Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Count it down

1 day until Opening Day 
tomorrow, 1 p.m., Tigers vs. Yankees to get it started

2 days until the Blue Jays' first game 
Friday, 7:07 p.m., Ricky Romero against the Twins 

4 days until the Lugnuts arrive in town 
plane lands in Detroit on Sunday night 

6 days until the Crosstown Showdown presented by Auto-Owners Insurance 
next Tuesday, 7:05 p.m. vs. Michigan State, $1 food specials,
Cooley Law School Stadium 

7 days until Meet the Team
April 6th, 7:00 p.m., get to know your 2011 Lugnuts,
Cooley Law School Stadium

8 days until the first day of the Midwest League season... and the first Thirsty Thursday
April 7th, 7:05 p.m. vs. West Michigan,
Cooley Law School Stadium

Are you ready?

Of writers and athletes

I am an unabashed fan of Bill James, and so it was a great pleasure today to have my brilliant poet friend Jaime pass along this excerpted essay of his from Slate, entitled "Shakespeare and Verlander."  It is about, to be quite blunt, how come our culture can produce the finest athletes in any sport and yet no such talented writers to approach the likes of Shakespeare and his contemporaries.

James also wrote one of my favorite essays of all time, based around the idea that as a native Kansan he was sick and tired of the negatively-connoted Midwest "dust bowl" idea being played up in relation to the allure of the city (particularly New York). He themed it around the black and white misery of Dorothy's Kansas in the Wizard of Oz movie compared to gloriousness of Oz, writing that there was just as much wonder and happiness and triumph to be found in the small towns of Kansas and Nebraska as there was in New York City.

These two theses are related, I think...

It is often mentioned that for a tiny nation, Ireland has produced so many of the greatest writers and poets, and I think this is related, too.

Really, great talent/skill is where 1) you look for it, 2) where it is cultivated/appreciated.  James gets right into the thick of this in his essay.

I think there are simply sensational writers being produced right now, as there always have been -- but they need light shed upon them. Unfortunately, light comes their way only if they stumble onto it serendipitously (or work their hearts out to be discovered, perhaps) or if they're friends with someone, who is already gaining the light of attention. That latter reason is why one hears of great writing friendships/groups; why the music scene is always filled with singer-songwriters/musicians collaborating. You work with someone else great, it makes you greater... or it at least puts you in their company so someone with resources will take a chance on you.

Here's perhaps the most important reason, though:  I think we as a culture seek to discover/cultivate great athletes because they make a great deal of money for many people other than them, whether in clothing/merchandising or sports agencies or media networks, etc. etc. etc. During Shakespeare's day, a great playwright (or even just a good one) could bring fame to an awful lot of people. In contemporary culture, who do you think is going to make the most people the most amount of money, a topflight baseball player or a novelist? If it's the novelist, that novel better be able to be turned into a smash movie with plenty of sequels in store.

Friday, March 4, 2011

In the grand scheme of things...

Heartfelt condolences to Wes Leonard's family and friends and everyone else affected by his sudden death last night.  Man oh man.  Here's the story.  Yes, the next logical step is to determine the cause, but first let everyone come together and mourn/honor his memory.  My cousin David also just passed away, yesterday.  Moving on is fine, but grieving comes first.

I hope you will excuse me if I continue this blog post in a less somber tone, focusing on baseball.  It's just a reminder that sports are fun and all, but there's far greater gravity to be found elsewhere in life.  (And now that epic Heat collapse against the Magic doesn't quite seem so significant.)

The Blue Jays lost to the Pirates in Spring Training action yesterday, but if you read the recap, you'd see that the main story according to the reporting writer was Brett Cecil's three scoreless innings.

(Former Lugnuts update, Blue Jays edition -- Darin Mastroianni, 1-1, single;  John Tolisano, 0-2; Moises Sierra, 0-1; David Cooper, 0-3; Jake Marisnick, 0-1.  No pitchers.  Former Lugnuts w/ Toronto are now 5-for-34.)

This is one of those weird things about Spring Training write-ups -- writers realize that March games are meaningless, and so they use their game recap space to write up a player profile piece and ignore 90% of what happened in the game.  (Then at the end of March, they'll start realizing... hey, look at so-and-so, hitting the cover off the ball for the past few weeks!)

Elsewhere, for example:
From ESPN's Sweet Spot, Bill Parker writes that the BBWAA has made no bigger mistake than their treatment of Lou Whitaker as a Hall of Fame candidate.  To sum up, briefly:  Whit was a tremendous defender and his offensive skills were just about as good as Ryne Sandberg.  He wasn't as powerful but he reached base more often and he played in a more difficult park for hitters than Sandberg.  I grew up revering Whitaker and Alan Trammell.  If/when the two of them receive their just due and end up in Cooperstown, by hook or by crook, I shall do my darndest to be on hand.

Remember Robinson Chirinos?  He played for the Lugs in 2003 and 2004, and now he looks to be on the verge of making the Majors with Tampa Bay (after coming over from the Cubs in the Matt Garza trade).  Thus far this spring, he's 3-for-7 with a double, a home run, and a team-high five RBIs in just four games.  There weren't any ex-Lugnuts who made their Major League debut in 2010 - I'm hoping that gets rectified this year.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A bitterly windy day near the capitol

With our job fair completed, the majority of the gameday staff for the 2011 season is now hired.  With me, I now have to concentrate on the team media guide and articles for the Lugnuts magazine.

Meanwhile, the rest of the Marketing Department is concerned with preparing all other materials for the season and getting our affairs in order for when it's time to put single-game tickets on sale.  We've got some big things in store.

A link:  Chicharito scores a goal with face.  Always fun.

This Saturday at 1 p.m. is our open audition for Lugnuts Pit Crew, Hawkers, and Granger Rangers.  We're looking for young (16 and older), fearless, exuberant folks who are ready to have a great time at the park this year.  Wear comfortable clothing, come on out, and show us what you got!

Our new manager would not want you watching this.

Former Lugnuts update from Dunedin:  Darin Mastroianni, 1-6; Moises Sierra, 1-6, BB; Mike McDade, 0-6; David Cooper, 2-5, 2 B; John Tolisano, 0-2; A.J. Jimenez, 0-1.  In all, 4 hits in 26 at-bats.  Hey, the spring is young!

This really opens your eyes to how the Blue Jays farm system underperformed during J.P. Ricciardi's tenure -- there are absolutely no Lugnuts from 2005-2007 anywhere to be found.  (Well, there is Casey Janssen among the pitchers from 2005.)  But from the 2006 team, and this sounds absurd, there have been zero Major Leaguers.  Not a single one.  The 2007 team had Travis Snider and that's it.

Not good, man.  Not good.  It shows why everyone was so grateful that Alex Anthopoulos was given the reins.

As for the pitchers this spring:  Henderson Alvarez, Joel Carreno, Alan Farina, the aforementioned Janssen, Brad Mills, Luis Perez, and Marc Rzepczynski have all seen time on the mound.

It's too early for anyone to have distinguished themselves yet in the black and white stats, although I doubt I'm alone in my satisfaction with Eric Thames' early play.

Spring is young yet.  Heck, in Lansing, Spring hasn't even arrived yet.