Thursday, July 18, 2013

When the stars come out to play in your backyard

Since Citi Field opened in 2009 it had been readily assumed that it would, eventually, be hosting an All-Star Game so the new building could be put on display. After all, the Mets' own mediocre prevented Citi Field from getting any truly significant attention on national television that a new building might gain from, say, postseason appearances. Instead it sat there with the occasional ESPN Sunday night game and little other exposure. So an All-Star Game, a fixed exhibition awarded arbitrarily, seemed the most likely option.

Given that the stadium is now in its fifth season, however, it seems clear that a few obstacles stood in the way. For one, the All-Star Game was played in New York not too long ago if you remember, and MLB, understandably, is generally loathe to host major events in the same place twice in close proximity. Then there was perhaps the bigger issue that several other new stadiums had opened earlier with nary an All-Star Game to show for it. After all, the host of the 2011 MLB All-Star Game, Chase Field in Arizona, had been open 13 years before it finally got the chance to host the midsummer classic.

And so it was that Citi Field's first chance to host the All-Star Game -- and the Mets' first chance to host the All-Star Game in 49 years -- waited four years until earlier this week. The Home Run Derby was held Monday, July 15 and the game itself was played Tuesday, July 16. The dates themselves are relatively inconsequential for most of you, but those of you who know me will note that July 14, the day before the Home Run Derby is my birthday.

Put it all together and you get this: My favorite team would be hosting the All-Star Game for the first time in five decades two days after my birthday. There was no way in hell I was going to miss any of it.

With a little help from my parents and a good friend at Major League Baseball, I was right where I belonged Monday and Tuesday night, and in two whirlwind days it ended up being quite the wild and crazy few days -- though I will tell you now, the first was crazier than the second.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Off to the land of Moneyball and bursting sewage pipes for Team No. 54

There are a handful of movies that regularly make the rounds of premium channels like STARZ or HBO that, as a result, I've seen approximately a billion times and still refuse to change the channel once I see they're on. Air Force One, The Rock and L.A. Confidential all can lay claim to membership to this exclusive group, but one of the most recent -- and amazingly persistent -- entrants to this class is the 2011 baseball drama Moneyball, based on the Michael Lewis book of the same name and, well, basically the entire field of sabermetrics as we know it. It's about as well-made a sports movie as you'll find, one that is well written, well acted, tightly paced and doesn't dumb down the analytics for the viewer as much as you'd think a roundtable of Hollywood executives might like.

Also, the ending is one of the few things in movies that always manages to get me. And for the record, the version of the song sung by Billy Beane's daughter is way better than the actual version.

The book, too, is good, and in general way more successful than Billy Beane and the actual Oakland A's, though perhaps not considering what material each has been given to work with. But it's one of my dirty secrets that as someone who both loves baseball, loves the San Francisco Bay area and visits it frequently, and really enjoyed this book when I read it 10 years ago, I've never actually been to an Oakland A's game or, speaking of dirty, their delightful home stadium of "Whatever internet company will pay to sponsor this concrete mass" Coliseum (right now: O.Co). I say "dirty" because lately this park has not exactly been among the cleanest or most structural sound in the Majors, but to appreciate the good one must experience the bad, right? And as I sift around this country going to stadiums, well, that's certainly something I need to keep in mind.

So, I'm not entirely sure why I haven't gotten around to seeing the A's ply their trade at home yet considering I'm in San Francisco at least once every 18 months or so and know a ton of people there, but at long last that drought will be coming to an end this Thursday, when I see Travis Wood and Jarrod Parker duel in a July 4th matinee between the A's and the Chicago Cubs. No, I don't really know who those guys are either, and I'm a little disappointed I won't be witnessing the "Where are they now?" pitching matchup the night before between Matt Garza and Bartolo Colon (He's still pitching!), but it should still be an experience to cross another team off the list.