Tag Archives: Ichiro Suzuki

Opening Day 2013…and Be a Blessing to Us

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“Baseball is reassuring.  It makes me feel as if the world is not going to blow up.”  ~Sharon Olds, This Sporting Life, 1987

It is good to have survived the last five months. The Mayans were wrong about the end of the world and despite the the best efforts of the Unholy Trinity of Politicians, Pundits and Preachers, in spite of Sequestration, North Korean Nukes, Al Qaida terrorists and troubles brewing around the world and at home we finally made it to Opening Day.

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Some for me baseball, maybe more than any other thing brings a sense of order to my universe. Some of my earliest memories involve baseball. I played in my back yard, in sandlots, parks and real baseball fields. I learned the game from my late father and when he was deployed to Vietnam my mom would come at watch my Little League games. Most of my broken bones have been the result of injuries sustained on the baseball or softball field, which make me look forward to my next assignment at the Joint Forces Staff College all the more since the faculty and students play ball almost all year round.

I have always loved the game and like Walt Whitman seemed to believe that there is something healing about it like no other game. Whitman said that baseball is “our game – the American game.  It will take our people out-of-doors, fill them with oxygen, give them a larger physical stoicism.  Tend to relieve us from being a nervous, dyspeptic set.  Repair these losses, and be a blessing to us.”

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I wonder sometimes if Whitman would think that perhaps the Dominicans and Japanese appreciate “our game” more than us? Considering how well they do in international competition and how many of “our” star players come from those countries and others he might have something to say about it. Perhaps that the game transcends America itself and allows Americans to appreciate men like Ichiro, Big Papi, Robinson Cano, Pablo “the Big Panda” Sandoval, Jose Reyes, Hideki Matsui and many more, 243 on Opening Day 2012 that were on Major League rosters, over 100 being Dominicans.

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Now as for me I think that is a sign of the greatness of this game. It is a game that I think more than any transcends culture. To watch the enthusiasm of the players and fans of the non-US teams in the World Baseball Classic was a joyful experience for me. I don’t know maybe in our faced paced thrill a minute ADD inducing  and violence addicted American culture we have forgotten the joy that this game can bring. Maybe we are too cynical and have even done damage to it with the Steroid and Performance Enhancing Drug use scandals.

I don’t know, I could be wrong but I do think that a trip or two to a ballpark every year would be a good thing for every American. In fact I don’t even think that it would need to be a big league ballpark because the joy and mystery of the game can be found anywhere there is a baseball field where boys of every age find a bit of magic in  the crack of a bat, running out a grounder, stealing second base or striking out the side.

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The great Jackie Robinson said something that I think is incredibly profound: “Baseball is a curious anomaly in American life. It seems to have been ingrained in people in their childhood…. Baseball is, after all, a boy’s game, and children are innocent of evil. So even adults who are prejudiced revert to their childhood when they encounter a baseball player and they react with the purity of little children.”

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So to all of us who looked so forward to this day. Yes it is a day that comes every year, and for some people the season seems too long, the games too many and the pace, well not fast enough. But that being the case it is a human game, a game that I think allows has a spiritual sensitivity unfound anywhere else in sports. Yes it is a game, it too is a business and well for some people like me a religion.

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This weekend I plan on getting to a game or two at the Church of Baseball, Harbor Park Parish in Norfolk Virginia. I won’t make the home opener, but I will get some of the Norfolk Tides opening home stand.

I hope to see you at the ball park this year. Trust me. It will do you good.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Most Exciting Play in the Game- The Electricity of the Inside the Park Home Run

three run homer by fiorentinoJeff Fiorentino Connects in July against Charlotte

There is nothing in the world like a home run.  From the crack of the bat there is a sudden silence and then, if you are the home team a deafening roar as the crowd reacts to the ball sailing over the fence.  Now home runs like this happen every day in baseball, but the “in the Park” home run is something special.  You don’t see many of them. Thus when they occur, the effect on the team and the crowd is electrifying.   I saw my first inside the park home run tonight as Jeff Fiorentino of the Norfolk Tides hit a tailing line drive to left field which eluded Syracuse Sky Chief’s Left Fielder Jorge Padilla. The ball then went to the wall where it was picked up by Padilla .  Fiorentino raced around the bases nearly overtaking Tides Second Baseman Justin Turner and easily beating the relay in to catcher Jhonatan Solano.  Fiorentino also scored a run in the first and singled in a run and later scored what turned out to be the winning run in the 8th giving him 2 hits, 4 RBIs and 3 runs scored and took his average up to .330 on the year moving into third in the International League.  The Tides won the game against the Chiefs 8-6.  The highlights of the game including Fiorentino’s home run are here:

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In the park homers are rare and most of the ones hit in baseball history came during the 19th Century Era or the “Dead Ball Era” between 1901 and 1919 during which ballpark outfields were much deeper and more spacious than today’s parks meaning that if a ball got by an outfielder there was a good chance that a batter could get around the base paths and score.  In the modern era Hank Aaron had only one.  A few players have hit them, but they are so rare as to be called “the most exciting play in baseball.” Just to give an example of players in the “500 Club” who have hit inside the park homers, Babe Ruth has ten, Willie Mays six, Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Junior three each, Sammy Sosa two while Harmon Killebrew and Hank Aaron each have one.  Other players to have hit them in recent years include Emilio Bonafacio who hit one on opening day,  Howie Kendrick of the Angels who hit one on May 9th and Carl Crawford hit one in Tampa Bay on July 20th.  Only one has been hit in an All-Star game and that by Ichiro Suzuki in 2007 at AT&T Park in San Francisco.  Roberto Clemente has the only “walk off” inside the park grand slam.  The last by a Norfolk player was in 2005 by Anderson Hernandez.

Here is a video link to Tigers Curtis Granderson’s 2005 inside the park homer against the Yankees:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcRaYNtbANA

As I said this was the first inside the park home run that I have ever seen and it was simply an amazing thing of beauty to watch. Patently the Deity Herself ensured I got to see one of these just as I had seen a no-hitter back in 1975.  I had been up talking with Elliott the Usher about strategy, players and baseball trivia when Jeff Fiorentino came up to the plate in the bottom of the 6th.  I told Elliott that I had to go down to get a picture so I went down by my seat and crouched down in a good catchers stance to stay low and balance myself behind the screen at home plate as I always do when talking my shots.  The first pitch was a ball so I readied myself for the next. When Fiorentino hit the ball I knew it would drop for a hit, when it got by Padilla I knew that it was extra bases and when I looked up and saw how fast Jeff was running I knew this was something special.  I went back up to Elliott the Usher and we did our high five.  We had a scare in the 7th when the Sky Chiefs score two that were charged to starter David Pauley, but somehow, despite losing the lead I knew that the Tides would come back.  In the 8th they did. Blake Davis had an infield single and advanced to second on a throwing error by shortstop Ian Desmond.  He advanced to third on a passed ball.  Fiorentino came up again and singled to drive in Davis to tie the score.  With Brandon Snyder at the plate Chiefs pitcher Jack Spradlin attempted to pick off Fiorentino but threw wide of the base, Fiorentino alertly advanced all the way to third.  Snyder then doubled to score Fiorentino to give the Tides the lead.  Melvin Dorta hit a sacrifice fly to right field scoring Snyder.  Alberto Castillo came in to close the game sealing the Norfolk win.  Sunday evening Radhames Liz (0-2, 6.00) will make his first start for Norfolk since being promoted from Double-A Bowie where he had been sent down to work on control issues in June.  Liz has the distinction of being the only current Minor Leaguer to be in the Major League Baseball 100 mph club having done so when called up by the Orioles in 2008. It should be an interesting game.

Peace, Steve+

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