Wooden's World of Baseball

Sunday, February 24, 2008

'08 Summer Dreamin'

While whiling the days before baseball comes back, and staring at my desktop wallpaper of Civic Stadium in Eugene, Oregon -- quite possibly my favorite of all minor-league ballparks -- it occurred to think of all the places I've seen professional baseball.

One of the first surprises was to see that I've never seen a game in Vermont or Maine. I always wanted to go up to Bangor or Portland, but given alternatives that were closer, I never made it there. Last year, I had tried to add North Carolina, but it, along with South Carolina, will have to wait until this year.

Above is a neat little widget from a site called Visited States that shows the results. The two rather obvious outliers -- Missouri and Colorado -- stem from my trip across the country in 1994 when we trekked from Massachusetts to Oregon in a not-quite-so-straight line in which we passed through 17 states and drove 4,000+ miles. We're probably still paying for it.

While eventually I'd like to games in all the Lower 48, I think the more realistic (and modest) goal is to see all the road fields in the Carolina League. In '06, I got to Salem, Wilmington, Frederick. In '07, I got to Lynchburg and was "colded out" of Winston-Salem. This year, the hope is to get to Kinston, leaving the most difficult for last: Myrtle Beach... that one, will require a bit more planning and luck. And a lot of driving.

And there's nothing wrong with trying to hit a few of the other cities and leagues in between, like my friend in Hagerstown did last summer and plans to again this summer. Last year, there was but one new destination: Harrisburg, but perhaps this summer I can hit a couple of more, such as York, PA and Waldorf, MD.

As always, life and weather will dictate, but when there's mud and snow out the window, thinking about where I'll be when the rains pass and the heat returns is what gets me through.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Impatiently Waiting...

Still no word from MASN as to when they might actually decide to televise their raison d'être this spring, despite two e-mails and a blog comment on the the MASN website, which, like the network itself, looks decidedly second-rate.

In stark contrast, however, is my native New England team's network, NESN, which televised the first workout. As hungry as I am for spring baseball, I think Dan Shaughnessy captured this exploitation of Red Sox Nation much better than I could:

Trust me when I tell you that you have not lived until you've seen a solid hour of PFP – pitchers' fielding practice. This promises to do for television what 38 Pitches did for the blogosphere.

Speaking of Schilling, count me among the few that is not enamored with his online blatherings. With every post, he shows you just what a fine education he got from Yavapai Community College and Shadow Mountain High School.

Meanwhile, back in greater DC, the focus on baseball is still in the shadow of the Clemens-McNamee hearings, which made for great theater but didn't tell us anything we didn't already know. Though I do suspect that somewhere deep in the hills of far western Massachusetts, Dan Duquette is smirking and wisely letting the likes of me say "told you so" for him.

There is some talk about a team that's about to flirt with .500, with a potential logjam at first base, and a farm system that's improved from among the very worst to roughly the middle of the pack, with a handful of guys that might make the jump like John Lannan did last summer.

But it takes some digging and sifting through the Deadskins detritus and the college basketball, which lost its luster for me when UMass was exposed to be no different than the rest in 1996, when Coach Cal and Marcus Camby both ran away for the NBA.

Um, position players report on Wednesday?!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Truck Day!

As a native New Englander, one of the surest signs of spring is when the Red Sox equipment truck leaves Fenway for Spring Training. It's not quite Groundhog Day, but it's close. Witness the 2006 edition, which featured an advertisement by CVS for the ~1,500 mile trip from Boston, MA to Fort Myers, FL. Even in this decade where the Patriots have been the class of the NFL (at least on the field), Boston remains a baseball town 1st.

Sadly, here in the greater D.C. metro area, the focus today is not on an improving Nationals team but the naming of a new Redskins coach. No report, as there was this time last year, on when the Nats will be televised. I know because I hunted online for nearly an hour before I finally gave up and wrote an e-mail to MASN, which has been long accused of being Orioles-biased. To their (dis)credit, there's no O's spring training telecast information available, either.

It's frustrating to me because this is arguably the lamest Sunday in the sports calendar year. The NFL's Pro Bowl is theoretically the big draw, right? OK, name me who won last year. What's the equivalent to the Fred Lynn grand slam in '83? Even ESPN, the bastion of sports journalism (not), mocks it. Think if the game were moved from Hawaii that it'd be around much longer?

I'm already in full cabin fever for baseball. I've bought the 2008 Minor League analyst so I'll know more about the players I'll see this summer in Woodbridge, Bowie, Hagerstown, and Frederick (that's not a complete list, but an ordering of the top four stops on my annual summer tour). I've subscribed to John Sickels's weekly e-mail updates and bought an audio book of baseball short stories to listen to while I wait for spring to come. Hell, I'm even researching when MLB08: The Show comes out for my PS3.

Pitchers and catchers report this week. And it could NOT possibly be too soon.