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

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.

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