Wait until next year

Putting off what could be done tomorrow, today

Tag: my baseball winter

MLB.TV – What shall I buy? And when? (My Baseball Winter #5)

It’s getting to be that time. Spring Training isn’t so far off, and I need to start thinking of just how I’m going to go about watching baseball in 2010. MLB.TV is the obvious option. Access to every single game, from the first pitch of the first exhibition game, to the last out in the last game of the World Series.

But what option should I choose?

The past couple of seasons I’ve gone with the bog-standard MLB.TV option, and it’s been fine for me. I’m not a heavy user of this particular drug, and if the picture gets a little grainy at times I don’t mind. With the dreadful speakers on my laptop to match I can just squint and pretend I’m watching it on a cool old portable TV in a log cabin in 1976. Seems more authentic that way. I just need to be sitting in a wifebeater sucking on a cheap beer, howling at the screen. Or something. Well, it has been known.

But then again, I’ve always been a sucker for shiny advertising and clever payment options, where is only *just that little bit more* to upgrade. So, what do I get for my extra dough? Choice of home or away broadcast. Nice, but not essential. DVR controls to pause and rewind live. Now we’re talking. That could be good for when I drift off, or miss that key play as I reach for the pretzels. Multi-game view. I’d probably use it now and again, just to get a different feel for the game. Not essential though.

Well, thanks for talking me through that, dear reader. It sounds like the basic package will be just fine. Unless I feel a little flush and light-headed when I order. Feel free to convince me otherwise.

The price? According to my online currency converter findings, it’s £62 for cheap MLB.TV, and £74 for shiny, flashy MLB.TV. See what I mean about *just that little bit more*? Hmm. Damn them and their fine pricing policy.

I think it’s a little bit more than last year, and I’m no financial whiz, but maybe the exchange rate doesn’t help. Say, if you can predict the financial future let me know when I should buy. I’m not looking to fleece the worldwide markets. I just want my baseball a little cheaper so I can spend that money on, I dunno, takeaway curry, or something nice for the flat, you know?

The Deadball Era – Monday video special! (My Baseball Winter #4)

No witty insight or well-researched commentary today (“or ever!” the readership cry), but just some fun video footage, of baseball way back in the mists of time. Funny to spot the differences with today’s sport, and to spot the similarities – baseball is more aware of its history and heritage than most sports, after all. Enjoy!

Baseball can be silly, in a good way (My Baseball Winter #3)

My baseball winter hasn’t been as chronicled as closely as I might have initially hoped. Apologies dear readers. I’ve been trying to keep up, but failing miserably to actually record anything. Oh, the woe of a lazy blogger, eh? Still, I’ve been reading, online and off, and as mentioned previously even had a go at scoring a game or two. If I actually get around to scanning the scoresheets I’ll finally write about that soon. But what can I say? I’ve been busy, writing silly posts about hot toddies and in real-life making my annual pantomime appearance. But that’s another story for another time.

So, baseball. That’s what you thought you’d be reading about, right? Rather than all this waffling? Still here? Wow.

One super-duper obvious way of immersing myself in baseball is the myriad sites that pervade this here internet. There’s a wealth of information, insight and commentary. But sometimes, I’d like a little less statistics and seriousness and a little more silliness. Because (and keep this under your hat), I’m a little silly. And a great way into a sport’s soul is to explore its silliness. Like with people, you learn a lot when their guard is down. When it comes to sport, and people, if there’s no fun, it ain’t worth it.

First off, there’s this great video, of Dock Ellis explaining how he pitched a no-hitter, whilst under the influence of LSD, with some wacky accompanying visuals. But remember, don’t try this at home kids! This has been all over the web, but I’ll thank BaseballGB and The Daily Something, in particular, for flagging it up, and being two of my “go to” sites this Winter.

And secondly, something rather special. Compiling statistics may be engrossing, enlightening and all those things, but essentially they can be pretty dry. And rarely silly. Until now, where the Wezen-Ball blog has combined two of my favourite things, baseball and the Peanuts cartoons, to calculate Charlie Brown’s wins, losses and other stats. Now that is my kind of statistical analysis. A real treat.

I shall continue my exploration of the absurd, the comical and the strange in baseball, and may well even keep you abreast of developments. I should be a little more reliable, right? Anyway, what silly stuff have you come across (baseball or not) recently?

The perfect game (My Baseball Winter #2)

So, following on from my intro to My Baseball Winter I thought I’d actually start chronicling my Wintertime baseball experiences. This is not in chronological order, so unfortunately my ‘journey’ may end up a rather fragmented one. I think I may end up offering these snapshots and hope that they add up to, well…something beyond the sum of their parts. Before I begin, a tiny bit of context. I recently tried scoring my first game (thoughts and scans to come in the near future, all being well). I’ve also been perusing last season’s stats. Generally with a confused expression on my face. OK, well, let us finally get this blog post started…

Sport doesn’t really matter. We could function as human beings without it. I hear that some people even do. Just as some people function without music, literature, art or any of that other useless stuff.

But boy, life would be empty without all those things. Especially sport.

While ‘art’ can, and does, engineer moments that transcend the everyday, sport doesn’t. But it still happens, from time to time. By chance, and as a wonderful by-product of the technique of those involved and of the contest itself. And that’s what makes sport magical.

That sometimes it can make us feel alive, without even trying.

On July 23 this year Mark Buehrle of the Chicago White Sox threw only the eighteenth perfect game in Major League Baseball history, and only the sixteenth since 1900. This is perhaps the ultimate act in the sport of baseball. To throw a perfect game a pitcher must, over the course of a nine inning game, allow no opposing player on to base.

This might not sound that impressive to someone new to baseball, but let’s think about this a second. This has happened on only eighteen occasions, in thousands and thousands of games. Bear in mind there are just short of 2,500 games played a year. So, in well over a quarter of a million games (if my shaky, hurried Maths is right), each starting with two pitchers (one a side), a perfect game has only been pitched those few times. July 23 really was a historic day.

So, as part of my ongoing baseballing education, I decided to sit through Buehrle’s famous innings. And I was struck by how much sport, this wonderful, useless pastime, can mean. Genuinely, there was a beauty in Buehrle’s performance, as it unfolded. Even though I knew the outcome, I was still overcome with tension and emotion on each pitch.

I think this was because the ‘perfect game’ isn’t entirely perfect. Bear with me here. Each pitch isn’t a strike, with the batter missing the ball. Some batters hit the ball, only for the ball to drop into foul territory. A matter of a couple of inches keeps the game ‘perfect’.

Some batters make contact with the ball but are out before they reach first base. Some balls are struck into the field, only to be caught. In the most dramatic moment of the game, in the ninth and final inning, the substitute fielder Dewayne Wise somehow juggled the ball from his gloved hand to bare hand as his body hit the outfield wall. His skill kept Buehrle ‘perfect’.

And that’s what makes the perfect game so fascinating. While the pitcher might look lonely on the mound, he is never truly alone. The perfect game only happens if his fielders can support him. Watching the game, each catch and each piece of fielding, to remove an opponent, takes on a real significance in hindsight.

What at first appears to be an individual milestone, proves to be the work of a team in perfect harmony in one particular game. How often do we really see that in sport, or, indeed, in life? Yet, on just a regular, run-of-the-mill day, this happened.

There’s the special thing about sport. It can be memorable, touching, moving, important at any time. This was just another afternoon game in another season, until events unfolded. Every game in every sport has the potential to be historic, or to bring joy to its participants or observers. Whenever we turn up or tune in, something incredible might be on the horizon. This was a great example of this. Perhaps this is why we cling to sport and stick with it no matter what disappointment it may throw at us.

Sport shows us that on any given day something amazing could happen to us.

Photo from The People’s Tribune via Twitter

Baseball and me (My Baseball Winter #1)

I love baseball. But it was never my first love.

I only really took an interest in the sport in 2005, when I spent a summer in New Jersey working on a kid’s summer camp as part of the Camp America programme (or should that be ‘program’?).

Among children and adults alike there seemed to be only two choices. You either supported the New York Yankees or the New York Mets. I was well aware that the Yankees were an all-encompassing monster, the baseball equivalent of Manchester United, and so really there was only one choice.

And a trip to Shea Stadium, the Mets home (until last year, that is, it’s now Citi Field, for those interested in getting me an all-expenses paid trip to see the Mets next summer) sealed it. What a wonderful experience. Much like cricket, this was a sport that you can let wash over you, that you can luxuriate in, that gives you time to think, or just shoot the breeze with friends.

From that day it was clear. I would be a Mets fan.

That that’s not to mention the other wonders of the day, such as the guy who would bring beer and pretzels to us, without us having to leave our seats. I thought I’d died and gone to heaven. The Mets scored a run, and the family sat in front of me turned around to give me high-fives. I’d arrived! I was a New York Mets fan, and I realised that baseball was much, much more than the English stereotype of ‘glorified rounders’.

Even though the Mets lost that day. But, hey, I’d get used to that.

In 2007 I went to the United States again, this time to Texas. I spent a week on my own before being joined by friends, in Dallas, and then in Austin. I had plenty of opportunities to watch the baseball, either in my room or, more frequently, as a bit of a barfly. I found one sports bar in Austin that suited me with a world of beers (I remember Fireman’s Four being a particular favourite), huge plates of scorching hot chicken wings and screen upon screen of baseball.

It was the perfect entertainment for me, alone and in a strange town. I could while away a couple of hours, dipping in and out of games, seeing how they all progressed. It didn’t demand my attention, but it certainly kept it. Baseball seems to be a game you just slip into watching, much like cricket, and less like the full-on assault, hype and razzamatazz of football (American and soccer).

But how to follow the game in the UK? Catching the scores in the paper wasn’t really enough, and wasn’t the easiest means of keeping track on a season. Channel 5 showed games, but sadly I was living in one of the few areas left that just couldn’t get Channel 5. Ridiculous. And even so, was two games a week enough? Would there be enough context?

Then I stumbled across mlb.tv, and all was good in my baseball-watching world. Now I had access to each and every game across a season, in full and in highlight form, audio or video, whenever and wherever I wanted. Now I could immerse myself in the sport. I could catch a game live, or catch up later.

And so, here I am. I watch a fair share of baseball, read about it some more, but I want to learn, and preferably in time for the start of next season.

So, what is the plan between now and next April?

Well, I thought I could chronicle my explorations across the next few months in learning more about the sport. I know the basics, I know the big names and fair few of the smaller ones. However, there is always room for improvement.

So, what else can I learn? I tried fantasy baseball and enjoyed it, but how can I improve my team’s chances? Can I find out who is worth tipping for next year? Should I immerse myself in the sport’s statistics? Or its history?

I suppose that is where I hand over to you, dear reader. I’d love any suggestions, or requests, of what I could cover in My Baseball Winter

Photo from Adam Finley via Flickr.