Segra Genesis, A DC Crossover Night at the Pitch

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As you have probably heard us mention a few billion times, Mike and I went to the opening of Segra Field on Friday night for Loudoun United. Below is a recap of our experience. 

After picking up Mike at the Serone Estates, and after a few beers and wings to open up our stomachs a bit, we shipped off to the anticipated opening of Segra Field. It is a relatively pleasant drive as you near the stadium, traffic cones lining the roads, giant construction vehicles abandoned for centuries. That’s the great thing about Northern Virginia road construction, there appears to never be an actual deadline. The contracts must end just with a “?” as far as the anticipated date of completion goes.

As we passed Leesburg Airport, Mike mentioned to me that he had considered getting a pilots license once. I can speak for the rest of the planet when I say I’m glad he gave up that dream of flight.

We followed the trail of cars and slowly lurched forward, directed by Loudoun County’s finest and also by what appeared to be Loudoun County’s weirdest: those arm-waving guys that tell you where to go at concert/sports venues. What a job. Every car knows the direction to go, oftentimes there is literally only one way to go, and yet there is a man in a bright orange vest standing there wildly waving his arms, urging you to yes, indeed, go THAT way.

Funny enough, just as we were about to turn into one area of the parking lot, we were loudly informed to go down a different winding road. This went completely against the orange arm-wavy guy. There didn’t appear to be much order or sense in the reasoning, just a desire to create as much confusion as possible.

I don’t like pressure parking. That situation where there is a long line behind you and you have to just pick a spot and you MUST get it right the first time. I much prefer to find the most isolated grouping of empty spaces possible and ease my way in. But alas, in a stadium situation, the pressure is high, and as my front grill crunched into the end of the space I knew this would have to be good enough.

We set off on the long trek to the field, a small hazy dot in the distance. We had been told days earlier to enter through the East Entrance Media Gate because we had a small recording device for the podcast, which apparently means we both automatically earn Journalism degrees. The first issue we realized that while we both had taken Compass 101 in school, we had sadly slept through it entirely, and had no idea how to judge which side of the stadium was EAST. I politely asked a nearby attendant where the media entrance was, and he was so taken aback that he was expected to know that sort of information that he just kind of shuddered and walked away.

After minutes of walking and sweating, we found a small fold up table that was covered in lanyards so it appeared we were in the right place. The guy manning the check-in asked us what we needed, and I fumbled with my phone to show the email I had received from a member of Loudoun United.

“Did you talk to Kate?” he asked, raising an eyebrow.

“Um no, I think it was a Chris..?”

This seemed to be the right name, as he handed us two blank press passes to write our names on. I considered for a moment just writing “Michael Wilbon” on mine, but my nerves got the better of me.

We were in. With press passes. We were MEDIA.

The first thing we wanted to test was just how far this newfound power could get us, so we approached the security guard standing at the field rope and immediately held our passes aloft. He squinted for a moment, probably thinking to himself: man, they just let anyone become “media” these days. He sighed, raised the velvet rope, and Mike and I stepped onto the turf.

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I will say, the field is pretty beautiful. Pristine, new, and us two boneheads were right there rubbing elbows with professional camera guys and people in suits.

After some more field pics, it was time to get down to the reason we were there in the first place: the food. Segra Field had around 7 or 8 food trucks lined up around the stadium for fans to peruse. We picked the first one, Grubbers, and placed our order. Mike was to sample the cheese dog, I was to dip into some chicken tenders and “chippers”. What we didn’t know was by placing that order we were settling into 45 minutes of standing and waiting for the food truck employees to remember how to make both of those extremely complicated dishes.

Whenever a group of people is waiting for slow service there is a mixture of amusement and impatience. Everyone is in the same boat, and yet people handle it differently. There are the people who decide that all of this must clearly be a mistake so they continuously go up to the window and say things like “How’s that hot dog for Ashley coming along? We’ve been waiting a while” as if the chef will throw away everything else they were doing and get you, Ashley, your hot dog.

My personal favorite in these situations is the “angry impatient guy”. There is one in every bunch, and we were not disappointed. This middle-aged polo-wearing fella had ordered his food and was NOT going to stand for any wait. He constantly scoffed and shook his head, his body vibrating with rage every time someone else received their goods. At one point he walked up and asked to exchange the water bottles he was holding because they had “gone warm from all the waiting”. What a guy.

We finally received our food and moved off to the side to stand and eat, because in all of the design of the stadium someone forgot to include somewhere to sit beyond the game seats.

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I was under a lot of pressure when I picked up my food at the window, so I didn’t put my usual three gallons of ketchup on, but it wouldn’t have mattered much anyway. The tenders weren’t good, and the chips were run-of-the-mill. Mike took a few bites of his cheese dog and opened his eyes wide in dismay. Grubbers, unfortunately, had missed the mark.

We were ready for Round Two with a different truck, but everything was packed. So we wandered, found another spot on the field to actually watch some of the game for once. We held up our flimsy piece of paper and yet again were granted access. I could sense stares from people in the crowd, likely thinking we were actually important people. This is obviously the furthest from the truth, and Mike and I, in fact, bring no value to the world.

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The crowd was electric. The game experience cannot be knocked, it was packed and loud and for sure would be fun if we were there for that. Instead, our food saga must continue, so we continued our journey, searching for another option to quench our ravenous hunger.

We trekked and trekked, getting weaker by the second. We then finally stumbled across a tent that was relatively empty. It was a dessert vendor, which is always a good option. I still can’t fully remember their name, something that is very evident on the podcast episode as I called this place five different things, but I THINK it was called something like “Aunt P’s Sweets & Treats”.

I ordered the Brownie ice cream cookie, Mike with the standard Chocolate Chip Cookie+ice cream.

I ended up with the better choice in the end, as Mike dealt with a salty crumbly mess that had peach-flavored ice cream in the middle. Mine was much more straightforward. Brownie plus vanilla ice cream, even Grubbers couldn’t screw that up. The great thing about ice cream sandwiches is when they get all over your hands and face and entire body.

The last thing we wanted to do before we left for the night, was to try to redeem the drink voucher that came with the tickets we bought, but the drink tent was moving at a glacial pace.

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There were multiple lines jutting out at all angles, with no real indication that anyone was actually coming away with a drink in their hand. The lines were moving so slow that one beer vendor guy stood in between two of the lines, selling beer to the people waiting. THAT guy is a salesman.

After waiting for 20 minutes, and getting flashbacks to our Grubbers experience, Mike turned to me and we both nodded our heads in agreement that we were ready to get the hell out of there.

We had dreamed of tasting five or six different cuisines while at the field, putting together copious notes and reviews, and instead we ate half a cheese dog and an ice cream sandwich and called it a night.

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We were defeated, but all-in-all it had been a good experience. It is a new stadium, it is going to have its hiccups and speed bumps. We’ll cut them some slack, plus there is always McDonalds Drive-Thru on the way home.

One day the DC Crossover will come back, ready to dine another day.

To Net or Not to Net?

 

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In the 6th inning of an Indians vs. Royals game just a few days ago, a 3-year-old boy was hurridly carried up the stairs, out of the stands, and eventually to a local hospital after being nailed by a line drive off the bat of the studly Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor.

Lindor’s comments after the game reflected some of the same thoughts that have been echoed by other players around the league after these incidents happen. “I know it’s all about the fans’ experience of interacting with players and I completely get that. You want to have that interaction with the fans, getting autographs and stuff, but at the end of the day, we want to make sure everybody comes out of this game healthy, and we got to do something about it.”

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Baseballs are flying off bats at a historic rate, as well as a historic speed. Giancarlo Stanton, of the Yankees, hit a ball in March 120 mph off of Andrew Cashner. This is about as fast as a Tornado, or even a Skydiver falling towards the earth (I know, weird stats but I was curious to see other things that move at 120 mph). I, as a 26-year-old man, would find it hard to react to a 120 mph small object flying towards me, how is a child supposed to? How can you catch a Tornado?

As more children (and adults) have been struck by liners, teams have countered with new measures to implement netting extending from the dugouts now down to the foul-poles. The White Sox were the first to do it, our local Nationals have now done it, and the expectation is likely every major league team will install this at some point.

The players want it, the teams now want it (though they have dragged their feet a bit), but what do the fans think? Strangely, there has been a backlash.

I’m paying $___ to sit in this section, why should I have to watch through a net?

Just pay attention to the game, stay off your cell phones.

Parents should keep track of their kids better, or don’t let kids sit there at all

Not that many people are being hit, it’s not that big of a deal

I have yet to hear a compelling argument against netting that changes my mind about the subject at all.

If you have been fortunate enough to sit in the section behind home plate you have experienced the net view forever. Is it odd at first? Sure. Do your eyes adjust and eventually, the net makes 0 difference? Absolutely.

As for the phones, sure, people love those tiny Tinder-swiping Instagram-scrolling email-checking mind portals. What is your expectation? We ban phone usage from the parks instead? Restrict it to in-between innings only? How would that be enforced? Should you be paying attention if it is a right-batter and you have seats down the 1st baseline? Of course. But are you going to be locked in on every single pitch of every single at-bat for 3+ hours?

Let’s be real.

Baseball games are FILLED with distractions. Vendors popping up and down every row, conversations flowing on all sides of you, scoreboards with statistics filling every inch, the phones aren’t the only problem here.

Also, is it the 3-year-olds checking Twitter when the ball comes zinging their way?

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Is there a magic number of kids being struck by balls for anti-netters to say, “Okay, we get it, time to put them up”?

The magic number should be ZERO.

Why wait until a fire before installing a fire escape? It HAS happened, and SHOULDN’T happen. This is preventable.

Plus, do we not want children to help the game of baseball grow? If we ban kids from sitting in those sections, the attendance rates will surely drop more than a handful of grumbling anti-netters not showing up.

Look, I get some of the other sides of this. You work hard, you save your money, you spend a s***-ton on expensive seats to see your favorite MLB team play and now you have to deal with this inconvenience. We are too soft as a country they say, what’s next, netting around the entire stadium? 

At some point, you have to just accept these changes. NFL bone-breaking hits are getting penalized, concussion protocols are getting stricter, nets are going up, it’s almost as if we want people to be…healthy? Be…okay? What a wild concept.

Call it soft. Call it wussy. Call it whatever you want, this will SAVE lives. Am I exaggerating? A few years ago a woman at Dodger Stadium died after being struck by a foul ball. It was the first foul-ball fatality in 50 years. 2 deaths in 50 years, not a bad ratio right? Do we think it will be another 50 years until the next one? With the juiced balls, and the stronger batters, and the more distractions? Should we really test that theory?

Let’s get a pitching machine cranked up to 120 and see what YOU can do.

My guess is, you won’t stand a chance.

A Salute to Steve

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“It’s been weird,” Buckhantz said. “I’ve just kind of been watching everything from afar, and it just feels a little weird to think that after 22 years since 1997 I may not go to training camp, I may not be involved in anything the Wizards do, I may not talk to the players, or you know, have meetings or any of that.

“It just feels really, really strange.”-The Athletic

Try describing the role of a play-by-play broadcaster to a non-sports fan.

So that person tells us what we are seeing already with our own eyes?…

And in a way, they are right. It is a strange job to grasp, but a role that somehow is interwoven into the heart of the sports landscape. They are with you at your team’s lowest lows and highest of highs. They gasp with you at amazing dunks and shake their head with you at sloppy mistakes.

They become part of your viewing family. You, me, and Buck. All of us sitting around and watching a franchise that just can’t quite ever get it right.

Steve Buckhantz has been that voice for Wizards fans for over two decades.

From Agent Zero game-winners to Javale McGee missed dunks to John Wall alley-oop passes he’s been in your home. You may not even have paid a lot of attention to him. And really, in broadcasting, that’s a good thing.

If he is a seamless integration into your viewing experience, he’s done his job. Provides a little bit of clarity, provides rising levels of excitement when necessary, and makes you feel a part of the action no matter where you are watching. That’s the gig. Mix in some analysis and stories from his counterpart and you’ve got yourself a broadcast team.

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But beyond the logistics and job duties is a person. And with any public-facing position, a lot of it comes down to likeability. Do I like this broadcaster? Do they seem nice?

Morals aren’t the qualification for basketball broadcasting, but listening to Buckhantz over the years you looked at him as the friendly optimist who was fiercely loyal to the team that he spent his career describing over the air. He combined his signature calls with a grandpa-esque demeanor. He was smooth, unruffled. He had fun. And we did too.

And now, unfortunately, things have come to an end.

NBCSports Washington will roll out their shiny new team of former Fox broadcaster Justin Kutcher in combination with a duo of Drew Gooden and Caron Butler this upcoming season. Things will be different, very different.

Kutcher is good, he’s been in the business a while himself, and he, unfortunately, has to bear the burden of replacing such a beloved figure in local sports. I am not envious of that gig.

Things are changing fast for the Wizards. Their long-time GM is gone, the team shuffles rosters around faster than a Vegas dealer, and the ownership group is focused on unveiling new Sports Books and higher-end dining options.

For a fanbase that already struggles with identity, the team seems to be providing no clear path to follow. Is the team tanking? Is the team going for a title? Who is the GM? Who is making decisions? So many questions, so little answers.

But Steve, we’ll miss the stability and grace you brought every single night on the air. Hopefully, this isn’t goodbye, but if it is we wish you the best of luck and we’ll think of you anytime a Wizards player hits a game-winning shot at the buzzer.

Dagger

 

The Snarling, Muttering, Foaming Wonder of Max Scherzer

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That snarl is the first thing that catches your eye. It can appear at random, sometimes in the first few innings, other times when the tank is just begging to be empty. Every team has gotten familiar with it at this point. Cincinnati being the latest victim to experience the psychotic stare from 60 feet, 6 inches away.

It is truly remarkable the company Max Scherzer keeps now, in his 12th season, among the greats.

We’re talking Randy numbers, we’re talking Nolan numbers, Clemens, you name it Scherz is there.

Did Dodgers fans know what they were getting when Koufax took the mound? Do we Nats fans realize what we are witnessing right now? In the words of the great Andy Bernard, “I wish there was a way to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.’ THESE are the days we’ll be telling our kids about.

In a season of futility, with the Nats straddling the line of “Blow it all up!” and “We can still win the division!” there stands a lanky 34-year-old who is the walking definition of leave it all out there on the field. He grimaces. He snarls. Sometimes he even foams at the mouth, a junkyard dog just waiting for the steak to be thrown through his doggie door.

Hell, even his own manager faces the wrath on a start-by-start basis:

Unfortunately for Max, every pitcher has a ticking clock that constantly is waiting for the end. He isn’t there yet, but the retirement devil is doing burpees, just waiting to claim its next victim. The scary part is will he get a chance to pitch another World Series game before that happens? His last was in 2012 for Detroit. Ask around and I don’t think any Nationals fans are confident that they’ll be purchasing their World Series tickets any time soon.

So alas, we must instead just soak it in. Soak in the spitting, raging, lunatic that pitches now not only with his lightning right arm, but with his full and entire heart. I’d take Max Scherzer over any of the Bellingers, Harpers, or Yelichs of the world.

THAT’S the face of the franchise.

And that face is scowling his way into the Hall of Fame.

Stop Killing the Fun

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In the 4th inning of yesterday’s White Sox vs. Royals game, twenty-five-year-old Tim Anderson launched a ball to the moon.

Let’s think of the stakes a little bit here. These are two teams at the bottom of the AL Central, it is a Wednesday day game in the middle of the week, and it is April. Reportedly 14,358 people showed up to a stadium that fits 40,000. This is not what you would call a “big-time” ballgame.

And yet, this longball did not please everybody.

Because in today’s game, if you “show up” an opposing player there are repercussions.

What exactly qualifies as “showing up”? Well, since these rules are technically unwritten, nobody really knows. Over the years we can muster any sort of exaggerated celebration after doing the thing you are paid millions to do falls under that category. A loud roar, a forceful fist pump, a flip of the bat, all of these are actions that some baseball players deem as “not allowed”. You CAN’T be happy. You CAN’T have fun.

There were multiple quotes after the game from a few Royals players.

“Keller did the right thing,” Royals third baseman Hunter Dozier told MLB.com. “He aimed for the lower body. Hit him. It should just be like ‘OK, go to first and move on.’ It shouldn’t have been as big of a situation as it was in my opinion, but I could be wrong. I don’t know.”

Well Hunter, THAT is exactly the problem in the first place. The “correct” response in the game to a guy celebrating a home run is to send a 90MPH+ fastball at him? Okay sure, and you said in the lower body, right? Because Keller, who has 12 walks in his last three games, is always super accurate right? Pitchers never miss their spots, right?

The issue is not the location of retaliation, it is the act itself. A batter has no recourse in the situation, no way to defend themselves. They are at the pitcher’s mercy in every at-bat they have, so basically we are letting one position dictate the rules of the game?

Baseball is CRAVING personalities. The game viewership is skewed much older than they would like. The younger fans need flash, they need emotion. Look at the competition: NBA has dunks and long bombs, NFL finally reinstated TD celebrations, NHL has big hits, home runs is one of the biggest draws to the game itself. Do you know any casual fan who is just dying to watch a 1-0 pitcher’s duel? The long ball is king, and the game is punishing those who wear the crown in a way they don’t like.

You know what would be a great way to get back at a guy who just took you deep? How about doing the thing you are supposed to do on your end in the first place: strike him out.

Don’t take the cowards way out. Why would anyone in their right mind respect that decision? Imagine explaining that entire fiasco to a non-sports fan:

Why are those two teams fighting?

Well, that guy hit a home run and celebrated too hard

Tim Anderson, to his immense credit, doesn’t seem to be fazed by the situation. He is going to continue to “give the fans what they want”. He understands that as a young flashy personality in the game he helps usher in new fans to find a reason to watch the 7-10 White Sox play the 6-12 Royals on a Wednesday afternoon.

The highlight clips of him getting hyped after demolishing a baseball may lead even one younger fan in Chicago to go “oh wow, that dude is COOL”. That fan may then decide let me watch the next time that guy comes up to the plate. Boom, a new baseball fan.

Regardless, there are a zillion games every week. A bunch of new highlights crop up every day. The Royals and White Sox weren’t even going to play again until the end of May, this was a passing moment of fun in a marathon of a season.

Brad Keller seems to think his job is to govern the sacred unwritten rules of baseball.

Time Anderson wants to put on a show.

At least one of them gets it.

 

A List of Things I Trust More Than The Nats Bullpen

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The Nats Bullpen has been disastrous to start this season. A wonderful case in point was on Sunday when a 12-1 lead almost evaporated into thin air. Below I have listed things I trust more than the Nationals bullpen right now:

Oreo will keep cranking out hits

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I mean the box says it all. Not “a lotta stuf” or “a large amount of stuf” but the MOST stuf. Throw away the Oreo cracker part and just give me ALL THE STUF. I’ve tried desperately to shop for this but haven’t had any luck. Instead, the shopkeepers keep asking me to stop crying and let them leave.

I will continue to tell people “Yeah, I’ll watch Game of Thrones soon” and not watch it

I have nothing against the show. I’m sure it is very good. I hear there is a lot of graphic sexual scenes, and a lot of dragons breathing fire, and some seat that has knives on it. This all sounds lovely. I mean, literally every baseball team has a “Game of Thrones” night at the ballpark now. I understand I am very very late to the party. I’ll just be honest: I’ll tell you I’m going to watch it soon, but I’m not going to.

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Papa Johns will continue to be an overrated pizza chain

Facts are facts. Dominos has stepped up their game with the crust. Pizza Hut created an entire section of their restaurant dedicated towards Wings. They are showing the effort. I appreciate it. Papa Johns meanwhile has what to their name? A little cup of melted garlic sauce in the box and a few peppers that I always forget are in there before I stomp the box to put it in the recycling and get stuff everywhere? Plus the Papa of Papa Johns was kind of a psycho.

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People will not let you leave the metro car before they enter

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It is supposed to be a relatively simple situation. The metro stops, the people who need to get off do, the people who need to get on then enter, then we move on to the next station. Instead, I have seen the two groups basically smash into each other, limbs everywhere, each side attempting to push forward. I assume this resembles Game of Thrones, but without the dragons.

There is that panicked moment, even when you know for sure you have plenty of time to exit the train before the doors close, when you worry that you won’t make it. Give credit to the operators, they don’t wait around. If just an arm made it on, then that arm is headed to Foggy Bottom, regardless of if the body made it too.

The Metro stop Foggy Bottom will continue to make me chuckle

I mean, come on. Foggy BOTTOM. That is hilarious.

Dairy Queen employees will never forget to turn the Blizzard over

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I mean look at that guy in the picture. Is he smug or what? “This is what you came to see right? This is the GREATEST SHOW” as he gives a quick flick of the wrist and turns that bad boy upside down.

I’ll be honest, I dream of the day the employee does that and the blizzard spills all over the counter. But it never. freaking. happens.

Disney Channel Original Movies were cinematic perfection and will always hold up

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Look at that tagline: Kid today. Leprechaun tomorrow. 

Incredible.

Some of the hits:

-Motocrossed

-Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century

-Halloweentown

-Smart House

-The Thirteenth Year

I mean you could put basically stack any of those up against some piece of trash like Suicide Squad. 

My dentist will never say “your gums look good”

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I’ve tried really hard! Okay, maybe not really hard. But I have those little floss pick things, and I bought the water jet thing, I swear I’ve done everything they’ve asked. But it’s just not good enough. I feel like I’m trying to impress my dad every time I visit the Dentist.

“Didn’t I do good papa? Don’t my teeth look shiny!”

The hygienist will sigh as she continues to poke as hard as she can into my gums, blood gushing like I just slammed my face on a railing. I smile in pain, red streams pouring through the gaps in between each tooth.

Nope, you need to do better. Now stick this gigantic piece of plastic into your mouth without crying, we need to take X-Rays.

I will never know how to dress “cool”

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I’ve never liked wearing unbuttoned shirts over t-shirts. They always flap in the wind as I walk. A lot of the clothes I  wear were given to me for free over the years from various sports teams or organizations. One time in college, my roommate raided the lost and found bin at the gym where he worked, that provided me enough outfits for the rest of the year.

I once wore a zip-up that I thought was “cool” in high school. I walked in proudly, strutting around. My friend immediately came up and starting listing all the things that made that zip-up the most unfashionable thing he had ever seen.

This Baby could save me in a fire

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Look at that guy. The confidence, the swagger. The boy is a HERO.

 

Those are all the things I immediately can think of that I trust more than the Nats bullpen right now. I’m sure I could go on all day, but this is a solid start.

Mea Kulpa-What Ron Kulpa’s Power Trip Tells Us About the Current State of Officiating

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I can do anything I want!-Ron Kulpa to Astro’s Manager AJ Hinch.

Baseball twitter has been ablaze since the incident, so I’m sure you’ve read ten stories about it already, but here is a good companion breakdown of the Kulpa incident from Twitter:

Being an official at any level, in any sport, is not an enviable gig. When I was 13 I donned the powder blue polo, dark pants, and cautiously stood behind a nine-year-old catcher who appeared to be fairly surprised that he was going to be behind the plate that game.

“Have you ever caught before?” I gestured towards his worn catcher’s mitt. He quickly shook his head. Wonderful.

I umpired only for a few seasons, much more satisfied with being up in the press box running the music and scoreboard. But even in my short time umping I knew it wasn’t for me. It wasn’t the pressure of making calls, it was the constant swirl of annoyance being hurled at you at all times. From coaches, from players, from fans, at any given moment SOMEONE hated your guts.

It was an unpleasant feeling. And it didn’t seem to matter if you were doing a good or a bad job, they would be annoyed regardless. I remember one of the breaking points for me. Keep in mind I was again only like thirteen, but there was a play at the plate, bang-bang, and I called the runner out on the tag. Was he out? Who knows, but to me it sure seemed like he was.

Out trotted a grizzled 50-something-year-old coach, going ballistic.

No way was he out! How could you call that? He was clearly under the tag! That is a BAD call!

I decided immediately that the 15 bucks a game wasn’t worth being screamed at by this guy.

There are plenty of people that can get past the screaming and yelling, and make their way through the officiating circuit. You work your way up, go to clinics, attend camps, you get better, you gain more experience. Guys like Ron Kulpa have spent most of their lives doing a job that nobody wants to do. There is respect in that. And yet what Ron Kulpa did this week is part of the swing of officials in all sports to flex their reffing muscles, and show who is “boss”.

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If you are an avid sports fan you’ve noticed it. The ejections and technical fouls are coming hard and fast. Hell, Spurs coach Greg Popovich just set a record with his latest ejection.

We are in an age where officials everywhere are done being just rule-enforcers and are now the behavior-police. They seemingly are tired of being background characters, and now are itching for leading roles. Should we REALLY know the name Ron Kulpa? Do we REALLY buy tickets to see the Astros play, or do we buy them to see Kulpa ump?

My father umped for a while, and he reported back to me how militaristic the training sessions felt. How it didn’t feel like a cohesive plan to just enforce the rules and call a good game, it felt more like it is YOU vs. THEM. Them being the players and coaches.

Are there going to be times when an ejection is called for, when a player/coach takes it too far? Of course. Cursing up a storm, physically threatening, being an absolute nut, these are all things that I am completely okay with officials determining that particular person is not welcome on the field or the court at that time. We all lose our heads sometimes. But that should be a LAST resort, a final straw. Popovich was tossed before the Spurs even had a chance to score a basket.

I remember going to old RFK stadium to see the Nats take on the Cardinals. Albert Pujols was on the team then, and in his prime. We bought tickets to go see Albert, one of the greatest hitters of our generation. He was ejected in the bottom of the 2nd inning while discussing his previous at-bat with the field umpire. Just like that, our purpose of even buying tickets was headed off to the showers.

If the MLB truly cares about the players, about the fans, then Ron Kulpa should be suspended for a decent amount of time. Send him back to the minors, bring up someone else who isn’t here to look for fights. The goal of an umpire should be to call the best game he or she can, not to tussle with managers.

The MLB needs to send a message to Kulpa and to officials everywhere:

No, you CAN’T do anything you want.

 

 

Life of Luxury: A night spent with the upper class watching Bryce Harper’s return to DC

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When the Harper to Philly announcement was made, I had my phone out ready to go. I knew that the Phillies were going to come to DC on the 2nd of April, and tickets were a must. I purchased my usual 300 section, and was set. When the day finally arrived, I casually perused the StubHub listings to see what else was available. I spotted a pair of Delta Sky360 Club Seats, 7th row, behind home plate. These were typically $500+ per seat, but on a cold and rainy Tuesday someone was listing them for around $170 each. So I went for it. I sold my original tickets and snagged those bad boys. This was going to be a pretty big moment, why not live it up in style? Here is a quick diary recap of my experience.

I’m a big fan of getting to the ballpark early. Then again, I’m a fan of getting anywhere way too early. I think that comes from my mother. Growing up we would all pile into the car for Christmas Eve mass. I always thought it was strange that she would suggest we pack a book with us, but that was because the plan was to sit in the parking lot for two hours before anyone else decided to start getting their seats. I think even the priests were still sleeping.

The plan was to hop on the metro after work, get to the ballpark right when they allow you to start entering your seats at 5:30. Since we were going to be newbies to the home plate scene, I wanted to make sure to give us plenty of time to adjust to our surroundings and not look out of place.

My favorite part of riding the metro is the fact that the people who run the metro truly do not care about what the inside of the cars look like.

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My favorite seats are the weird yellow ones in the back. Sometimes they have a wall dividing them so you can pretend you are on your own little personal train and not the DC metro where the guy two seats ahead is throwing up in his mouth.

I also enjoy the game that the conductors play. It’s called “How terribly can I talk in this microphone to ensure nobody understands what I am saying?”

The move my wife and I typically do with Nats games is to take the train all the way to Capital South station and walk. It’s two stops past where most people get off to switch trains to the game, so you get a lot of confused and panicked looks from other Nats fans as they glance back at you when getting off. It involves having to walk a while, but it’s a fairly pleasant hike as you pass by million-dollar townhomes. In fact, it helped me mentally prepare myself for the sort of people we would be mixing in with at the “Sky Clizzub” (that’s what I have renamed the Delta360 Sky Club)

I’ll skip past the minor details of going through security and take us right to entering the clizzub. We had to enter some doors initially into a hallway with elevators that were supposed to take us down to where we needed to go. They must have been those types of elevators where they don’t actually work, so we took the stairs instead. BUT the stairs were carpeted, so I already knew we had entered a different rich world.

At the entrance there was a big machine to scan your ticket, and then a lady puts a wristband on you. I’m not sure why they needed to spend the money on a giant machine, when they could have given the lady a scanner, but then I remembered I was in the world of wealth.

I had done a little scouting ahead of time, and knew that it was basically a giant room with a bar, tables, buffets all over the place. Upon entering, a nice hostess escorted us to a small table that had plates and silverware. They even put the silverware in the correct order on the table which is something I constantly struggle with. It was slightly confusing because while the food was buffet style, there was still a “waitress” who could also get you things. So in theory, while the food was only 20-30 steps away, you could have her get it for you. Man, what a dream.

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I tried to take a picture of the food on my first plate, but I ate it already. There’s a chicken bone in the picture so you can get the idea. They had a few buffet sections in the middle with your higher end items like a meat board and potstickers. Then on the outside, because they know peasants like us occasionally make it through the gates, they had staples like pizza, wings, and a basket filled to the brim with chicken tenders. I snagged my first bud light of the night (classy), stacked multiple pieces of pizza on my plate (because I’m not a buffet amateur), and headed back to my seat.

I finished that plate within maybe 30 seconds, but wanted to give it a little bit of time before I got up again. My bud light seemed to disappear rather quickly, and the “waitress” asked if I would like another one. I nodded, but then she asked to see my ID. I thought this was a little strange. One, because I’ve looked 26 since I was 10. Two, I already had a beer. I hate to display my ID because I’ve been too terrified to go to the DMV and get a new picture, so it is still my 15-year-old mug. I had so many great ideas and hopes and dreams in that photo, now it gets laughed at by bartenders across the country. I seemingly passed the test because she went to fetch me another brew. Meanwhile, I went to fetch me another plate.

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I decided to class it up a bit and added a few potstickers and one thimble-full of rice (healthy). These chicken tenders were 100% different than the normal ballpark tenders offered. These must have been a different breed of chicken. Or perhaps these were actual chicken tenders, not whatever they sell at the normal vendors.

After finishing up this plate and beer, my wife and I hopped over to view the batting cages. The club has a giant window where you can watch the players hit a few baseballs in preparation for hitting baseballs in a game. We got to see Victor Robles and Matt Adams hit, which was a delightful treat.

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I tried to get their attention to see if it was cool if I took a few hacks, but they mostly ignored me. I should have kept one chicken tender to wave in their direction. I also forgot to mention that if you watch a lot of Nats games you may notice the two guys that sit behind home plate at every game. Those are the Itkin brothers according to an article I read. We were sitting at the table nearby them so my wife snapped a quick stealth picture.

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I think they are multi-millionaires, which is why I thought it was strange that one year they were apparently voted “fan of the year”. I don’t think you should give millionaires a “fan of the year” title. Save that for someone who survived the DC metro, walked a bunch of blocks in the rain, and ate your not real chicken tenders.

The game was delayed so I used my time wisely. I scarfed down a small bag of popcorn, a soft pretzel, a few mini cupcakes, and then my stomach started hurting. But I couldn’t show any sort of pain in front of the other club members, so I just fought through it.

My favorite part about rain delays is how many times fans will go up to random employees and ask if they know when the game is supposed to start. This question is usually met with confusion, as if the front office radios down to every single Nats Park employee all the pertinent information. Let me go ask the janitor about Howie Kendrick’s injury recovery.

The delay ended up only being until 7:45, which gave me plenty of time to eat another hot dog. There was literally a small shelving unit whose purpose was purely to hold hot dog buns. It was nicer than any shelves I have at home, and it was for buns.

It was finally time to start taking our seats, so we awkwardly waited while a nice lady took a very wet rag to wipe off our wet seats. It wasn’t effective at all, and I accidentally slipped her five dollars instead of just a few bucks.

 

There were a TON of Phillies fans all over the place, including all around us. This was great because they are widely known as super rational and kind fans, so I was sure we would be fine. In fact, I expected us all to be arm-in-arm humming songs by the end of the game.

 

I snagged a vid of Harper’s first plate appearance

The great thing about these seats too was a person comes around and takes your order so you don’t have to miss a pitch! I requested another hot dog and beer, as my stomach pleaded with me to stop the madness.

The game itself was not noteworthy and I don’t care to write about any of it. But my friends and family texted us constantly to let us know we were on the TV shot. I considered various things I could do to go viral but instead just crossed my arms and looked displeased.

Once the Phillies scored their 100th run of the game, we left. I considered snagging a few more hot dogs for the road but thought better of it.

Overall the experience was truly incredible. I mingled with the 1%’ers, ate my weight in food, and also got to watch some bad Nationals baseball. Maybe I’ll get back to those seats again someday. But for now, I’ll be dreaming of those cupcakes…

 

Well, that was ugly: Thoughts and Grades on the Nats Opening Series

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It took a heroic effort from Trea Turner on Sunday for the Nats to avoid an opening weekend sweep by the Mets. Let’s dive into some grades:

Starting Pitching

Grade: B-

Scherzer (0-1): 7.2 innings, 2 hits, 2 runs (both earned), 12 K’s, 3 BB’s.

Strasburg (no decision): 6 innings, 7 hits, 4 ER, 8 K’s, 2 BB’s.

Corbin (no decision): 6 innings, 7 hits, 2 ER, 4 K’s, 2 BB’s

Overall the starting pitching was okay. Scherzer and Corbin both gave the Nats a chance, and even Strasburg recovered after a really shaky first inning.

This isn’t a great sign from Strasburg in his first start, especially with the Mets hitting .292 against him. We have spoken highly on what we hope will be a “comeback” year for Stras, this did not make me super confident yet.

Corbin shined in his debut, a lot of fly balls, some hard contact, but overall was impressive on a very windy cold day in DC.

Scherz was Scherz. He struck out a ton, gave up signature opening inning bomb, and put his team in a position to win a ballgame and they spoiled a great outing.

Bullpen

Grade: D

Yikes. This was the area I was worried about from the start, and this was the area that let the Nats down this weekend.

Barraclough: 1.2 innings, 2 hits

Sipp: 1.1 innings, 2 hits, 2 ER, 1 K, 1 BB

Miller: 1 inning, 1 hit, 2 K’s

Suero: 1 inning, 2 hits, 2 ER, 1 K, 1 BB

Grace: 0.2 innings, 2 hits, 1 ER, 1 K

Rosenthal: (didn’t register an out) 4 hits, 5 ER, 1 BB

Doolittle: 1.2 innings, 3 hits, 2 K’s

As a bullpen, they combined for a 12.27 ERA.

Rosenthal, Suero, Grace, and Sipp all had the most trouble this series. I’m genuinely scared about this bullpen situation. There are no go-to arms. Barraclough and Miller handled things well, and Doolittle got thrust into a scary Sunday finale, but overall this is a bad look for yet another Nats team that is lacking reliable bullpen arms.

We’ve heard this song and dance before.

Offense

Grade: C+

Obviously, the opening day game was dreadful offensively, but the Nats were able to turn it around and put up 14 runs total in their 2nd and 3rd games in the series.

Turner: 13 AB’s, 5 hits, 4 Runs, 2 HR, 4 RBI, 1 BB, 4 K’s, 4 SB, .385 avg, .429 OBP, .923 SLG

Eaton: 12 AB’s, 4 hits, 2 Runs, 4 K’s, .333 avg, 429 OBP, .333 SLG

Soto: 12 AB’s, 3 hits, 1 Run, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 7 K’s, 1 SB, .250 avg, .308 OBP, .333 SLG

Zimmerman: 12 AB’s, 2 hits, 3 RBI, 1 BB, 3 K’s, .167 avg, 231 OBP, .250 SLG

Rendon: 11 AB’s, 4 hits, 2 Runs, 2 RBI, 1 BB, 2 K’s, .364 avg, .462 OBP, .455 SLG

Robles: 11 AB’s, 5 hits, 3 Runs, 1 HR, 2 RBI, 2 K’s, .455 avg, .455 OBP, 1.000 SLG

Dozier: 10 AB’s, 0 hits, 3 K’s

Gomes: 7 AB’s, 2 hits, 1 Run, 3 K’s, .286 avg, .286 OBP, .429 SLG

Suzuki: 4 AB’s, 0 hits, 1 RBI

Adams: 3 AB’s, 0 hits, 2 K’s

Robles and Turner both with fantastic starts to the year. The speed with those two, plus Eaton’s ability to reach base sets the Nats big boppers up with plenty of RBI opportunity. Unfortunately Zim, Soto, and Rendon were not great out of the gate.

Too many K’s for young Soto, Zim is useless at the plate, and Rendon with a slow start. Again I declare I want more opportunities for Matt Adams. I’m tired of Davey using him in late-inning situations, give the man a full start and let’s see what he does.

Honestly, Trea Turner salvaged this series. If it wasn’t for him destroying the baseball, stealing bases, and saving the day this would have easily been a 0-3 team.

Overall

Grade: C

This was supposed to be a great tune-up opportunity for the Nats before they have to welcome back their former star Bryce Harper, and instead it exposed some immediate flaws with the way this team is built. Offense does not matter if your bullpen can’t contain the other team, and the Nats failed. Saturday and Sunday were both very winnable games (the Nats obviously did take Sunday in walk-off fashion) and now they take on the red-hot Phillies.

It is not time to panic, but this was not exactly the way this team needed to start in order to relax their nervous fanbase.

Next Series:

Nats vs. Phillies

Tuesday, 7:05 PM

Scherzer vs. Eflin

Wednesday, 1:05 PM

Sanchez vs. Nola

Game 1 Recap: Nats get blanked on Opening Day

Game 1

Well, this is not great…

Only Game 1, yada yada yada, super long season, yada yada yada.

Bottom line is, the Nats seemingly carried issues they had last season with scoring runs into the very first game of this season. Not a HUGE deal, but a noticeable one.

The Good

-Scherzer was brilliant: 7.2 IP, 2 Hits, 2 R, 2 ER, 3 BB, and 12 K’s. He also gave up his obligatory solo homer.

-I sometimes forget just how solid Trea Turner was for a turbulent Nats team last year. He started off this season in a great way. The shortstop went 2 for 4, with 3 stolen bases.

Besides that…there wasn’t much to be super excited about…

The Bad

-Anthony Rendon continues to be stymied by deGrom. 0 for 4 on the day including 5 runners Left on Base

-Speaking of that, the Nats 3-4-5 combo of Rendon, Soto, and Zimmerman went a combined 0 for 11 on the day, stranding 9 total runners.

-The Nats ran themselves into a bad 5-4-2-5 double play in the 3rd inning that should have been an easy scoring opportunity.

Overall

Look, it’s a long season. Opening Day is no indication of how the season may go (I mean look at my Detroit Tigers, they got an almost no-no from the skeleton of Jordan Zimmermann and a 10th inning homer from a rookie, THAT won’t hold up over 162 games).

What I didn’t like is the familiarity in this game to last year’s team. Lack of production on offense, wasted strong starting pitching, and really no production from the new guys yet.

Don’t freak out, but I think its perfectly fine to be disappointed in that Opening Day showing.

Next Game

Saturday

Nats (0-1) vs. Mets (1-0)

1:05 PM Start

Noah Syndergaard vs. Stephen Strasburg