This is a big weekend coming up. Before I get into that, though, let me say with a certain amount of pride that I called the Nashville Predators to be much improved early in the year, and also picked them to beat the Anaheim Ducks. To beat the Canucks, though? Not going to happen. Even with a stellar goalie, they don't have the firepower to take down Vancouver.
So, this weekend. Tomorrow will start off with some pre-marital counseling. Not as pumped about that. It's not bad,* but I am glad this is the last one. An hour is an awfully long drive to make to decide that Kristine and I are compatible. I guess we didn't figure that out in the last decade we've been together.
*We were called the "Rhodes Scholars of Relationships" when we got our compatibility test back from Minnesota. Forty bucks to decide we're good for each other. I'm definitely in the wrong business.
After counseling, though, we're heading to Indy (with Kristine's sister) to putz around before watching the Indy Indians take on the Durham Bulls. A quick glance at the standings tells me the Indians are pretty bad this year (7-15). Andrew also tells me they look pretty bad on TV.* It seems all the talent is in Pittsburgh or developing in the lower leagues. Could mean good things for Indy's future, though. Or they might go straight from AA to the bigs. Oh well. Point is, I'm always excited to watch the Indians, and I'm especially excited to bring Katelyn to her first game at Victory Field. I love bringing people to that park for the first time, because I don't think people realize how great a stadium it is until you're in it. If things go right, I'll be bringing my uncle Charlie there a bit before my wedding, too. Fingers crossed.
*I'm a bit jealous that he gets the Indians on TV, but he doesn't get MLB Network, so I like to think I come out ahead there.
After that great day, Andrew is going come over on Sunday, and there will be some hockey watching I'm sure, but the bigger goal is to start developing the hypothetical game I talked about a week or so ago. Again, any helpful comments would be much appreciated. But, I've got some cardstock, I'm sure I can find a card template online somewhere, and we'll start tinkering. I will certainly keep you updated, and if AP Baseball: The Game* comes to be, my faithful readers will be the first to know. And if it comes to using Kickstarter, I will announce that as well. If we're lucky enough to actually get this thing published, I will most definitely let you know. And if we get that far, hopefully somebody out there is artistically gift and would like to work cheap (or free!) to design a box for us.
*Just a working title, I promise.
I would also like to point out, as this is my last post in April, my NL Central predictions look pretty good. The Cards are looking better than I thought (or maybe the Reds not quite as good), but the bottom half is looking like I thought it would. Putting the Pirates in fourth was my bold prediction here, and that's looking good. The Cubs incompetence sure helps that. By the way, I'm going to have to make a trip to Pittsburgh soon. As far as the newer ballparks go, PNC might very well be my favorite. I can't wait to see it in person. And if Andrew McCutchen happens to notice me wearing his Indians shirt, all the better. He did not see it when we watched the Pirates in St. Louis, though.
Sorry, this is a later post than usual for a variety of reasons. This won't be the normal schedule.
Sometimes it seems like I'm the only one, but I simply don't understand the appeal of the NFL Draft. Or the NBA Draft, for that matter. They're important, sure. So is congressional procedure, and I don't want to watch that (sorry, C-SPAN). There's nothing gripping me to watch young men, typically fresh from college, shaking hands with a commissioner for a few hours. The interviews with the draftees typically don't reveal anything. Sure, it's nice to see who the Pacers or Colts are getting, and it's nice to see where Purdue guys land, but I can see those just as easily on the web the next day and find something more interesting to watch. Like, I dunno, paint drying or Home Shopping.*
*If you have to watch a home shopping channel, I would recommend QVC overnight. Look up Mike Rowe's time there for reasons why.
To hear the past few days of sports talk (or at least national shows), you'd think the NFL draft is the only thing going. Nevermind baseball is playing real games, and hockey and basketball are in the playoffs. Oh, and there were a couple really, really good NHL games last night. I really thought the Canadiens were going to pull it out last night, and PK Subban further cemented himself as my favorite Eastern Conference player last night. Because Boston-Montreal was on last night, though, I didn't get to see all but the very tail end of Pittsburgh-Tampa Bay, where I was pulling for the Penguins, but had picked the Lightning. Too many injuries.
Basketball was pretty good, too. I, again, just saw the tail end of the games, but Memphis-San Antonio was an overtime thriller, and OKC-Denver was awfully close. Hard to see a hard-luck team like the post-Melo Nuggets go down, but I'll support a blossoming Kevin Durant. Even if he was a one-and-done. He didn't make the rule.
Would you know any of that listening to Mike & Mike? Nope, we just get all Mel Kiper all the time. How in the world has Mel Kiper become this media giant? Who really makes a full time living off doing mock drafts? MOCK Drafts? His word carries nothing! And now we have Todd McShay, because the only thing worse than one blow hard doing imaginary drafts is two blow hards doing fantasy drafts and yelling at each other about whose is better. Why on Earth is there a mock draft industry at all, let alone two guys who get paid handsomely to do nothing but rank their favorite players and match them up with teams? Why am I not employed at ESPN? I'm great at making stuff up!
Now, with that off my chest, I definitely wish Ryan Kerrigan well. He has been an absolute beast at Purdue and deserves a great NFL career. And despite my reservations about Mount Union, let me also wish Cecil Shorts well. I always like seeing D-III do well.
The winter sports season is officially over for me. The Pacers were blown out, the Blackhawks went down in overtime. I'll still watch hockey playoffs, but not with the same interest. NBA, eh, probably not. The good news is it's full-swing baseball season.
Assuming weather cooperates, which is a big assumption lately, I'll be getting to Victory Field on Saturday, which I'm very excited about. A beautiful ballpark which if you live in Indiana, you really ought to make it a few times a year. I would make it much more often if I didn't work in Illinois, which means I can't get to Indy by the time most of the through the week games start. So, that leaves weekends, many of which (especially this year) are booked.
Let me just say thank goodness for Danville Stadium and the Dans. True, it's a pretty far cry from AAA ball.* But, it's still solid, and a full price ticket is only $6. And there are many days that are half price or otherwise discounted. It's also true that Danville Stadium is a far cry from Victory Field, but it has a charm all it's own. In fact, I think I just stumbled over the meat of today's post.
*And let me posit that AAA is a lot closer to big league ball than most people realize. Or, at least, people that don't go to AAA games. Excellent product for the price.
Danville Stadium was built (or maybe completed would be a better word) in 1946. The first tenants (and the reason the stadium was built) were the Danville Dodgers, a Class B minor league team of, who else, the (then) Brooklyn Dodgers. There has been quite a bit of history in the stadium, probably enough to write a book about. But, the most historic moment would most likely be when the Brooklyn Dodgers came to town, bringing with them Jackie Robinson, Gil Hodges, Pee Wee Reese, and the recently deceased Duke Snider. There is a nice video from Illinois Public Media about the stadium on that page as well.
The stadium has not changed all that much over the years. It still looked old-timey enough to film The Babe there. Well, some of the game scenes, at least. Because the stadium has not really changed (though it has been maintained pretty well), the minor league teams have left. The Dans are the top level tenant now, though the stadium still plays host to DACC, Danville High School, and Schlarman. The highlight of my high school career came at Danville Stadium. We were playing Danville, I was playing third base. I snagged a sharply hit line drive and beat the runner on third back to the bag to end the inning. I was excited enough I wasn't even sure there were three outs. I wish I could've gotten a hit in the stadium, but unfortunately, my only at-bat there was a swinging strikeout. I think they may have no-hit us that day, now that I think about it. Or maybe that was when they came to Covington. In any case, I'm still proud of my only unassisted double-play in high school.
Wikipedia tells me the stadium holds 4,000 people. You can bet I'll be one of those people this summer.
As some of you are no doubt aware, I can get kind of geeky about uniforms. If you didn't know that personally, the link to UniWatch might have given it away. Baseball is my favorite to discuss, probably due to it being the sport with the richest history, and being my favorite sport. So, allow me to geek out a little today.
Today's post started last night with a bit of a disheartening moment. I was watching the Cubs lose to the Rockies, but in a rare bright spot, Reed Johnson* came to bat and was sporting some stirrups. That shot is not from last night, apparently this is not new thing for him. But, he wears some pretty small openings, so I think I'd just manage to miss it until know. I also might have been a little more alert to look for it, because Darwin Barney has also been rockin' 'rups. I pointed that out to Kristine (my fiance, for those not in the know), and she didn't know what stirrups were. Outside of horse riding, anyway. I was a little crushed.
*Reed Johnson seems like the kind of player you don't really appreciate until he plays for your team and you see all the little things he does. I can tell you I got way too excited to see him back in a Cubs uniform for a player of his skill level. He's a solid player, sure, but I was excited like we'd signed Pujols or somebody.
I can't tell if stirrups are a dying breed, or trying to make a comeback. In addition to the Cubs mentioned earlier, Ubaldo Jimenez, Juan Pierre, and DJ Carrasco are notable stirrup supporters. In the last year or two, the Tampa Bay Rays have adopted some St. Louis-inspired hosiery. And if anybody caught the Dodgers-Braves throwback game, it was hard not to marvel at just how good the Braves looked. And I generally like the Braves current uniform, but I would love to see them adopt the throwback full-time. The difference? Stirrups!
If I'm not on record already, I would love to see MLB mandate stirrups. Other sports have rules regarding uniforms, and baseball does as well. You might recall CC Sabathia having to change his shoes in last year's opener because grey wasn't an approved color. If that can be enforced, so can stirrups. If I ever get to do any high school or college coaching, my teams are wearing stirrups.
I feel like I should come clean here. I hated stirrups when I was younger. We got them in my younger Little League days, and I refused to wear them by the end of the year. The problem, though, is they were ribbon stirrups. Which I still don't like to this day, and for a long time those were the only stirrups I knew of. When I learned about real stirrups, though, I feel like I really missed an opportunity, at least in high school. I don't remember if our socks (which were solid black) were issued to us, and I always went high-cuffed. I would've totally rocked some stirrups if I could do it again. Oh well. There's always slow-pitch softball when I find another team to play on.
The Pacers won! Woo hoo! Now just three more to go before the Bulls can win one. The Blackhawks might actually do that. And the Cubs, well, are still the Cubs. And the Rockies are probably going to embarrass them this week. So it goes.
I've got a bit of a pet project to talk about here.As I've talked about here, I am an alumnus of Wabash College, and I don't think I could have enjoyed it more. I spent my day off in Crawfordsville and visited with a few people at Wabash. I didn't get to see the one guy I actually went to visit, because he doesn't come in on Fridays any more. I guess you can do that when you're retiring. And, just because I like upsetting, I stopped by maybe my favorite building on campus, the Armory.
A bit of history. Built in 1917, this was the long time athletics building on campus. It has housed a number of other functions through its history, but that's been the main function through its life. It was the entrance to Chadwick, housed the weight room and other athletic offices. But, that was well before I was there, so enough about that.
The Armory in my day was a student center. It housed two computer labs, the only 24 hour ones on campus. The Bachelor office* was moved here the same time I joined the paper. The radio station was moved here halfway through my time at 'Bash. It also housed a nice lounge and a game room I spent quite a lot of time in. I spent more time in this building than any other building, except Morris Hall, where I lived for three years.
*Technically, this was the Board of Publications office. But, the Bachelor was pretty easily the most important of these in my view, and definitely used it the most. I always thought BOP should have stood for "Bachelor and Other Publications."
It seems, though not everybody shares my love for this building. In the time it has been replaced by the Allen center, it seems it has struggled to find a purpose. I won't talk bad about the Allen Center. I'm sure the upgrade was badly needed, and it is a hell of a building.
The Allen Center is probably the best athletics center I've been in, certainly for a school the size as Wabash. As the picture would suggest, the College poured an awful lot of money into this building, including a new entrance into Chadwick, new offices for the campus doctors, a new big weight room, racquetball courts, Knowling Fieldhouse, new pool and wrestling rooms. It is a great building that I've also spent quite a bit of time in. So, yes, it is a great center and a significant upgrade. No fault with that.
Oh, we keep something else important here, too. You may notice the sign that has a few important numbers on it. Namely "47" and "0."
I just needed to work that in. This is about the Armory. As mentioned before, this building is trying to find new life as a student center. I loved this building, spending many hours on the radio, working on the paper, and playing pool in the game room, and sometimes watching things on the big screen in the game room. I very often was the only one there, though. I don't know why the building didn't find more love amongst Wallies, but seems to be the unfortunate truth. Even more unfortunate is how the building has been neglected. If it was ever going to find any footing, letting it fall to the state it currently. Above is a picture of the room as a whole. For a better example, look at this picture on the left. This is where the TV used to be. The TV is now gone, and the furniture, well, you can clearly see the issues there.
Some torn couches are not the only issues. While I did watch the TV and take some naps in this room when I worked in the Allen Center over the summer, I usually spent my time playing pool here. It's hard to beat a free pool table, and over that summer especially I got to be pretty decent at pool. I've lost all that now, of course. Regardless, it seems future generations of Wabash Men won't have that opportunity. Here are all the pool balls off one of the tables. The other table had only a lonely 6 ball in one of the pockets. And there were no cue balls or sticks to be found anywhere. That makes it awfully rough to play any pool.
Pool is probably the most popular game, but by no means the only game. As you can see, there are also foosball and air hockey tables. Again, these are also not in working condition. The air hockey table has both goals broken, puck missing, maybe the mallets as well, I can't remember and the picture isn't clear. And, well, take a look at the picture. The missing equipment is actually the least of our problems. There won't be much air in air hockey without any power, and it'll be awfully tough to get any power with no plug.
The foosball tables actually seem to be in good shape, a rarity. But, the balls are missing. You will also note from the picture here that these are pay tables, which the other games are not. I took a closer picture, but in the interest of brevity, I'll just tell you. There are quarters sitting in the ball return. Out of curiosity, I put in a couple of those quarters, and the coin mechanism did work, I could feel it catch and the table rumbled as if it were going to spit out a ball. Predictably, no ball was actually forthcoming. So, to conclude this section, there are no games to be played in the game room. It's hard to foster student community with games when there are no games. Somebody has also put up a bizarre drawing on one of the walls. I'm not really sure what to make of it, and it definitely wasn't there when I was there. I don't have much comment other than to post it.
The lounge wasn't in much better shape. The ping-pong table, missing it's net, has been moved here. The carpet is in awful shape. There also used to be many of the smaller, round, red tables, along with tables to play cards on. You know, they had spots for poker chips and stuff. Who knows what happened to all those tables. And who knows how long that umbrella has been sitting there. Judging by the floor, it looks like its been awhile since it's been cleaned. The good news is the computer labs (especially the smaller one I always preferred) are in good order, and I presume the radio station and Bachelor office are as well. Those doors were locked, and I unfortunately don't have those keys any more.
Okay, so we see the problem. How do we fix it? For starters, there could at least be the appearance of giving a damn. We would probably also need to know what exactly happened to all the missing equipment. Stolen? Broken? If stolen, I would have a hard time imagining a Wally stealing those. Not saying Wabash men are necessarily paragons of morality, but I don't think many college kids in general are that keen in stealing table game equipment. Kids coming into the armory to break/steal stuff? That seems more likely. How do we stop that? The Armory was the only 24/7 building on campus. The Library might be as well now, but that building keeps somewhat of a staff. I suppose you could put a staff in the Armory, but that seems like a waste. My proposal while I was at Wabash was to put an electronic lock on the front and side door to the building that would open to any Wabash ID. That doesn't seem like it would be that expensive (two locks), the worst part would be reprogramming ID cards, but it seems like that could be done without actually issuing new cards. I could be wrong, but that's how it seems to me.
There seems to be a deeper problem, though. The Armory has never really been embraced by students the way it ought to be. The computer labs are used fairly often, so those can stay put. I would assuming the Writing Center on the first floor is used as well as it's always been. But these upstairs rooms have been underutilized despite best efforts by the school. It seems it's time for a change in direction.
I had a whole section written here about opening an overnight diner in the Armory, which I don't think is a terrible idea. But I don't think Bon Appetite would allow an outside dining option on campus, even open during hours they are not. Also had an idea for a campus bar, but that's not going to happen soon thanks to some unfortunate incidents lately involving alcohol and underage drinkers. None of which are the school's fault, but don't ask Fox News about that. Still, there needs to be something more than just (maintained) games to draw students back into the Armory. Maybe more campus events should be held in the Armory just to make the building feel more "routine." I wouldn't mind seeing the wall knocked out between the lounge and game room to give one big space. But from there, maybe there needs to be some pool tournaments held. Bring in some smaller music acts. I would love to see Acoustic Cafe (assuming that's still around) moved to an expanded Armory lounge/game room. I would love to see some local bands play the Armory. And if the event organizers make sure to bring in some food and drink for these concerts, that would be great. Who wouldn't want to hang out with their buds, play some pool or something, listen to some tunes, etc. Maybe when the wall is knocked out, they could also put in a sound system so people could plug in their iPod when there isn't a band. I guess what I'm asking for is a bar without the drinks. As it stands now, people stay in the houses or dorms to do their drinking and socializing. Which there is certainly a place for that. But it would be great if there were a central place on campus for all students to come together. At the very least, could some alum at least get another set of pool balls and cues back?
Or so says my work. I don't have a lot to write today, other than the Pacers lost yet another heartbreaker. It's tearing me up, I can't imagine what the players are feelings.
Something I've learned when I don't have much to say is throw up some YouTube videos, because every loves those. Here are a few of the best baseball commercials going right now. The Rockies might be the best in the bigs with these.
I have to admit something here I'm not terribly proud of. I was thinking about this post on my drive into work today, and this title popped into my head almost immediately. And it popped into my head to the tune of Salt-n-Pepa's "Let's Talk about Sex," and I couldn't shake it. I don't feel good about that, nor the giggle it gave me, but in the interest of full disclosure, there it is.
Now, here's what triggered these thoughts today. I was listening to Mike & Mike this morning on my drive in, as I often do. I'm not sure I would really count myself as a fan, but it's the only real sports talk around in the morning. Pretty easily my least favorite radio show on ESPN other than Colin Cowherd, which thankfully 1070 (Indy's ESPN radio) no longer airs. I would much rather listen to another local show, but that's neither here nor there. Today (as they do every day, another gripe of mine) they were talking about football, even though it is out of season and the players are still locked out, so who knows how important this draft actually is.* Anyway, they started discussing how sports is the great equalizer in race relations, and how we've reached a point in football that race doesn't enter into the equation when drafting a quarterback. I don't know how they hit upon that subject, my reception was not the best this morning, but I've got some bones to pick with that assumption.
*I'm going to try to stop griping about it, really. And I know Golic played football and Notre Dame and in the NFL. But you could very easily be fooled that there are no other sports listening to that show. Baseball is the only other sport they really give the time of day to. Basketball makes a very rare appearance, and I've never heard them mention hockey. I would love a shot at their job, because frankly, I think I would be better and much more entertaining.
First off, each sport is wildly different in their race relations. I'm going to start with football, because that was my jumping off point. Now, I'm obviously not a football expert, but I do watch quite a bit and I pay attention to the media, which loves to cover football. It is certainly much easier for a black quarterback to break into the NFL than it was for, say, Warren Moon. I would love to say we have gotten over the old, tired, and wrong stereotype that black quarterbacks don't know the game well enough to run an offense. Although Donovan McNabb might have something to say about that. As might Vince Young and JaMarcus Russell.* But, it isn't a blanket assumption any more. There does seem to be (and McNabb again might be a posterboy for this) an assumption that a black quarterback must be an athletic quarterback. If there's a black Peyton Manning or Dan Marino that sits back in the pocket and makes it happen, I can think of him. And I can't think of any on the horizon. It seems Ryan Mallet, a white quarterback from Arkansas, is being groomed for that position.
*Although VY and Russell weren't necessarily chided for knowledge (for the most part) as they were maturity. Which, well, if you want the critics to shut up, quit giving them ammo.
Is Cam Newton (I'm assuming that was their jumping off point) an athletic QB? Of course. Is he good enough to be considered for the top pick? The national championship and Heisman trophies would say so (even if they're temporary). But would anybody draft him if he couldn't run? With the top pick, a la Peyton Manning? Or hell, even Ryan Leaf? I don't know. We haven't seen it. Is that the NFL's fault? I'm not sure. I don't know if that player has existed yet, or if he has, if he was given a fair shot. There is probably something to look at here, but I certainly haven't done any of the research to make that happen. I think it would be very interesting to see why this hypothetical quarterback didn't make it, or why he doesn't exist.
This one area where baseball is ahead of the curve, though that's because baseball has already gone through it's growing pains. There are books filled with these stories, talking to Jackie Robinson, talking to Bob Gibson, taking to Hank Aaron, etc. They all had their issues, as the entire country was (is?) going through a civil rights/racial revolution. And, as we're all aware, it was not always so peaceful. But, for a long time now, baseball has had no real race problem that I can see. Nobody bothers Ryan Howard, other than to ask what happened to his power. Nobody bothers Torii Hunter, other than to be a little sad that he had to leave Minnesota. Nobody expects a young black player to be a particular sort of player. No, baseball's race problem has more to do with black kids aren't as interested as they used to be. Other than Ryan Howard and Brandon Phillips, I can't think of any bright young black stars in baseball. And at 29 and 31, they're not all that young any more. But, MLB is trying to fix this with the RBI Project, which I know Torii Hunter and CC Sabathia have been very involved in. I wish them the best of luck, I think it's a great program.
Basketball has sort of the opposite problem. It's awfully hard for white players (that aren't foreign, anyway) to break into the NBA, and when they do, they're typically either spot up shooters or space eaters. Again, I'm sure there's a lot to be written here, and I'm sure there has been a lot written about this, but I haven't put in the time to research it. I've also been pretty clear (at least in person if not here) that I am a Pacers fan, not an NBA fan. I have a real hard time watching an NBA game not involving the Pacers. But I sure couldn't tell you the last white athlete that played on the wing. Mike Dunleavy might be as close as it gets, and I would think he counts more as a spot up shooter than anything else, though he does move really well without the ball. Don't ask about defense, though.
And hockey, well, I just don't think there's a ton of interest in the black community. It's not as rare as it used to be, but I don't think there are many black hockey players at any level. And it should be noted that all but seven current black NHL players are Canadian, where presumably there is much more interest in the black community in general. So, I guess it's a more severe version of baseball's race problem. Plus, it gives me an excuse to post the original "Bo Knows" commercial, although the hockey section goes down different than I remember. And, I should add, I like my version better. I thought Gretzky kind of skated around Bo while Bo stood there and said "Bo Don't Skate." Where I got that idea, I don't have the slightest clue
Hmm. . .I don't really have a lot to write about today. Which is a shame, I feel like I've been on a good run. My plan on days like this was to do a recap post, but I didn't watch any sports last night because I went to see a short film last night.* It was written and directed by a guy I knew a little bit at Wabash, who also happened to be an All-American quarterback. It was awfully good, and I hope he can get the money to make it into a full feature. If you see Rolling on the Floor Laughing** in a theater near you, I would highly recommend it. That was followed by doing some driving in severe storms and waiting out the worst of it in a gas station until the power went out. Fun night.
*"Short film" sounds so pretentious. Unfortunately, "short movie" sounds so wrong. Blogging is a rough life.
**The English minor in me isn't dead yet. I had a mini-crisis on my hands because I didn't know if short films should be italicized or in quotation marks. And I didn't have my copy of Hacker's Rules for Writing to tell me. Wikipedia had to suffice.
I am awfully pumped to go to the Pacers' playoff game tomorrow. Their record was not the greatest, everyone is aware of that. But, they've acquitted themselves quite well against a lot of people's presumptive champion Bulls. I really hope they can at least take this first game at home, if not both of them. I don't think anybody is really expecting them to win the series, but I don't want to see sweep, and they've played way too hard to get swept. Now if we can take all this money Larry Bird has been waiting to come off the books this summer and turn into a stud to take us back to the top of the conference.
Um, yeah, that's all I really have for today. To get everybody pumped for tomorrow, here are a couple videos for you. MILLER TIME!
Before I write anything, let me say that if somebody wants to get my a birthday present, this would be an excellent choice. Just sayin'.
Now, yesterday I mentioned that I'm not the biggest fan of college baseball. Don't take that to mean I despise it or anything, I still enjoy it quite a bit. As has been mentioned, that is a college stadium at the top of the page, and quite possibly the nicest college stadium in the state. I sadly only made it to one game there this year, but I came away so impressed with the stadium. But, as a whole, NCAA baseball is not great. And that is no real reflection on the players. Here are all the factors that lie mostly out of their control.
First off, most of the cream of the crop goes straight into minor league baseball. Baseball has an unrivaled minor league system, and that is great. Hockey is the only one close, and even that doesn't reach half the depth of baseball. There could (and I'm sure have) be entire volumes filled with reasons for this and the history of baseball's minor leagues, but this is not really the place for that. The important part here is that, while there are many top-flight players in the college ranks, the majority of those players choose to start making money at their craft out of high school in the low minors. So, this does mean there are lesser athletes in college baseball. That, though, is not the biggest deal to me. I watch Wabash football and basketball religiously, and I know Division III athletes, while very good, are not top of the line.* And it has never bothered me. So, while it does have some impact, definitely not the major factor.
*The best description I've ever heard for D3 athletes is they are D1 athletes minus one thing. Maybe they aren't quite fast enough, not quite strong enough, not quite big enough. They'll do everything on a D1 level except for one major category. That said, if you haven't watched two good D3 teams play (especially football and basketball), you might want to think about it. Basketball is typically free, and football is cheap. And the quality of play I think will surprise you.
Secondly is the metal bats. I wouldn't call this a major issue, but I would say it's bigger than the player pool. Metal bats, as I'm sure you're aware, don't break. That takes out a whole element of the game and pitching inside. There is also the issue of performance. Studies are conflicted, but most (along with all field studies I could find) say the ball jumps off metal bats faster, which turns into balls going further. The better distance could possibly be attributed to faster bat speeds and bigger sweet spots, too. A good summary can be found here. But, again, the big thing to me is bats don't break, which totally changes pitching philosophy, and thus the game itself.
The biggest factor in all of this is the weather. Baseball is a summer game, meant to be played outdoors in the heat (or at least semi-warm). The ball moves differently in the warmer air, the players move differently in warmer weather, and the fan experience is especially different in warmer weather. The problem with college ball is most of it is played during the late winter and early spring. There's not a whole lot to be done about that, as the school year only lasts so long and starts much earlier than it used to, which also pushes the season up. Maybe if I lived in California or Florida, I wouldn't see this so much. But, living in Indiana, I can definitely tell you this makes a huge difference in college ball. High school, too, for that matter. The weather is generally too cold for baseball, too wet for baseball, and then by the time the players are in peak baseball form, the season is over. All growing up, I was one of the best baseball players in town. In high school, I had trouble getting off the bench (for varsity, anyway). There were some politics involved, and I didn't hit for power, which our coach is inordinately in love with, but I think there was also a big part of not being nearly the same player in cold weather that I was in warm weather, which youth leagues are played in.
Except for maybe player pool, summer wooden bat leagues, like the Prospect League that the Danville Dans play in, fix all these problems. Weather is much better, played with wooden bats, and the player pool is probably (I haven't really researched this) better, as there aren't as many teams, thus not as many spots. Another plus to summer leagues: Most colleges play 50 to 60 games. The Prospect League has a 56 game schedule. But, the summer league games happen after those initial 50 games, so players come into that season already in full swing and in "game shape."
So, to summarize, June needs to hurry up and get here so I can watch some good college baseball on the cheap.
Happy Tax Day, people. I will be one of those people filing right at the deadline, which is a new position for me. I won't do it again, I promise. A bit of housekeeping before we get to it today. Well, more of an explanation for my lack of it. If there's a way to archive these posts so it only shows two or three at a time before clicking "next page" or something, I don't know how to do it on here. I sent an email to Weebly to confirm if it would do this automatically, but never got a response. So, hopefully it will take care of itself. In any case, on to the post.
I got a lot of compliments on Friday's post, so I guess that was a good decision to go with games. Because everybody loves games, even if they don't know it yet! It got me thinking, maybe I should design a game. Game design is something I've always been interested in, even if I've never actually successfully designed a game before. I've started on a couple projects, but never saw them to the finish. But, what's stopping me from making my own baseball game? Maybe this site is going to have to get a shop section.
Before I get further into my game design ideas, let me make a completely unsolicited post to bring your attention to the Eephus League. I found out about it while it was still a school project. UniWatch posted reader Bethany Heck's senior project while she was at Auburn, and it got such a tremendous response that she decided to make it real. She posted her funding plea on Kickstarter and got double what she was asking for. Almost triple, in fact. Any project that tries to get more people interested in score-keeping is good with me. The only nitpick I would have is she didn't include a place for the count, but as I said, it's a nitpick. I didn't donate to her Kickstarter, but I do plan on buying a score book pretty soon. It's just too awesome a project not to support.
Now, back from that aside. The reason I mention all that is I thought about maybe using Kickstarter to get my hypothetical game off the ground. Of course, I'd have to design it first. Before I even get started though, I have to wonder if it's worth doing. One of the great things about APBA, Strat-O-Matic, and Showdown is that they use real MLB players. That's a huge part of the appeal. For one of my classic Showdown teams* I had Derek Jeter as my lead-off hitter. This was not done by trial and error, that was done because I already knew first hand that Jeter was a great lead-off hitter, and if they'd done their balancing at all, I knew he would be great in this game. I also had a Jason Kendall card (back when we all thought Jason Kendall was good), so he hit second. I built my whole line-up because I knew the players in reality. Obviously, that's not going to work if you've got a bunch of made up players.
*I really wish I knew what happened to our old cards.
I hear a few concerns. We played games like Little League Baseball and Bases Loaded as youths, and those didn't have real players. That's true, but a lot of us didn't know better. And those games definitely had suggested line ups. Although some of them definitely needed some tweaking and you could learn some little secrets with enough time. I digress. The point is, you don't get that with a card and dice game. You've got your player cards and their numbers in the game, and possibly their previous year's stats. And that's it. The rest is in your hands. And that can be intimidating, and possibly time consuming. Except in a few odd cases, you really don't want set up to be the biggest part of your game. Even a game like Settlers of Catan only takes maybe five minutes to get set up once you shuffle the board pieces and put it together. And that's pretty intensive for a board game (though it is pretty easily my favorite game). But, I'm guessing an MLBPA license is pretty steep, so I don't think that's really an option unless I were to raise some pretty serious money. So, how to make the preliminary set up go quick for my hypothetical game?
The best option I can think of, beyond just totally making up everything and most likely messing up game balance, is to, um, "borrow" stats. I would guess borrowing MLB players stats has a really good chance of landing me in hot water, or at least getting a cease and desist letter. I would like to avoid that. I could borrow minor league stats, but that seems like it could also get dicey. The best bet seems to be borrowing stats from an independent league or college players.* They're not unionized, and I don't think anybody has any copyright over a collection of statistics. I might even be able to take the players names in that case, but I wouldn't want to do that. I'd have to run that by one of my lawyer friends, but I would make up some fictitious names.
*I'd probably want to take them from a summer league, like the one the Danville Dans play in. I think I might write about why college baseball kind of sucks, and it's not the players fault in the least.
Okay, so we might have somewhat tackled the problem of familiarity. If we give people an idea of what these players "did" over however many games, that should really help people set a line up. I'd be really curious to see what players would do with the information, although that's veering into a psychology experiment instead of a game. The only problem (as far as my end is concerned) is what to do with cards. APBA came with two teams, Showdown came with a "starter pack" of cards. I haven't owned Strat-O-Matic Baseball, but Hockey came with 15 cards per team, I'm told. Not quite a full team, but it's pretty close to a full set. I can't really talk much about APBA and Strat-O-Matic, but one of the big things with Showdown was buying a pack of cards and seeing who you got, and hope you didn't get yet another Neifi Perez card, much like buying actual baseball cards. That seemed to be a pretty good marketing strategy, but that's only going to work with real players. I, as discussed earlier, wouldn't have that luxury. So, I'm afraid I would have to sell the full set with the game, though that would theoretically allow me to package the cards in a suggested line up. Would I do it that way? Probably not. I may not even package them into teams so as not to limit players. But, I think I would and give them some generic names. Dragons, Wildcats, Bears, etc. Or maybe put them in blank envelopes with a line so players can name their own teams. I like encouraging creativity.
What would this game cost? I have no idea. Haven't gotten that far into it. I just wanted to look at some of the challenges I'd be facing to see if it's worth my while to give it a shot. Of course, your comments would be very helpful as well. And thanks, Jayne, for being my first real commenter. I think mother-in-laws count for that, anyway.