America’s Pastime (if you want it to be)

Can anyone honestly say that baseball is not America’s pastime?

Anyone who loves baseball and is over 30 years old can remember the good ‘ol days of playing ball outside, collecting cards and listening to games on the radio. In today’s world of high-priced collectibles and Nintendo Wii, it has become very common for “over-the-hill” fans like myself (I am 33) to long for the days when you spend all day outside shagging fly balls.

As a kid, I would play from dawn until dusk (or later if my mom would let me). I can remember when my dad had one of those bright lights installed on the front of our house. To him, that meant a well-lit, safer place to live. To me, it meant whiffle ball night games in the front yard! I have broken my share of windows and totally destroyed the siding on the house by throwing rubber balls against the chimney.

Now, fast forward to today…

Baseball takes effort and commitment. You need a bat, ball and glove at least. You also need a place big enough to play. Ball fields are not in every neighborhood the way they used to be. Baseball equipment can also get expensive. It is much easier to get several friends, one of which is bound to have a basketball, and go find a hoop. Strike 1.

I also will admit that I am a video gamer. I love technology. My family has a Wii. My kids and I have a Nintendo DS. I have a BlackBerry that I play around with constantly. I also write one of those blog-type things. Strike 2.

Oh no, two strikes…now it is time to choke up and rip one in the gap.

Is baseball popular in our household? My wife and I coach our kids’ team. My kids and I actually have an Opening Day dance. You can’t walk 10 feet in our backyard without stepping on a whiffle ball. My son wears his Reds hat just the way I did when I was his age. Why? Because I showed my kids how much fun it actually is to play the game.

Anyone taking the time to read this blog most likely already loves baseball. But what about their kids? Are they taking the time to play ball in the backyard? Did they show them the proper way to field a ground ball? Did they explain the proper way to wear their uniform, even if it is t-ball?

I don’t believe in making your kids play baseball, or any other sport for that matter.. But at least expose them to sports. I feel it is my responsibility as a parent. It’s also fun! You loved baseball as a kid. Share one of your childhood passions with your child and see what happens. Chances are you find something magical that will form an even tighter bond and allow you to see the game through the eyes of a child.

Is Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer?

Is Curt Schilling a Hall of Famer?

On ESPN Radio this morning, Erik Kuselias said you can use the Little League test. There are two types of players. Player 1 wants every single ball to be hit right to them. Player 2 wants the ball to be hit anywhere except right to them. Curt Schilling was definitely Player 1.

He was the ultimate big-game, postseason pitcher. He went 11-2 with a 2.33 ERA in the postseason, giving him the highest winning percentage of any pitcher ever with at least six postseason decisions.

Schilling never won a Cy Young award, but did finish second three times (2001, 2002, 2004). Since 1992, only Pedro Martinez and Roger Clemens had more strikeouts than Schilling (3,116). His K/BB ratio is the best in the modern era (4.38). Oh yeah, he also won 216 games.

Schilling posted some great numbers throughout his career. He was also a dominating personality. You either loved him or hated him. He was not shy about speaking his mind, whether it be to the media directly or through his blog. He also did more than his fair share of charity work.

So, it he a Hall of Famer? A great pitcher, yes. Hall of Famer, no. I have always felt that if you have to ask the question and think that much about it, the answer is probably no.

If you just look at numbers, it is borderline. He has impressive numbers, but not earth-shattering in two big categories – wins and Cy Young awards. The staple used to be 300 wins, and some will argue that has dropped to 250. Schilling has 216. Yes, he finished second in 3 times in the Cy Young award, but did not win any.

However, I am talking about your gut-feeling, your initial reaction. The Hall of Fame should be considered sacred ground. It is the supposed to be the best of the best. Schilling was the best sometimes, and often one of the best. He was not the best of the best.

How good is Mike Scioscia?

So, how good is Mike Scioscia? As a player, I always thought he was the guy you hated if he was on the other team, and loved if he was on your team. As a manager, I think Scioscia may just be the best in the game.

He is the longest-tenured active manager in the American League. The past four seasons, the Angels have the best winning percentage in the game (.583). He also has led the team to a World Series title and four AL West championships.

He must manage a team stacked with guys who can just mash…right? He has a pitching staff full of aces…right? Not exactly. The 2008 Angels were the first team since the 1931 Cardinals to win 100 games without anyone driving in 100 runs, hitting 30 homers or winning 20 games.

Baseball is a numbers game. Everyone loves talking about statistics. The numbers don’t lie! However, when it comes to successfully managing a baseball team, it goes a little deeper than just knowing when to hit and run. You are managing people from different backgrounds. You are managing people with different personalities. Mike Scioscia has proven to be a master at promoting team chemistry.

Mike Scioscia is a hands-on manager who knows his players. He is open with his players and stresses communication. He runs a clubhouse that players want to be a part of. And hey, who can argue with the results? The numbers don’t lie.

My 15 minutes of fame

Please take a moment to check out Mark Newman’s great article on For fans, baseball a haven in the storm. Here are the highlights…
Russell Wight of Columbus, Ohio, has a four-seat, 20-game season-ticket package for Reds games, and he said the economy won’t stop him from making the 100-mile drive to Cincinnati along with his wife and two children ages 4 and 6. 
“In these tough and uncertain economic times, we simply let the love of baseball, the Reds and our family time at the ballpark be our main source of entertainment during the summer months,” Wight said. 
“We are both fortunate enough to have decent and somewhat secure jobs, but we also know that no matter what the state of the economy, our children will only be young once … [and] watching the game through the eyes of a youngster is something you cannot put a price on.” 
Clubs are doing their best to help alleviate the overall strain, and the Wight family will be making their usual drive down from Columbus to see if this might be the year at Great American Ball Park. Jenna is 6 and Rusty Jr. is 4. The father lights up when you ask him about the pair, and many baseball parents will relate when he adds that his son “can flat rake.” Hitting lessons from the pros will ensue soon in the big pantheon, just as they once did when you went to see Pete Rose, Johnny Bench and Tony Perez rake. 
“The Reds have not raised ticket prices, but I have heard some news about them offering value meals at the concession stands for around $5,” Russell said. “My family and I usually eat at The Machine Room, a sports-bar type restaurant at the stadium. It is around $30 for the four of us [no alcohol], which is very comparable to a dinner at any local establishment. … We love the experience of going to the ballpark.”