Yesterday, I watched the Cleveland Indians battle the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. The Tribe started out strong, and led into the fifth inning – that’s when things started to fall apart. Thanks to big hits by Hunter Pence, Gregor Blanco and Buster Posey (HR), the Giants came back to win 5-3.
I’m always a little torn when the Giants and Indians play each other. For this series, in the name of fairness, I got one ticket near the visitors dugout (Saturday) and one near the Giants dugout (today). I bought them quite a while ago, not knowing who would be pitching. There I was, in my red and blue Tribe gear, while my favorite Giant Timmy Lincecum was on the mound. I felt like a monster.
Back then I also had no idea the games would coincide with the worst cold I’ve had in years. For the past two days I’ve felt like someone is riding a pogo stick inside my sinuses, my throat is raw and glands in my tongue are so swollen I can barely talk. Luckily I didn’t buy a ticket to Friday night’s game. The Indians played poorly, and if the preponderance of stocking caps, scarves and down jackets I saw on TV were any indication, it was FAR too cold out there for a sickie like me.
So to recap: I stayed home for game one, and the Tribe lost. Yesterday I sat in Tribetown and wore my Indians gear… and they lost again. Today I have a ticket near the Giants dugout, and I suppose I’ll wear Giants gear.
If the Tribe doesn’t get the win, it’s possible that whether I go to a game – and what I wear to it – has no bearing on how well a team performs. In other words, the outcome has nothing to do with me, and my many superstitions?
I’m on lots of meds right now, but that would really be a bitter pill to swallow.
On April 2, I caught the second half of a double-header between the Oakland Athletics and the Cleveland Indians. (The game had been rescheduled from the previous evening, due to rain.) I sat close the Indians’ dugout. The cheeks in my section’s seats were just as likely to belong to a Tribe fan, as an A’s fan. My people showed up well, and in respectable numbers. Even so, after the game I felt lucky to escape Oakland Coliseum with my Indians jersey intact.
What is UP with Oakland fans? Some of them are crazy, and I don’t mean in a zany, entertaining, endearing way. I suppose if I had to watch baseball in a dilapidated stadium with regular sewage back-ups and remnants of the Raiders’ gridiron still visible in August, I’d be bitter too. In fact, I have traditionally favored building the A’s a new stadium south of San Francisco, because they are an excellent team and lifting them up would be good for baseball. Now, I’m not so sure.
Forget the bleachers, it would seem that the nastiest A’s fans prefer to sit near first base, close to the visitor’s dugout — for maximum heckling effect. They don’t just ridicule opposing players; they also deride their fans, should they dare to cheer audibly. It’s as if they enjoy HATING the opposition more than they like cheering for their own team, which seems twisted and sad.
First baseman Nick Swisher joined the Tribe two years ago, and I’ve seen him play in Oakland before. Each time, A’s fans hurl hateful insults at him like I’ve never heard. I mean it, and I’m from CLEVELAND, where LeBron James committed his crimes against humanity. I understand justified vitriol of fans who have been wronged – but LeBron voluntarily took his talents to Miami in 2010. Since then, like most Cavs fans, I have pulled myself together and moved on.
Nick Swisher left Oakland six seasons ago, and not even by choice! He was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 2008, before again being traded to the New York Yankees. One particularly odious Oakland fan heckled Swisher over and over for his greediness, how much he got paid per strikeout etc., so I assume he thought Swisher had jumped ship to the Yankees for their deep pockets. Unfortunately this ill-informed joker didn’t shut up all night.
Another bad, bad fan sat nearby, solo. (I was also a party of one, but at least I have decent photos to show for it.) This guy drank a lot, and appeared to seethe even when the A’s led on the scoreboard – which was often. His favorite taunt? “You WEEEEEAAAAAK!” Not “you are weak” or “you’re weak”. But “YOU WEAK”. He even called Indians catcher Carlos Santana weak after he got a hit. A double. Whatever.
This sad little man belittled Santana with racist insults I won’t repeat here, because they honestly made me sick to my stomach. (I heard similar taunting, to a much lesser extent, at a spring training game in March.) As if that wasn’t bad enough, strangers around the idiot LAUGHED. I overheard another heckler say, “This guy is so funny, he could keep me going all night!” Oh.My.God.
I refuse to accept the “nervous laughter” defense here. If you are nervous try biting your nails, grinding your teeth or indulging in emotional eating like a normal person. Do not giggle or chuckle. It only encourages a bigot.
Meanwhile, Oakland Coliseum “Guest Services” personnel stood around looking bored. I still am not sure what services they provide.
Oh yeah, I nearly forgot. This last heckler also went after shortstop Asdrubal Cabrera a few times, but inadvertently referred to him as “Melky”. Such was the level of aptitude I was surrounded by. I was tempted to point out that Melky Cabrera is a different player who has never worn an Indians uniform, but the risk of a “they all look alike to me” comeback was just too high.
So it was only fitting that the Indians turned things around in the 9th inning, with the help of A’s pitcher Jim Johnson. Things got very quiet, except for an occasional insult redirected at Johnson, instead of my Tribe. The Indians won, 6-4. As I packed up my camera equipment, I couldn’t help but notice that the heckling mob had already dissipated. Guess they were worried about traffic on a chilly Wednesday night. In Oakland, California. At 9:30 p.m.
Funny, Nick Swisher appeared to find the post-game atmosphere quite comfortable. Very satisfying.
I could say “suck it”, but I won’t. Instead I’ll say, Roll Tribe.. and congratulations to second baseman Jason Kipnis, who signed a six-year, $52.5 million contract with the Indians today — one day after his 27th birthday.
I called it first: He’s a keeper. Happy birthday Jason.
Mike Aviles has a crazy swing ritual in the batter’s box
Carlos Santana, aka “Weak”
Tito returns from pulling Zach MacAllister
Asdrubal Cabrera thinks about it… I love this photo because it looks totally staged. Daric Barton could not strike a more studly pose. He’s almost Tebowing. He’s Bartoning.
Closer John Axford. Big feet, or dainty ankles? You be the judge… could be both.
I returned from Scottsdale and Cactus League baseball less than 48 hours ago, and am clinging desperately to the last shreds of my spring training vacation buzz. I didn’t have much time to blog and post photos while I was away, so now I’m playing catch(!) up. (Playing catch? See what I did there?) I also have some reflections on my five days in the Arizona desert.
America’s pastime isn’t always pretty: I often hear Bay Area dwellers caveat something going on around us with, “but of course, we live in a bubble.” It’s a good economy bubble, thanks to the Silicon Valley, as well as a great weather bubble – and as a result, San Francisco attracts a lot of young, educated, physically active people. Live here long enough, and you can lose sight of how the rest of America actually looks and behaves. Spring training in Scottsdale delivers an eyeful of reality.
I am not a perfect physical specimen, and I struggle to maintain a healthy weight, yet when I’m at Spring Training I often find myself both reassured (“Hey, maybe I’m not in such bad shape!”), and alarmed by the amount of morbid obesity around me. Listen, like most fans I indulge in ballpark food with relish (and mustard) – but it’s shocking to see so many overweight, middle-aged people sucking down multiple beers, foot-long chili cheese dogs and double cone soft serve ice cream… then hiring a golf cart to ride – rather than walk — .8 miles to their hotel. A few of these folks may have an injury or disability that impacts their mobility, but not THAT many.
If you see a slim person at Spring Training, it’s dollars to doughnuts (pun intended) that he/she is under 25 years of age, with a metabolism that is still working overtime. And if she’s a woman, she’s probably wearing false eyelashes, a push-up bra, a skin-tight tank top and very short shorts. One such young woman stood next to me before Sunday’s Giants/Indians game, as I took some of the photos below. Flashing her ample cleavage and a button declaring “It’s My Birthday”, she got lots of autographs from Indians players, despite not knowing their names or the positions they play. I SUSPECT it wasn’t the birthday button that did the trick. Speaking of autographs…
I don’t get the autograph thing: Maybe I’m bitter, because the first (and last) autograph I ever got — from Chris Evert, who I adored as a kid and still think is pretty awesome – I misplaced almost immediately, and was heartbroken. I guess I was so scarred by the loss, it soured me on the whole autograph-getting experience. So I am fascinated by grown men who jostle and elbow their way to the edge of the field each day, hoping to get a signature on a ball or cap brim. Many of them enjoy telling players stories as they sign, like “I was at the game where you hit that homer off Clayton Kershaw”, or whatever. The players politely nod and say things like, “Oh yeah? That’s cool.” Once they have an autograph in hand, these men beam like little boys.
To each his own, right? The autograph frenzy only bothers me when I see a father pushing his kid HARD to get a signature, and it’s clearly the dad’s thing. The kid doesn’t care. In fact, before the aforementioned Giants/Indians game, a dad – who I’m pretty sure is an otherwise good guy and loving father – forced his super-shy son to the front of the crowd. When the kid hung back and an Indians player missed him as he moved down the line signing for fans, the dad got overly enthusiastic and shouted “little boy right there, you missed a little boy to your right, little boy, little boy”. The player stopped cold, glared and asked, “You telling me to sign?” He eventually signed the boy’s ball, and father and son thanked him. It was awkward. I was sorry for the dad, getting schooled in front of the crowd. But I also sympathize with players, who must get fed up with pushy fans treating them like employees who OWE THEM an autograph.
Shop much?: The only thing at spring training that’s more frantic than a line of autograph hounds, is the San Francisco Giants shop in Scottsdale Stadium. Step inside and it’s like you’ve been sucked into the famous Running of the Brides at Filene’s basement. There is pushing, shoving and general rudeness by fans who are seemingly unaware that there are Dugout Stores all over the Bay Area, or that most Giants swag is available online. Not sure how they manage to function in society in the off-season. The weird thing is, while the Cleveland Indians/Cincinnati Reds shop at Goodyear Ballpark is always crowded, it lacks Scottsdale’s mob-like, looter vibe. I wonder what the Cubs team shop in Mesa is like? Cubs fans are rabid too, but Chicagoans have Midwestern manners so…
There it is. A recap of my easing into baseball season, in fewer than 1,000 words. Despite wearing 50 SPF sunscreen I picked up some color (in the form of freckles), and I took good photos, consumed a few warm-weather cocktails, and shook off a load of work stress.
Next step: Opening Day! Put me in coach, I’m ready to play!
Over the past week or so I’ve detected a whiff of fall in the air, which always makes me a little melancholy. Days are getting shorter, and nights are becoming chillier… except in San Francisco, where the exact opposite is true. Even so, in clothing chains all over town, corduroys and wool sweaters in warm autumn shades have replaced flip flops and linen shorts. Where did the time go?
The end of summer 2013 is especially blue for me as a baseball fan. The San Francisco Giants – currently occupying the cellar in the National League West – have no chance of repeating last year’s World Series run. And the Cleveland Indians are seven games out of first place in the American League Central, which means my dream of a Giants/Indians October throw down will have to wait at least one more year.
Over the weekend, I caught two of three games in the Oakland Athletics vs. Cleveland Indians series across the Bay. Unfortunately/naturally, the game I skipped was the only game the Tribe won.
It was fun to see the Indians in person for the first time since spring training, but it was tough to sit silently as Oakland fans celebrated being only .5 games out of first in the American League West. Having spent 2010 and 2012 cheering the Giants to the World Series, losing smarted. I did not enjoy it… but deep down I’m happy for the As. They are a talented, scrappy, underrated, red-headed-stepchild of a baseball team, with a crummy, dilapidated ballpark.
Can someone please get that team a new ballpark? The flawed sewage system in the restrooms should be reason enough. (My advice to ladies visiting Oakland Coliseum – schedule your potty breaks before the 6th inning. Otherwise… YUCK.)
Today I picked up a couple of Giants tickets on StubHub, at bargain basement prices (relatively speaking). Even though the team is zapping my strength, come October I’ll long for “summer” evenings at AT&T Park, wearing a ski parka and using a cha-cha bowl as a hand warmer. I’ll fill the void with the NFL and the NBA, but I’ll really just be going through the motions – at least until the first winter storm drops buckets of cold rain on San Francisco.
Until then… some photos from my bittersweet weekend.
Day two of spring training took me to Goodyear, Arizona where my old hometown team the Cleveland Indians welcomed (and ultimately shut out) the evil Los Angeles Dodgers. A good and just baseball outcome in a very dry heat.
There was less power hitting than in Tuesday’s 4-3 win over my current home team, the San Francisco Giants: No home runs today vs. five yesterday. But there were two botched pick off attempts by Dodgers pitcher Matt Palmer that allowed the Indians to score.
Even worse, two Indians players were hit by pitches. In fact Matt Carson — up from the minors — got beaned, and was escorted to the locker room by Manager Terry Francona and a trainer. He seemed OK, but wow the sound of a ball on a batting helmet is a terrible one.
Poor Carson. I realized today that some guys like him, non-roster or minor league Indians players, have neither a photo on the scoreboard nor a name on the back of their jerseys. I suppose that’s to prevent fans like me from forming too much of an attachment to players who might not be around in April.
Indians fans sitting around me really had a soft spot for these young guys, shouting encouragement — rather than insults — when they pretty much swung at every pitch that didn’t hit them in the head.
I have a new baseball crush, left fielder Tim Fedroff. As I said in my last post, he is Hunter Pence in a different uniform. Yesterday he was the guy to know, if you were under 14 years of age and wanted an Indians player to autograph your baseball. Fedroff would take a kid’s ball, ask which player’s signature he or she wanted, descend into the dugout and badger that teammate until he signed. The kids were busting.
That said, I asked one young boy which player had autographed his ball and he replied, “Honestly I have no idea. I am a Dodgers fan.” Boo! Apparently they let anyone into Scottsdale stadium these days.
Today Fedroff was again effusive. He didn’t start, and spent the early part of the game hanging over the dugout railing—apparently having a blast. When he was called to play, he BOUNDED across the field. He zigzagged like a kid pretending he was an airplane, and the other players laughed. This is why I love spring training.
At one point I think he, Lonnie Chisenhall and Mark Reynolds may have been trying to get my attention. (I was the woman with the biggest camera, three rows back.) They were sort of miming that someone—possibly me—should take their photo. I wanted to, but… the only thing worse than missing that opportunity would have been thinking it was directed at me, only to discover that they were talking to some hot, buxom chick in daisy dukes a few rows behind me.
(Have you ever seen the Southwest Airlines commercial in which a woman thinks a handsome colleague is professing his love for her before a big meeting? She gushes her feelings in return, but he’s actually talking to his girlfriend via his bluetooth headset. OUCH. That’s what I was thinking about. ”Wanna get away?”)
Plus I didn’t have the heart to tell them that my camera was actually focused just behind them, on Jason Kipnis poised to steal second base.
That’s the kind of thing that happens at Spring training, though, when players and coaches are a little more loose and very accessible to fans. Yesterday in Scottsdale, Will the Thrill Clark was channeling Shecky Green. He knew all the regulars in my section and kept a running banter going with them. He even threw fistfuls of gum into the stands.
Tomorrow the Giants and Indians will meet again, this time at Goodyear. I’ll have no conflicting loyalties, because spring training is a time when you just want everyone to play well.
Especially the faceless new guys, wearing nameless jerseys.
Indians pitcher Justin Masterson and catcher Yan Gomes
As a die-hard San Francisco Giants fan, I buy plenty of tickets to games each season from either the Giants, or StubHub. I avoid keeping a tally because I don’t want to know the out-of-pocket – although it’s safe to say that Suze Orman would not approve.
This season, I decided to branch out and also buy a ticket to see my other favorite team – the Cleveland Indians – play the Oakland As. Not surprisingly, As tickets are much easier to come by than Giants tickets, and the “best available” option online can be a blessing or a curse, depending on your budget.
My best available seat for Sunday’s game at Oakland Coliseum was on the Diamond Level. The name suggested that I wasn’t going to be stuck in the bleachers, but you never know, right? Maybe there’s also a Krugerrand Level or a Platinum Level?
Another clue? The fact that you don’t really see signs for the Diamond Level anywhere in the ballpark, which I assume is intentional. I had to ask five different ushers for directions, and each time was told cryptically to “turn left/right at the hat stand”. It felt very prohibition-era, like I might be expected to know a secret handshake or password to get past the bouncer.
When I finally found the secret passageway next to “the hats”, an usher gave me directions to the bowels of the stadium. (Perhaps the Diamond Level also got its name because getting there feels a bit like descending into the mines?) I was then coached on protocol. It was at this point that I began to understand why my ticket cost so much.
The walk to my seat was like slipping backstage at a Springsteen show – except it was very quiet. The usher pointed to tape running along the floor, splitting the walkway in half. I was to stay to the left, because players from the opposing team (a.k.a. the Tribe) would be walking back and forth to their locker room on the right. I was advised not to speak to the players, and that photos are strictly verboten in the hallway. In fact, I was not even allowed to carry my cell phone in my hand, because I might be tempted to snap an iPhone pic.
Are you kidding me? The only thing separating me and lovable Jack “Super Mannahan” Hannahan would be a sliver of masking tape? Sadly I passed Jack and Jason Kipnis on my way down… and dropped my head to stare at my sneakers. I was nervous and shy, so I suppose I defaulted to Zoo Rules: Don’t try to touch the player (he may bite!), make eye contact with him, or feed him your hot dog scraps.
Speaking of food scraps, food is free on the Diamond Level – well, given the ticket price I guess it’s more accurate to call it complimentary – through the seventh inning. And they have LOBSTER ROLLS down there! Food orders are taken, and food is delivered, by very handsome waiters. Too bad no one told me all this in advance, before I bought a bratwurst up on the concourse.
As these photos attest, my seat was right behind home plate, a few yards from the on-deck circle. Before and after the game, I could photograph players going to/from the dugout, which I’m sure they hate. A few of them rushed past like they were running the gauntlet.
All in all, my foray into super-luxury seating was a blast, despite the game’s final score. (The Tribe lost 5-1.) I got the kind of photos I’d hoped for – not a ton of variety but amazing detail, like Justin Masterson’s facial expressions when he pitches. I also scored one lobster roll, awesome ballpark nachos, two Sam Adamses, two bottles of water and a bag of peanuts (still in my purse). Throw in some above-average Bay Area baseball weather and I’d say I broke even.