Off-season Primer


Roosevelt Stadium, Jersey City, NJ“I’ve tried a lot of things in the off-season, but the only thing I really know is baseball.” – Hank Aaron

Someone asked me the other day what I was up to, now that it’s November and I don’t have baseball to focus on.  My response:  I’m always focused on baseball.  Fortunately, it seems that there always is something going on in baseball.  We just have to know where to look.

Just a few weeks ago, post-season awards were given out and tomorrow the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot will be revealed (and the results will be announced January 8th).  Several related awards will be announced soon, including the Ford Frick Award, which honors excellence in baseball broadcasting.  In addition, the Greatness in Baseball Yearly Awards (GIBBY) will be announced during the Baseball Winter Meetings, December 9-12.

Speaking of the Winter Meetings, we are also in the midst of baseball wheeling and dealing.  Here are a few upcoming deadlines:

  • December 2:  tender deadline (the date by which teams must offer contracts to unsigned players on their 40-man roster, after which players who have not been offered contracts can become free agents)
  • December 5:  last date to request outright waivers to assign a player before the Rule 5 Draft (in other words, requesting permission to move a player from the big league 40-man roster to the minors)
  • December 9:  last date to outright a player before the Rule 5 Draft (meaning they must send him to the minors)
  • December 12:  Rule 5 Draft (which keeps teams from keeping a player on a minor league roster rather than allowing another team to put him on their major league roster)

Stadium seat from Roosevelt Stadium in Jersey City, NJWe are also in the middle of baseball’s winter league season.  Although the Arizona Fall League recently completed its season (with the Surprise Saguaros winning the championship), winter ball is still heating up.  As I previously reported, the Dominican Winter League, the Mexican Pacific League, and the Venezuelan Winter League all began play in October, with games running through late December.  In addition, the Puerto Rican League’s 2013 season began November 1 and runs through December 30.  These four leagues will compete in the Caribbean Series in February.

In addition, the Australian Baseball League’s regular season began on October 31 and runs through January.  They will hold their All-Star game on December 13, the playoffs begin on January 30, and the championship series begins on February 6.

The Caribbean and Australian teams are affiliated with Major League Baseball.  However, there are leagues in other places as well.  For example, the Colombian League is currently in the midst of their season, which runs from November to January.

Of course, if you can’t keep up with the winter leagues or the hot stove league, you can still find plenty of baseball activities to keep you occupied until Spring Training.  Try checking out a few baseball travel destinations, or curl up with a good baseball book.

~ baseballrebecca

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Preparing for the 2014 Bobble Quest


Gio Gonzalez bobblehead The big news out of Los Angeles the other day was that the Dodgers have announced their 2014 promotional schedule – and there are 10 bobblehead giveaway days.  While most of us haven’t begun putting together our lists for Santa yet, some teams are ahead of the game and have already published their giveaway lists for next year.  In addition to the Dodgers, the Brewers, Tigers, A’s, and Braves have several promotions listed on their websites.  A few minor league teams, including the Trenton Thunder, have also joined the party and scheduled their giveaways far in advance of next season.

Naturally, the most important items on these schedules are the bobblehead giveaways.  In fact, Sports Business Daily reported a couple years ago that bobbleheads were making a comeback.  During the 2012 baseball season, more than 2.2 million bobbleheads were given away on 94 dates by 26 clubs – a 25 percent increase Josh Gibson and Al Bumbry bobbleheadsover 2011.  I haven’t seen any data on the 2013 season, but if my own bobble quests are any indication, bobblehead giveaways are definitely on the rise.

Though serious collectors will put together much better lists as Opening Day approaches, I’ve put together the list of what those over-achieving clubs have promised us.  I only went through the teams in the American, National, and Eastern Leagues.  I’ll add to it as more teams and leagues update their promotional schedules.  Of course, if you don’t want to wait until next year – or you just don’t want to wait in line next year – the Bowie Baysox are again offering a bobblehead with the purchase of a holiday ticket pack.  This year you can choose from Chris Tillman, Matt Wieters, Jim Johnson, and Al Bumbry.  I still haven’t decided who I want.

~ baseballrebecca

 2014 Bobblehead Schedule (So Far)

4/10 Tigers Miguel Cabrera (mini bobble)
4/19 A’s TBA
4/24 Dodgers Clayton Kershaw
4/24 Tigers Justin Verlander (mini bobble)
4/27* Brewers Carlos Gomez
5/9 Trenton Thunder (AA) Player TBD mini bobbleheads
5/9 Portland Sea Dogs (AA) Brandon Workman
5/11* Brewers Kyle Lohse
5/13 Dodgers Yasiel Puig
5/27 Dodgers Hyun-Jin Ryu
5/30 Braves Freddie Freeman
5/30 Trenton (AA) Mark Teixeira
5/31 A’s TBA
6/14 Dodgers Tommy Lasorda
6/15* Brewers “Vintage Brewers Bobblehead”
6/20 Braves B.J. Upton
6/21 Portland (AA) Xander Bogaerts
6/26 Dodgers Fan-Voted bobblehead
6/29* Brewers Norichika Aoki
7/11 Braves Dale Murphy
7/11 Trenton (AA) Hideki Matsui
7/12 Dodgers Pee Wee Reese and Roy Campanella
7/14 Tigers Justin Verlander
7/25 Trenton (AA) David Robertson
7/27* Brewers Fan-Voted bobblehead
7/31 Dodgers Steve Garvey, Ron Cey, Dusty Baker, and Reggie Smith
8/8 Trenton (AA) Boomer (Trenton’s mascot)
8/10* Brewers Klement’s Famous Racing Sausage Chorizo bobblehead
8/12 Portland (AA) Daniel Nava
8/20 Dodgers Zack Greinke
8/24* Brewers Jean Segura
9/2 Dodgers Magic Johnson
9/9 Dodgers Babe Ruth
9/14* Brewers Robin Yount
9/17 Tigers Miguel Cabrera

* Not yet on official team webpage schedule

Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail


Hot Springs Baseball GroundsHot Springs, Arkansas.  Not a place you necessarily associate with baseball.  But Hot Springs became the birthplace of Major League Baseball’s spring training in 1886.  Many major league teams trained there between 1886 and 1926.  After that, Negro League and minor league teams trained there in the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s.  Baseball legends from Babe Ruth to Jackie Robinson made stops there during their careers.The Arlington Hotel in Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Going to Hot Springs is like stepping back in time.  Baseball was attracted to Hot Springs because of its healing bath houses and warmer climate for spring training.  It also is one of the oldest national parks and you can walk back in time through the Fordyce Bath House that also serves as the National Park Service’s visitor’s center for the park.

Sam Guinn Field, Hot Springs, Arkansas.Of course, the coolest thing about Hot Springs is the Hot Springs Historic Baseball Trail.  The tour takes you to the ballparks where the teams conducted spring training, as well as the hotels where they stayed and the places they spent their spare time.  I’ve posted just a few photos of my time there. I highly recommend putting it on your list of baseball places to visit.

~ baseballrebecca

Army-Navy Hospital in Hot Springs, Arkansas Bath House, Hot Springs, Arkansas Whittington Park, Hot Springs, AransasNational Baptist Hotel, Hot Springs Arkansas, where Negro League teams stayed during spring training.

Missouri-Pacific Railroad Depot, Hot Springs, Arkansas.Brooklyn Dodgers Hot Springs 1912

Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente


Puerto Rico LeagueLa Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente (Puerto Rico Professional baseball League) began it’s 2013 season on November 1.  As you can tell (sort of) from my map of Puerto Rico,  are currently five teams in the Puerto Rico baseball league.  So far, Los Gigantes are leading the league with a 4-1 record, and Los Criollos are in second place at 3-3.

Now, I don’t know a lot about Puerto Rico, though I’ve always wanted to go.  So, I figured a good way to learn about anything is to start with baseball.  While it’s best to learn about things from their perspective, sometimes it Puerto Ricohelps to relate them to what you already know.  So, here’s a breakdown of the five Puerto Rico League teams, as they relate to the Baltimore Orioles:

  • Cangrejeros de Santurce  (Santurce Crabbers)- The roster on their website includes former Orioles Jake Arrieta and Robert Andino, but only Andino appears on the roster on MLB.com.  In 1968, Jim Palmer pitched for Santurce, and Frank Robinson was their manager.
  • Gigantes de Carolina (Carolina Giants) – O’s minor league RHP Julio Rodriguez is on their roster; he was 0-3 with a 10.13 ERA with the Frederick Keys last season.
  • Criollos de Caguas (Caguas Creoles) – SS Adrian Marin is on the roster; he played for the Delmarva Shorebirds in 2013 and had a batting average of .265.  Roberto Alomar played there in 1985.
  • Leones de Ponce (Ponce Lions) – I couldn’t find any current roster link to the Baltimore Orioles.
  • Indios de Mayaguez (Mayaguez Indians) – RHP Dennis Torres is listed on their roster; he went 1-3 for Delmarva last year with a 3.22 ERA.

The league was renamed La Liga de Béisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente in 2012, and they celebrate their 75th anniversary this year.  However, more information is a little hard to find.  The league’s website and Facebook page provide great information, if you know Spanish.  If you look really hard, and squint, you can also get the scores on ESPN Deportes.  But even Wikipedia doesn’t have a lot of information.

Seems to me, that a little more information could go a long way.  Maybe those of us who love baseball in all forms, might actually go catch a few games, if we knew more about the teams and cities of the Puerto Rico baseball league.  I’m sure the information is out there, the average fan just doesn’t know how to find it.  But I’ll keep looking…

~ baseballrebecca

Can’t We Save the Astrodome?


astrodomeFor me and the Astrodome, it always seems to be too little too late.  I never made it to see a baseball game there, and I didn’t know it was danger of being voted out of existence.  Yesterday, Houston voters voted against a referendum that would have provided $217 million to turn it into a convention and exhibition center.  It is now up to the county commissioners to decide what to do with it, but it doesn’t look good.

The Dallas Morning News called the Astrodome “a monument to America’s boldness and optimism.”  Apparently, several organizations lobbied to save the historic stadium.  In fact, the National Trust for Historic Preservation added the Astrodome to its list of America’s 11 Most Endangered Historic Places in June.  Despite these efforts, some of us still did not know about the imminent threat.

203743pvHere are some important facts about the Astrodome that highlight it’s importance to American society:

  • As noted by the Texas State Historical Association, It was the first “fully air-conditioned, enclosed, domed, multipurpose sports stadium in the world.”
  • The first baseball game played there was on April 9, 1965, an exhibition game between the Houston Astros and the New York Yankees.  The first home run hit in the Astrodome was hit by Mickey Mantle during that game.  The Astros played their last game there on October 9, 1999.
  • The first football game played there was on September 11, 1965, between Tulsa University and the University of Houston.
  • The first musical artists to perform there were The Supremes.  They were the opening act for Judy Garland on December 17, 1965.
  • It was the site of the first prime time nationally televised college basketball game in 1968.
  • Elmo Wright invented the end-zone dance there in 1969.
  • In the 1970s, it was the site for two movies, Brewster McCloud and The Bad News Bears.
  • Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs competed there in tennis’ Battle of the Sexes in 1973.
  • The Republican national convention was held there in 1992.
  • It was the site of Tejano superstar Selena’s last televised performance, February 26, 1995.
  • Rock band U2 filmed their music video for the song “Stuck in a Moment You Can’t Get Out Of” in the Astrodome in 2001.
  • In 2005, the Astrodome housed people who were displaced by Hurricane Katrina.
  • Those who performed there included:  Bob Dylan, the Who, Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner, Madonna, Muhammad Ali, and Evel Knievel.

The place is a sports and pop culture icon.  As the New York Times stated, “Demolition would be a failure of civic imagination, a betrayal of Houston’s greatness as a city of swaggering ambition, of dreamers who dispensed with zoning laws and any restraint on possibility.”  The Los Angeles Times also states the case for saving the Astrodome quite well:  “There may be no piece of architecture more quintessentially American than the Astrodome.  Widely copied after it opened in 1965, it perfectly embodies postwar U.S. culture in its brash combination of Space Age glamour, broad-shouldered scale and total climate control.”

Isn’t there anything we can do to save the Eighth Wonder of the World?

~ baseballrebecca