Report from the minor leagues

Jason and I went to see the Lake Elsinore Storm play the Stockton Ports yesterday. That’s about a 90-minute drive from Los Angeles.

The folks from the 2004 trip who were in Davenport will note that the Swing of the Quad Cities isn’t the only team that has problems with rabbits getting onto the field…

The Storm claims their “eyes” are the best-selling logo in minor league baseball. They’re definitely one of the most creepy…

The Storm’s mascot, Thunder, is suspiciously similar to the Phillie Phanatic, although he’s supposed to be a dog and not an alien, or whatever the Phanatic is…

Final score…

You can’t beat a pizza at the old ballpark

Nice to see television slow-motion technology being used in this

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manner, during the broadcast of Monday’s Red Sox-Angels game.

Now what am I going to talk about when I’m on the show?

A transcript of Alex Trebek’s interview with a contestant on tonight’s “Jeopardy!”…

Alex: Tim Woodward is a teacher from Salem, New Hampshire. There is, ladies and gentlemen, a fine line between “fan” and “fanatic,” and I suspect that Tim may have crossed over that line with regard to baseball. Tell us.
Tim: Yes, a friend of mine and I had some summer free time, and we decided to see nine baseball games in nine days all across the country. We started in Los Angeles, drove 26 hours to Houston, and then went on from there. Dallas, Wichita, Oklahoma City. Ended in Chic– oh, ended in Detroit after going to Chicago.
Alex: What was the purpose of this?
Tim: To see some baseball.
Alex: How cool. Nine games in nine different cities — you know, you can see nine games in the same city. We have the Angels and the Dodgers here. You could see four or five —
Tim: The Angels were out of town.
Alex: Oh. That explains it. All right.

The Wave, Redeemed?, or An Indian Invasion!

When MLB announced that they were going to reschedule the Angels’ snowed-out games at Cleveland this week to Miller Park in Milwaukee, my first thought was, “Oh, if I weren’t going on a trip in a couple of days, I’d love to go to that first game.” Then I thought, WWJD? What, after all, would Jim do?

So, in the spirit of Baseball Related Program Activities, Stacey and I called Bob, hopped in the car, and trekked up to Milwaukee after work. Following are some notes.

1. Apparently, wherever the Indians travel, Eastern Time folllows? The game started, not at 7:05 central time, as a weeknight game in the Central Time Zone would ordinarily do, but at 6:05. Now, granted, we wouldn’t have been able to get out of work in time to make a 6:05 start regardless, but had I paid more attention when I first read about the game, we wouldn’t have been surprised to see that the game was in the fifth inning when we arrived.

2. We had anticipated getting to sit a few rows from the field, near home plate, which is what Luke and I were able to do at the Marlins/Expos tilt that was relocated to Comiskey Park a few years ago. It drew 4,000.

Apparently, more than 19,000 other people had the same thought. The entire lower deck sold out, even the bleachers, which the Brewers had intended to keep closed. Concession lines were very, very long. I’ve been to Brewers games there in April against the Cardinals where the actual attendance was under 2,000, from what I could tell, with 60% of that Cardinals fans. This attendance, on 24 hours notice, was an impressive testament to the power of $10 tickets. As my coworker Mary said, “If there’s one thing Wisconsinites love, it’s cheap stuff.”

3. That attendance of 19,000+ was more than the paid attendance in Florida, Baltimore, Atlanta, Oakland, and Pittsburgh, let alone the actual attendance at about six other parks.

4. The majority of fans seemed to be rooting for Cleveland, though the only team they were unanimously against was the Cubs.

5. Though we didn’t get to see it, the Indians’ mascot, a hideous purple thing that is only excusable because a Chief Wahoo mascot would be an abomination, slid down the slide following a couple of Indians home runs. He didn’t, of course, slide into a vat of beer, because the Brewers, in order to demonstrate that they hate fun, didn’t move Bernie’s stein to the new ballpark. I guess he only drinks the hard stuff now.

6. Late in the game, the wave started. Though I’m no purist, I’m sure you realize that I hate the wave. There is, after all, a baseball game going on, and people standing up at random moments is not as much fun as watching a ballgame. But last night, after a few trips around the stadium, the wave suddenly slowed to a crawl, then slowed down even further until it was just creeping along. Eventually, as I laughed until my sides hurt, the wave looked like slow-motion video, with people quietly and ever-so-gently lifting out of their seats and bringing their arms up. After one trip around like that, getting slower all the time, the wave snapped into an instant double-time for a few rounds before petering out. It was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen. I’ve learned from a couple of sources today that the slo-mo wave is common at UW-Madison games.

7. When the Indians closer came in, the PA guy played “Wild Thing,” a nice reference to the last time the Indians played as the home team in Milwaukee, when the movie Major League was being shot at old County Stadium.

Wrigley Field

As I’m about to head out into the cold and show to enjoy yet another Opening Day at

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Wrigley Field, I thought it would be appropriate to point out Michael Barrett’s thoughts about the future of the ballpark. The Tribune asked him, and some other Cubs, about the ballpark because of the uncertainty created by impending new ownership. Barrett, it turns out, thinks the ballpark should stay exactly the same. The same, that is, except for one little improvement:

“Ideally, especially for this time of year, you’d like to see a dome put on the outside of it,” Barrett said. “Don’t change anything about Wrigley Field. Just reinforce it and have a dome covering it.”

Well, that should be easy enough.

Opening Day follow-up

I have been informed that Twins games that are broadcast on WFTC in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area also appear on FSN North in the rest of its service area, so that’s why DirecTV was able to present the “My 29” coverage of Opening Day. So their Extra Innings package still only includes games that appear on channels that they have the rights to

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distribute nationally, which is why I couldn’t watch the Devil Rays’ home opener tonight on Extra Innings — it’s against the Blue Jays, and the only place in which it’s airing in the United States is on Channel 66 in Tampa, the local Ion affiliate. Yes, the network that used to be Pax. It should not surprise anyone that the Devil Rays’ local over-the-air TV outlet is not quite of the quality level of, say, WGN.

And I wish I’d known on Monday of the existence of this channel!

I should have known there was such a channel, because there’s a similar channel available for NFL Sunday Ticket (it’s part of an extra-cost option to which I don’t subscribe, so I only see it during its “free preview” on the first week of the football season). If I had one of DirecTV’s more newfangled receivers, I’d be able to use the cursor keys on the remote to pick a game and switch to the channel that’s showing it full-screen. But since I’m sticking with TiVo, the only option is a complicated series of button presses to switch which game’s audio is coming through.

And you may notice that things are high-tech enough that they’re able to black out the Angels game for me without blacking out this entire channel –although if they were really high-tech, they’d show the channel number on which it’s appearing, not just “0.”

Opening Day 2007: Hour 10

7:00Texas Rangers at Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim (FSN West)
7:01 — Someone runs onto the field at the Metrodome. I understand why they don’t show the action on TV, but the fact that they’re not showing it just makes me want to watch it even more (and because all the shots of the players standing around doing nothing are really, really boring).
7:09 — After a little trouble in the top of the 9th, the Twins win.
7:10 — With all of the Sammy Sosa excitement, I didn’t realize that Kenny Lofton was on the Rangers this year, and that he’s at 599 career steals.
7:12 — He gets number 600. There has been a noticeable amount of first-inning steals today — managers trying to set an aggressive tone for the season, obviously.
7:17 — Boneless Buffalo wings at Carl’s Jr.? I’m going to guess that the “wings” portion of the name is not quite accurate.
7:22 — Vladimir Guerrero’s batting helmet is already filthy. How does he do it?
7:31 — While the Angels announcers aren’t paying attention because they’re interviewing Troy Percival in the booth, Sammy Sosa strikes out. They don’t even get a closeup of him before he bats, just as he walks back to the Rangers dugout hanging his head.

7:35 — End of the Rangers’ half of the 2nd. I’ve been watching baseball for over nine and a half hours now. I think that’s all I can handle for today.

Opening Day 2007: Hour 9

6:02 — Why, they’ve got a special graphic to use when Craig Biggio gets a hit.

6:11 — Xavier Nady, who has a great name, hits a home run to tie the Pirates-Astros game at 2.
6:21 — Hey, the Twins aren’t on WCCO anymore, which is kind of like the Cardinals not being on KMOX anymore. Herb Carneal may well be rolling in his grave already.

6:25 — The Pirates-Astros game isn’t quite as speedy now that it’s gone into extra innings.
6:32 — Perhaps somebody with more time on their hands than Levi or me — probably a member of SABR — has calculated the percentage of World Series and/or pennant winners that won their first game of the season. I’m suddenly interested in what that statistic is.
6:33 — Jason Bay hits a 2-run homer in the top of the 10th. He should be on the Devil Rays instead of the Pirates, given that both have “Bay” in their names.
6:38 — The Astros strike out, in the bottom of the 10th, for the first time in the game.
6:42 — The Pirates win a game! The Pirates win a game! And now there’s only one game in progress.
6:43 — In this

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post-literate age, “DQ Grill & Chill” seems to be the new name for “Dairy Queen Brazier.” I wonder how Bob Greene feels about that. (The former columnist for the Chicago Tribune, not Oprah’s personal trainer.)

You know, after I got fired two years ago, I should have tried to contact him to commiserate. We could have had a chat over Blizzards or something. I don’t even remember exactly what our disagreement was about.
6:53 — The Twins announcers are comparing former Devil Ray and current Oriole Danys Baez to Rick Sutcliffe, and talk about how he hooks his hand around behind him before he delivers the ball. At one point, they call him “a hooker.”

Opening Day 2007: Hour 8

5:05 — “My 29” is using the FSN graphics package, which isn’t particularly unusual, but their graphics seem to be making more noise than they currently do on FSN. Guess that’s part of the MyNetwork attitude.
5:10 — They’re not booing in Houston, they’re saying “Luke,” as in Scott, who just hit a 2-run home run.
5:16 — The Astros announcers mention that Brad Ausmus is a news junkie, and suggest that while his teammates are watching “Sportscenter,” he’s watching C-SPAN or CNBC. I’m sure Fox management sent out a quick memo with a suggestion of their own about which network should have been named there.
5:27 — A commercial for a concept I haven’t thought about for a while: Perkins restaurants.
5:35 — Watching the Pirates is making me hungry for pierogies for dinner. Good thing I have some in the freezer for just such an emergency.
5:49 — Waiting for the pierogies to thaw in boiling water, I switch to the A’s-Mariners game just to see it end, on a fly ball to Ichiro in center field.
5:50 — Meanwhile, the Pirates and Astros are already in the top of the 8th, so it’s a pretty speedy game.
5:58 — Yes, it’s sad when ballpark prices for food and souvenirs are so high that families are forced to choose one or the other, but kids are always ready to improvise.