Oh how great this day was:
I still sort of can’t believe that it really happened. Oh, and by the way, I refer to great in its true sense and not the sense it has come to mean. As in although it was great in the “awesome” sense, there was also great cold, and great hoopla, and a great amount of “stuff” happening.
What do I mean by “stuff”? Well, here’s some shots of the Target Plaza that show the greater level of activity than 30 minutes before the gates open on a regular game day.
First off, here is my view of Target Field’s Gate 34 just as I arrived from my last class of the day:
Then, there was apparently something being filmed at my usual napping spot in front of Gate 34:
And then the gate itself. With its own personal radio booth, courtesy of 96.3 K-Twin:
And then a second picture. This time more of the people at the gate, partially to show you how people were dressed up to deal with the sub-30 degree temperatures:
Once I got to the gate itself, there were…well, normally I would say “familiar faces”, but that wasn’t necessarily the case here. The first person who I recognized was Paul Kom, along with his friend, Asher:
And then there was Tony Voda, who I didn’t really recognize because this is how he looked from my initial perspective:
He was also here at the game with a friend, whose name was Jared. Here are the two of them, with the photo credit going to Paul:
I was actually supposed to have a companion of my own in the way of Sean, but something came up for him the day of. I tried to get a few other people to come with me, but all of them had things going on. I truly do not get some people. I get not going to just some game, but it’s Opening Day of Major League Baseball! Anyway, long story short: no one ended up being able to make the game and I ended up taking the $33 hit and going with my imaginary friend, Tommy McActuallywantstogotoabaseballgame. Then, at 1:00, the gates were finally opening:
Remember when I said there was a great amount of “stuff” going on? Notice Tom Kelly helping in the opening of the gates on the left hand side. I think I would have absolutely ate that up if it weren’t around 20 degrees and the gates weren’t opening for the first time this season.
Unfortunately this was the view as I ran in and got my magnetic schedule:
The Twins had started batting practice early, so they got done right before we entered and the Tigers were still several minutes from getting started. So I went over behind the cage and tried to get a ball from Rafael Belliard:
I yelled out to him, but unfortunately all I got was a wave and a smile. To be fair, I only yelled out “Rafael!”, but I was going to follow it with “Can you toss me a ball please?” I think he thought I was just saying hi.
My next opportunity came when the pitchers warmed up down the left field line:
Unfortunately one ball went to a much smaller and cuter game-goer than I, and then the second, I found out had already been promised to Paul because he had thrown back a previous overthrow.
Then it was off to the outfield. Therein lied the problem with Opening Day. You see Target Field is a pretty bad ballhawking stadium ceteris paribus, but it especially wretched with any substantial crowd because it is so reliant on the first few rows of the outfield sections. In left field, it was crowded enough that the first rows that were clear enough to run through were under the overhang, where no balls could be hit. In right field, the actual seating was completely full, so I would have had to stand out in the standing room section and hope that a ball get hit out there. Translation: I went into the section of seating in right-center field and asked for toss-ups. Unfortunately for me, the man patrolling the patch of ground in front of this section was Doug Fister, who although he may not be like this all the time, was being an unresponsive jerk. By the end of the day, I didn’t even mind that he completely rejected me several times. There was an early teenage girl dressed head-to-toe in bright orange who was yelling his ear off (politely) for almost half-an-hour with no avail. Once Fister moved out of the section, though, I got my first ball of the day pretty quickly from Drew Smyly:
I then spent the rest of my batting practice in the standing room. Apparently I wasn’t smart enough to realize that if it’s tough to get the ball out there normally, it is nearly impossible to get a ball into the standing room when it’s below 30. So (shocker!) nothing came out there with Prince Fielder having already hit.
I did see something very interesting while I was in right field, though:
If you can’t make out what it is that arrow points to, I’ll just tell you. It’s ice. This marked the first time I had seen ice in a stadium that wasn’t being used for the purpose of refrigerating beverages. I guess the whole “it’s usually 90+ degrees whenever I’m in a baseball stadium” thing comes into play here.
As I started to head toward their dugout, the Tigers dugout, they finished batting practice, and I don’t know if it was the cold or what, but usually if I start heading to the dugout before batting practice itself, I’ll beat the ball bag to the dugout. This time, however, the pack-up process was accelerated by about 200%.
At this point, I found myself in a very interesting situation: my ticket was in left field but I was now in the moat behind the Tigers dugout. At this point I told myself I would see if I could stay until the players started warming up down the line. Ushers started checking tickets in the section, but through a series of maneuvers, I got past them and stayed in the section. Then when I didn’t get a ball from any of the Tigers players warming up, I decided “You know, they’re using the Opening Day commemorative baseballs. I might as well stay down here for the rest of the game.” And so, this became my view of the action for 9 innings:
A pretty nice view for my first Opening Day game ever, eh? What would have that cost at Yankee Stadium? Two, or three…thousands of dollars? Probably more since it was Opening Day. Want to know what’s even more sad about that fact? This is how Yankee Stadium looked in the ninth inning:
I’ve only seen a stadium anywhere near that empty in a handful of cases, and all of them involved inclement weather. Oh, and if you’re even thinking of arguing that people wanted to leave because of the cold, please refer to the paragraph of text under the fourth picture in the entry.
What that seat also gave me a great view of was the storied Opening Day ceremonies. First, both rosters were announced. At which point every player lined up on the field as his name was called:
Then, probably the best part even though I’m not overly-nationalistic was the national anthem. What they did first to prepare for that was bring the famed “giant flag” on the field:
They then had a veteran raise the flag on the mast as they always do. Except here’s where that “great” Opening Day twist comes in. The veteran who raised it this day was Rod Carew.
Onto the game, I was obviously going for third out balls, but the first two didn’t even make it to the dugout. I believe one was tossed into the stands by an outfielder. The other didn’t make it to the dugout because of this guy:
First a little background information on said “guy”:
1. Yes, he is wearing a leopard skin suit jacket.
2. He was wearing a ski mask for batting practice.
3. You might see someone who holds up *a* sign during games; he had a stack of them for the different Tigers players.
4. He had a gold-plated glove.
5. Even though he was supposedly a Tigers super fan, he asked me on several occasions during batting practice to identify Tigers players. (That reminds me. I probably should have included this story earlier, but I don’t know where to fit it into the entry above so I’m just going to tell the story here in these parentheses. Anyway, a hilarious thing happened when the Tigers players came out to warm up before the game. A group of 3-4 Twins fans saw Austin Jackson run out to warm up and immediately starting yelling things like “We love you, Torii” or “We miss you, Torii,” and kept it going for a while until Torii Hunter actually came out onto the field. Then they just started to realize–and confirmed after asking myself–that they were indeed not cheering for Torii Hunter. Murmuring and a retreat away from the field ensued.)
6. He was one of those fans who demands respect for his team from the opposing fans while trashing their team.
Anyway, Miguel Cabrera had the ball and was headed to the dugout when he saw this fan in the corner of his eye, stopped, and threw him the ball. I wasn’t bitter at the time, and I was even more fine with it two innings later when Prince Fielder tossed me a third-out ball of my own:
But wait do you notice anything special about this ball? How about now?
Opening Day commemorative baseball, baby! And yes, this was the first one I had ever gotten as a result of this being my first Opening Day game ever. The rest of the game played, and the Tigers unfortunately pulled it out despite the Twins limiting Justin Verlander to his shortest start in approximately 3.5 years.
At the end of the game, my plan was to get a ball from home plate umpire, Jim Joyce. I was going to go down the main staircase to the umpire’s tunnel, but I surprisingly met up with Paul in the ninth inning and he took that staircase, so my plan was to go down the secondary staircase and yell out to Joyce before he got to the tunnel since this staircase was closer to where the umpires exited the field, but for whatever reason, people stayed in their seats, so there was no space in the front row for me to get down. Fortunately, though, Paul managed to snag his own Opening Day commemorative, so that made up for it. Basically, this was my reaction to not getting an umpire ball:
In that: “I didn’t get another ball and I only snagged two baseballs this game, but so what? It was an absolutely great game/experience. (Minus the cold. I’m still trying to forget how miserable it was in the shade.)
Tony and Paul had three and four baseballs, respectively, when I left, and they each managed another from the Tigers equipment person afterwards to push their totals up to four and five. A ton compared to my measly two, but if there was one game I didn’t care, it was this one.
- 2 Balls at this game:
Numbers 447-448 for my career (I realize that the last entry from this past season said I ended the season at 445, but in the offseason I realized that I never inputted my sixth baseball from my one game at Citizens Bank Park, so everything from that point on is technically one baseball above whatever I have it at. I just don’t feel like going back and changing all of the entries. This is just a day for long parenthetical insertions, I guess.)
- 2 Balls in 1 Game= 2.00 Balls Per Game
- 2 Balls x 38,282 Fans= 76,564 Competition Factor
- 63 straight Games with at least 1 Ball
- 13 straight Games with at least 2 Balls
- 57 Balls in 15 Games at Target Field= 3.80 Balls Per Game
- 14 straight Games with at least 1-2 Balls at Target Field
- Time Spent On Game 12:05- 7:46= 7 Hours 41 Minutes
I realized in getting ready for Opening Day that I make a lot of rosters. Other ballhawks I know make a lot of rosters. That’s a lot of the same rosters being made. In other words, that’s a lot of lost productivity, as us students of economics like to call lost productivity. In other words, people doing stuff that they otherwise could have easily avoided.
So what’s the solution to this? What I’ll try to do from now on whenever I create a roster is I’ll put it up here for you guys to use in your ball-snagging pursuits, or for whatever else you may need. I’ll keep on doing this until my free trial of Photoshop expires in like two weeks, anyway. Basically, I’m doing the work so you can be lazy. Anyway, here is the first roster for the game I will be attending today between the Tigers and the Twins:
Hopefully this can help you somewhere down the line. Just remember that rosters can change, so just check that the two teams are up-to -date for whichever game you end up planning to use this for. Hopefully I’ll have the entry of the game up for you guys in a couple of days.
A quick update before I get started (because no one reads them when I put them at the end of entries):
I did a couple of videos on my YouTube page in the time since the last entry, if you want to check them out. They haven’t been embedding well as of late, so I’ll first try to embed them and link them if the embed doesn’t work once I publish the entry. Anyway, the first video is one I did for a public speaking class entitled: “How to do a last-minute speech.” And yes, it is what it sounds like:
The second is me saluting the fact that Opening Day is almost here while taking a subtle jab at Spring Training games:
If you liked those and would like to find out about them not weeks after they were uploaded, feel free to subscribe to the channel. I don’t have a regular posting schedule (we all know how well that has worked out for the blog these past few months), but I do plan on uploading videos and making them public there before they ever get on a published blog entry. For example, I may or may not have uploaded the video later on in this entry publicly before I published this entry
Apparently one day of sports analytics wasn’t enough, so I came back for some more in a second day:
And I got to begin it with this beautiful panel of people:
That would be the “Staying on the Field: Injury Analytics” panel. It was compromised of the following panelists:
Stephania Bell (moderator):
Senior Writer, ESPN.
Vice President of Medical Services (whatever that means), Los Angeles Dodgers.
Director of Center for Molecular Medicine and Orthopaedics, Düsseldorf, Germany. You may recognize him better as the surgeon who performed the blood-spinning operation (I think that’s right.) on Kobe Bryant and a couple athletes.
Founder, BASE Productions. Or perhaps known better as the host of Sports Science (is that one word like Sportscenter?) on ESPN.
This was really interesting once it got started, but there were technical difficulties with the Stan Conte’s slides–which while we’re listing off things I didn’t like about the panel, slides don’t integrate well into almost any panel. Probably the one thing I will always take with me from the panel was Conte’s story about Mike Matheny and what eventually convinced him to retire. If you don’t know the gist of the story, Matheny retired due to excess concussions from taking foul tips to the head. Apparently what happened was Matheny was talking to whoever the Cardinals back-up catcher was at the time and telling him that he blacked-out for a second every time a ball hits his mask, which he described as being perfectly normal. It was upon the back-up catcher telling him that it wasn’t perfectly normal that he black out every time a ball hit his mask that Matheny reconsidered that, shall we say, “sanity,” of him continuing his career any longer.
After that it was back up the Grand Ballroom for Monday Morning Quarterback. This was one of the more entertaining and by far the most engaging panel. It was compromised of the following panelists:
Tony Reali (moderator):
Host, Around The Horn (ESPN).
Former Head Coach and NFL Analyst, ESPN.
General Manager, Atlanta Falcons.
Jack Del Rio:
Defensive Coordinator, Denver Broncos.
Brian Burke (no not that one):
Founder, Advanced NFL Stats.
Like I said, this was the most interactive and fun of the panels. What it was is we watched videos of different scenarios of plays (mostly involving the people on the panel) and then the audience voted on what they though the coach should do on that particular play. We then got to see what the statistics dictated the coach should have done. It was a fun time.
Then I went ahead and filmed a mini-tour of the conference grounds. So here that is:
After that I went ahead to the Stying Relevant: Social Media Analytics panel. That was these people:
Gary Belsky (moderator):
Digital Director, Brooklyn Nets & Barclays Center.
CEO, VaynerMedia, who for both better and worse completely dominated the speaking time by the panelists.
Head of Sports and Entertainment, Twitter.
Co-Founder, Bleacher Report.
This was interesting insofar as how it may pertain to this blog and social media outlets thereof. I may change my New Year’s goals because of it eventually. Like I mentioned, Vaynerchuk completely took over the panel, which was not necessarily a bad thing, because he had knowledge of the subject some good things to say, but also it was a brilliant overall panel and not just him, so I would have liked to hear a lot less of him and a lot more of the other panelists.
Then, for my final panel of the conference, I headed over to Hall of Fame Analytics, which was these people:
Editor in Cheif, ESPN the Magazine.
Senior Writer/Baseball Analyst, ESPN The Magazine and ESPN.com.
Senior Writer, Sports Illustrated.
Director of Production Analytics, ESPN Stats & Information.
And sadly, although he was initially slated to be a part of it, John Thorn could not make it to the panel. Thorn, if you did not know, is a fellow MLBlogger. Besides this, the panel was really great. While he may not have been viewed the same way to other people in the audience, Buster Olney stole the show in this panel for me. I’ve disagreed with many of the positions Olney has taken when it comes to Hall of Fame voting in the past, but I realize that this was the case in many scenarios because he was confined by the schmushed time slots ESPN has given him. It was in this panel where he got to fully explain his point and develop his argument that it became clear he was the baseball writer of decades and I was the jerk at home who thought he was an idiot who I knew more about baseball than. I mean he didn’t convince me that Jack Morris belongs in the Hall over Bert Blyleven (though he did argue that) but he did get me on his side of the fence on a couple other points and helped me beter see his perspective on a couple others.
After that it was off to the closing ceremonies and the Alpha Awards for exceptional performances in the field of sports analytics. Whatever that means. I actually don’t have my program with me since I left it in New York, so I can’t tell you what any of the awards were, so I’ll just end this entry with a series of pictures and you can create your own storyline to accompany them.
And thus, the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference came to a close. I hope you guys enjoyed that entry. Thank you for reading. And considering I am going to Opening Day in less than 24 hours, be on the lookout for the entry from that game. While I will miss the free time I have during the offseason, I’ll say it’s about time baseball got here.