Ground rule parenting and spring training

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Now this is a dilemma. As a parent, do you go for the ground rule double, or do you keep your hand on the kid’s wagon?

OK, it’s spring training, and it’s just the Mets against the Marilins.

But isn’t the answer obvious?

You go for the ball! I have to paraphrase Tom Hanks in “A League of Their Own”: There’s no stroller in baseball!

The kid in this clip has a baseball cap and glove. He should have been out of the wagon waiting to catch balls coming over the fence. I think back to when my kid was that age, and I was a member of my company’s softball team. On game day, my son was standing in the outfield right beside me, no wagon, no stroller. (Until, of course, he had to stand by himself when I had to run to catch a fly ball.) This went of for years until he grew enough to play with the team.

The kid in this video has a long way to go.

What makes it worse is mom was there. She’s never going to let dad live this down, but notice she doesn’t have the other kid in the wagon. That’s the way it should be.

Mariano Rivera: Pride of the Yankees

I can’t believe it. Mariano Rivera won’t be coming in to save the Yankees anymore. And I missed his last game at Yankee Stadium (which sucks, by the way).

Here’s his last appearance on the mound in New York on Sept. 26 (If this video link works correctly, there are multiple clips here):

Pretty cool letting Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter take the ball from him. Pretty sad that Pettitte is retiring from the game as well. His last pitch was thrown Saturday in Texas. And really, Jeter doesn’t have that much longer to play.

One other note of historic significance: Rivera will be the last player in Major League Baseball to wear the number 42. That number has been retired in honor of Jackie Robinson, whose family was in Yankee Stadium for a tribute to Mariano.

This is one of those instances when you think, “Why wait. Just put him in the Hall of Fame now.”

On the rebound: 2013 Louisville Cardinals

Another look back at the 2013 NCAA basketball final. I still have confetti I collected at the end of the game in the Georgia Dome. Can’t wait for next season, but there are high hopes for the football team this year, already off to a 4-0 start. (Unfortunately, didn’t get any confetti at the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans last January.)

Toronto cop busted Blue Jays

The Toronto police department has a cop who’s a disgruntled Blue Jays fan. Here’s an arrest report after a spectator ran on the field during a game back in May:

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I looked at the MLB standings. The Jays are currently in last place in the American League East with a 62-74 record, 18 games back. But at least they aren’t as bad as the Houston Astros.

 

Let’s go, Mets! Whoever you are!

New York Mets fans are an interesting breed:

Sports fans, back me up on this: When you’re in awe of a team and you wear a jersey with the name of your favorite player, aren’t you supposed to know what that player looks like?

I will say, though, as a Yankees fan, Matt Harvey has just become my favorite Met.

 

 

The new Yankee Stadium sucks

When I was younger, I went to countless games at Yankee Stadium, especially during the 1970s when the team was terrible. (I’m not sure whether you call that time the Horace Clark-era or the Bobby Murcer-era.) I’d sit in the bleachers with the immigrants (usually Puerto Ricans) and join everyone yelling at the opposing outfielders.

And when I was older, when the Yankees were really good, I took my young son to countless games at the old stadium. We’d sit in the bleachers with the drunks from Jersey and join everyone yelling at the opposing players, anyone who liked the Mets, anyone who liked the Red Sox and anyone sitting in box seats. (Box seats suck.)

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I was only comfortable at Yankee Stadium when I was sitting in the bleachers. There was something about them that broke down class boundaries. At the old stadium, you could sit in the front row of the bleachers and look down at the warning track. You’d say something to the players, and they’d acknowledge your existence. The stadium never seemed to open up all of the bleacher area, because we could sit in right field, look toward left field and see that whole section closed. In straight-away center, there were no seats at all. Just a black background covering the area so the batters could follow the ball better as the pitchers delivered (or so the Yankee commentators would say).

But the old Yankee Stadium is gone. It died in 2008. I’ve been out of the country for a while, and when I came back, I never was able to get back to New York when the Yanks were in town.

Until this past weekend. So I went to the new Yankee Stadium.

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I couldn’t believe it. This place is really unpleasant. It’s got all the sterile charm of Nationals Park in Washington, with the added feature of being twice as expensive.

Time for some math.

When I went to Yankee Stadium in 1970, a seat in the bleachers was a buck. When you’re 15, the ability to go by yourself to Yankee Stadium with five bucks and have enough money for a ticket, a drink and some food was a pretty good way to knock off an afternoon. The minimum wage then was $1.60 an hour. That means you didn’t even have to work an hour to afford a Yankees ticket.

Then, 25 years later, as a dad with a kid, I could go to Yankee stadium and a bleachers seat was five or 10 bucks. Not bad. I had a job. Made more than minimum wage. And I could afford to buy the kid food and a souvenir.

But they’ve screwed up the bleachers area at the new park. A ticket now costs $27.80. Put that in perspective. The price of a bleachers ticket has gone up 2,680 percent since 1970. What’s the change in the minimum wage? It’s now $7.25, which is about a 350 percent increase from 1970. But it gets worse. If you use 1996 as the base year, the minimum wage of 1970 was actually the equivalent to $6.47. But today’s minimum wage of $7.25 is the 1996 equivalent of $4.97. So the minimum wage is really lower and the bleacher ticket is a hell of a lot higher.

But the worst part is the new bleachers have awful sight lines. Yankee management put a major snack bar obstruction (They call it the Mohegan Sun Sports Bar and the Batting Eye Seats) right in the middle of the bleachers area. So if you’re sitting in the bleacher seats and something happens deep in the opposite field, YOU CAN’T SEE IT!!!

Oh, and if you want to sit in this tribute to greed, the ticket there is more than $100. To sit in what use to be the bleacher area. To sit in what used to cost $1!

And major league baseball wonders why it is losing fans? Taking a family of four to a Yankee game is not worth $200 when that’s the least expensive alternative.

Yeah, I’m old and cranky. But there used to be a time when poor people could get away from their troubles by spending a buck and killing an afternoon watching their favorite team. When I was a kid, I was poor. But I wasn’t out on the street, idle, figuring out destructive things to do at that age, because I could hop on the subway and see the Yankees. There’s no way I could have done that back then if the Yankees as part of their profit strategy said “Screw the poor.”

I will now modify the chant I learned from my years in the bleachers:

Yankee Baseball!
(Visiting team) sucks!
Red Sox suck!
Mets suck!
Box seats suck!
This stadium sucks!
EVERYTHING SUCKS!

The fall and rise of Louisville sports

There must be one or two University of Louisville sports fans out there. If you’re one of them, Forbes magazine took a look at the school’s athletic director, Tom Jurich.

When Jurich took over the program in 1997:

Louisville athletics was a pariah. An organization so

Louisville Cardinals athletic logo

Louisville Cardinals athletic logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

misaligned, so bloated in inefficiency that the very conference it helped form had sued to expunge the university from its ranks. A desperate attempt to prevent the department’s disease of non-compliance from spreading to the other members of the league. There was little hope for Louisville, its faith seemingly sealed as terminal.

In his influential work on organizational management, “Good To Great”, author Jim Collins refers to the circumstances Louisville had fallen into as the “Doom Loop.” The organization lacked internal accountability, failed to achieve credibility within its own community and had lost all authenticity with the college athletics community as a whole. It was not that the department did not want to change, but rather that it lacked the discipline to do so.

The program had one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel.

For Jurich and his leadership team, part of that process involved confronting the hardest decision a manager must ever make – replacing individuals who did not fit within the cultural boundaries they set out for the department. In fact, within the first five years of tenure, there were more than 130 changes within the staff, or almost 50% of the entire department. Such high turnover is almost unheard of from any organization with the multi-million dollar revenues, and is testament to the dire situation Louisville found itself in.

And it’s biggest problem was it was completely out of compliance with Title IX, a crucial program that stresses the importance of women in sports.

“When it came to non-compliance with Title IX, Louisville was in dire straights,” says Jurich. “We had Lamar Daniel, a leading gender equity consultant, come to campus and tell us that we were the ‘worst program he had ever seen’. Here was someone who had spent over two decades conducting investigations for the Office of Civil Rights and who was practically at a loss for words on just how bad our situation was.”

While the problem Louisville faced was evident, the solution was less clear. At the time, the department’s budget was $14.8 million, or just 17% of the $85 million it had risen to today. Just about every area of the department needed improvement and additional resources. The problem was that not only did the Cardinals need to fund-raise, but also that they needed to invest the majority of the money back into women’s sports, none of which would provide any financial return on investment.

Wow. This place is hopeless.

But the Forbes article details the steps taken to rebuild UofL’s stature in athletics.

So what does the school have to show for it?

Some 15 years after Jurich took over as athletic director, the Louisville Cardinals have made history. The university became the first to win a BCS football game, a national championship in men’s basketball, play for the national championship in women’s basketball, and make the College World Series all in one year. Even more significantly, the University received an invitation to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), a move that all but guarantees stability for many years to come in tumultuous college athletics landscape. For any other university, achieving even one of those feats would be cause for tremendous celebration, but for the University of Louisville, anything less would have been a disappointment.

The article is worth reading. (Though it seems to have dropped a section involving UofL basketball. It makes a reference to Pitino, but no reference to Rick’s first name.)

Nationals Park: The reading room for Washingtonians

I regularly complain to friends that one of the frustrating things about going to baseball games at Nationals Park in Washington is that people don’t go there to watch the game. Every time I go to the park, I end up sitting behind a group of young D.C. up and comers who focus on each other and talk about their work and social lives.

And there are plenty of place in the stadium where people never go to their seats. They just hang out on benches and comfortable chairs on the stadium’s second level near the barbecue concessions and the bathrooms, completely oblivious to what’s happening on the field.

Washington Nationals fans don’t pay attention.

I thought I was the only one to notice it, but then I saw this on Deadspin:

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Just this season, we’ve seen a Nats fan doing his calculus homework at the game, a Nats fan doing his taxes at the game, a Nats fan knitting a scarf at the game. Now, three more examples, all from a single day, of Washington fans reading at the ballpark. …

… what is it about Washington that brings out the distraction? The above photo was posted to Instagram during Sunday’s doubleheader, of a lady reading something on her Kindle. And D.C. Sports Bog has a pair of pictures, also from Sunday, of two men absorbed in their newspapers. …

Nats fans are getting a reputation. So put the reading material away.

My team is the Yankees, and one thing for sure … Yankee fans pay attention. They come up with the most creative ways to offend the opposing team, they’re loud and they’re obnoxious. Years ago, back when I lived in New York, I went to countless games, sitting in the bleacher seats, joining the chants on how much everything sucked:

YANKEE BASEBALL!!
[Opposing team] sucks!
Mets suck!
Boston sucks!
Box seats suck!
EVERYTHING SUCKS!!!

Of course, they’ve come up with more creative insults over the years, but this was my rite of passage as a baseball fan.

And one thing for sure. Nobody anywhere near where I was sitting pulled out a book and read it during a game. Because anyone who did would have sucked!