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

Posts tagged ‘All Star Game’

July, 1997

What were you doing in 1997?

Let me refresh your memory –
Titanic was the top movie of the year. But, if you were like me, you found Good Will Hunting to be more your speed.
The top song of the year, according to Billboard, was “Candle in the Wind 1997” by Elton John because it was the same year the world said goodbye to Princess Diana.
We also lost Mother Theresa, Notorious B.I.G., Gianni Versace, and Married With Children –
But we welcomed Hanson (Mmmbop), the Harry Potter series, Pokemon, America’s first female secretary of state (Madeline Albright), and Dolly the Sheep’s clone.
Bill Clinton was still president!

Back in 1997, now 20 years ago, (watch out, I’m about to admit my age here) I was a 14-year-old girl living in a small town in northeastern Ohio and had just completed the 6th grade. On July 7, I watched my first baseball game – the 1997 All Star game live from my hometown of Cleveland, Ohio!

When I started watching baseball, Bartolo Colon and I were still in Cleveland – and we both weighed a lot less.

It’s funny to think about how much baseball has changed, how much the world has changed, and how much I’ve changed in those twenty years. When I watched that All Star game, I was sitting in my living room – without air conditioning – looking at a tv that only got a handful of channels and, by today’s standards, was ridiculously small. Sandy Alomar, Jr was the MVP – and a hell of a catcher for the Indians at that time (my favorite). Now, he’s the first base coach for the Indians. The first base coach for the Detroit Tigers is his former teammate Omar Vizquel.

The Indians went to the World Series that year, and lost in game seven the (then) Florida Marlins. The heartbreak I experienced during game seven of the 2016 World Series is the only thing that has softened the blow of that loss. This week, the (now) Miami Marlins drafted Joe Dunand, Jr – the nephew of Alex’s Rodriguez (who first caught my eye about 5 minutes after I started watching baseball in 1997).

This year, on July 8 – twenty years and 1 day since I started watching baseball – I’ll be returning “home” for Andrew Miller night in Cleveland, and taking my 8-year-old nephew to his first baseball game. If I was finishing my first year of middle school in 1997, Andrew Miller was finishing elementary school; he probably wasn’t 5 feet tall yet and no one in the world could have known what kind of bullpen hero he would develop into (of that he would eventually become my Hero).

What does it mean that all of these things are now a distant memory? First, it means I’m getting older… But as I’ve mentioned multiple times before, it also means I’ve seen a lot of history. And, also like I’ve said before, I’m thankful for that history.

I’m thankful to have watched baseball in the height of, and the decline of, steroid use.
I’m thankful to have seen pitchers develop into the magicians they are today.
I’m thankful to see young players like Bryce Harper, Mike Trout, and Manny Machado (my personal favorite) show up and light baseball on fire.
I’m thankful for watching my all-time favorite, Alex Rodriguez, play for 20 years, and even for his retirement, because I can appreciate his talent, his high points – and his low points – and his man he’s become after all the chaos
I’m thankful for the Cleveland Indians because without them, baseball would be just another game to me.
And I’m even thankful for not one, but two blow game sevens – because I’ve always known how emotional baseball could be, and because I needed that “coming home” moment last fall to remind me where my journey began.

July is special to me. Each year during the All Star game, I’m thankful I started watching this game. A few years ago, I joined twitter specifically to talk about this game, and two years ago started my baseball blog. This July, exactly two decades later, I will have the opportunity to share this game with my nephew Hunter.

Will he be as mesmerized by the game as I was? Will he see a player on the field he immediately knows is his favorite? Will he love the game as much as his Aunt Jess does?

Maybe none of those things happen – but you know I’ll certainly try my best to share my love of this wonderful game.

The All Star Game Identity Crisis

When you really think about it, the MLB All Star game has gotten complicated – and a little confusing.

In some ways, the game and the festivities (such as the Home Run Derby) are a lot of fun. I always think of Ken Griffey, Jr. in the Home Run Derby, standing in the batter’s box with his hat on backward, while the other all stars sit on the foul territory grass (often with their children) and watch. Or Cal Ripken’s last ASG when Alex Rodriguez made him move over and play shortstop one last time.

But in an attempt to build excitement around the game (and hopefully recruit more fans), things have become a little more serious. The game actually counts for something (the winning league earns home field advantage in the World Series). The fans, players, and managers all choose the all stars. There are scheduled releases for vote totals and hour long shows dedicated to announcing the all star reserves.

So which is more true?

Quite honestly, I think the All Star Game is having an identity crisis. I don’t know whether this game is meant to be a fun break or another important game in an already long season?

If it were up to me, I would make the entire All Star break fun – for the players, the fans, and even the coaches/managers. Yes, baseball is a business and it is the job of all the players (even if they’re being paid ridiculously well) to play 160+ games a season. But remember, baseball is a long, difficult season – there are few true days off during the season (some are travel days) and most, if not all, of the all star position players are playing nearly every game during the season. And long before they were ever professionals, they were fans too. Let it just be fun.

Of course, it’s not as simple as that. There’s a lot that goes into the ASG to take into consideration.

First – the where. As is typically the custom, alternate between American League and National League host cities. There is really no need to have a league host back-to-back seasons. At times, the ASG is more than just a game, but recognition of a new park, or an anniversary at an existing park – these things don’t sneak up on you. New stadiums aren’t constructed overnight and special anniversaries don’t happen in unusual years. Plan ahead!

Next – the who. In my opinion, it’s absolutely fitting the managers of the World Series teams are the managers for the ASG (even if they are no longer with that team). They will likely chose a coaching staff from their own team, and that’s also okay. Without managers & coaches, the team wouldn’t make it to the World Series. If that manager and coaching staff was successful enough to lead a team through the post season, it makes sense they might be successful in the ASG too.

I’m a big supporter of fans choosing the starting position players. We all think we would be a better manager/GM than our team’s, so why not let us has this small taste of it? If MLB is so set on players choosing other players, they should be able to chose the pitchers: they know better than anyone who is the most difficult to hit. Fans could, however, help chose the starting pitcher. Of course there will be limitations on who can pitch depending on when they last threw, but if it’s narrowed down to a few potential starters, let fans vote. We already think we know better than the managers do anyway. The managers should still be allowed to chose the reserve players. And…get rid of the final vote! It’s just annoying. How would you like to be the guy who got picked last? And half the fans can’t figure out how and when to vote – hashtags mean nothing until Friday, people!!

That being said, fans and managers will have a tendency to vote for their favorite teams’ players – which is not wrong, but it’s not always right. Fans, when you vote…use your head. There is always that one guy on your team who is not as good as the others – so don’t vote for him! Just because he wears the same jersey doesn’t mean he’s the best at the position. I didn’t vote for Stephen Drew, and the millions of Royals fans who appeared out of seemingly nowhere should not have voted for Omar Infante!

The game – the big what. As I said before, just let it be fun. Give the millionaire baseball players one game to just go out and have fun. Once upon a time they were all little boys playing for fun – it just happened they were all insanely talented and it became their jobs. One game out of 160 (give or take) without any pressure is really not so bad. Let them enjoy the experience of playing with and being among the best of the best in Major League Baseball, even if the final score is 17-14 or something equally as ridiculous.

Do not make the game count for anything other than bragging rights. While it certainly adds drama and makes things more interesting, awarding home field advantage to the winning league will not always be the fair and right thing to do. Imagine a scenario where a team has the best record in baseball – no one else is even close – and they go to the World Series, but the other team – a Wild Card team that barely made it into the playoffs at all – has home field advantage. It would only be worse if one (or even both) of the team’s players had little or no involvement in the ASG – but rather the World Series is dependent on one game in July that had nothing to do with them. Of course, this would be rare, but I can’t imagine many fans of the first place team being pleased if it happened just once.

Personally, the All Star Game has a special significance for me because it was (in 1997) the first baseball game I watched – by choice – start to finish. Admittedly, it’s because they were playing in my home city (Cleveland), but I remember it being such a fun game to watch. Each year year during the ASG, I think of that game and count how many years it’s been since I started watching baseball. It’s a great way to see a mix of the best players in each league having fun, playing with some new (or old) friends for one game only.

If you’re curious who my All Star votes went to – since I asked fans to use their heads – here they are (I only voted for AL; I don’t know NL well enough):

C – Brian McCann, NYY
1B – Mark Teixeira, NYY
2B – Jose Altuve, HOU
SS – JJ Hardy, BAL
3B – Manny Machado, BAL
OF – Brett Gardner, NYY
OF – Adam Jones, BAL
OF – Jacoby Ellsbury, NYY
DH – Alex Rodriguez, NYY

As an intelligent (I hope) baseball fan, I have no complaints about the players chosen as starters or as reserves. Even if they weren’t my first choice or not on my favorite team, I can recognize good baseball talent, and the AL has a lot of great players on that team.

No matter what the circumstances of the ASG are, I’ll still watch the game and be cheering for all the American League players…because I voted for some of them, and because I don’t understand the National League. (Who are half these guys? Do the pitchers really like hitting?)

Happy (almost) All Star break, everyone!…and go American League!!