No Run Support

Detroit Tigers baseball and other nonsense

Baseball writing. How does it work?

I made a promise to myself to keep this blog up and running with more content this year.

If I stare at it long enough, something will come to me.

It’s not like I don’t have a ton of inspiration to do so. All the links listed to the right (and several more that I need to add) provide that on a daily basis.

It’s not like the Tigers aren’t putting a great team on the field to help me come up with fun and hopefully positive things to write. Justin Verlander, Miguel Cabrera, Prince Fielder… to Brandon Inge’s various controversies among fans and other writers, and everything in between. It should be a hell of a team and a fun year.

I’ve already got my trip to Detroit for this year planned in August. In addition to that, there’ll be the usual quick weekend trips to Arlington, and there’s tentative plans for Cincinnati and Denver, too. Those trips are bound to give me plenty of ideas.

Then why does it feel like such a daunting task? I know I’m capable of it and I have done it in past years, and many of my friends have managed to write about baseball almost every day during the off-season. Laziness and other life things get in the way, I guess. For photographers, there’s always helpful lists for those who choose try to take a photo every day for a year – such as Project 365 - and then there’s National Blog Posting Month. These projects often offer special challenges or prompts to help get you going.

Baseball can provide the prompts itself, and as they say, you can’t predict baseball. All kinds of weird or interesting shit is bound to happen each day. Maybe I’m just writing this for self-motivation, because I can’t see how this could be useful or entertaining to anyone else. For that I apologize. But I want to get my shit together this year. My hope is that sometime, I’ll have the means and be in a situation where I can focus on nothing but writing. Maybe putting it down in black and white here will help me kick my ass into gear.

***

Meanwhile, in stuff related to baseball itself, I’ve actually been enjoying the fact that the Tigers haven’t been televised yet. They will be tomorrow, but as a split squad against the Phillies on the Phillies broadcast, and I won’t be home to see it. There’s something comforting about easing back into the season and letting some excitement build just by listening, reading accounts from people that are there, and not actually watching.

Don’t get me wrong, though. This weekend, I would’ve been in Lakeland if other things hadn’t come up, and I really wish I was. Maybe opening day will be even sweeter having been forced to only live vicariously through the TV and other people this time around.

Dinner of Champions

Yes, I am posting to my neglected blog just to show you my dinner (because it arrived via UPS during the day today):

I’m guessing if you’re a Tigers fan you know that Justin Verlander has his own cereal now. You can buy it at Meijer in various Michigan cities (and Toledo, I’m told). You can also order it online, and even get a box of cereal packaged with a t-shirt if you are so inclined. I got the shirt, and in person the colors are navy and orange like they should be, unlike the example on the website. The cereal’s good, basically generic frosted flakes, and the proceeds from all sales go to two VA hospitals in Detroit and Ann Arbor.

So, fun times. I wonder, if I eat a second bowl, will my fastball go up a few MPH? It has to, right? And yeah, that’s a grocery store purchased Christmas themed clearance bowl leftover from when I lived with my ex. Don’t fuck with a girl and her favorite cereal/pasta bowl. I have no memories attached to this thing other than the awesome stuff I’ve cooked and subsequently eaten out of it.

Oh, and I’m actually planning on doing some writing around here once spring training and the regular season begin. Really. I swear.

The Winter

Oh. I have a baseball blog. I forgot, apparently.

I woke up this morning with some sort of icky-sinus-general-malaise thing. In between naps I began to form a pathetic excuse for a blog post in my head that would catch up everything in between my last entry’s eternal hope and now, the day after Christmas. I came to WordPress and logged in, and found a draft that I never published. Here it is:

Nothing to say about baseball, but this.

“It breaks your heart. It is designed to break your heart.” – Bart Giamatti.

It was last edited on October 16th, the day after the Tigers were eliminated from the playoffs in that joke of a 15-5 loss to the Rangers. So, yeah.

From what other people say, this year’s World Series was a good one. I watched at least a little of every game, my heart not really in it, vaguely rooting for the Rangers. I’m not one to stay bitter for long, especially if my team’s loss was well-deserved, so to speak. The Rangers played better than the Tigers overall, plain and simple. And then they didn’t. It was hard witnessing the heartbreak of so many friends who are big Rangers fans, for the second year in a row.  I go all in when I love something; a person, a sport, a band. And I tend to surround myself with people who do the same. After this year’s second place finish, one friend even put himself in therapy – no joke. He’s doing better now.

So what’s been going on since then? I made a trip up to Dallas for the Winter Meetings. I meant to write about that here, or at least mention it before I went, but I guess I just never got around to it. I did write about the experience over at Bless You Boys (here and here). I shouldn’t have been surprised that the Tigers chose the year I went to do almost nothing during the Meetings, and then once they signed someone (Dotel), they did so while I was on a plane going home. Most of the big deals occurred right about then, actually, not that there would have been much fanfare had I been around for it. Just some more buzz amongst those in attendance, writers running for the media room, etc.

I’m unsure if I’ll make it to spring training at all next year, but I’m starting to get antsy for mid-February. After the stress of the playoffs I was actually happy baseball was done, at least for a little while. I slept a lot. On the whole, this offseason has seemed kind of blah to me. Maybe it’s because the Tigers haven’t done much. I didn’t really think they needed to, but I can’t help but be left with a bit of an underwhelmed feeling. Besides the Pujols sweepstakes, I get the impression other people feel the same way. Here’s hoping this just means the 2012 season will be amazing all around baseball. I’m just about ready for it.

ALCS Game One: A Fun Disaster

I went to last night’s game in Arlington.

I live in San Antonio, which is a quick 50 minute flight (or four hour drive, or six hour train ride) from the Dallas/Ft. Worth area. I try to get up there whenever the Tigers are in town, and one or two weekends a year I’ll go  just to see a random game and hang with my friends that live there. My friend Lee got tickets to the game when it went on sale and promised me one of them if, somehow, it turned out to be on a weekend and against the Tigers. We went to the ALCS last year and had the time of our lives. The stars aligned and as soon as the game ended on Thursday I was frantically booking a flight while I watched the Tigers celebrate in the locker room.

I got into town pretty early in the morning and we spent the day doing important things like procuring bourbon to pour into a flask, eating tacos, buying better seats, eating at In-n-Out, and freaking out about/over-analyzing the weather forecast. By the time we left for the park I was resigned to the fact that the game would probably have at least one delay early on, and possibly wind up getting postponed. At that point I had stopped being concerned about the game’s actual outcome and just hoped they’d play. Honestly, it was actually a little refreshing to be anxious about the weather since I’ve been so stressed about winning games.

We arrived a little while after the gates opened and I stationed myself behind the visitor’s dugout with my camera like I always do. Noted Tiger fan J.K Simmons – I actually met him during batting practice in Anaheim in ’09 – was there and it was fun talking baseball with him and the small crowd of fans. It’s funny, how fast you can make friends at a ballgame. I started talking to a couple from Houston right when I arrived simply because they had Tiger gear on, and by the time we parted ways it was like we’d known each other for years even though we had forgotten to tell each other our names. Happens to me almost every game I go to.

Met a lot of interesting people during the rain delays, too. Much like the fast camaraderie with fellow fans of the same team, standing around in a packed concourse understandably brings everyone together. We were all soaking wet (my flip flops, the only shoes I stupidly packed, were still wet this morning) and surviving it because we love baseball.

Anyway, the outcome of the game was obviously not favorable for the Tigers, and I’m starting to think I’m bad luck for Justin Verlander. Seriously, as I was at his last loss too. But I had a great time and it was absolutely worth the trip.

It seems like after last night, things just continue to go wrong for the team. Tonight’s game postponed, Magglio’s ankle is broken again. I’m pretty sad knowing I likely saw his last game in a Tigers uniform, perhaps his last game in any uniform. It’s a big blow to the lineup, but I’ve still got hope they can make it to the World Series. Discouraged but not giving it up. I can’t be the only one.

Give Me Everything.

I’m not going to lie. The song has grown on me. The song that’s played every time Victor Martinez comes up to bat, just a little bit louder than the others. Just a little bit longer than the others, because often late in games they let it play while the opposing team inevitably calls the bullpen to face him. The song that sparked the #vmartatbatmusic twitter hashtag:

At first I was annoyed he picked this song. It’s been all over top 40 radio – that I admittedly listen to in the car, and in the car only – for months and months. I can’t stand any other Pitbull songs and I hated this one at first. But after the summer V-Mart has had, I kind of love it.

It didn’t really start happening until I got to Detroit in July and I heard it in person. I found myself singing along and jabbing my friend Cee in the arm along to the beat as she rolled her eyes and laughed at me. I’ve gotten in the habit of tweeting the stupid hashtag or texting whatever Tigers fan friend I think could use a smile every time I hear the song. So many times this season, it’s signaled a big hit in the game. Tonight was no exception: it preceded an 11th inning walk-off single.

To me, it’s become the theme song of the 2011 team. As they head towards the playoffs, it’s all too true. For all we know, we might not get tomorrow – let’s do it tonight.

Well, they did it. And I finally have something to say.

Brandon Inge: Always finding new ways to be a dork. Photo by Ben Margot for AP.

I may not have put it down in words as often this year, but I’ve been watching the Tigers with as much intensity as ever throughout the season. The incredible run so far in September – they’ve only lost two games (make it three, I wrote this during Saturday’s game) – has been impossible for even the most casual fan to ignore.

2009, as much as I’d like to forget the end of it, left its mark on my psyche. The second half rolls around and dumbasses talk about THE COLLAPSENING, and as stupid as I think it is, I knew in the back of my head that it’d be par for the course if they started sucking. Going into the clinching game last night I was as nervous as I was for game 163, even though I knew their entry into the playoffs was inevitable. I said in my last post that I was through being paranoid, and I am, but it was really hard not to expect Valverde to blow his first save of the year last night.

But he didn’t. As the final out was made, I let out a whoop so loud it even surprised me, and ran to the kitchen to get the bottle of champagne I had bought the night before. I quickly posted an open thread for people to chat during the locker room celebration, and sent out/replied to a ton of text messages. Prior to the game I had set up my old laptop on the coffee table and updated Skype so that my friend Wendy, a fellow Texan Tiger fan without FSD, could watch the celebration via video chat. I called her and we popped our bottles together, mine spilling all over me and the floor. We did a quick toast and then I got out of the way so she could watch the party. Watching Jim Leyland’s eyes well up as he talked to Mario Impemba was almost too much; I think my glass had as many tears in it as it did champagne. No matter how he goes about managing the team, the old man cares more than anyone could ever understand, and that’s partly why the team has gotten to where they are.

When the editors of Bless You Boys did projections for the year, almost all of us had the Tigers going to the playoffs. Things were looking good for the team, and new Catcher/DH Victor Martinez was sure to be “the straw that stirs the drink”, as Rod Allen would say. Even if he wasn’t enough, I felt strongly that Dave Dombrowski would do everything he could to make the necessary moves at the trade deadline to put the team over the top. And so, for the hell of it, I put them down to win the World Series. Nobody else had them getting past the ALCS. I figured, “Why not? Someone’s got to at least pretend to believe.” Little did I know that in mid-September, I’d find myself believing it for real.

I saw both wins and losses when I attended four games in Detroit this July. At that point they were battling for first place and went back and forth between being up a game and tied while I was in town. Even when they didn’t win, being there in person helped me understand what others were saying: this team is special. Justin Verlander is having a Cy Young worthy season, he could even be MVP. The whole team is contributing every game behind the big boys that just seem to keep getting it done. Everything is just right and fans are lucky to have them. There’s a lot more work to be done, but personally I’m just trying to enjoy it, and I hope everyone that reads this does the same.

This is really happening.

 

I’m done being paranoid about September.

Of course Jim Thome hits his 600th off a Tigers pitcher.

Of course he does.

And honestly, I couldn’t be happier for him. Congrats, Jim Jam.

The last thing I wanted to happen

Allow me to interrupt the steady stream of tears rolling down my cheeks (yes, really, shut up) so that I can post about how bummed I am that the Tigers traded Casper Wells to the Seattle Mariners. Casper’s been my favorite player for a while, and not just for his baseball abilities, of which he has plenty. This year he made the big league team out of spring training, but his lack of playing time gave me a bad feeling in the back of my mind that he’d be gone come July. Anyway, he’s involved in the deal that brings Doug Fister to Detroit. I can appreciate that, as a starting pitcher is a huge need for the team to make the playoffs. This still stings, though.

Photo by Allison Hagen

Casper is a genuinely great guy and an extremely hard worker. He always smiled and said hello, asked how I was doing when I’d see him at games. Baseball has been his dream his whole life and call me biased, but I have an extra bit of respect for guys like that. I’m going to keep watching him with Seattle and even though that team isn’t going anywhere this year, he’ll stand out now that he has a real chance to play.

In other news, Jacob Turner, the Tigers’ top pitching prospect, is making his MLB debut this afternoon. I’m excited for that but the Wells news puts a bit of a damper on things for me.

Getting real for a minute: Visiting Tiger Stadium

I’m currently in Detroit, about to leave in a couple hours. I’ve been here since last Friday. Things were so crazy at work before I left and I’ve been running myself ragged since I got into town, so I haven’t even had a chance to talk about it on here, let alone process every amazing minute of this visit.

Photo by Allison Hagen

Uploading the photos I took when I visited the remnants of Tiger Stadium the other day has me tearing up just like I did when I walked through the gate and towards the makeshift home plate. I don’t know if it’s because I’m sad to be going home or just plain exhausted. It’s weird to have such a strong emotional response to that place specifically. I haven’t lived in the Detroit area since I was small. But I love baseball and the Tigers organization and it was just so jarring to see the field, the property with nothing on it. Just some bases, an infield and pitcher’s mound, and some chalk lines kept up by volunteers. A real shame. Appropriately enough, it was dark and dreary and then a quick storm rolled through downtown Detroit about 20 minutes after I took the photo above.

I realize this is kind of personal for a baseball blog, but I’ve had a few hours of downtime this afternoon to just sit and think about about the last few days I’ve spent here. I didn’t take as many photos at games as I normally do, as I spent a lot of my time at Comerica enjoying the company of a lot people I care about while watching the games. I got to hang out with a lot of awesome people that I don’t see enough, and met some new people that I would be privileged to have in my life from now on. Hopefully I’ll have more soon after I get home.

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