Yankees Season Tickets 2014

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I turn 50 in March. For the past few years I’ve been looking for a midlife crisis. I think I deserve one – a chance to do something foolish, stupid. Something you would not otherwise do.

It’s been a problem though. I could care less about cars so I don’t want a convertible. I could use plastic surgery I am sure, but not going there. No interest in jumping out of a plane or climbing a mountain. And sadly for my family, I have no interest in moving out and taking up a new life.

I am also fed up with stuff. I don’t want any more stuff. I want less stuff, not more. I want experiences. I want more time with the (few) people I actually care about.

And in a flash it came to me, just a month shy of my 50th – Yankees Season Tickets. I have always wanted them but never got serious about it. Now I am serious to the extent of having committed a 25% deposit do doing it.

Picking tickets has been a fun process. I have gotten limited assistance from the Yankees. I want to spend (a lot) less then the price of a convertible. That eliminated anything along 1st and 3rd base. I didn’t want to sit in the top tier at Yankee Stadium so that, and the fact that it was sold out, eliminated the 400 section. 

I found some great seats in Section 206 that were appealing in my budget. I like the perspective you get from the outfield and preferred the 200 level to the 300 level, just for access to stadium stuff.

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Then I made the mistake of asking my kids for their opinion. They were happy with 206. But then they found seats in section 136.NewImage

The seats of course were more expensive but not prohibitive. I was still way less then a convertible. I like the greater perspective you get from 206. But the seats in 136 were closer. The section was smaller. And they came with a padded seat! The seats also were in home run territory which is fun for batting practice. The Yanks kick people out of this section part way through batting practice so it will give us access throughout the session. 

I am going to Yankee Stadium in a week to check out the seats and confirm everything. 

I certainly have some concerns about how I’ll make sure we get value out of all the tickets. We’ll use as many as we can. I will use a bunch for work, probably well over half. But I know now I am set for opening day, Jeter’s last game, and at least a Red Sox game or two. That feels good.

One nice thing has been that planning this and thinking about it has provided a fun mental vacation that one can take in the midst of chaos! It has also been very funny talking about this and planning this out with my teenage boys. If they are thrilled, I will be too. It is also a great opportunity to get my Dad to the ballpark, to thank him for taking me to my first game at Veteran’s Stadium when I was about 6!

The best thing about this though should be the experience of going to the games with my family, or with people I’ll go with that I might otherwise be ignoring. It will be an experience. 

Feels like a fitting midlife crisis. I guess it is really more of a midlife celebration anyway, right? 

The Magic of Yankee Stadium

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I go to a lot of ballparks – as many as I can. My favorites, ordered as well as I can:

  • Camden Yard, Baltimore Orioles
  • Chavez Ravine, Los Angeles Dodgers
  • AT&T Park, San Fran Giants
  • Citi Field, New York Mets

I have not included Yankee Stadium. I have had very mixed feelings to the stadium and only yesterday did I come to grips with how wonderful a park it is. 

I love Camden, AT&T and Citi because they are fun and easy. Relaxed. Chavez is different but geez, it is LA and they have palm trees and Dodger blue. Yankee Stadium is austere. I don’t love austere. 

In the excellent Pinstripe Empire, the author talks about the stadium and makes a deal clinching point for me. Yankee Stadium – the new one – had to remain Yankee Stadium. Anyone entering it has to know that you are in a Stadium of Greats. The redesign had to be an homage to the past so anyone who knew the mystique had to continue to feel it. If the stadium were done in the way that lots of the new parks are, it wouldn’t deserve the pinstripe.

Yankee Stadium does not feel like a carnival. I love carnivals. But Yankee Stadium can’t be a carnival.

My favorite part of the stadium is the Great Entrance. It is stunning and majestic. Probably the coolest banners ever. You get Monument Park and a cool museum. The concourse gives good views of the field. I love that you can get a view of NYC from the Malibu Bar. And of course, those retired numbers. And some of the best service I’ve had at any ballpark.

The food could be better – this is NYC after all. And give us some good, local beer! Don’t even talk to me about the ticket prices….

But now I get it. It is an homage and it has to be that way. There is too much baggage to get away from. And why would you want to? 

 

 

 

Who Should Be in the Hall of Fame?

 

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My favorite writer, in a post on Joe Jackson, said:

Should he be in the Hall of Fame? Ted Williams thought so. Many others do too. I think he belongs, not because I believe he was wrongly accused or because of the strong reasons why he took the money, but because I don’t think the Hall of Fame should be a morally cleansed place where only the pure belong. I think the best baseball players should be in, plain and simple, and their stories — complete with their genius for the game and their moral failings — should be told. I think that’s the way history should be taught.

I disagree. At least partly.

The Baseball Hall of Fame consists of 2 parts – the first part that tells the story of the game, and then the hallowed halls where we enshrine people, who according to the founders of the hall, “should be considered based on their record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character and contributions to his various teams.”

The first part of the hall should tell the history, and like all history, that story should be told with truth. Let’s not see the air-brushed version of history we get in school, where we grow up thinking that our Founding Fathers were fabulous friends and always aligned. (Hardly.) Let’s see real history, and learn to dialogue and debate the failings of great people, and not great people.

Baseball deserves its heroes as well – people that our children can hold as virtuous. The power of the place is such that whoever ends up in the plaque room will be cherished. Let’s try to cherish the right people. Mistakes will be made. But I’d prefer the Hall to at least aim to meet the intention of its founders.

There will be lots of borderline cases. What does one do about Ty Cobb? Both a brilliant player, and an awful person. Tough call. Someone like Jackson though is not such a tough call. By all accounts he was banned from baseball, deservedly. Seems to me that if you earn that designation, you aren’t worthy of the Plaque Room. There is another part of the museum to contain the story of the tainted greats.



The Rise and Fall of Football

Craig Calcaterra has an excellent post titled, ‘Is Football Dying?’ I think it is excellent because it supports my view.

Calcaterra suggests that football is in decline. Just look at Green Bay not having sold out the coming playoff game, vs. all the fans that attended the MLB playoffs. Compare the cost of being a football fan to baseball (outside of NYC), the injuries, the ability to focus on the action, etc.

Just a few more months to spring training!

Hail to the Master, Joe Posnanski

Have you been following Joe Posnanski

My favorite blog. If you are new to the site start by reviewing his Baseball 100 list. The best blend of saber metrics and anecdotes this side of Bill James.

The series gets better and better. Note entry #57: Roy Hobbs. Sheer brilliance. 

Baseball is so important for so many, because baseball is about fathers and son. If this speaks to you, please read #60: Brooks Robinson

Sometimes I really love the web! Thanks Joe.

Baseball, and Dealing with Losing

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I just finished listening to a book on Game 6 of the 1975 World Series. I was talking to a friend about this game and that got us to talking about the first World Series we could remember well.

Mine was the 1971 World Series. As an Oriole’s fan, it was a tough one. I am still bitter over that defeat. I loved everything about the Orioles. My family was from Baltimore/DC, the uniforms were awesome, and what kid wouldn’t love a team with a guy named Boog. They were World Series champs, and cruising, until fate and a guy named Steve Blass interfered, along with Mr. Roberto Clemente

This loss was my first loss. My beloved Orioles falling. And I guess you never forget your first loss. There would be worse losses in my future. I kicked a wall so hard after Penn State lost to Alabama that I thought I broke my toe. (A habit I quickly outgrew….) The worse ever was the Yankees loss in 2001 to the Diamond Backs – in the fall of 2001, who but the Yankees should have won with Mariano on the mound?

When my team loses a big game in particular, it bothers me. For 24 hours. I don’t want ESPN. I don’t read the paper. I don’t talk sports with friends unless they are sharing my pain. Kind of silly for an adult to continue this habit.

Wouldn’t it be nice if my team would always win? If only…. Well, the truth is, the answer to that is – no….

One of the best things that sports can do for us is help us to deal with losing. Losing is inevitable. Consider little league and the value that kids get from the ups and downs of playing sports. With good coaching, kids can learn life lessons from losing big (or small) games

In our local little league there is a parent who likes to tell the kids that if you ‘show me a person who likes to lose I’ll show you a loser.’ Idiotic. Of course no one likes to lose. But we don’t define ourselves by whether we like to lose, but by how we handle the loss. There are coaches at all level who skewer players for losing. In major sports driven by performance and money, fine. But little league? Seriously?

As Lem Elway writes, what matters is how you respond to losing. As a coach, do you:

  • Stay positive. People learn more from what they’ve done well then what they’ve done right. Find the good moments and highlight them.
  • Be honest. Don’t cover things up. Kids know what went wrong. You can help kids improve by showing them what they need to do better. Work on weaknesses. This needs to be done constructively. Blaming is a bad thing to teach, so don’t do it. If a mistake occurred address it personably and privately. Often said, always known, but seldom done.
  • Manage your emotions. Your job as a coach is not ‘to win.’ It is to ‘develop.’ Don’t get too vested in the final score. Evaluate whether the kids are developing and whether sports are having a positive impact. If you are not in control of your emotions don’t address the team. And find out why you care so much. 
  • Improve. Learn from the loss. What can you as a coach do better?
  • Remove the sting. Got a kids whose mistake was associated with the loss. Lead. Reinforce constantly that this is a team game. No loss comes down to one play or one player. 

So while the sting of my Orioles losing in 1971 still remains, I know that at a deeper level, it was the beginning of my dealing with ways to deal with an undesirable circumstance. Now this is baseball so one must consider the priority in life. But it is something important. And the more we can help the kids we coach deal with this the better.

Positive Coaching

We’ve all ranted about the insane parents who turn their kids’ sports into an opportunity to vent their anger at their own failed sports career. I experience an astonishing number of bad behavior this year. I have seen:

  • a parent telling his son to stop ‘throwing like a girl.’
  • one coach berating the son of another coach, resulting in his getting kicked out of the dugout
  • a coach pushing his son out of the dugout when he cried because he was injured
  • the head of the zero tolerance committee getting kicked out of the game for arguing

I believe that all coaches – in all sports – should have to receive training in positive coaching. My favorite resource for this is the Positive Coaching Alliance. They offer a series of webinars that are excellent. I refer to their handouts not only for coaching sports, but also for helping professionals learn how to do a better job of coaching their colleagues.

At the beginning of the year I teach all the kids about ELM. This means that as a team we focus only on:

  • Effort
  • Learning
  • Mistakes, and using them as gifts

PCA urges coaches to tell kids that ELM is what matters. The scoreboard that shows at the end of the game is irrelevant. It should be ignored. If kids focus on ELM then the winning will take care of itself. These lessons apply to baseball, football, basketball, soccer, etc.

I have found the impact of applying these PCA principals to be dramatic. If you focus on effort then all the kids have an equal chance to improve. Focusing on winning puts the emphasis on the kids that start out the best. Emphasizing ELM allows all kids to grow and elevates the team and the experience.

I have no idea how these things work but it seems that the parent organizations ought to bear some responsibility for seeing that these things occur. Our Little League is in essence, a franchise of the Little League Baseball organization. Perhaps lobbying at that level as well as the local level would result in greater action.

Of course it seems a bit silly to think that we would need to advocate for such basic things but who would think a parent would make a child cry over baseball?!

Zen and the Baseball Swing

My sons’ baseball pursuits have heightened my (deep) appreciation for the elegance of a baseball swing well done. The swing is such a technical beast. What seems so natural to a child becomes a complicated series of interactions to an older kid who begins coaching. At any point a player might hear:

  • keep your elbow up
  • keep your elbow down
  • hips first
  • hands first
  • swing level
  • don’t swing level

There is no one right approach and just knowing how to figure out what works for you is useful. It helps though to have a filter for sorting through the conflicting advise that one receives.

This is a terrific opportunity to consider the Eastern vs. Western split in how to approach a swing. The Western approach focuses on the mechanics and breaks the swing into each nuance. Hands relative to hips are examined. Drills are run to prevent lunging.

To understand the Eastern approach, check out Japanese slugger Sadaharu Oh’s A Zen Way of Baseball. In this we see a different approach, one that is more holistic. I love his appreciation of ‘waiting.’

The challenge then is to remember all the important mechanics while being sure to forget everything to swing natural. No wonder slumps are unavoidable.

The wonderful thing here is the teaching opportunity that this provides. This is a wonderful metaphor. Learn to be ferocious while also learning to be patient. Learn to stalk but stay relaxed. Great life lessons if the transfer is encouraged.

T206 Portraits

I have had a fascination with T206s for a few years now. They kind of grab me. They bring me to a time and place that’s fun to think about. Lots of this is driven by my interest in that era – a time when my family began arriving in this country.

I was looking at my collection and was drawn to a few of the portraits – Frank Chance (yellow), and Mordecai Brown. They are magnificent images – period pieces. I have had a preference for the images in context rather then the portraits but these 2 images changing that opinion.

One reason I like these is that they match my view of what the player looks like in my imagination, and in real life! Chance’s T206 and Brown’s T206 both have a photo that shows how accurate the illustration is as shown on the excellent T206themonster site.

Better then the technical excellence is the emotional connection that comes from each. You feel like you know Brown. He just looks like a midwestern farm boy and you can see those eyes peering at a catcher intently. Chance’s image is a bit friendlier then his reputation but we all know that looks are very deceiving; that enigma is what charms me when looking at this card.

The joy of collecting is not about having, but holding, and contemplation of these 2 are great examples of how holding fosters a greater connection with the game.

Coaching Tip: Define Your Role

I have had the tremendous fortune to coach my kids in baseball for years. I have seen countless problems between Dads and sons and I am so happy to say I have never had a problem with either child on the baseball field. It is 100% pleasure, and probably the main reason the game is so fun for me.

I take no credit for this. I just happen to have great kids. Thank goodness for their Mother! : )

I did stumble onto one rule that has been very useful. That rule – define your role before you start. I have two modes with my kids:

  • Dad Baseball: all fun
  • Coach Baseball: all business

If I am in Dad Baseball mode, I might at times switch to Coach Baseball but if I do, it is fully declared – I let them know that I am momentarily in Coach Baseball mode. And I make sure that Coach Baseball always has at least an element of Dad baseball in it.

This way the expectation is clear from the beginning. Even as a coach the intent is to always stay positive but the mode is definitely more demanding then Dad Baseball. As long as the kids know this up front they are good. It is all about a clear expectation for them, and mostly, for me!

When I started this I’d declare one mode or the other. Then I started asking them which they wanted. Now they tell me. I just grab my glove and let them direct me into the mode they want.