The Locker Room

May 9, 2005

Re: Baseball

Posted by Paul Chesser at 9:50 PM

I've got 11- and 12-year-old kids already spitting seeds on my Little League team. They've replaced the bubble gum this year.

Moneyball, great book.

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Re: Top Secret

Posted by Paul Chesser at 5:15 PM

Nic, sunflower seeds are the secret to life.

And for the kiddies who have yet to master the art, there's always the irrepressible Big League Chew.



Cram a bunch (roughly the size of a baseball itself) into your mouth and you have perfected the Lenny Dykstra.

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"Safety Net Nation"

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 3:30 PM

One of the more common arguments against private Social Security accounts, illustrated in a BusinessWeek cover story, is that stocks are "too risky." This obviously ignores the option to purchase the same government bonds that nominally comprise the Social Security Trust Fund.

One way to ease this concern may be to use some of the employer contribution to Social Security to pay for the accounts. That's basically free money anyway. Everyone acknowledges that benefits will have to be cut by at least 25% if we do nothing before 2042, and there is a need for some combination of benefit cuts and tax increases to address the problem before then. So you cut benefits to restore solvency and give people the option to play with their employers' cash in stocks, bonds, or both. If you focus on the need for benefit cuts, the ability to invest "free money" may be ameliorative.

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The "modern" sport, and the need for a kid to play and learn it

Posted by Jon Sanders at 3:27 PM

It's contained within my favorite baseball quotation.

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TOP SECRET: How to stay awake during a Baseball game

Posted by Jon Sanders at 3:16 PM

Growing up around baseball I learned that there is only one real way to keeping alert while watching the seven innings of a little league game. My secret, of course is sunflower seeds. Trying to de-shell, eat the inside goodies, and then spit the shell out all in one fluid motion, with no fingers of course, can be like mastering the force and becoming a Jedi. It just takes some time and you have plenty of that at baseball games.
Now once you master the chewing part and you find yourself starting to nod off just reach for the curve ball of sunflower seeds. That curve ball would be none other then flavored seeds, which range from Nacho Cheese, BBQ, Ranch and my personal favorite Jalapeno flavored. All of these flavors plus many more can be found at Davids Seeds.

Play Ball!

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Re: Tagging ... Baseball

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 2:26 PM

The book Moneyball, by Michael Lewis, revived some of my interest in baseball as a contrarian numbers guy. For a friend of mine, it was rotisserie baseball (it requires daily adjustments, so I stick with fantasy football). I agree with Paul that Joe Morgan's Sunday Night Baseball commentary is some of the best around to think about the game. The history of the game could also provide some appeal.  More than most sports, baseball is about storytelling.  Football lends itself more to moments--improbable touchdowns with no time left, etc. Even those big moments in baseball, such as the homeruns by Bucky Dent or Kirk Gibson demand some backstory. The final out of a perfect game looks like any other out. Of course, a JLF trip to a Bulls game may be the perfect learning/teaching experience. 

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Re: Tagging...Baseball

Posted by Joseph Coletti at 2:00 PM

Boys, one tremendous aspect of baseball - not to the exclusion of all others, but to many - is that your success has less to do with your size than your skill.

I know there's exceptions in every sport. Some short (6') guys are in the NBA and some skinny (200 lb.) guys are in the NFL and NHL.

And there's excpetions in baseball, too. Being tall can give one quite good leverage - thank you Randy Johnson - and Frank Thomas is just a monster of a man and a player. But most MLB players are not giants. And many are just plain scrappy.

The influx of steroids proves this point.

Steroids can only turn someone already in the big show into a superstar.

Steroids cannot turn an accountant (sorry, Dad) into an all-star. You gotta have the talent to already hit that itty, bitty ball coming at you at 90 miles an hour, before you can beef up and knock it out of the park with more regularity.

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Of bumper stickers and unwitting comedy from a leftist

Posted by Jon Sanders at 1:59 PM

I'd like to thank the woman driving the blue car on Hillsborough Street at 1:45 this afternoon for the laughs. She had two bumper stickers on her car. The first read:

"Diversity" is a code word for
MUTUAL RESPECT

The second read:

"Conservative" is a code word for
CORPORATE ELITIST

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Re: Tagging...Baseball

Posted by Paul Chesser at 1:40 PM

I did not mean to exclude other sports as devoid of thinking or as good combinations of team/individual accomplishments. I merely said that baseball is the most interesting game, to me, that emphasizes the strategy and athleticism aspects of both team and individual achievements.

I think either we're just dying to debate in the blog about something, or we're dying to blog about sports. Or both.

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re. Tagging....baseball

Posted by Paul Chesser at 12:46 AM

Paul,

I don't deny what you say about baseball. I agree with what you wrote. However, I don't believe, at least from my own experience, that baseball is the only individual/team sport out there. There can be a lot that can be said of freestyle wrestling on the high school and college levels in the duel meet and tournament formats.

When you wrestle, it's obviously a one-on-one match between you and your opponent. However, the outcome of your match can greatly impact the strategies that others down the line may have to use in their matches. For instance, when I wrestled, my match was always the last one in a duel since I was the heavyweight. They have since changed the rule to where the first weight class is drawn by random. In wrestling, the team is awarded points based on what you do on the mat - 6 points for a pin, 4 for a major decision, 3 for a decision, etc. If the person wrestling before me fails to score a lot of team points and the match is seperated by 5 points then I know I have to go for a pin if the team is to win. Now, I may win the match without the win and it helps me as an individual as far as seeding in tournaments, but it does nothing for the team.

Wrestling is really a thinking man's sport that doesn't get a lot of respect because of the WWE and other "pro" wrestling groups. I just wish I had really appreciated the sport like I do now when I wrestled. Maybe I wouldn't have stopped when I did.

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re: Tagging ... baseball

Posted by Jon Sanders at 11:45 AM

I know several baseball enthusiasts who refer to it in similar terms as Paul just did, that it's a "thinking man's game" and they enjoy the chess match or strategic aspect of it. I can appreciate that for as far as that goes, but on the other hand I share a similar appreciation for that aspect in football. Each game situation presents numerous opportunities for coaches on either side of the ball to take calculated risks. Third-and-three is a great down for the football fan.

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Re: Tagging...Baseball

Posted by Paul Chesser at 11:35 AM

John, I don't have much to say about the "modern" vs. "post-modern" characterization of the sports, except that I would disagree that baseball is the "consummate team game" and thus is the reason for "free-spirited" players to lose interest in it. I would say that the other three major sports, football (for exactly the reasons Jon describes), basketball, and NASCAR -- oops, I mean hockey -- are more team-oriented.

Instead, I would say that baseball is somewhat uniquely an individual game and a team game. The other sports, more than baseball, require that on each play or in the ongoing action that almost all the players on the field/court/ice be involved. In baseball, a single play may only involve the action of a few players.

I think some kids lose interest because, I believe most sports enthusiasts will agree, that hitting a baseball is the most difficult thing to do. If you are a successful hitter, you are still only getting on base roughly one-third of the time. It requires tremendous eye-hand coordination, focus, and getting the mechanics exactly right. And pitching isn't much easier.

As for developing your personal interest in baseball, I think it is the ultimate thinking man's game that is combined with the need for athleticism. Yes, the most accomplished in the other sports are usually also the smartest when playing (Michael Jordan, Larry Bird, Tom Brady, Wayne Gretzky, for examples). But with baseball I marvel as much at the chess match as I do at the athletic accomplishments.

I don't know how well you know the game, but of course you can't learn without watching. The highlight shows don't really capture this as much as the games themselves do. On ESPN's Sunday night games Joe Morgan, in my opinion, does a real good job explaining the game and why certain moves/plays are good or bad.

I suspect your interest has to do with a youngster or two who enjoys the game. Well, you won't fall asleep watching your own kids play. The great thing about Little League is you can still get excited about how your own kid is doing even if the team around him is not so good. Plus it's fun getting to know other families that are involved, as well as their coaches -- there are lots of interesting social observations you can make while watching.

As for the TV games, there is nothing wrong with falling asleep. I find baseball on TV to be the ultimate relaxation and also a good background noise/activity if your involved in another project. If you miss something important, there are always plenty of replays.

You knew I'd respond, didn't you?

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Re: modern & post-modern sport

Posted by Jon Sanders at 09:59 AM

John, that was a good piece, and the concept of modern vs. post-modern sport is an interesting one. Nevertheless, where would football fit in that? All of the would-be baseball players, it would seem, choose football because it's a contact sport. Yet football is a team sport. True, it does have personalities and superstars, but they cannot do much on their own without the rest of the team. The wideouts won't get the ball if the QB cannot throw or the O-line can't hold long enough for the pass to be made. Similarly, the QB can't shine without good O-line or wide receivers who make the catch. The RBs can't do well without good blocking. And a good offense isn't enough if the defense isn't solid. The D-line must be strong enough to pressure the QB, or the D-backs will struggle, etc.

Football allows for a vast array of specialization. Some players are professionals solely because of their superior skills on special teams — accuracy in kicking is the most obvious one, but others include punt blocking, returning kicks, "good hands" or speed to get down the field on kick coverage.

A team can succeed with superiority in one of the three "teams": offense, defense and special teams. Often, however, a liability in the others spells defeat in the "long run" of a 60-minute game. In football, I see where analogies could be made to business or battle. But I'm not sure whether it would count as modern or post-modern.

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Re: Defaced Stain

Posted by Paul Chesser at 09:33 AM

The salt-runoff stain has been restored -- resume worship.

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Tagging what’s happening with baseball

Posted by John Hood at 08:59 AM

For all the baseball nuts in the Locker Room — you know who you are — this interesting piece in the Greenville Daily Reflector discusses how different ethnic groups are choosing to participate in America’s passtime. A middle section especially deserves emphasis:

Ironic, isn't it, that the first of America's major sports to break the color barrier – credit Jackie Robinson in 1947 – is enticing fewer and fewer black athletes? Some say the slowness of the game pales for black athletes against the flash and dash of the National Basketball Association and National Football League.

Tyron Laughinghouse, for instance, a 16-year-old Rose High School student, digs basketball and football, but baseball bores him. Waiting in the outfield for a fly ball isn't Laughinghouse's idea of fun, he says. Getting hit with a baseball doesn't thrill him, either, though hitting, per se, is high on his list of kicks.

"I like football because you can hit," he says. "Baseball isn't fun because it's a non-contact sport."

Laughinghouse's buddy, Lexter Wright, a 15-year-old A.J. Cox Middle School student, plays baseball, but prefers football. His reasons mirror Laughinghouse's.

"When you hit in football you can take out all the frustration you have with somebody else," he says. "I don't like baseball because you're never touching anybody, just catching and throwing the ball."

Estes points to what he calls "modern" and "post-modern" sport to help explain the popularity of basketball and football among some athletes. Modern sport – in which games such as baseball were intended to build character as well as technique – developed in the 19th century, then gave way in the 1970s to post-modern. From then on, Estes says, athletes began focusing more on themselves and less on team. Baseball, as the consummate team game, soon fell out of favor when free-spirited basketball players such as Vince Carter, Stephon Marbury and Kobe Bryant grabbed the spotlight with their flashy play and me-first attitude.


It is a potentially controversial subject, handled deftly by a local columnist here in North Carolina. A piece like this in the New York Times would probably have been cringe-inducing.

Oh, and I should add that for personal reasons I have decided to get over my previous disinterest and become a baseball fan. Suggestions for keeping me awake are welcome.

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