Category: sports

A Couple More Pictures From My Yankees Inside Experience

Here are a couple more pictures from my Yankees Inside Experience. These pictures were taken by Yankees photographers and sent to participants yesterday.

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Raul Ibañez and Your Humble Blogger
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Outside the dugout at Yankee Stadium

So much fun! Going to a Yankees game will never be quite the same again.

My Yankees Inside Experience

On Saturday, my brother-in-law dropped me off in front of Yankee Stadium at 10am. I was there for my Yankees Inside Experience, which was a gift to me from my family for my 40th birthday. We were told to arrive at Gate 6 at 10:15am. There was a short line when I strolled up. The sky was blue and the weather was perfect, if maybe a little warm in the direct sunlight. At 10:15, they began letting us in. We registered, had our picture taken, and received a badge, after which we were assembled into groups of 30 for a private tour of the stadium. I made sure to dress appropriately for the occasion:

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I was not the only one. There was no mistaking the fans who got to roam around Yankee stadium on Saturday morning before almost anyone else was there.

The tour took us through four main attractions in the stadium. We started with a tour of the Yankees dugout, which was pretty amazing. Our group threaded our way through the aisles down toward the field and then out onto the field itself. We got to walk on the warning track (which, as we learned, is not made of dirt, but of a certain mixture of sand and clay) and then down into the dugout.

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Everyone took a seat somewhere in the dugout. I sat on the far left end (if you are facing the field) where Yankees manager Joe Girardi sits (or more often than not, stands) during a game:

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People had a blast getting to see the dugout, which is apparently not something they do often on the tour. They did it Saturday only because the game time was a later-than-usual start: 4:05pm as opposed to a usual 1pm Saturday start. At first, I was just overawed by it: I was sitting in the Yankees dugout! Later, I tried to act a little more casual:

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My Upcoming “Inside NY Yankees Experience”

One week from today, I will be in New York for my “Inside NY Yankees Experience,” a gift my family gave to me for my fortieth birthday. Earlier in the week, I received my itinerary and ticket for the game in the mail. The Yanks are playing Tampa Bay, in what is turning out to be a pretty close race in the AL East. I guess I picked a good game.

For anyone curious about what the Inside Experience involves, here is what my itinerary looks like:

  • 10:15am: Guest arrival and registration
  • 10:30-12:00pm: Exclusive stadium tour
  • 12:00-12:45pm: Photo and autograph opportunity with a current roster player. (I kind of wonder if the player will really want my autograph. How many baseball players are science fiction fans?)
  • 12:45-1:30pm: Lunch Buffet
  • 1:30pm: Guest depart to their seats
  • 4:05pm: First pitch

Since we are in September, there is now a 40-man roster, which means the player we meet could be the fellow just called up from single-A. Regardless, I am very excited about this event. My seats are behind home plate, looking up the third base line. My brother-in-law is also attending the game, although he was way, way up in the nosebleeds on the third base side.

While I doubt I will be live-blogging the game, you can expect a post and pictures afterward. And I’ll be doing my best to tweet the goings-on while I am there.

My Baseball Century Experiment

Sometimes, I get an idea in my head that just won’t go away. It catches fire and for days at a time, it is all I can think about. This doesn’t happen often, but it happened last week while I was reading George F. Will’s book Men At Work, an excellent book about baseball. While reading it, I got to thinking about all of the data available for more than a century of baseball play. I thought about the whole science of sabermetrics that rose up around these statistics, and I began to think, would it be fun to play with this data? Of course, it is not easy data to get one’s hands on, but that is when I had my little flash of brilliance:

What if I put together a simulation of baseball beginning with a set of entirely made-up players, and simulated 100 seasons worth of play? I would end up with a data set almost as impressive as the real thing. And that data set might be very interesting to look at. I know that there are baseball simulations out there, but I have something a little different in mind. My simulation is just that–a simulation. There is no interface to it. You run it with a certain set of inputs and setting and when it finishes, it produces a database worth of results. This is not MLB 2013 for the XBox. This is something that sits on my machine and chunks away for minutes (or hours) running through game after game, season after season.

Why do this?

  1. It sounds fun and that’s always a good reason in my book.
  2. I am looking to learn more about the intricacy of baseball and this is a good way of exploring those intricacies experimentally.
  3. I am looking to conduct some experiments with the simulations that might be interesting.
  4. I am looking to learn a new platform–Objective C and Mathematica–both of which are useful in my day job.
  5. I love baseball and this is a way to delve deep into it.

Let me explain about the experiments. I can think of several I’d like to conduct, but first and foremost in my mind is answering this question:

Who would be the record holder, and what would the big records be in a made-up league with made-up players, after 100 seasons of play based on 2 assumptions: (1) that the players, managers and umpires execute perfectly every time; (2) and that they use the accumulated data to make the best possible decision in any given situation?

I chose this as a first experiment because I wanted to ignore the human factor initially. Suppose everyone executed perfectly and suppose that in each game situation, you knew the percentages for each play you could make, always choose the move with the best chance of success: how would things look after 100 years? Would there be a trend toward lower scoring games? Would there be any perfect games? Who would be the home run king and what would that record look like? The fact that this simulation does NOT use past baseball data as a starting point makes it more interesting to me to see how the league evolves over time.

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Last Friday’s Nationals/Yankees game

This past Friday, Kelly and I had a night out. The New York Yankees were in town to play the Washington Nationals as part of interleague play and we went to see them courtesy of a friend of ours who gave us the tickets.

And what tickets they were! Talk about being spoiled for all future games! The tickets were in the PNC Diamond Club. The seats were behind home plate, with a great view of the field. We had full access to the Diamond Club, which had a bar and buffet. Also, there were people wandering around to take our orders from our seats. And best of all, the food, beer and wine was all included with the seats. Our view of the field looked like this:

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Yes, that is Jeter stepping up to the plate at the start of the game. We had just a blast. The two guys in the seats next to us were from Indiana and were both Yankees fans, which made the game even more fun. There were two women sitting behind us, and they were looking for the Lexus club, or something like that. Kelly told them she’d seen it at one point, and off they went. We later learned that one of them was Robinson Cano’s wife (I believe) and I forget who the other was. Whether or not that was true, I don’t know, but that’s what we were told.

Kelly took full advantage of the buffet, getting platefuls of all kinds of good foods. Even when we first came into the club, there was a big table lined with all kinds of candy and popcorn and Kelly had her fill of that, too. I had a hot dog, and later had some excellent chicken wings, and I don’t think I had an empty beer cup for the entire duration of the game.

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And you can see that I attended the game in full “uniform,” so to speak. The Yankees ended up winning the game 7-2. I think we both had a really nice night out, and to top it all off, we came home to find both kids sleeping, which has happened only once before when they’ve had a babysitter. Of course, going to a game like this really spoils you to those games where you find yourself sitting in the bleachers, paying $8 for a beer, instead of on cushioned seats where the beer is free. But that’s okay. It was still a lot of fun. Plus, I’ve got my Yankee Experience coming up in September and I imagine that will be a lot of fun, too.

Movies that make me cry

Last weekend during the reception dinner that followed the wedding of some friends, our table got around to talking about weddings and the people who cry at them. There were quite a few (happy) tears at this particular wedding and so it was a natural course for the conversation. Kelly pointed out that she didn’t cry at weddings, and of course, neither do I. But then the conversation shifted from crying at weddings to crying at movies. A few of the people at the table admitted to crying at movies. Kelly pointed out that she rarely cried at movies (although I can remember her crying when she watched Jack the Bear a few years about–such a rare event that even the movie title sticks out in my memory.) She then gleefully said to the table:

“Jamie cries at Lord of the Rings.”

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This seemed to amuse the people at the table, although I pointed out that I only cried at one specific point, toward the very end of The Return of the King when Aragorn says to the hobbits, “My friends, you bow to no one.” (Even now, just typing that my eyes have watered up.)

But there is one type of movie that is almost guaranteed to bring tears to my eyes every time, no matter how many times I’ve seen them: baseball movies.

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A beautiful day for baseball

Yesterday turned out to be quite a remarkable day for baseball.

Early yesterday morning, the Little Man and I walked to our neighborhood Target to pick up some whiffle balls and a bat–his first–so that we could play with them later on that morning. The entire family hauled our way out to Bull Run Park for an event there in support of fallen fire fighters. The Little Man got to see all kinds of fire trucks and we even watched a helicopter take off. He wore a white t-shirt with a fire truck on it and there wasn’t a fire fighter that we passed that didn’t compliment him on his shirt. I got to spend time with the Little Miss, dancing around the field with her as the band played music. The Little Man didn’t seem too interested in baseball, what with everything else going on, but he swung the bat a few times before losing interest. We all had a blast and we all managed to get minor sunburns.

Later that afternoon, I turned on the Yankee game to find the Yanks down 9-0 against Boston in the 4th inning. Given the history of those two teams, I couldn’t imagine the Yankees coming back from that. Of course, that was superseded by the fact that Philip Humber of the Chicago White Sox was on the verge of pitching a perfect game. The whole family watched the bottom of the 9th inning and I, at least, could not sit down. When Humber went 3-0 against the first batter of the inning my heart was in my throat. But he managed to come back and strike him out! Next out was a pop fly. Finally, the 27th batter struck out but the ball got away from the catcher. The catcher made the throw to first, recording the final out–and Humber had his perfect game! The 21st in the history of baseball. I was ecstatic. It doesn’t matter what team a pitcher plays for; when they throw a perfect game, it is a momentous occasion for anyone who is a baseball fan. And this was the first one I’d ever seen happen in real time.

Once I turned back to the Yankee game, I saw that the score was now 9-5, thanks to a grand slam. Another 3-run shot made it 9-8. What happened next was an implosion the likes of which I have not seen in a long, long time. The Yankees had 2 consecutive 7-run innings in which they batted around both times scoring a total of 14 runs and they ended up beating the Red Sox 15-9. Just remarkable.

I cannot remember the last time the Yankees were in first place and the Red Sox were in last place but as of this morning, that’s how things stand.

It was, indeed, a beautiful day for baseball.

Yes, I know, the Yankees got eliminated

I find it amusing how many people wring their hands, and grin evilly as they tell me (as if I didn’t know) that the Yankees got eliminated last night. It is a reflection of human nature that hardly anyone ever says, “Hey they Yanks played great last night,” after they win a game. Instead what I get is: “What happened?” as if I was managing the team, calling the shots.

Well, what happened?

The better team won, that’s what happened. You cannot, in an elimination game, load the bases twice with less than one out and score only one run–and that on a walk! The Yankees managed to get some hits last night, but they had no power. I guess they used it all up on Tuesday. I’m sure that A-Rod will catch some flack for striking out at the end of the game, but the truth is that with the exception of Posada and Cano, no one really shined offensively in the series. If it wasn’t for the two outstanding catches Curtis Granderson made in game 4, there might not have been a game 5.

So yes, I was bitterly disappointed when I went to bed last night, but all I can do is take a deep breath and wait for next season.

And so now that they Yankees have been eliminated, who am I cheering for? Well, I’d like to see the Tigers and the Brewers in the World Series. I realize that he Rangers and the Brewers might be more interesting because neither team has won a World Series.

But I’d still rather see the Tigers.

Division titles and inconsolable infants

When I picked up the Little Man from school yesterday, we went through the usual preliminaries (“What did you do at school today?” “Play toys! Outside!”) and then asked him a very important question: Do you want to watch the Yankee game with Daddy tonight?

So at 7pm, we headed upstairs to watch the Yanks. About the same time, the Little Miss seemed to get somewhat cranky, but Kelly was about to feed her so I figured she’d calm down once she had some milk in her belly. Of course, the Yankees game was rain-delayed and so we watched the beginning of the Orioles/Red Sox game. On our walk home from school, I’d made sure to teach the Little Man to say “Go Yankees!” and being a quick learner, he would stand on our bed during the Red Sox game shouting “Go Yankees! Go Yankees!”

Meanwhile, I could hear the Little Miss crying downstairs. Not an all out screaming cry, but a steady, idling cry.

Early in the Red Sox game, the Orioles hit a home run and I cheered, throwing both hands up in the air and shouting, “Yeah!” The Little Man replicated this perfectly. He is the Rich Little1 of his daddy’s sports celebratory outbursts. Thereafter, no matter what the play was, the Little Man would do a little celebratory dance.

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  1. I wonder how many people will get this reference?

Rocketships in Mudville

Science fiction, writing, and baseball: three things that I love. And when they can be combined into a single post, what’s not to love about that? Let me start out by saying that this post will not be about baseball in science fiction. Steven H. Silver has covered that topic in fine fashion and I don’t have anything to add there. Where baseball comes into play is in its analogies to writing–and for me specifically–writing science fiction.

I often make a lot of baseball analogies when it comes to describing my experience with writing. Some people hate sports analogies and if you are one of those people, you probably don’t want to go beyond the jump cut. But the truth is that writing, for me, is like baseball in many ways.

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A fair-weather fan?

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I was accused, yesterday, of being a fair-weather fan because I complained that I was giving up on last night’s game and heading off to bed.  I surprised by the accusation.  No one with whom I work would ever consider me a fair-weather fan, but since I couldn’t sleep last night, I gave the matter some thought.

I gave up on the game in frustration.  I think this is a natural emotion, the more so when you care about something that is completely out of your control.  You can only shout at your TV so many times (the results are the same, regardless).  Frustration, to me, is an emotion that shows you care.  If the poor showing by Yankees pitching didn’t frustrate me, I’d see it as a sign that it was something I just didn’t care much about.  But I love baseball and I have been a lifelong Yankees fan, despite nearly everyone around me hating the team.  There is nothing wrong with frustration.

I also complained that I didn’t have the energy for tonight’s game and my accuser took exception to that.  What kind of fan am I if I don’t support my team, whole hog into the wee hours of the night?  I suppose, under those circumstances, I am a fair-weather fan.  I’ve found as I have gotten older that it is more difficult for me to stay up late, and these games often go past midnight on the East Coast.  This difficulty, however, has nothing to do with being a fan of the team.  I have difficulty staying up to midnight on any night.  Even so, I claimed I didn’t have the energy to watch tonight’s game, and in part, I think I meant I didn’t have the heart to watch it.  This goes hand-in-hand with frustration, I think.

But there are other, more practical reasons why I won’t be watching tonight’s game.  Wednesday night’s are my writer’s group nights and at the moment, writing takes a priority over baseball.  If that makes me a fair-weather fan, then so be it.  I can live with that.  The bottom line is that fan though I am, baseball doesn’t always come first.