Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Draft Day!

Yesterday was draft day for my fantasy league, our sixth season. Most of the original participants are still at it, the same guy usually wins (or comes in a very close second and that winner drops out), the same two or three battle for last place. What are you looking at me for? Some day I am going to beat Big Dog.

Unfortunately, too many people were unable to be online at draft time, though those of us who were there had a good time. Spike owes me a six of Moose Drool and I'm going to hold him to it.

Having so many people on auto-select probably worked to my advantage because I got what I consider some great picks. The team runs toward Red Sox (no suprise there) and young, guys I've watched play in the minors*.

Huskytown Dukes, 2005
Moises Alou
Bronson Arroyo* (once you've seen his weird leg kick live, you never forget it)
Josh Beckett
Matt Clement
Brendon Donnelly *
Adam Eaton*
Lew Ford *
Nomar Garciaparra
Eric Hinske *
Torii Hunter
Wade Miller (if he doesn't come through, My Barista's gonna owe me a cuppa or two)
Eric Milton
Doug Mirabelli
Bill Mueller
David Ortiz
AJ Pierzynski *
Manny Ramirez*
David Riske*
Grady Sizemore *
BJ Upton*
Jason Varitek
Tim Wakefield
Ty Wigginton *
Dontrelle Willis
David Wright ****

Trade talk is already in the air, so my Opening Day roster may look a bit different but I think this team has what it takes to come in 10th.

That would be a couple steps up; we're 13 teams strong this year.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Caffeinated Prognostications

My Barista says Schilling will throw everyone under the bus.

At the drive-through coffee place where I get my morning fix, I also get the latest baseball news and predictions from My Barista R. This handsome young man (whose looks are vaguely suggestive of Theo Epstein), is, like me, an avid Red Sox fan in the swamp of Yankee Territory, and he is up extremely early each day checking out the latest on the Sox, the Yankees, and occasionally other ballplayers. When he serves up my joe (okay it's mocha) he also serves up the newest tidbits, like who threw how many pitches, whose arm is sore, who's rumored to be on the trading block. Most days I don't bother to log in to until late afternoon because My Barista gave me the highlights in the early AM.

The glaring difference between his fanhood and mine is his fluctuating belief in our team. His confidence in their ability to get the job done changes more frequently, and quickly, than the tide. In 2004, he had written off the Red Sox when Pay-Rod went to the Yankees instead of the Sox. Not entirely true, as his confidence in how they would play and how they would finish the season rose and fell repeatedly before Opening Day, and continued to do so throughout the season. Several times in 2004, he wrote them off, only days later, based on some turn of events, he predicted them to win the division. Throughout the season, every time he got down on the team I would tell him to be patient, they weren't done yet. That was my message to him through early April, mid-August, and into October, right up to the start of Game 1 of the Series.

So when the Scuzziest Looking Man in Baseball signed with the Yankees in the off-season, My Barista started writing off the 2005 season for the Sox. Here we go again.

This morning his comments were about Curt Schilling and Congress. Although we haven't discussed the steriods issue at any length (the line of cars can cut our talks to only a phrase or two), we both are looking forward to his testimony. My Barista predicts Schilling will be very forthcoming, because "that's the way he is." Schilling does seem to be a man of virtue, in an age that claims to prize virtue yet actually mocks and disparages it. It will be more interesting to hear what he has to say than anything Canseco has written so far.

I hope My Barista is right on this one.

Monday, March 14, 2005

Passing It On

Baseball is a generational game.

It's known for being passed down from father to son, parent to child, grandparent to child. It is part of what makes baseball what it is, stories passed along, so that it becomes one long continual communion. We know about Babe Ruth, about Merkle's Boner, about Wally Pipp, about Country Slaughter's Mad Dash. Those of us in Red Sox Nation may be just a bit more aware of historical context than other parts of the baseball world, though Yankee Territory is just as steeped in the interconnection of generations.

Passing it on is one of the joys of baseball for me. Sparky and Statman's young daughters receive baseball story books and tiny team socks as early totems. Grace and her sister Mellow come to the ballpark with me, experiencing the Game as a real thing, not an artifical television event, learning to love the beauty of the game, its intricacies and its simplicities. (Grace could confidently explain the Infield Fly Rule at age 15.) They have been doing this long enough that they talk about the guys they used to watch and wonder where they are playing now. (We've made a deal to watch last year's group of Guys this season when they visit nearby at the AAA level .)

This past week I gave a condensed version of my classroom presentation on Women in Baseball for a noontime program at the community college where I work. Being able to pass the Game along in the classroom is good; I team-teach a social science course on Baseball in American Culture. But this presentation was particularly special for me. In the classroom, sometimes it feels like we're just spouting info and students are silently aborbing it, or perhaps it is bouncing off, unheeded. In this setting, it was a small group who displayed avid interest in the subject, including a history instructor and her student who wants to do a paper on women in baseball. There were questions and comments aplenty throughout my talk, and a long discussion at the end, touching on many of the cultural aspects addressed, or at least alluded to, in the presentation. The history instructor afterward told me she hadn't realized how far back in time women had been actively involved in baseball, to what extent, and where they stood today, at all levels of the game on and off the field, and that she was taking away knowledge she would be using in her classroom. The student went away feeling confident about doing her paper, that it was a subject worthy of serious study. The talk allowed the opportunity to pass along Baseball, in a way most people may not even consider, and to pass along cultural history of women, things that as younger women they may not even have been aware of previously.

At my aunt's funeral over the weekend, the priest spoke about sharing stories of her with the generations present and those yet to come. One of the things I enjoy most about gathering with other baseball junkies is the sharing of stories. Almost everyone can tell one about a baseball memory that stands out from their childhood , stories that are not so much the stories of the players, but of themselves connecting to the game. I collect these stories, make them part of the treasure trove of baseball.

The desire, the need to connect the past to the future is part of what makes us who we are, and makes Baseball what it is.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

A Community of Baseball

Baseball does not exist in a vacuum, it exists in a community. Or rather, in communities.

Not the towns and cities, but a community of people. The Syracuse AAA franchise is the “Community Owned Baseball Club of CNY, Inc.” but the community is not limited to the physical location of that city, or even the physical space of that ballpark though a community exists within those walls, in those stands.

Over the years I have belonged to several different baseball communities. The larger, over-reaching community of “Fan,” but other smaller, more specialized groups, groups that rarely overlap though I know virtually any member of one of those communities would feel a connection to another member of any of the other communities, if not instantly at least more quickly than you can say “Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon.”

Each of these communities is special to me. There is, of course, the community of my ballpark. Make that ballparks. Even on the road, it is easy to slip into the local ballpark community. There is the community of those I share a box section with, the vendors, the ushers and the office personnel, even to some extent the players themselves. And there is the community I declared after my first gathering with them “my tribe,” one devoted to the study of baseball, a community which rarely addresses the game, but considers The Game as a topic of serious study and contemplation, a community that also entertains itself by joyfully playing an archaic version of the game in a cow pasture: Mind the woodchuck holes!

None of these communities is any more precious to me than my online community, a living, breathing community of relatively long standing in terms of the Internet. Because we know each other only through words on a screen, we know each other in ways that we don’t know the people we sit next to game after game, night after night. Issues that rarely get addressed in face to face situations are examined and parsed, and over time we have come to anticipate each others’ reactions. A verbal shorthand has grown up among us, inside jokes live on for years., memories of shared occurrences, the arguments and agreements, laughter and even tears. Although we haven’t, with a few exceptions, ever met face to face, do not share the same time zone or even the same continent, we are nonetheless a tight-knit community. We have shared not only baseball, from the high flights of intellectual fancy to the “did you see that hit?” ephemeral moments, we have shared what a community shares: courtship, marriage, divorce, illness, births, deaths, job losses, relocations. I spent several years caring for my mother at home as Alzheimer’s ravaged her and this baseball community provided support that got me through the most difficult seven years of my life, a saving grace that helped me survive. Sometimes the support we give is through our public discussion arena, but often it is done on the side, off-line in email. Others within the community have provided similar to support to each other, whether they know it or not. It may be explicit, it may be unspoken. Either way, it is a community I am proud to be a part of it, a community I love.