I had the most strange experience at the ballpark yesterday. After a quick, stealthy storm ripped Omaha to shreds Friday afternoon, Rosenblatt Stadium (home to the Omaha Royals) was without electricity. The team had a scheduled doubleheader yesterday, and didn’t want to try to reschedule yet another game – they’ve already had 6 rainouts, one game postponed due to an acid spill, and couldn’t play Friday night because they had no power.
So we were determined to make a game happen Saturday afternoon, no matter what. That meant playing without the things to which we’ve grown inherently accustomed at ballgames: No videoboard, no scoreboard, no public address system, and no cooked food or chilled drinks.
In an Omaha World Herald story, Royals manager Mike Jerschele mentioned how it was weird to not have a scoreboard to assure him of the inning and pitch counts. I felt the same way, but I loved all the challenges the game presented Royals staff. The front office staff and the media covering the game pulled off quite a show, all things considered, using a megaphone instead of a PA system and leftover numbers from the Powerball billboard to keep track of the score.
I noticed a lot of the fans really getting into things, too. Sometimes it’s easy to space off or get lost in conversation when you’re at a ballgame, but usually there’s a scoreboard there to clue you back in when you start paying attention again. Without that luxury, we all had to pay closer attention to all of the action. I noticed a lot of strangers helping each other keep score, and those who had scorebooks became information hubs for people who had lost track of the inning, pitch count, or whatever else. I guess we all could have gotten angry about the inconveniences caused by the lack of electricity, but given that the storm that wiped out our power caused so much more significant damage to other people’s lives, it was easy to let go and play ball instead of getting worked up.
Power was restored to the stadium as soon as the electricity-free (how very green of us) game finished. But I tried my best to learn from the lessons of that game, and in the three (!) games the team has played since then, I’ve tried to not rely on the videoboard so much to keep track of what’s going on. In the wake of a horrible storm, I may as well take away some kind of lesson, even if it’s simply to get more into the game I already love.
Tuesday night, Royals reliever Ramon Ramirez threw two pitches really, REALLY far inside to former teammate Yorvit Torrealba. He claims they were just regular wild pitches, not intentional brushbacks, but that didn’t stop people in Kansas City from predicting on-field fireworks in Wedneday night’s game.
I was among the people in KC during that series (a trip you can read/see more about here), and had a morbid desire for things to get ugly between the Royals and Rockies players. I have never witnessed a benches-clearing brawl, and I kind of want to. It’s not that I would enjoy seeing anyone get hurt, but it’s something I’d see later that night on SportsCenter and get to feel like I was somehow part of the story.
That got my parents and one of my uncles and I wondering which Royals players would be best in a fight. Here are my Top 5 and Bottom 5 Royals fighters.
I want these five guys on my side:
Ramon Ramirez: It was his brushback pitches that started all this talk of brawling, and it was his former team. I bet he’d take his share of the blows (and deal at least that many out) if he incited anything.
Miguel Olivo: The usually-smiley Olivo does have a history of lashing out with his fists. He plays baseball with a whole lot of intensity, and if that intensity was turned in an angry direction…watch out.
Mike Aviles: He’s from the Bronx, for pity’s sake! Mike’s a super-nice guy, but I’d bet my life savings he’d be a good fighter if a brawl broke out on the field.
Mark Grudzielanek: He’s not an outspoken guy; he’ll never fire off a clubhouse rant like teammate Jose Guillen, but he’s one my family members all called to mind. His style of play is uncompromisingly physical, and that would probably translate into a scrappy style of fighting that wouldn’t be the prettiest to behold, but would leave his opponent regretting squaring off with Grud. (Note: Ross Gload received heavy consideration for many of the same reasons, but was pared out of the final five.)
Joey Gathright: It would have been too easy to put Jose Guillen in this list, but as I looked down the roster I couldn’t help but think Gathright would be better. When he played for Omaha, I always noticed he cannot let certain things go, which usually just results in him giving teammates crap about random things for longer than most people would, but could also result in him acting on any random grudge he might have against his aggressors.
(There are others who might be just dandy in a brawl. But these are my “fave five,” as the cell phone commercials would say.)
These five might not be such great fighters:
Brian Bannister: He is my absolute favorite Royal, but I cannot for the life of me picture him fighting. I think he knows better, and would see beyond whatever stupid/petty actions sparked a brawl. He would, however, give some great interviews shedding insight on to what happened, why it happened, and how it would affect his team’s performance in future games.
Jimmy Gobble: Word on the street is that Gobble has withdrawn almost completely from public activity (fan interaction, etc.) as his contributions to the team become less and less. So showing up in the middle of a dogpile might not look too good.
David DeJesus: Again, I love the guy, but he’s just too…pretty. I’m told he spends a ton of time in front of the mirror every day (not that I blame him), which doesn’t strike me as something a “fighter” would do.
Leo Nunez: OK this choice might not even be fair, since Leo is on the disabled list. But I think no one would go after him in a brawl because he’s such a little guy, and so he’d have to instigate any one-on-one action. That would not turn out well, would it?
Mark Teahen: I can’t overstate how much I love the Royals as a collective and as individual players. I love Mark Teahen as a person, and think he’s a fine player as well. But maybe the things that make him such a likeable person are the exact things that lead me to think he wouldn’t be a good brawler. I’ll probably never find out about him or any of his teammates.
Disclaimer: I am not condoning fighting on the baseball field. I think baseball is plenty entertaining by itself, and I realize what an impact players’ actions can have on children who are watching. I only want to see a brawl because they are rare, and because I often have some stupid, boorish views about sports. I occasionally want things to get ugly, even within a sport that I generally find poetic and beautiful (despite the absolute vulgarity that populates its clubhouses). While part of me is primally attracted to the idea of seeing a benches-clearing brawl, I’m guessing that my actual reaction would have at least a little horror mixed in.
Some days I wish I were a psychologist so I could dig into the complicated, sometimes desparate, usually frustrating but always fascinating world of Minor League Baseball. I work side-by-side with a couple dozen riveting personal stories, collectively known as the Omaha Royals, the AAA affiliate (top minor league team) of the Kansas City Royals. Every one of the guys on our team, and all the players who come on the visitors’ bus to play against them, have some kind of story.
One thing I love about seeing Minor League games all the time is I know I’ll be seeing a lot of these players in the Majors soon; some of them could go on to be big stars. That’s cool in an “I-knew-him-back-when” kind of way, but what about the other guys, the tortured players who have toiled in the minors for way too long and are hungry for a shot – those are the ones who are deeply fascinating to me.
Every game a starting pitcher throws badly is another five days he’s not going to be a big leaguer. Every hitless game, every error committed is a reason not to be called up. Every time Player B hits a homerun, it squashes Player A’s chances. Every blown lead pushes a reliever further away from the 40-man roster. I figure that kind of pressure has to mount up.
And those are just the guys who haven’t yet made it to The Show. AAA rosters are also littered with guys who’ve had their shot, and for whatever reason have been brought back to the emptier stadiums (In the case of one Iowa Cubs game, a completely empty stadium). How hard is that?
I want very badly to sit down and talk with a particular player I know who fits that scenario. He has spent time in the Majors, and has even been successful for a while, but injuries and a crowded roster have pushed him back into the Minors for quite a while. I have so many things to ask; I figure that kind of demotion has to make a guy question his ability, and if he questions his ability how can he perform well enough to get promoted again? How does a man re-align what he knows about himself when coaches who used to praise his big-league ability now call him into their offices to tell him he’s going back to the minors? So much of athletic success relies on ego and swagger, so what happens when those are deflated?
And what about the guys who are perpetually being sent up and down between levels? How can you focus on your work when your workplace – and public perception of your talent level – keep shifting?
I’m beginning to see that professional baseball is not an easy life. I still think pro ballplayers are incredibly blessed to get to play baseball for a living. But to balance all the demands of the game with a constantly shifting social calendar and weird, artificially inflated senses of self-worth that can be punctured at anytijme by any size of rejection or failure…it’s damn nigh impossible to be normal, much less to be better than normal. And at some point, a lot of guys I see at work might have to admit they won’t make it higher than Triple-A ball. Then what?
See, minor league baseball is more than just the games and the on-field promotions. It’s a continuous human drama full of uncertainty, walls of egotism chipped with periods of self-doubt, more questions than answers. And if I ever get answers to any of these questions, you will be the first people I tell.
Hi all! I’m Minda, and this is my first post here. I’m not sure how to go about starting a blog with a broad topic like “sports.” So here’s a taste of who I am as a sports fan, based on sports happenings of today and the last week or so.
The NBA Finals:
Basketball is an awesome sport, but I can’t make myself care much about the NBA, not even when the Finals matchup is so historically relevant. Dynasty vs. Dynasty, I get that. I’m supposed to be enthralled, but I change the channel. I don’t know, I think it’s just the amount of showboating, whining, and ego that detracts from what should be happening on the court. Turn-off. The Celtics are ahead, three games to one, and I hope they go ahead and win Game 5 so this can be over.
No Triple Crown for Big Brown
I love how anyone can jump into the world of horseracing for just a few weeks out of the year, and then forget all about it until the next year’s Derby rolls around. Though I never fully bought into Big Brown, I love when a horse wins the first two Triple Crown races because it gives everyone a chance to embrace a story that is centered around a beautiful creature instead of the usual selection of egomaniacal athletes we typically have to watch.
When my parents were teenagers, three horses won the Triple Crown in a span of just a few years, so they didn’t realize what a rare treat it really was. Obviously no horse has won since then, but a glut of them have won the Derby and Preakness recently. Mom and Dad and I have gotten to bond over horseracing when that happens, because they know I’ve never seen a Triple Crown winner and they’d love to share that with me. [/awwww]
I really enjoy watching the occasional soccer match, but I’m not always good at following the ins and outs of many teams, whether they are here in the States (MLS) or across the pond like these fellows. But regardless of whether I know every team’s roster and backstory, this fine tournament is a chance to catch up on some of what I’ve missed before. The only problem is that this tournament falls during almost the same time as…
The College World Series!
Starting this weekend, eight fine college baseball teams and countless thousands of their fans will be descending on Omaha, NE – my town! – for the College World Series. Even for those who don’t follow baseball, it’s easy to tell when it’s CWS time: Bars roll out all their tents, fences, and lights to prepare for the crowded beer garden scene. All types of businesses all over town put up signs, “Welcome baseball fans,” and such. Traffic gets kind of dicey and restaurants get crowded, but this is heaven for a college baseball fan.
As a lifelong Nebraskan (and a student at the University of Nebraska), I am a Husker fan, so I’m sad that my team isn’t a part of the CWS. However, I should be there every day, because it really is baseball at its finest: all the heart, all the hustle, glorious heaps of superstition and of course elite skills. And a big messy dogpile for the winners at the end.
But my first and greatest love:
The Kansas City Royals
The story on the Royals is that they’ve been losing a lot lately, but there is legitimate reason for hope for the near future. I was born a Royals fan and I’ll die one too; it’s as much a part of my identity as my gender or natural hair color. I love all of Major League Baseball but the Royals are my team. As a KC fan, I’m obligated to hate the Yankees, the Cardinals, the White Sox, and I really do. If I’m not at a ballgame or watching one at home, I’m scouring for interesting trade rumors, reading baseball blogs, or poring over tables and graphs in books from folks like Bill James or Baseball Prospectus.
But I know not everyone feels like I do about baseball, so I’ll try and present a variety of sports here.
What I hope to figure out from you all is how much of the sporting world do you want here? In-depth analysis? Touching human interest stories? Attractive athletes (kidding…sort of)?