January 2014

Twinsfest 2014 Tours

With Twinsfest moving from its usual home at the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome–which was getting demolished as Twinsfest took place–to Target Field, there obviously needed to be a restructuring of the Twinsfest to be able to hold it indoors away from the Minnesota cold. Thus, one of my projects coming into Twinsfest was to document this new set-up for anyone who was curious about how everything was crammed into Target Field.

There were three levels to the new Twinsfest set-up–with their elevator floors next to them:

3. Suite Level.

2. Club Level.

0. Main Concourse (Only used as an entrance to and exit from Twinsfest. Nothing was actually held there.)

-2. Service Level.

The first day of Twinsfest, I went with Paul Kom, and my college friend Tony Blustein. That day, Paul and I filmed two of the levels. One for each of our channels/blogs and featured each other in them.  The next day I went with another college friend who you may more readily recognize, Jonathan, and I did the final level.

Now here from the top level down, are the tours of the floors of Twinsfest:

Suite Level:

Club Level:

Service Level:

I do have more footage I have to edit that I filmed at Twinsfest. That will be the next entry where I interviewed two people about there experiences at Twinsfest (first video) and then a three-day vlog of my time at Twinsfest (second video). But until then, keep voting for what you want to see on the blog after that in this poll and leave comments for what concepts you would the new blog icon:

My Favorite MLB Teams

While I’ve always kind of known which teams I like and which I don’t–although even those have changed throughout the years–I truly have never ranked the teams 1-30 as to which I like better than others. So that’s what I’m going to do right now. (Disclaimer: This is a list of how I order the teams in the offseason of 2013-14. While most of my decision in where to put a team in the rankings is based off of the franchise itself, some of it is based on who is on the team right now, so these rankings are subject to change over time.)

1. Minnesota Twins-

My story with the Twins is that I grew up a Yankees fan being from New York, but being that I look at things from a GM’s perspective, I thought that being Brian Cashman and having a $200-million payroll would be a pretty boring job creatively since he could essentially buy any player he wanted to. In thinking this, I thought of a team who had success but doing so with a reduced payroll that required teams to build their team in an innovative way on a much smaller budget. Being as it was the mid-2000s, the Twins was a natural choice seeing as they were a constant playoff team with one of the lowest budgets in baseball. Now don’t get me wrong; there’s a different challenge in being the GM of the Yankees: you’re never allowed to take a year off having success to rebuild your core/farm system, but I was entranced by the building of a successful major league team from a solid minor league core.

2. Washington Nationals-

In going to a ton of games at Nationals Park in 2011 I fell in love with the core of players that went 80-81 as well as the people who inhabited it. Ever since then, I have been a really big fan of the players that made up the core of the teams in the next two years. And because of me falling in love with the Nationals Park environment for whatever reason as well as the people who made it such a special place, I became a fan of the franchise as a whole.

3. Tampa Bay Rays-

Much like the Twins, the Rays endeared themselves to me by being a team that built their team intelligently–allowing them to achieve repeated success on a payroll that can’t compare to that of a larger market team.

4. San Francisco Giants-

The Giants is an interesting case because it started as simply a liking of a specific player: Tim Lincecum. However, as I kept up with Lincecum more and more as he began to turn from the Washington kid who could pitch insanely fast for his size to a household name, I grew to have a liking fro the other players on the Giants as well. I think having shared a hotel with the players in Milwaukee and having a mini-conversation with a couple of them as well as having a personal memory of what Brian Wilson was like pre-beard may have contributed to this connection to the team, though.

5. Texas Rangers-

I truly have no idea how the Rangers managed to climb my list so high. I used to not really be a fan of them in their team with the two Rodriguezes, but as they turned towards a team that relied more on pitching *in addition to* the offense the Rangers always seemed to have, I really liked the teams that they constructed around 2009-10.

6. New York Yankees-

While they have fallen down my list and I hate the franchise past the team itself, they still are my childhood team that I can’t help to root for.

7. Philadelphia Phillies-

While it was not the beginning of my fandom of them, this certainly sealed it for me. They’d be higher on the list for me, but Phillies fans.

8. Toronto Blue Jays-

Part of me always sympathized with our neighbors to the north. Even when the Expos were still a team, I liked the Blue Jays a lot and always secretly as a Yankee fan hoped they would surge up and break the norm of the AL East standings for a while in the early 2000s–which was:

1. Yankees

2. Red Sox

3. Blue Jays

4. Orioles

5. Devil Rays

I just really always wanted them to have success, and this translated to a fandom of the team when they played teams that weren’t my top-of-the-line favorite teams.

9. Milwaukee Brewers-

My liking of the Brewers began in around 2008 when CC Sabathia joined the team for half a season and did amazing with being in attendance for what should have been a no-hitter, (I might write about this/do a video for a “Blast From the Baseball Past” entry) but then I just had a fandom for the Fielder and Braun teams. My fandom for the team, though, has lessened the past couple of years for obvious reasons regarding one or more of the aforementioned players.

10. Oakland Athletics-

(See Tampa Rays.)

11. Cincinnati Reds-

I think this is kind of a fusion of many of the various teams I have talked about to this point. So in part it’s like the Rays where I liked that a solid major league team was built from the pooling of major league talent, but it is also a lot like the Giants since I really like Joey Votto as a player.

12. Atlanta Braves-

I think this is Nationals-esque in that I loved Turner Field and its atmosphere. I also liked the core and became much more of a fan because of people I have met that are passionate about the Braves. And I can say that the fact that Julio Teheran plays for them doesn’t hurt them at all.

13. Arizona Diamondbacks-

This is one of the teams that I honestly don’t know why I like more than most teams. I’ve just always liked Diamondbacks teams (after the 2001 season, that is.) Yeah, I don’t know.

14. Seattle Mariners-

This has been mostly the product of running into very nice baseball people who are fans of the Mariners. I’m also a fan of how good of a pitching team they have been despite being offensively anemic the past seasons.

15. Baltimore Orioles-

Similarly to the Mariners, I just know a ton of awesome baseball people that are Orioles fans. In addition to that, their stadium is my favorite in baseball. I would say that really the only reason they’re this far down the list is that some Orioles fans became obnoxious as they began to climb out of the AL East cellar.

16. Detroit Tigers-

I know that I’m supposed to hate the Tigers as a Twins fan, but the fact that we beat them in the game 163 we played them helps and I always admired the teams that had success more than most of the teams I am supposed to dislike.

17. Pittsburgh Pirater-

I can pretty safely say that if I weren’t a ballhawk, this team would be lower on the list, but because of the big ballhawk following in Pittsburgh, I have kept up and liked the Pirates and it was incredibly fun watching them have success for the first time in over two decades last season.

18. Miami Marlins-

Ah the Marlins. Those poor souls. I always had an affinity for them especially teams with the 30+ homer infields of Uggla, Ramirez, Cantu, and Jacobs. That said, Jeffrey Loria has made this a team that I can’t root for over half of the other teams. They remain a team that I’m intrigued by and want to root for, and they would skyrocket up this list if Loria ever sold them and kept them in Miami, but right now they’re just not a team I can really get behind.

19. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim-

I don’t know about this team. I want to like them in many respects, but they lost me when they started spending a bajillion dollars on free agents, trading for Vernon Wells, and then having success with not with their big free agent acquisitions but with the farm talent they had beforehand.

20. Colorado Rockies-

The Rockies are one of those teams I have a preference towards, but still in a kind of “eh” way. I’ve never disliked them really, but I’ve never really had any passion behind my support of them.

21. San Diego Padres-

I used to like them a lot more in the Trevor Hoffman era, but they’ve dropped a bit since then  not necessarily because their lack of success but the players behind these teams. They just haven’t been groups of guys that I’d like to get behind.

22. Cleveland Indians-

Again, never disliked them but never really liked them.

23. Houston Astros-

I actually like the group of people in this team and could see myself liking a lot in the years to come. That said, they have made some pretty bad decisions in the past and it was not a shock that they were as bad of a team as they have been.

24. Kansas City Royals-

I actually like this franchise in terms of their ballpark and look, but then there are the people behind the scenes that ruin this team for me. At the ballpark, I have not heard many positive things about their ushers, and behind the franchise, I disagree on many things with the GM of the team, Dayton Moore. I think that the team could have been competing a long time ago had it not been for his guidance.

25. St. Louis Cardinals-

The main reason for them being this far down the list is the fact that their fans claim incorrectly that they are definitely the “best fans in baseball.” While I don’t think there is a no-doubt group of the best fans in baseball, if my experience with Cardinals fans in baseball has taught me anything, it is that while the Cardinals fan base may be in the top-10, they are definitely not the no-doubt best fans in baseball they claim to be.

26. Chicago White Sox-

I was a fan of the 2005 Astros and 2008 Twins. Enough said.

27. New York Mets-

They’re the Mets. I don’t know how many things I have admired about the Mets the past five years. If it’s any indication, the rendition of “Meet the Mets” that I have adopted begins:

Beat the Mets,

Beat the Mets,

Step right up and,

Sweep the Mets

28. Los Angeles Dodgers-

While I have kind of liked the players on the Dodgers for stretches, their recent acquisition by the Kasten-Johnson group and metamorphosis into baseball’s new Yankees has really turned me off to them. I have disliked them sans Vin Scully for a much longer time than just that, but that’s the most recent thing that provides a rational reason for disliking them.

29. Chicago Cubs-

I have never had any appeal to the Cubs, and I’m not particularly found of how Cubs fans overreact to prospects as well as how in-your-face Cubs fans I have interacted with have been about the most minor successes. Granted, it’s a conditioning that has come with being the fan of a team who last won a World Series when one’s great-grandparents were your age.

30. Boston Red Sox-

This is partially because I grew up a fan of the Yankees, but I also do like their stadium and the atmosphere of it. However, I can’t get over the attitude of their owner John Henry that many fans have adopted without realizing the absurdity of it of that the Yankees have a ridiculous advantage in terms of having a humongous payroll. The reason this argument infuriates me is because for the longest time, there was a gigantic gap in payroll between the Red Sox and the third largest payroll. Thus it was the rich crying poor in order to gain sympathy. The second reason is because the Steinbrenner family is actually a middle-of-the-pack ownership group in terms of wealth. The reason they invest so much money into the team is because they value winning. Therefore, if John Henry truly wanted to win, he could spend the extra money and win. The problem is that if he didn’t win with this extra money invested, he would be losing money. However, George Steinbrenner was taking the same risk when he invested his extra money; it was just that Steinbrenner’s Yankees did win every season and could thus keep spending. So what Henry did by calling out Steinbrenner and the Yankees was criticized him/them for doing what he didn’t have the guts to do with the Red Sox in order to give his fans the winning such a great fan base deserved. However, being the fans that they were, many Red Sox fans backed their owner without truly understanding what was behind these claims.

So those were my favorite teams. I am by no means “right” in any of my judgements. Picking a favorite team–or in my case *teams*–is something of complete subjectivity and can be done for any number of reasons. Also, the next entry is me making a new Observing Baseball Logo. I would actually like to make a clarification. So it’s actually not the logo itself–this:

Just Logo

But it would actually be me remaking the icon itself, which is this:

Icon 5

But besides that, keep voting for your favorite entries. I should mention that I’ll be doing various entries for Twinsfest, but you can vote for the stuff you want to see besides this on the poll below:

Stadium Profiles: Citizens Bank Park

Overall Grade: B+

1501_Exterior_of_Citizens_Bank_Park

Aesthetic Grade: B+

PHI_77173601_580

I went back and forth between a B+ and a B for this. On the one hand, it is a nice ballpark that I really don’t have much to complain about aesthetically. But on the other hand, it is also a very bland ballpark in terms of its features. There is really nothing that stands out as being amazing; so I couldn’t justify any grade in the “A range” for the ballpark. What eventually led me to going with B+ is that it has enough subtle flairs like the greenery, statues , and center field plaques that it gets some personality and style.

Atmosphere: B

San Francisco Giants v Philadelphia Phillies, Game 2

While the Philadelphia sports fans are a passionate bunch, and can get up for their sports teams when they’re doing well–leading to an electric atmosphere at CBP when the Phillies are competitive–they are also known for not displaying their passion in the most friendly ways. So while many athletes say that their least favorite city to travel to is Philadelphia and this can lead to a great home-field advantage for their sports teams, it also means that Phillies fans are not the best people to be around if you’re simply going to a stadium to enjoy a peaceful game at a new ballpark. So by averaging out the electricity that can live inside CBP with the negativity that its fans can bring, I arrived at a B for the overall atmosphere at the ballpark.

Fan Experience: B+

img_3789

For the sake of fairness, I’m going to take the fans out of the equation for this one. The guest services staff from my experience has been an overall friendly one with only case-by-case rudeness. I haven’t really had that many positive encounters with vendors there, but those are also ever-changing and so that is maybe due to me not having gone to that many games at the ballpark. Plus, vendors don’t really play all that much into the overall fan experience. Overall I’d call the staff at CBP above-average, but where they make up in the “fan experience” department is that CBP is a generally fun place to walk around and explore. In a sense, it kind of feels like a minor league ballpark that got a ton of money to be made into a major league ballpark; this begins and ends with their award-winning mascot: The Phillie Fanatic.

Details: A

baseball-statue-at-citizens-bank-park-bill-cannon

Like I alluded to in the “Aesthetic” grade, it really is the details that save this stadium for me. From the statues all over the place to the “monument park” in center field, to the flower beds in front of the left field wall, the people who thought up Citizens Bank Park really covered all of the bases. While many of them have to do with the overall aesthetics, many bring huge benefits for any ballhawks who may visit Citizens Bank Park.

BP Ballhawking: A+

8313 LF

If you are in a stadium early for batting practice with a decent crowd, there is no better stadium for snagging a BP home run than Citizens Bank Park. In fact, if I had to design a ballpark that was ideal for BP ballhawking, whatever I come up with would not be that far off the design of CBP. First of all, it has a double-decker bullpen, which is in center field. This is ideal because it means that both the left and right field sections can be full, long sections that aren’t cut off by bullpens like they are in so many other stadiums. Long sections are key for BP since they let you run as far as you need to make BP home run snags. Another thing that separates CBP from the rest of the field is the fact that it has no hand railings. What this allows ballhawks to do is run from section to section on any row in the section. Whereas the stadiums with hand rails have only a one-row gap every three-to-four rows, so if you run across the section in the wrong row, that’s as far as you can run for the ball. Left Field at Citizens Bank Park is basically a ballhawk’s dream. Really CBP’s only fault is that the right field seats aren’t open for the first hour that the stadium is open. But once it is, it is only marginally worse than the left field seats, so you can then enjoy two sides of awesome outfield seats.

During-Game Ballhawking: B

15-citz-sec102

Although it is an absolutely awesome stadium for BP, these features that make it a great BP stadium don’t make it all that great a place to ballhawk during the game itself. While the fact that there are no handrails does help during the game, you still have to rely on not that many people showing up to their seats in order to take advantage of the long sections of running room CBP has to offer. The really only truly great spot to ballhawk is behind home plate for foul balls, but entry to that part of the stadium costs you a pretty penny, so it really isn’t available to the common ballhawk. Overall, CBP is maybe a slightly-above-average ballpark to ballhawk at during the game itself. Its biggest advantage during the game is probably how home run-prone the stadium is.

Anyway, that’s all I have to say about Citizens Bank Park. If you would like to check it out, I made a video recently highlighting my experiences in the fall of 2013 via unused vlog footage. It’s a fun video to watch:

But as always, continue to vote on which entries you want to see me write next by using this poll:

Since I can’t design a new logo for the blog until I get back to Minnesota, the next entry will be my favorite MLB teams. However, I may have another baseball-related video project on the way before that. I don’t want to spoil anything, but it may have to do with some recent baseball current events.

New Years Thingamajig: 2014

First of all, sorry to everyone who is waiting for me to get caught up with the Observing Baseball Trivia leader board. I’ve been in New York doing something at all hours. I’ll get on that once I am out of New York and given some free time to work with.

Now, it is the new year, and that usually means that I make resolutions/goals for what I want to accomplish in the following year. But considering the fact that I checked my goals from last year yesterday for the first time in 11 months and saw how brutal my sticking to them was, I’m going to pass of on making a ton of them this year. Now the success rate for new year’s resolutions is about 12%, and I’m glad to say I passed that, but that’s also because I did a bunch without really thinking about them all year.

Anyway, I find myself in the very peculiar position of not really being sure what I’m going to be doing for the next year of my life (besides school). I mean I’m most likely going to be doing some sort of job-type thing to work towards my eventual career goal of being a general manager, but I’m not entirely sure what that’ll be. So I have no clue whether or if so how much I’ll be ballhawking. While it might’ve seemed terrifying to me a while ago, it actually is really freeing to me right now. A by-product of this, however, is that I can’t really make specific goals like last year. I also found out that the more resolutions I make, the harder it is to keep them. So what I’m going to do is fashion a list of all of my favorite ones from last year’s list and ones I thought of in thinking of good goals for the coming year.

Ballhawking:

  • Go to a new stadium-With 2013 came another year I didn’t visit a new stadium.

Writing:

  • Write more mygamballs.com columns than last year- For the record, three.

Video:

  • Do my previously-planned ballhawking videos- Highlight video, and an all-video ballhawking entry–even if it’s not mine.

Twitter:

  • Meet internet people- Because face-to-face is where it’s at.

Facebook:

Since I still don’t plan on using Facebook that much, I’m going to use this as a sort of wildcard slot.

  • Make whatever content creation I do in 2014 a more collaborative effort- It keeps things fresh, exposes people to new things, and to continue doing things on my own is to say that I am the best at what I do in all aspects of it, which is definitely not the case.

Instagram:

Another wild card here.

  • Keep making content and being creative about it–even if that means straying from baseball-related topics-It can be hard with school and things, but I do love creating stuff, and hopefully I can get better at doing it by continuing to create things but in different ways.

Vine:

  • Just keep doing it- The top viners are alive and well, but it feels like with an increase in the revine culture, smaller people are being left out. I want to keep that culture alive and well if only in my own small way.

And now, with it being the new year, here is my 2013 WordPress statistical report. It isn’t as traditionally successful as last year’s, but I also think I was a lot better about content creation last year:

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2013 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 28,000 times in 2013. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 10 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

Even though it has been technically 2014 for over 24 hours now, I may do one more year-end related thing. Either that or I’ll go on to the next entry in my winter writing ideas. That said, keep voting for the things you want to see this winter:

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