My day started off in Albany, where I had stayed with Chris Hernandez‘ (I never know how the possessive/plural works with names ending in an “s” sound) girlfriend. We then hit the road right after we got up:
Chris went directly to Citi Field for the Futures Game (which if you didn’t know, is basically an All-Star Game between the top Minor League prospects in baseball where the teams are divided by US vs. World), but he dropped me off at Greg Barasch‘s place first. I mean it used to be my place, but the reason I was there is I had to drop off all of the things I didn’t need to carry to the Futures Game/did need for the place I was headed off to before the Futures Game that I’ll reveal in a second.
I then headed off to Zack Hample‘s place where I gave him footage off my SD card for an entry he was writing at the time about his helicopter stunt that we had been at the previous day, some of which he ended up putting on his YouTube channel and then embedding in said entry. My goal was to get out of Zack’s place at around 11:20 to get to where I planned to go next, but ended up not getting out of Zack’s until 12:00 because while I was talking with him and his girlfriend Hayley, he told me that they were watching ESPN’s SportsCenter because he had been told that he was going to be in the Top-10. And since SportsCenter always holds that until the end of the show to get you to watch the whole thing, I ended up staying and watching him make the Top-10 and then semi-freak out when they announced that he had caught the ball from 1,200 feet instead of 1,050. (Zack doesn’t like inaccuracies; even if they make what he did seem more awesome.)
Anyway, about a half-hour later, this is where I found myself:
I had seen on their schedule that the Fan Cave was having tours from 12:00-2:30, so when I realized that my times in New York were going to be very limited this summer, and the fact that I had not yet toured the Fan Cave, I decided it was more important than making batting practice at the Futures Game. So I got in line:
And waited for a while. Turns out the Dwellers were hosting the FoxSports girls and so we had to wait. Although, I won’t complain since I got a free MLB Fan Cave hat and shirt out of it. Then after a good 20-30 minute wait in the New York heat, we got it:
I point out the tour guide because he’s wearing the shirt that I had gotten for free just minutes earlier. Anyway, the tour was fun. I didn’t take many pictures, but I got a video of it that I’m not sure I’ll ever publish do to the fact that there’s not much in it. But afterwards I waited for April Whitzman to talk with her for a few minutes. I actually knew April from before my visit because she had written a story about me for the Fan Cave blog back in April (Get it? It’s an unintentional pun!) about my experience playing catch with Derek Lowe (Link to her story here).
After that it was off to the Futures Game, and even though I showed up while the game was already underway, it was great to not have to worry about ballhawking. First I got a picture with the Twins mascot, TC:
(Notice the MLB Fan Cave hat.) And then I went to catch up with Ben Weil behind the third base dugout:
Not a bad view, eh? Although since I kind of half-paid attention to the game the most notable thing that came until it was over was that Ben got a t-shirt in the t-shirt toss:
Then after the Futures Game, it was time for the Celebrity Softball Game:
I mean that was whatever, but I stuck around because I had never seen one before. Chris, on the other hand, left, because he had gotten way too little sleep the past two days, and it was starting to catch up with him. After the game, Ben–who is the biggest Mike Piazza fan you will ever meet–was not surprisingly trying to get Piazza to sign a sign his girlfriend Jen, who had shown up at the beginning of the softball game, had made. So the three of us pushing through a crowd of dozens of people to try to get to the umpire tunnel where Piazza was signing. I seriously think the softball game is more about getting signatures before/after it than it is about the game itself. I mean look at the crowd at the dugout half-an-hour after the game had ended:
And I mean here’s a panorama that I took right before that (Click to Enlarge):
Anyway, that pushing and having a mild attack of claustrophobia paid off because look what Ben got:
I wish I would have gotten a picture of the back, because it’s like the side of this side but the pictures occupy the whole poster board. After that Jen headed out, but Ben and I hung around and tried to find where he was supposed to go for a thing he volunteered for handing out pins. So we first got a ton of energy drinks that Ben didn’t really want, so he handed to me, but I then got this one last picture of Citi Field before heading off to Greg’s place for the night.
- 9 KickStarts at this Game (7 pictured because I gave 2 away)
Numbers 1-9 for my “career”:
- 9 KickStarts in 1 Game= 9.00 KPG
- 1 Straight Game with at least 1-9 KickStarts
- 9 KickStarts in 1 Game at Citi Field= 9.00 KPG
- 1 Straight Game with at least 1-9 KickStarts at Citi Field
After having experienced something so big I had to write an entire 2,000+ word entry about right before this (Link Here), I went back to LeLacheur Park with Chris Hernandez to go to a Lowell Spinners game. So at about 3:40, here’s where we found ourselves for the second time that day:
The coolest game-related thing actually probably happened the first time we were in the ballpark, though. When I told Chris that the lineup card from the day before had been simply thrown out, he went into the Spinners offices and asked if he could have it. Well…
Another awesome thing is that right after I took the first picture of the entry, I called Jon Boswell, whose title I believe is the Spinners’ Director of Media Relations. Anyway, since he had given Mike and I complimentary tickets right behind home plate the night before, I asked him if I could have a couple for that night’s game. The game was sold-out, but he was still able to swing us a couple of GA tickets. It didn’t really matter where the tickets were for, since I didn’t plan on sitting in my seat at all anyway as there was a cross-aisle to be played. So if for some reason you’re reading this, Jon: thank you very much.
Since the gates didn’t actually open until 5:00 (for a 6:00 start time), Chris and I went into the jungle behind the outfield wall. While out there, we both heard leaves brushing, so we immediately started looking in the area for a baseball. Chris went to the spot where the ball landed, but I found the ball several feet behind its landing spot for my first on the day:
I kind of felt bad about it after the fact, since Chris actually count Minor League baseballs and I don’t. But anyway, the rest of BP was essentially a culmination of why I am really not interested in regularly ballhawking Minor League games at all. I mean if you love it and can do it on an everyday basis, then more power to you, but it is just very boring, and even if there is action, the number of baseballs doesn’t really rely on how good you are at tracking baseballs through the air; it’s reliant on how good you are at eventually finding a baseball that was hit out of the stadium. Even though this was a very sucky BP where essentially nothing went over the wall and it was cut short, it felt too easy when I thought about what would happen if a ball did actually get hit out of the stadium.
Anyway, it soon came time to get in line with Chris. Maybe it was the fact that we were essentially getting in line as they opened for a Minor League game and that we had already done a ton of group pictures that day, but I completely spaced out on getting a picture with Chris anywhere in this process. I did, however, get a picture of the inflatable alligator and stadium itself:
In line, Chris and I agreed that we would take a side of the field and look for easter eggs. Chris said he wanted the right field side of the seats, so I took the left field side. He didn’t find anything, but I went down to the kids’ play area and found this:
I then met up with Chris behind home plate and got one of the two baseballs signed by two Spinners players:
We then relaxed behind the third base dugout essentially until game time. Now while its possible that a Minor League just has an incredibly loyal fan base, you may wonder why a Saturday night game was sold-out. That is because this particular game was Star Wars Night at LeLacheur Park. As a result of that, here was the scene on the field right after the (last of seven) ceremonial first pitch(es) was throw, which started on a hilarious note since there was apparently one less ceremonial first pitch baseball than they needed. (Someone from our group earlier in the day may or may not have seen said first pitch baseballs out in the dugout, and may or may not have taken one of them, so I was cracking up the whole delay.) Anyway, here’s the after-first-pitch picture I took:
Yes, Darth Vader threw out the final “first” pitch. There were a bunch of other cool Star Wars-themed things that happened during the game, but I’ll leave them out, since I could spend a thousand words writing about it. I was in the seats down the third base line with Chris during that picture, but I headed up to the cross-aisle for the first pitch, Chris told me he’d be up there in a bit. And continuing with my trend of first-inning action, I had a foul ball before Chris came up to join me:
I wouldn’t get another chance even at a foul ball until about the seventh inning, when Chris and I decided to leave the stadium to chase them out there instead. Right as we got outside, Chris was telling me something when all I saw was a ball flying out of the corner of my eye. I quickly checked to make sure I wasn’t going to get hit by any cars, and then bolted across the street to get it. Unfortunately I didn’t see another guy–who had been out there the whole game–come out of the corner of my vision. As I slowed up thinking I had no competition for it, he scooped it up.
We then spent the next couple of innings checking the box score of the game on the team website and thinking it wasn’t being updated frequently because we couldn’t believe it was going so slowly. I don’t know what happened, but we legitimately thought the game had to be going into extra innings when it was in all reality it was the eighth inning. We were so convinced that it actually took us going back into the stadium to realize that the Jammers hadn’t made a giant come back, and were actually still about to lose. I headed back out of the stadium when I realized this to try to get a foul ball, but first I took a picture that I thought I’d share for how nice it looks of the press box and behind-home-plate seating:
But anyway, after the game, we headed to Albany, got McDonalds on the way, and stayed at Chris’ girlfriend’s house where I would then stay up to watch the Tim Lincecum no-hitter and we would head out to the Futures Game as well as the Celebrity Softball Game. I actually filmed the last inning of the Lincecum no-hitter, but I never saw the camera I filmed it on after that, and Chris’ girlfriend didn’t find it after that, so that footage is lost.
Okay, let me get a couple of things out of the way before I get into the entry itself:
1. This entry will start with my account of Zack Hample’s attempt at catching a baseball dropped from a helicopter 1,000 feet in the air. That link in the last sentence will take you to Zack’s account of the event.
2. Since the documentation of the helicopter stunt itself has been pounded into the dirt. (My friend Chris Hernandez–who was there–also did a write-up of the event on his blog.) I myself did a general highlight video for the event, that I’m pretty proud of and I’ll leave here for you to watch:
Anyways, because of this over-documentation of the event itself, what I’m going to write about mostly in this entry is I’m going to focus on the behind-the-scenes stuff, the things no one really took the time to write about. Because while Zack was the reason we were all there and this was taking place, and the world saw this event as pretty much Zack’s day, there was so much more to it than just that…
Let us begin where the entry from the last day/game left off. After having unintentionally fallen asleep writing a blog entry on my laptop, I awoke at about 5:17 in the morning to the sound of water running and a light coming from the light in my hotel room’s bathroom. It was at that point that I got mad at myself because I realized I had fallen asleep. This anger with myself turned into slight panic as I realized the running water came from the fact that my roommate for the night who I had not yet met, Andrew Gonsalves, had already woken up after getting to the hotel room after midnight and was readying himself to get out of the room for the stunt.
I was disappointed/mad about falling asleep by accident for two main reasons. The first is that when I woke up, my phone was completely uncharged. Zack had written an entry the previous morning saying to follow me on Twitter for updates on the ball drop, and I felt guilty to not live up to this expectation of the people who were checking my account out for this reason. However, this guilt turned into apathy as I left my phone charging in the dugout while I filmed the event. The second reason was that while I had never met Andrew in person, I had read his blog (which is linked to the initial mention of his full, now-clickable, name) for a while and really enjoy. The main reason I enjoy it is that most of the topics he writes feel like they could be things that I would have examined from the exact same angle (were my medium of mass-communication not essentially limited to baseball) but examined/argued and written in a way that is better than anything I could have ever done. So while we did say hello to each other, we didn’t really get to talk since we were both being semi-rushed by Zack in the next room over, Andrew left pretty soon after we introduced ourselves and I was left in the room packing all of my things into my backpack for the day, since we were not going to be coming back to the hotel. I don’t think I ever really did talk to Andrew much the whole day, but oh well; what can you do?
Oh, and when Zack opened the door between our two rooms to tell us to get ready, I also got to meet Zack’s girlfriend Hayley for the first time in person. Although, I had called Zack about 30 hours before that to talk about how everything about me finding a place to sleep was going to happen, but then Zack put Hayley through speaker-phone, so the conversation moved from hotel rooms to the three of us discussing the pros and cons of an iPhone and Galaxy3, so I guess I had kind of sort of gotten to know her more so than, say Andrew, where the conversation was pretty uni-directional.
When the four of us convened in the hotel lobby to checkout, we realized we were missing two of our group members. Those group member were Ben Weil and his girlfriend Jen (both of who, if you have followed this blog in the past, you may know I have met in the past). So after he was done checking out of his room, Zack went ahead and picked up the car. As he arrived in his 5-seater station wagon, we (Andrew, Haley, and I) saw he had picked up Ben and Jen on the way. Now I realized I’ve just been mentioning names and not really counting them up, but if you have been, there were a total of six of us headed to the stadium in a car that seats five people. So what I had offered in either the phone call I mentioned earlier on in an email to Zack is that I go in the trunk. And that’s exactly what I did. Here is a picture Ben took of me right before he closed the trunk door on me:
Believe it or not, this was my second ride in the trunk of a car. The first one being a ride in an overcrowded car this past school year to a Pizza Hut. This ride was more enjoyable, though, since I was in an open-air trunk where I could still talk to the people in the backseat.
Despite the fact that we were cutting the 6:00 time that had been set for arrival to the ballpark very close, we decided to go to a Dunkin Donuts, where I believe I was the only one in the car who didn’t get anything. There was a pretty long discussion as to exactly what kind of creamer certain people wanted in their coffee and who would pay, so we knew we were going to be a little late to the ballpark. But in approaching the ballpark, Zack took a very close look at the flag poles around Lowell as the car passed them. The lower flags were completely still, but he was troubled by the ones higher up, since they were fluttering ever so slightly.
As we passed the front of the stadium on our way into the parking garage, I saw Mike Davison, but I also saw Chris Hernadez. I knew in advance that he was planning to be there, but it’s always nice to see Chris at events, especially now that I’m out of New York and living in Washington. And he would turn out to save a semi-expensive bus ride, which is always nice.
We proceeded to park in the garage, where we then got out, saw everyone else who was going to be there for the stunt (BIGS representatives I mentioned in the vlog that’s embedded in my last entry, paramedics, ball-dropper, etc.), readied ourselves in our respective ways, Andrew and Zack played catch:
And then Ben and I, who had both offered to play catch with Zack–but Andrew already had his glove on–played catch with each other until we could down the other line:
That specific picture would be Ben having just thrown me a pop-up that I was tracking. (Or maybe it was the other way around? The ball is in just the perfect spot, and our reactions to the ball are pretty much the exact same enough for the picture to be interpreted either way.
We then got in the dugout and watched Zack attempt to catch a baseball from the first of two heights he was scheduled to go at. The ultimate goal was to catch one from over 1,000 feet, but this first warm-up height was to be 550 ft. The warm-up height started to feel anything but once Zack passed about his fifth attempt. Most of us thought he was going to catch the ball from this height pretty easily, but it eventually took him I think eight tries to get it. I say “most of us” because although I have it on tape being explained that the helicopter was at 550 feet right before the first attempt, a bunch of people in the dugout thought Zack had just caught the 1,000 foot ball.
Once the people who understood the situation talked it through with the people who didn’t, everyone got a little worried. The helicopter had looked *really* high in the sky for the first attempt, so to essentially take that and double it seemed like a ludicrous feat. However, once the helicopter ascended to its final height, it didn’t look like double the height at all. In the moment we thought it was because the chopper had moved further away from us in the dugout and closer to the absolute center of the field, but it probably had more to do with the fact that the helicopter was hovering more around 650 ft on the first attempt.
Anyway, I’m going to assume you actually read/watched the material I provided at the beginning, so you know that Zack did indeed catch the ball. Blahbity-blah-blah. Many people have said it before; you don’t need to hear it again from me. What you might not know is that in this picture that I took from Zack’s blog entry:
is that it was actually one of Ben’s three attempt to jump over the railing. He tried twice to jump the dugout railing right as Zack started walking back in from the outfield. He the cleared the people to his sides out of his way and yelled, “You see?” as he jumped the railing and chased after Zack for an embrace—referring to the fact that he was indeed able to make the jump. As he jump-hugged Zack, his girlfriend Jen said something that I couldn’t hear word-for-word over the sound of the helicopter blades cutting through the air, but was along the lines of, “See? I told you Zack is Ben’s real girlfriend.” It was hilarious because we were all thinking something along those lines as Ben chased after Zack for a hug, but Jen or Hayley were the perfect people to say it out loud.
Then when everyone was around Zack for his interviews with for the BIGS camera as well as the member of SABR who was there to get information as a part of a bigger story on people (mostly players up until Zack) who had tried catching baseballs dropped from crazy-high places, Chris and I had the same idea to go out into the outfield and take a look at the grounds crew fixing up the holes made by the falling baseballs. I filmed it to put in the video you saw at the beginning of the entry, but I also took a couple of pictures of Chris for his entry:
After that I was completely bored from filming the whole day to that point, so I decided to play catch with essentially everyone who had a glove. First I played catch with Andrew. Here he is tossing me the baseball:
We played for a considerable time, but when Zack was finally done with all of the stuff he had to do, he, Chris, and I played a three-way cutoff version of catch. Let me explain. So here I am throwing the ball to Zack:
And then here is Zack after having received one of my throws to him and relaying it to Chris:
So it was essentially Monkey in the Middle, but with us actually throwing to Zack. A fun little anecdote about this is Zack was so looking forward to play catch that while he was supposed to be sending a message or something to ESPN about the event, he actually said, “You know what, ESPN can wait. We can do that later. I need to play some catch first.”
Somewhere in the whole aftermath of the catch itself, we also got a group picture:
I’ll tell a little story about it, but first I’ll label the people left-to-right:
1. Nick- Paramedic number 1.
2. Mike Davison- Previously mentioned, who was nothing but nice to me for my whole stay in Lowell.
3. One of the police officers who was blocking off the walking path behind the outfield wall of the stadium.
4. Matt- Paramedic number 2.
5. Bob- The helicopter pilot.
6. Andrew- My roommate for all of five “awake minutes.”
7. Hayley- Zack’s girlfriend.
8. Ben Weil- I don’t know if I linked his name before, but I did just now.
9. Jen- Ben’s girlfriend who accompanied him to a Taylor Swift concert later that night.
10. Zack Hample- The only reason most of us would ever go to Lowell, MA.
11. Logan- The BIGS Seeds representative who I later gave my SD card to have some of my footage at their disposal for the video they made of the event. (I would like to use this as an excuse for why all of my stuff about the event is so late, but he returned the card to me later that day.)
12. Casper- The person in the helicopter responsible for dropping the baseballs.
13. Chris Hernandez- A very nice person who offered me a last-minute place to stay for the night so that I wouldn’t have to pay for a bus back to New York the next morning.
14. Me- Surprisingly not behind the camera for once on the day.
Anyway, the sort-of-funny thing about the picture is that Logan instructed all of us to clear the path so the BIGS logo would be completely visible, but he ended up–as you can see in the picture–being the one who partially blocked it.
After that we realized that none of us had eaten yet that day, so everyone who had gone in Zack’s car in the morning, Chris, and Mike went to a diner that Zack had eaten at during his first stay in Lowell last year. Here we all are eating what I think is technically considered brunch:
We all were willing to pay, but Zack surprised us all and picked up the entire group’s tab himself. After Ben was done with his plate, Ben decided to try to draw a baseball with the ketchup. That turned out well, but he then tried to write the word “PRACTICE” on it before realizing he didn’t have enough space on the ketchup ball. This, however, gave Jen an idea, which she got on right away. Here is a picture of the end product:
It may look nice from that picture, but trust me when I say that the picture does it very little justice. It looked amazing in person when you thought about the fact that she did it with a ketchup bottle. The potatoes were also not on the plate, she set up everything you see besides the ketchup-ed plate after the fact just for the picture.
But after that we all went our separate ways. Zack’s car headed back with its five people to New York, Mike headed off to his home town in the land of the Patriot, and Chris and I went to a Starbucks to try to write our respective entries/get some sleep in the car before we then went to the Lowell Spinners game that night. (Which, you guessed it, will be the next entry up on here.)
So after spending a full day’s worth of buses, trains, and being part of discussions surrounding the logistics of dropping a baseball from 1,000 feet in the air:
it was time to go to my first Lowell Spinners game ever with Mike Davison–who is in this next picture. If you don’t already know, the reason I was in Lowell because Zack Hample was going to attempt to catch a baseball dropped from 1,000 in the air. As you can probably tell from the date in the title of this entry, that already happened, so if you want to read Zack’s account of the event, here’s the link to that. Well anyway, while an idea as insane as trying to catch a baseball dropped from a helicopter 1,000 feet above ground could only come from Zack, Mike was the logistical mastermind behind the whole stunt itself and making an insane idea a little more feasible and a lot more safe.
So if you watched the video at the beginning of the entry, you will have seen that I ended the video saying we were off to the Lowell Spinners game. Right after that, Mike and I walked from the parking garage to behind the outfield wall. Here is my view as we made our way such:
With the game starting at 7:05 and the stadium itself not opening until 6:00, we decided we would walk around the stadium on the walkway that is right behind the outfield wall and try to get any baseballs that managed to fly out during BP. While I have been right behind the outfield wall at minor league stadiums before, this one felt weird because the walkway was *right* against the outfield wall. So there was really no shot at snagging a baseball on said walkway. The walkway was actually elevated to be at more or less the base of the outfield wall. (I say more or less because while it is a good ten feet above the foresty stuff that is even further out from the outfield wall, Mike, who is 6’5″ had his eyes at the level of the the outfield ground. More on that in a bit.) Anyway, from the walkway, this was my view of the outfield wall:
We walked back and forth on the walkway a few times before we decided to scour the bushes/foresty part below the walkway to see if any baseballs had already been hit there earlier in BP. I found this:
I’m glad that I don’t keep track of minor league stats because ballhawking for me at minor league stadiums feels like such a casual thing that I could have made a serious case for counting this ball. Oh, and if you’re wondering, the foresty area is between the walkway that goes behind the outfield wall and the Merrimack River; so the river is what you see in the background of that last picture.
After scavenging a little more, we decided to head back up to the walkway level, since we had no clue which hitters were up. My first solution to this was I found an area to look into the field through a fence just foul of the foul pole:
The good news was I could see the hitter perfectly. The bad news was I was completely out of position here to snag any baseballs. The solution we eventually came up with was there were holes at the base of the wall in left-center field, so Mike being more than tall enough to see into the stadium through them, he watched to see if there were any decent lefty hitters in the group. If there weren’t we would go into the foresty area (and yes I realize “foresty” isn’t actually a real word) in left field and hope something would fly over the wall. Nothing did. There was actually another guy down there with his two kids. He said that it was one of, if not THE worst BP he had ever seen. He reiterated several times that baseballs usually start to hit off the walls in bunches, and then baseballs start making their way over the wall and walkway. When there was even one lefty with potential to hit a ball over the wall in the group, though, we headed over to right field because there was actually a grassy area at field level that provided room to run for baseballs. However, my first “real” baseball came when we were headed over to this grass area. We were half-way there when I saw something hit into the foresty area out of the corner of my eye. I knew exactly where it had landed, so I went a couple yards down the hill and picked the ball up. I then looked up at the wall and realized how crazy this baseball had been:
Where the ball had landed meant it had to have traveled through a gap between ads that was less than three feet wide. How about that?
I also managed to snag another hit baseball when we got to the grassy area in right field:
I saw the ball the whole way as it became visible over the top of the wall, and so I ran right behind the spot I thought the ball was going to land–since I figured I had no chance to catch it on the fly through the trees–and fielded it like a ground ball.
I waited for a little while longer, but pretty much right after I got this ball, it was time for Mike and I to head to the gate and get in the stadium. Here was the scene at the main gate from across the street. (Can you find Mike?
He kind of photo-bombed me in that I was just taking a picture of the scene at the gates and he posed for the picture across the street.)
After that, we saw something that Mike insisted I include in this entry, and I can only describe as Minor League Baseball at its finest:
If you are in the majority of people who have no clue what’s going on here, the Spinners arranged to have midget wrestling going on outside the gates. Although I will say that it is not even close to the weirdest promotional stunt Mike has ever witnessed at a baseball game. I don’t think I’ll share that one with you, though.
Although we had been *on* the field earlier in the day, it was still nice to see the concourse once we got into the stadium:
It is definitely on the higher end for minor league stadiums at that level of play:
And do you see the pressbox in the background of the right part of the picture? Well there were a couple cool things to be seen on the portion of the concourse that went behind there. The first of which was the former Lowell Spinners who had made it up to the Major Leagues at one point or another. Recognize any names?
And then there was also a view inside the pressbox from the concourse:
This may not seem particularly exciting, but I love the fact that you can just look in there without having to get a special ticket right behind home plate. (I’m looking at you, MLB stadiums.)
As you can probably tell from these pictures, BP had ended by the time we got into the stadium. So instead of going after baseballs, I nonchalantly got a couple of Spinners players to sign the MiLB baseballs I had snagged outside of the stadium:
Do I have any clue who it was that signed the baseballs? No, none. But you never know, so I thought it would be a good idea to get them just in case.
As for the game, this was the view from my ticketed (complementary) seat:
But instead I headed up to the cross-aisle (concourse), and went back and forth the whole game playing foul balls. As it seems every time I play foul balls anywhere, my best opportunity came in the first inning when I had foul ball tracked, but it was headed straight at a man. I waited for the ball to deflect off of him, but to my surprise, he caught it on the fly in a hand that had a cast over it.
It was a Friday fireworks game, so there were a ton more people than usual and the concourse was much more clogged than it usually is. As a result of this and Brian Scalabrine doing several odd-jobs throughout the course of the game, I didn’t get a foul ball the whole game. But I did have a great view of the Lowell sunset:
And then for the first time in a long time, I actually left the game early. It wasn’t my decision to do so, but I was more than okay with it given the logic behind it. Mike said he should probably head out because we both had to get up the next morning at 5:00, so it was probably a good idea for us to head out and into bed. As we entered the Spinners’ garage, I got a picture of the scoreboard from where we would be entering the next morning:
I was actually staying at the Radisson with Zack and the rest of his friends he was bringing up from New York at the Radisson, so Mike was nice enough to drive me over there despite me being awful with my iPhone’s GPS from never having used it before and getting us lost a couple times. I’d say we got to the hotel at 10:30 where Mike dropped me off and headed out to get some sleep. Zack and his car of people weren’t getting in until after midnight, but we were thankfully able to get the reservation changed over successfully whilst they were on the road so I was able to check in. I tried to stay awake and greet them, but I unintentionally fell asleep while on the computer and woke up at 5:17 the next morning only to prepare my self immediately to hopefully document a person catching a baseball dropped from 1,000 feet for the first time in the history of humanity.
So two things happened for me this past Monday, April, 18th. The first was I pulled an all-nighter going Sunday into Monday because I had to give an informative speech about Oriole Park at Camden Yards amongst a couple other assignments. I then planned to take a nap after I got done with classes, but I wanted to eat lunch and prepare for the baseball game I would attend late that night. Then, of course, I would actually go on to actually attend the game. After that, though, I made plans to go see “42″ with Sean for Jackie Robinson Day. I initially called him right after the game, but he didn’t respond. Once I was at the Metrodome, I got a phone call back and Sean told me to get off the bus. He then picked me up and within fifteen minutes, we got pulled over for speeding over a bridge. It was now Sean’s second ticket since bringing his car up after spring break; more than he had gotten ever in Illinois. So he wasn’t happy to say the least, but I found it interesting that we were ticketed for going 42 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone on our way to “42″. Eventually, though, we did make it to the movie just as the trailers wrapped up to watch “42″ on the most fitting day we could think of:
Let me start with I really did like this movie as a movie. Obviously this movie brings with it the baseball element that I am partial to, but I tried for the sake of this review to distance myself as much as I could from the baseball part of it and tried to just look at it for the movie itself and as one would look at the adaptation of a book. Except in this case the book would be real life and how the events actually played out.
I really don’t have any clue how to order this, so I’ll be going all over the place and just touching on things from the movie as they pop into my mind. Bear with me if it seems like I jump from one thing to another. Actually, you know what; I’ll just bullet/number it so you know when a new idea begins/ends:
- I really like how Chadwick Boseman portrayed Jackie Robinson really well. He didn’t try to go to big with the character. He also did a good job of preserving the humanity of Robinson. The Jackie Robinson that Boseman was a hero not in his own mind, but in those of others, which is more real than putting Robinson on an absolute pedestal like the temptation might be for a movie like this.
- While I liked how Harrison Ford played Branch Rickey and he didn’t do a bad job of it, I feel as though he caricaturized him too much in playing him. There was a lot of scrunching his face and talking with his mouth half-closed. It’s hard to explain, but you’ll see it if you watch the movie.
- They recreated Ebbets Field beautifully, however they did it:
At times I could tell that it was a minor league stadium or wherever that they were filming the scenes, but for the most part, I could have believed that the movie was taking place at Ebbets Field.
- Alan Tudyk did a great job of playing what I think was the closest thing the movie had to a singular antagonist. I say this because this movie really didn’t have a single antagonist. There were really many people in the movie who merely were the antagonist for that portion of the movie until a new antagonist took his place. If it’s possible, I’d say that the concepts of racism and close-mindedness as a whole were the antagonists of the film. Anyway, Tudyk did such a good job of making you hate him as a racist that he stood out from all of the other characters. And then, something I found interesting, is that in the aftermath of the game in which his character, Ben Chapman, verbally abused Robinson, instead of further pushing the caricature of the raging racist when Chapman talks to the press about the things he was saying, he actually sounded calm and reasonable. By his body language and tone of voice, he seems like someone you could agree with. It’s only after you think about what he was actually saying to the press that you realize he is still completely racist. Then, something I found interesting was they had a scene where Chapman was being reprimanded for his actions by his boss (I forgot if it was the general manager or owner) and is being told that he will have to make amends with Robinson for PR purposes. It humanized him in a way that made you *almost* made you sympathize with him. This is again, why there was no true antagonist.
- The movie was overly-dramatic at times. The moment that sticks out in my mind is that the movie plays the music you would normally play during the climax of the movie–like, say, when Roy Hobbs hit his home run and rounded the bases in slow-motion as the lights burst from the baseball hitting them–while Jackie Robinson took a shower. I get that it’s a big deal that he was taking a shower with his teammates, but it’s still a shower; there’s no need to make it *so* dramatic.
- I don’t know if I like or dislike it, but they didn’t go far at all into Robinson’s playing career. I’m not sure how long exactly, but I think they only went about 2-3 years into it.
- The movie didn’t use any of the quotes either Robinson or Rickey have been known for. I like this because it veers the movie away from being seen as a baseball-lovers movie. What the movie did a good job of was emphasizing the fact that it was a human story told through the means of sports and not just a sports story that happened to have human elements.
Anyway, I think that’s all I’ve got for the moment, but I really did enjoy the movie, so if you have the chance, go see it. Even if you’re not a baseball fan, I would definitely recommend it. And as a baseball fan, it served as a reminder of what exactly happened. It’s easy to glaze over the history of the game and think “Oh, Jackie Robinson Day. I know that Robinson broke the color barrier and all. Whatever.” But this movie reminds us what exactly that means and why his number is the only number retired in all of the major leagues and why he also has a day dedicated to him. So super short summary: It’s a good movie; go see it.
Again, I’m making a roster for every match-up of teams that I see this season, or more than likely, until my Photoshop free trial expires, so first, here is the roster I made for Jackie Robinson day. I can’t imagine why you would actually want to use it, but I just thought I should include it:
And here is the legitimate roster with numbers and everything:
So if you want, just crop the Angels portion or the Twins portion to use with whichever team they’re matching up with. So there’s that. I’m going to keep writing Friday’s entry, but I have to leave to go to another game in less than half-an hour.
I completely forgot that I was doing this, but for the two games I attended with the Mets and Twins, I made a roster, so as I promised earlier, here is that roster if you want to use either team’s roster in the future:
Besides that, I’m almost 1,500 words into the entry of the first game as of writing this, but right now I have to head out to the Twins-Angels game.
I realized in getting ready for Opening Day that I make a lot of rosters. Other ballhawks I know make a lot of rosters. That’s a lot of the same rosters being made. In other words, that’s a lot of lost productivity, as us students of economics like to call lost productivity. In other words, people doing stuff that they otherwise could have easily avoided.
So what’s the solution to this? What I’ll try to do from now on whenever I create a roster is I’ll put it up here for you guys to use in your ball-snagging pursuits, or for whatever else you may need. I’ll keep on doing this until my free trial of Photoshop expires in like two weeks, anyway. Basically, I’m doing the work so you can be lazy. Anyway, here is the first roster for the game I will be attending today between the Tigers and the Twins:
Hopefully this can help you somewhere down the line. Just remember that rosters can change, so just check that the two teams are up-to -date for whichever game you end up planning to use this for. Hopefully I’ll have the entry of the game up for you guys in a couple of days.
A quick update before I get started (because no one reads them when I put them at the end of entries):
I did a couple of videos on my YouTube page in the time since the last entry, if you want to check them out. They haven’t been embedding well as of late, so I’ll first try to embed them and link them if the embed doesn’t work once I publish the entry. Anyway, the first video is one I did for a public speaking class entitled: “How to do a last-minute speech.” And yes, it is what it sounds like:
The second is me saluting the fact that Opening Day is almost here while taking a subtle jab at Spring Training games:
If you liked those and would like to find out about them not weeks after they were uploaded, feel free to subscribe to the channel. I don’t have a regular posting schedule (we all know how well that has worked out for the blog these past few months), but I do plan on uploading videos and making them public there before they ever get on a published blog entry. For example, I may or may not have uploaded the video later on in this entry publicly before I published this entry
Apparently one day of sports analytics wasn’t enough, so I came back for some more in a second day:
And I got to begin it with this beautiful panel of people:
That would be the “Staying on the Field: Injury Analytics” panel. It was compromised of the following panelists:
Stephania Bell (moderator):
Senior Writer, ESPN.
Vice President of Medical Services (whatever that means), Los Angeles Dodgers.
Director of Center for Molecular Medicine and Orthopaedics, Düsseldorf, Germany. You may recognize him better as the surgeon who performed the blood-spinning operation (I think that’s right.) on Kobe Bryant and a couple athletes.
Founder, BASE Productions. Or perhaps known better as the host of Sports Science (is that one word like Sportscenter?) on ESPN.
This was really interesting once it got started, but there were technical difficulties with the Stan Conte’s slides–which while we’re listing off things I didn’t like about the panel, slides don’t integrate well into almost any panel. Probably the one thing I will always take with me from the panel was Conte’s story about Mike Matheny and what eventually convinced him to retire. If you don’t know the gist of the story, Matheny retired due to excess concussions from taking foul tips to the head. Apparently what happened was Matheny was talking to whoever the Cardinals back-up catcher was at the time and telling him that he blacked-out for a second every time a ball hits his mask, which he described as being perfectly normal. It was upon the back-up catcher telling him that it wasn’t perfectly normal that he black out every time a ball hit his mask that Matheny reconsidered that, shall we say, “sanity,” of him continuing his career any longer.
After that it was back up the Grand Ballroom for Monday Morning Quarterback. This was one of the more entertaining and by far the most engaging panel. It was compromised of the following panelists:
Tony Reali (moderator):
Host, Around The Horn (ESPN).
Former Head Coach and NFL Analyst, ESPN.
General Manager, Atlanta Falcons.
Jack Del Rio:
Defensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos.
Brian Burke (no not that one):
Founder, Advanced NFL Stats.
Like I said, this was the most interactive and fun of the panels. What it was is we watched videos of different scenarios of plays (mostly involving the people on the panel) and then the audience voted on what they though the coach should do on that particular play. We then got to see what the statistics dictated the coach should have done. It was a fun time.
Then I went ahead and filmed a mini-tour of the conference grounds. So here that is:
After that I went ahead to the Stying Relevant: Social Media Analytics panel. That was these people:
Gary Belsky (moderator):
Digital Director, Brooklyn Nets & Barclays Center.
CEO, VaynerMedia, who for both better and worse completely dominated the speaking time by the panelists.
Head of Sports and Entertainment, Twitter.
Co-Founder, Bleacher Report.
This was interesting insofar as how it may pertain to this blog and social media outlets thereof. I may change my New Year’s goals because of it eventually. Like I mentioned, Vaynerchuk completely took over the panel, which was not necessarily a bad thing, because he had knowledge of the subject some good things to say, but also it was a brilliant overall panel and not just him, so I would have liked to hear a lot less of him and a lot more of the other panelists.
Then, for my final panel of the conference, I headed over to Hall of Fame Analytics, which was these people:
Editor in Cheif, ESPN the Magazine.
Senior Writer/Baseball Analyst, ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com.
Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated.
Director of Production Analytics, ESPN Stats & Information.
And sadly, although he was initially slated to be a part of it, John Thorn could not make it to the panel. Thorn, if you did not know, is a fellow MLBlogger. Besides this, the panel was really great. While he may not have been viewed the same way to other people in the audience, Buster Olney stole the show in this panel for me. I’ve disagreed with many of the positions Olney has taken when it comes to Hall of Fame voting in the past, but I realize that this was the case in many scenarios because he was confined by the schmushed time slots ESPN has given him. It was in this panel where he got to fully explain his point and develop his argument that it became clear he was the baseball writer of decades and I was the jerk at home who thought he was an idiot who I knew more about baseball than. I mean he didn’t convince me that Jack Morris belongs in the Hall over Bert Blyleven (though he did argue that) but he did get me on his side of the fence on a couple other points and helped me beter see his perspective on a couple others.
After that it was off to the closing ceremonies and the Alpha Awards for exceptional performances in the field of sports analytics. Whatever that means. I actually don’t have my program with me since I left it in New York, so I can’t tell you what any of the awards were, so I’ll just end this entry with a series of pictures and you can create your own storyline to accompany them.
And thus, the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference came to a close. I hope you guys enjoyed that entry. Thank you for reading. And considering I am going to Opening Day in less than 24 hours, be on the lookout for the entry from that game. While I will miss the free time I have during the offseason, I’ll say it’s about time baseball got here.
Hey. Sorry this entry is up a little late, but you know, National Procrastination Week was the week right after the conference, so I put off celebrating until the week of the 11th to start celebrating… and so, here we are. Here goes the entry of a truly great experience:
Another year, another year having a blast at MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference. If you didn’t read my last entry (which may be privatized by the time you read this entry) the difference in this year was that I got to attend the conference this year for free thanks to the conference’s organizers for taking pictures that they ended up using last year.
Anyway, the conference began the same way it did the previous year with opening remarks in the main (ball)room with the main four people responsible for the conference taking about the conference itself:
Left to right that is:
1. David Schmittlein- The dean of the MIT Sloan school (of management).
2. Daryl Morey- The GM of the Houston Rockets who graduated from Sloan in 2000 and is the co-chair for the conference.
3. Jessica Gelman- The other co-chair of the conference who is the Vice President of Customer Marketing and Strategy for the Kraft Sports Group (the group that owns the New England Patriots).
4. Jordy DeFelice- One of the two conference’s student co-leads.
5. Jonathan Katz- The other of the two conference’s student co-leads. The conference is a completely student-run operation, so these two are the leaders of that team of I believe around 50 student organizers.
The opening remarks consisted of many things from Jaws music to unloading trucks. But mostly bad jokes that people had to laugh at because they were so bad. You know those ones, right?
Unfortunately I was late for being early, and combined with this being the event people showed up the earliest for the whole conference, this was probably my worst seat for the whole conference. What I forgot is that not many people leave for other rooms during the first time block of the day, so it ended up also being my seat for the Revenge of the Nerds panel that took place immediately after the opening remarks in the ballroom.
That panel consisted of these following people. I will first write the name of the person and then the picture of that person afterwards. I felt the need to clarify that because I often get confused by that myself.
Michael Lewis (moderator):
This should be a familiar to most people reading this blog. He is a best-selling author most notably in the sports world for Moneyball and The Blind Side.
The COO of the San Francisco 49ers.
Founder of Fivethirtyeight.com. He is probably most famous for correctly predicting the outcome of all 50 states in this past year’s presidential election, raising him–briefly–to an almost Chuck Norris-esque internet adoration.
Owner of the Dallas Mavericks.
It was a really interesting panel on a variety of levels. I don’t remember exactly what I was mesmerized by, but I’ll be sure to put the video of the panel when it goes up on YouTube like last year. In addition, with my focus on taking pictures this year, I think I’ll be re-watching a lot more panels than I did last year.
I should also add that, like I mentioned on the Twitter machine during the conference itself:
Nate Silver is being an awesome person by staying to talk to people until the organizers kick him off the stage for the next panel. #SSAC13
— Mateo Fischer (@observebaseball) March 1, 2013
async src="//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js" charset="utf-8">
Nate Silver was the awesomest of the panelists on Revenge of the Nerds by staying to talk with people almost until the next panel began twenty minutes later. Here is photographic evidence of this:
I think my legs would hurt at that point.
The next panel required no movement on my part as it was also in the ballroom. I however did move to be at a better picture-taking angle since a lot more people left between these two panels than between the opening remarks and Revenge of the Nerds. What was the panel? It’s Not You, It’s Me: Break-Ups in Sports. Here are the panelists:
I definitely took several pictures of her, but I was at a bad angle for taking pictures of the moderator’s chair, so I guess I kept erasing the bad pictures of her and never realized that I never actually got one to put on file. A shame. Anyway, she now works for ESPN, most notably appearing frequently as a panelist on their show Around The Horn. She made her fame, however, in her twenty years at the Boston Globe. She has also published several books such as When the Game Was Ours–which spoke of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson’s rivalry. She also co-authored Shaquille O’Neal’s autobiography.
Co-Owner of the Boston Celtics.
Senior Advisor to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who was on this panel because he recently got fired from his position as President and General Manager of the team.
Stan Van Gundy:
Former head coach of the Orlando Magic.
NFL Analyst on ESPN, who was on the panel because he was the former General Manager of the Indianapolis Colts.
Host for Sportscenter on ESPN.
This panel added to a great start for me this conference. It truly was another great one. Bill Polian had some great words of wisdom while Stan Van Gundy was entertain but at the same time informative of his whole situation with the Magic and Dwight Howard, where contrary to expectation, he gave Dwight Howard respect for having played with the most pain he has ever seen a player play with.
In addition to that, it was interesting hearing Brian Burke essentially trash the statistical evaluation of players. I even overheard a “And that’s why you got fired” from the crowd. I wish I had been at the front of the crowd so Burke might have heard that. (Burke, for the record, is on the Honorary Executive Board for the conference–as is Bill Polian. It’s more than likely because his daughter is on the Alumni Executive Board. She even introduced this panel:
Sorry, Katie. That’s the only picture I got of you.)
Then came time for boxed lunches. As last year, there was only one vegetarian option, so I went with the grilled vegetable wrap. It would have been great, but it’s just not my thing. Whatever. It was a good lunch, so I’m not going to complain.
For the next time block–That’s how the conference worked. There were a maximum of five events going on for each hour-long time block with twenty-minute breaks in between them–there really wasn’t one event that I really wanted to attend, but I wanted to take in as much as I could so I went to Big Data Analytics in the Wide World of Sports. The speaker for it was Will Cairins, a senior data scientist at HP. So here is Mr. Cairins along with a couple of slides from his presentation, which I honestly still have no clue what it was about other than an amazingly big database’s applications to the world of sports:
Mr. Carins from my way-too-close-to-the-stage-seat. (My biggest challenge was getting a picture that wasn’t looking straight up his nose or blocked by the podium in the middle of the stage.)
A second shot of Cairins that wanted to get just to have the cool background he spoke in front of.
A couple of slides from the presentation.
After that I headed off to one of the research paper presentations. It was entitled Live by the Three, Die by the Three? The Price of Risk in the NBA. The presenter of it was Matthew Goldman of UC San Diego:
I guess it was an interesting presentation. (If you want to read the whole paper, click here.) But the most notable part of it for me was that Mr. Goldman, the presenter, was by far the hardest person–with Mr. Cairins from the previous presentation as a close second–to get a good picture of. First of all, he made so many small, ridiculous facial expressions that weren’t detectable to the naked eye but kept showing up on camera. That and he moved back and forth on stage more than anyone else I saw at the conference, so even if he wasn’t making a ridiculous facial expression on camera, the picture would come out blurry. I don’t know exactly how many pictures I deleted of him, but it was closer to the number of all other presenters/panelists combined than you might otherwise think.
Sadly, though, I had to seem like the biggest douchebag in the room as I had to leave extra early from my front-row seat to get a front-row seat for the Baseball Analytics panel in the Grand Ballroom. That panel consisted of the following:
Lindsay Czarniak (moderator):
Anchor for Sportscenter on ESPN.
Senior Writer for NBC Sports.
Staff Writer, Grantland; Author – “The Extra 2%”.
Vice President of Product Development & Sales, Baseball Info Solutions.
Statistical Analyst/ Writer.
Director of Baseball Operations, Oakland Athletics.
All in all, I would say that it was a pretty good panel. Someone who was new to the conference would have loved this panel. I, however–and this is not the panel’s fault–couldn’t stop comparing this year’s panel to last year’s amazing Baseball Analytics panel, so that took away from my enjoyment of it. If you weren’t reading my blog at this time last year, you can click here and scroll about half-way down the page to see last year’s all-star panel.
Next up it was True Performance & the Science of Randomness. This panel consisted of the following panelists:
Daryl Morey (moderator):
President of the Cleveland Browns.
CEO, tenXer, who you may best recognize as the person who the movie “21″ was based off of, and who not surprisingly revealed that he can no longer play blackjack.
Professor, Menlo College, whose connection to sports is through him being a consultant/researcher in the field of sports analytics as well as authoring a book on the subject.
Editor, By the Numbers.
This was a very interesting panel to listen to. The brilliance that emanated from its panelists can be seen in the fact that it took half the panel simply to understand the terms they were using to describe the process of deciphering true performance from inherent randomness that occupies any performance and measurement thereof. Oh, and the panel had approximately 1,245 references to Nate Silver’s book, The Signal and the Noise. It was initially just thrown out there as a moving reference, but it quickly became the running jokes of the panel to see how many times they could mention the book in the span of the panel and that the rest of the panel would thus forward receive royalties on any book sales for the number of times the book was mentioned during the panel. (No, it wasn’t actually 1,245 times, but it almost seemed like it.)
Next up was, in that same room, the Ticketing Analytics panel. (I really suspect they tried to make as many panels follow the Analytics format as possible, because–at least this was the case in the panels I attended–way more followed it this year than last year.) The panel was comprised of the following panelists:
Shira Springer (moderator):
Special projects reporter, Boston Globe Sports. Oddly enough, she was the only moderator who sat in the middle of the panel. In I believe EVERY other panel I attended, the moderator sat to the far right seat of the panel. I don’t know if this was done unintentionally or to strategically segment the group, but for whatever reason she was in the middle. She was also one of the least active moderators on any of the panels, but I think that was more of a testament to the panel and the direction the panelists took it rather than on her job as moderator.
President, San Jose Earthquakes.
Senior Vice President of Business Operations, Kansas City Cheifs.
Executive Vice President – Team Marketing & Business Operations, NBA. Or at least that is his title in the biography on the website. I recall him speaking extensively about his work with the Indiana Pacers, so I want to say he was in a high-up position with the team.
Global Head of Business Development and Partnerships, Stubhub.
Sr. Vice President, Development & Strategy, NBA/NHL & Arenas – Ticketmaster.
This panel was mostly an entertaining debate between Granger and Kaval as to what the repercussions/benefits of dynamic pricing are with Kaval taking the more fan-friendly perspective and Granger taking the more business-y approach. In my opinion, this comes from the differences between their two leagues, with Kaval having to rely more on the fan experience and Granger having an unconditional fan base (to a certain extent). What I mean by that is that someone is way more likely to “just go” to an NBA game than an MLS game. The other interesting part of the panel was hearing Chapin talk about the Cheifs have implemented paperless ticketing for their season ticket holders through the use of a season ticket holder card. As a dedicated sports attendee myself it both excited and frightened me.
The final panel of the day was the Business of Sports panel. That was the following panelists:
Jessica Gelman (moderator):
Previously mentioned. (I think. Right? Right.)
Executive Vice President, ESPN.
Senior Vice President of Global Sports Marketing, PepsiCo.
President & CEO, Houston Astros.
President, Soccer United Marketing.
Phil de Picciotto:
Founder and President, Octagon.
I can’t really remember much at all from this panel. I think it was one of those I-could-have-enjoyed-this-so-much-more-had-it-been-earlier-in-the-day situations. Anyway, that was my very full day at the conference after which I exited through the lobby from whence I came earlier in the day. (The convention center is three floors. The lobby is on the lowest of them and the conference itself took place on the two upper levels.):
Anyway, that was my day, so check back for the account of the second day. I plan on having a video tour of the entire conference grounds, but even so I hope it doesn’t take me half a month to get that out. (Or even over a week for that matter.) I plan on writing less in that entry, though. This entry was 2500+ words, just for reference. Then I plan on doing whatever it may be that I do on this blog next week. After that regular season baseball comes back to Minnesota–hopefully with some snow to accompany it. That obviously means I will shut down “offseason” mode and get into writing about the games I attend.