into an article about baseball pants and who are the best looking players in Major League Baseball.
For the record, I was dressed nicely because today is Sunday and I was ready to go to morning mass. Also, I could write about baseball pants and good looking players – because I am a female and yes I do notice those things. But if I took my focus in that direction, I lose all credibility for the point I’m trying to make – girls like baseball too!
The typical scene in my house each night is a bit hectic. My husband is a lifelong Maryland resident and Orioles fan. Since we live in Maryland (about halfway between the Baltimore Orioles and the Washington Nationals), he gets to watch his team on TV, in high definition, on the home broadcast, every night. Meanwhile, I’ve paid for a subscription to MLB TV so I can watch my New York Yankees play on the laptop in my bedroom. Sometimes I am lucky and ESPN or the MLB channel will broadcast the Yankees games – but I still have to watch it on my small bedroom TV without HD.
My husband, the avid Orioles fan, hates the Yankees. Seriously, I think he has a physical reaction to the hatred he feels for the team. It sometimes causes some friction in our household, especially since the Orioles are actually playing well, leading the American League East, and generally kicking the Yankees’ asses. That doesn’t stop me from updating him about games and what the team is doing. (Although he’s probably not listening half the time.)
Think about going to a baseball game and actually sitting in the stands. There are definitely girls (and some guys) who clearly have no idea what’s going on in the game, probably don’t care too much, and are on their smart phones. Then there is the other group of people who are drinking beer, loud, and giving amateur game analysis to the strangers next to them. I am definitely in that second group.
This summer, I set a goal for myself to see my three favorite baseball teams play in their home stadiums. On June 22 I was in the Bronx, at Yankee Stadium (for the first time ever in my life) watching the Orioles play my Yankees. It was a disaster of a game for Yankee fans. The Orioles beat the Yankees 8-0 for Masahiro Tanaka’s second loss since coming to the United States. (Husband was at home in Maryland watching on TV and loving every minute of it.) I went to the game with two of my girlfriends – one a semi-serious baseball fan, and one who understands baseball but doesn’t care to follow it. The trip to Yankee Stadium was a huge deal for me, and I had warned them I was going to get really into the game. Even with that warning, they were still a little shocked when I stood up and yelled some very unkind words to the Yankees substitute third baseman.
My four game goal has turned into a total of six games, at a total of four stadiums, and seeing seven teams all together. I can’t help but think that if I even try to top that for the 2015 season, it’s going to cost me a fortune.
I don’t remember ever learning about baseball – in many ways I feel like I’ve always known and understood baseball, almost as if I was born with the knowledge. (I’m sure I wasn’t – but it’s a fun idea to consider.) I’ve been an active baseball fan for seventeen years, although some years I did not follow the sport closely for various reasons. Most of the players I started out watching have now retired and are coaches, managers, or announcers. Young players who are just now starting their careers site some of my favorite players as their childhood idols. That’s part of the fun for me – seeing baseball passed down from generation to generation.
As a baseball fan, I consider myself lucky because there is no other sport I love more than this one. Maybe I’m in the minority being a girl baseball fan, but I don’t let that get to me. If the guys want to discuss game details, I’ll be right there with them and join the conversation. If someone wants my opinion of a player, I’ll base it on their stats and performance rather than how they look in baseball pants.
I’m a girl and I’m a baseball fan. Do I think some of the players are hot? Absolutely. Do I have a preference of American League versus National League? Do I scrutinize the starting lineups and batting orders of games? Do I often yell at the TV/the managers decisions during a game? Yes, yes, and yes – and I can explain my opinions in detail and back them up with stats.
It might not be the norm, and it might be somewhat unexpected – but girls like baseball too. We’re a great group of girls, and we just might surprise you how much we actually love, understand, and appreciate this great game!