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September 2018

Three Fastballs to...Tampa Bay Rays Mac James

Three Fastballs: Mac James

After driving back from Durham, Tampa Bay Rays prospect Mac James took some time to field some fastballs from All Heels on Deck. Here's what he told us about the tough moments in his career, persistence and his wonderful wife, Emily. 

The catcher is coming off a championship win with the Triple-A Durham Bulls. 

 

Most Challenging Career Moment: I don’t think I can narrow it down to one challenging moment, but I would say just the grind of everyday trying to perform in order to play the next day. That and having a lot of my good friends released. Those days are always hard.   

Most Influential Coach/Advice: I would say our catching coordinator, Paul Hoover, just preaching the attention to detail about every single thing and persistence

On A Personal Note....  When asked about what makes his wife the best"My wife’s best trait is her unselfishness and willingness to support my dream constantly. She is the most selfless person I know."

 You can read additional content from this interview on our Patreon page by subscribing for $1 a month. Follow Mac James on Twitter @MacJames_28.


A Little Bit of Pop: Musical Theatere & Baseball Make Perfect Music

A Little Bit of Pop A Little Bit of Pop

 

An ode to the perfect pitch of baseball and musical theatere merging.

 

By Helen Silfin

This is the debut of a regular feature focusing on pop culture and baseball. 'A Little Bit of Pop' will run several times a year, with a mix of writers contributing. In this first installment, Helen Silfin, an avid fan and attendee of musical theatere and baseball games, focuses her eye on baseball references and appearances of America's pastime in another of America's beloved traditions--going to a Broadway (or local) show. 

At first glance it seems like musical theatre and baseball would go together about as well as ice cream and hot sauce. However, upon further review you realize baseball references in musical theatre are more like M&M’s in trail mix - sweet, surprising, and there are truly never enough.

 

Shows like Falsettos, Ragtime, and You’re A Good Man, Charlie Brown all have individual scenes revolving around baseball. The baseball references are fun, do not get me wrong, but once the scenes pass you know you are about to step into a world without baseball once again and therefore they really are not the best intersections of baseball and musical theatre.

 

My favorite baseball references come when I am least expecting them, without warning from the song title, setting, or plot. Newsies and Wonderful Town reference baseball just enough for me to geek out without actually making it a part of the show at all. I find these moments so satisfying because I feel like I am appreciating little Easter Eggs in the shows, only noticed by super-attentive audience members.

 

So in truly fitting fashion, when I finally got a prop newspaper from Newsies I ended up with the sports section of the paper, which was full of baseball box scores. The paper - dated July 20, 1899 - is incredibly detailed. There are brief descriptions of each game, lineups, and line scores.

Unfortunately, none of the scores are real. The big story in the paper describes a Brooklyn victory over Chicago, while a search for the real July 19, 1899 scoreboard tells us the Brooklyn Superbas played the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Chicago Orphans played the New York Giants. Despite the fact that the scores are not real, I still marvel at the attention to detail in this little Broadway prop. It would have been easy to make a few pages of generic news with headlines and pictures just big enough for the audience to kind of see. So I do give major props to the props department for creating names and scores and even game stories.



The baseball surprise in Wonderful Town comes during the song “One Hundred Easy Ways To Lose A Man.” The second verse goes as follows:

 

He takes you to a baseball game

You sit knee to knee

He says, "The next guy up at bat will bunt, you'll see"

Don't say, "Ooh, what's a bunt? This game's too hard for little old me"

Just say, "Bunt? What are you nuts? With no outs, two men on base

And a left-handed batter coming up, he'll walk right into a triple play

Just like it happened in the fifth game of the World Series in 1923"

That's a sure way to lose a man

 

The fifth game of the World Series in 1923 was on October 14 and the New York Yankees beat the New York Giants 8-1 on their way to the championship. The game featured a double play but no triple plays. However, there was a triple play in the fifth game of the World Series in 1920, but I guess Betty Comden and Adolph Green found 1923 more poetic than 1920.



Both of these references are fun because they are completely unexpected and unprompted. They both made me immediately want to find out if they were real - if the people who included them were as big a baseball nerd as I. They also reminded me that having two seemingly completely different interests only means twice the fun when those interests intersect.


Salvation from Fighting through Fighting: An Interview with Dr Linda Dahl, author of Tooth and Nail: The Making of a Female Fight Doctor

By Sara Rauch

ToothandNail cover - FINAL

Dr Linda Dahl didn’t set out to become a fight doctor when she decided to study medicine. But the ENT, and author of the new book Tooth & Nail: The Making of a Female Fight Doctor, needed an outlet to revive her from her stultifying day job poking into the ears of wealthy patients on the Upper East Side. After a patient’s prodding invites her to admit that she wants to be fight doctor, she sent in her application, and much to her surprise, a few months later she received a phone call from the Athletic Commission, booking her for her first fight.

 

Thus began her three-and-a-half years as one of boxing’s few female fight doctors, a journey she details—complete with sexism, empowerment, behind-the-scenes action, and a date with Mike Tyson—throughout the pages of Tooth and Nail. I spoke to Dahl via phone one evening in early September, and she opened up about her thoughts on masculinity and femininity, the role violence has played in her life, and the biggest difference between two very male-dominated worlds: boxing and medicine.

Linda Dahl Author Photo by Luke Fontana

The world of boxing is a male-driven, male-centered world—with a fair bit of misogyny at play—but for Dahl, especially in terms of her claiming her sexuality, the world of boxing is ultimately liberating. She attributes this to chivalry. Whereas her experience in the world of medicine—in residency, private practice, hospitals—was “oppressive,” a place where “femininity is a problem... everyone is competing and they’ll use anything to keep you down... gender was the one thing they had over me,” her experience in boxing was quite different. “Boxing is very blue collar,” she tells me. Unlike in medicine, while she was ringside, she “was one of the most powerful people there.” In the book, she elucidates: “Being a female fight doctor meant I was both revered and protected. I got all the benefits of the so-called weaker sex without any of the oppression.”

 

That power she experiences shows up in unexpected ways. Despite a rocky start, and a fair share of confusion, stumbles, and a bit of sexual harassment, Dahl finds her footing amid the boxing world after an ENT client—a dominatrix—shares some wise and unorthodox advice: “It’s not about sex. It’s about power. When men are attracted, you gain control over them.” So Dahl, who describes herself as “always on the defensive side of my sexuality,” takes the woman’s advice, buys herself a pair of “very high, very black boots” and watches as the men who have often treated her with caution suddenly respect her. It’s a surprising, almost comical, turning point in her story, but it rings true.

 

Dahl, who was born in North Dakota to parents of Syrian and Chechnyan origin, discovered boxing through her now-ex-husband while completing her surgical residency in the Bronx. While she calls it “ironic to find salvation from fighting through fighting,” boxing allowed her to understand and make sense of the violence she was continually surrounded by in the medical world. She recounts being familiar with violence during her youth, because of her father and stepfather’s temperaments, starting to weightlift at the age of 15, visiting Saudi Arabia as a teenager and being forced to wear a burka. “I was so used to being in and around violence that I was able to find myself through what I know,” she says. “It was a language I knew, and I was drawn to that language.” In the book, she describes watching her first fight as “cathartic. They were like living avatars for my own dark, internal video game.”  

 

It might seem a bit unusual for a woman to admit to loving the “primal” aspect of boxing, but that ability to express how such a “bloodthirsty” sport can make her feel so “alive” is part of what makes Dahl’s narrative in Tooth and Nail so refreshing. Women’s roles in boxing are rather proscribed—usually women play the part of adoring fan, girlfriend, or scantily clad ring girl, so most of the fighters were surprised when Dahl showed up to take their vitals. One tells her, “You so pretty... This place too dirty for you.” One even refuses to allow her to examine him after an injury. Despite all this, Dahl thrived during her years as a fight doctor. It was ringside that Dahl truly found her inner strength. She transformed from a passive spectator to her own kind of fighter. By the end of the book, she stands up for herself when she is confronted with a boss who won’t stop hitting on her, moves on gracefully after the shuttering of the practice she works for, and doesn’t let her father’s refusal to lend her money to start her own ENT practice stop her.

 

These days, Dahl continues to work as an ENT in private practice in New York City. Her patients are mainly adult and Broadway singers, and infants who have trouble breastfeeding. This latter group often come accompanied by their dads, she tells me, and now that Tooth and Nail is out, they love to ask Dahl about her past life in the ring. Boxing acts as a bridge throughout the book, allowing Dahl an escape from the loneliness she finds in medicine, and even now boxing continues to connect Dahl to her patients. And I’m curious, given her involvement with the theater world, if she sees parallels between theater and boxing: “Boxing is so much like theater,” she says. “They’re all performers.”

 

Since hanging up her stethoscope, at least in the world of boxing, does she miss anything about being ringside? Dahl answers without hesitation: “Jumping into the ring when a fighter was hurt.” She goes on to tell me that last year, after almost a decade away from the ring, she was invited back, not as a doctor, but to sew up fighters. It surprised her, she says, how much she had missed the “the sweaty, growly, manly thing—I had been annoyed by it, but I missed it.” She found herself missing the community as well. “When I went back, people still remembered me. There were kind, loving, and accepting.” But she never watches boxing on television, she tells me, “because once you see a live fight, you never want to see it televised.” 

 

 

Tooth and Nail: The Making of a Female Fight Doctor

Dr. Linda Dahl

Hanover Square Press

ISBN: 978-1-335-01747-5

$26.99, hardcover 

 


The Quintessential Sportsman: An Ode to David Wright's Baseball Career

By Victoria Edel

 

Everybody loves a sports hero. One who overcomes the odds, often with the help of their friends/teammates, but also because of their own extraordinary strength. They exude  determination. They do the difficult thing even when they’re scared. They sacrifice, and they’re ultimately rewarded.

   

Everybody loves David Wright. David Wright is the quintessential sports hero — mine, specifically. Since I was 12 years old, more than half my life.

   

But David Wright does not fit this tidy baseball hero’s journey. For a moment, in 2015, he did. David came back from an almost season-long DL stint at the end of August. He hit a home run in his first at-bat against the Phillies. He led the team to a World Series. He was the MVP of their only win in that series. The Daily News made a poster of him as an orange and blue Captain America that they put in all the papers the next day. I still have mine. If this were a movie they would’ve come back and won the series, and David would have succeeded in leading the team out of the darkness that plagued them for most of his career. They lost in five games. I cried.

   

I was at the game where David Wright hit his last walk-off RBI on May 21, 2016. David was placed on the DL on June 3. This year, Wilmer Flores passed David’s Mets walk-off record. I cried.

   

If this were a movie, Wright would have trained to come back, and just when he was about to give up, a doctor would have found the key to fixing his body. He would’ve come back in 2016 and hit a walk-off home run in the Mets wild card game, and they would’ve won the World Series. If that ending were too pat for this hypothetical movie, he would’ve come back in 2017, or maybe 2018 and played productively, perhaps leading to a new generation of Mets talent.

   

But this isn't a movie. David Wright toiled away in pain for years — including during the 2015 World Series — because he wanted nothing more than to play baseball. And it hurts that he can’t have that.

   

This is more often the reality of the game than we want to admit. People love to point fingers when an athlete suffers an injury-- It’s the training staff, it’s strength and conditioning, or they shouldn’t have dived for that ball. Even Wright tried to blame himself, pointing fingers at old plays he shouldn’t have gone for. But the truth of the end of David Wright’s career is that it’s no ones fault. Baseball is magic, and a baseball player makes magic with their hands every day. Sometimes the magic goes away and there’s no real reason why. You have to live with it.

  

It’s so painful to watch the end of Wright's career, because it makes us confront our own mortality. Our bodies are our own, but we cannot control them. An All-Star third baseman can blow out his spine and never play again. There is no lesson to this story. No moral, no redemption. It’s real life, in all its inane meaninglessness.

   

So much of American culture is about trying to shape our bodies in an attempt to shape our fate. There’s paleo, CrossFit, juice cleanses, waist trainers, veganism, triathlons. We do these things because we think they’ll keep us young and beautiful and thin — or as close to these things as we are now. We think they’ll keep us from dying, even though we’d never say it aloud. When people are sick or injured or disabled, we assign blame because we want to believe it can’t happen to us.

   

David Wright’s career-ending spinal stenosis is proof that none of that actually works. You can do everything “correct” and still lose it all. You actually definitely will lose it all, because our bodies are not meant to last forever.

   

How hard it must be for him to have the thing he loves ripped away from him for no good reason. I feel betrayed by my body when I have a cold, or seasonal allergies, or if my knee is squeaky because of the rain. David Wright has to live that reality every day, of a body that was his but not his to control, that had to be coaxed in order to let him do his job. He toiled in the shadows so he can play one, last, meaningless game.

   

But this might actually be OK. The author John Green said that the hero’s journey is not actually from weakness to strength, but from strength to weakness. And that’s what happens to us all. It’s not glamorous. It wouldn’t make a good movie. Frankly, it’s depressing.

   

It’s also what makes someone like David Wright. It makes a man who can sit at a press conference and announce that he’s going to play in one more game, knowing he did everything he could. It makes the type of man who calls reporters when they get laid off, emails strangers when they get sick, and asks that no one pity him, even now.

   

So, let's not pity him. He seemed to be a person determined to make every moment count. He played baseball with an obvious love for the game, and he played in some really terrible games with embarrassingly bad teams. Even in photos of rehab starts and simulated games, where he was likely in excruciating pain, he would smile for the people. He always seemed happy to be there. He made countless Mets fans, myself among them, fall in love with this team and baseball. When I’m looking for baseball magic, I find it in that. That magic doesn't cease.

   

Sometimes you keep fighting even when you know you can’t win. David Wright is that guy. The definition of a sports hero.


The Spiritual Balm of Baseball on 9/11

By Lakia Holmes

 

No day shall erase you from the memory of time.”

- Virgil

 

 

Was it yesterday?  Sometimes it honestly feels like yesterday. Most likely because I relive it in some form nearly every day. 

My friends were heading off to their freshman year of college, as I sat at home directionless. College wasn’t in the picture for me - at least not then – so I had to find a job or move out. Those were my options. Faced with the prospect of having to live on my own at 17 years old, I started thinking about what I was going to do with my life. At that time I was living in Far Rockaway, NY, a quiet peninsula about 20 miles from Manhattan – a straight shot on the “A” train. Faced with a lack of employment options in “Far Rock,” I knew Manhattan would be my best option, so I decided I’d hop on the train and head to Lower Manhattan to check things out. While I was there, I’d maybe surprise my uncle at work. It had been years since I’d seen him, but he was always on my mind. I procrastinated, like most teenagers do, but I finally settled on a date to go. The night before, however, I had this strange feeling inside and I decided to put it off another day. The date was September 10, 2001.

I fell asleep with the TV on that night, which was something I never really did. I woke up in a haze the following morning and saw One World Trade Center on fire. As anchors and reporters scrambled to gather facts as to what was going on, I learned that an airplane hit the building my uncle worked in. As I finally wiped the cold from my eyes, there was a second plane heading straight for Two World Trade Center. It’s been 17 years and I still can’t put into words the feeling in my chest at that very moment. To have to put into words and explain what was happening to my little brother who had just turned 7 years old a few days before was equally hard.

The images. The smells. The fear. It’s as palpable now as it was in the days following the attacks. As the sun rose and set on the days after September 11, 2001, it was hard to sleep, to eat, and to even feel joy. The joy I felt knowing my uncle had escaped the unimaginable thanks to an early meeting in Brooklyn brought a sense of comfort, but that would be short lived after finding out an acquaintance of my mom’s did not make it out alive. Knowing that so many families were going through grief weighed heavy on all of our hearts, and to even take a second to partake in happiness, seemed sacrilege. Questions of what was and wasn’t “acceptable” to do following the events of that day were legitimate. How does a grieving nation find a reason to cheer following unspeakable tragedy?

 

“When that ball went over the wall, I saw my children smile for the very first time since they lost their dad.”

-Carol Gies

 

My childhood was less than idyllic, but the one thing that always got me through my struggles was sports. No matter how frustrated I was with my life, or my teams, I always welcomed the distraction of watching elite athletes dominate their field of play.  Sport is a powerful thing. It has the power to divide, but more importantly the power to heal, and in the days following the September 11, 2001 attacks, sports took a timeout, leaving a battered nation without an outlet for distraction. 

 

“Comeback Season: Sports After 9/11,” a new exhibit at the 9/11 Museum and Memorial, explores how sports and athletes helped bring the country together, and is brought to life through a series of videos and instillations chronicling everything from the first professional sporting event played in New York City after the attacks, to the role sports and athletics played in the lives of some of the victims of that day, and how fans – and some teams themselves - were able to briefly put rivalries aside to come together for a greater cause.

One of the many touching stories is found in the portion of the exhibit entitled “Swinging Back Into Action,” which focuses on the first professional sporting event played in New York after the attacks on September 21, 2001 between the Atlanta Braves and New York Mets. In the days after 9/11, the home of the Mets, Shea Stadium, became a staging area for relief efforts, with Mets players and coaches doing their part to help gather donations and boost morale amongst first responders.  But on the night of September 21st, the words “Play Ball!” rang through the air and the first steps towards normalcy were taken. 

In front of a crowd of over 40,000, and in the shadows of LaGuardia Airport and the burning pile of rubble that was once the World Trade Center, the Braves and Mets – two of the National League East’s biggest rivals – came together to honor first responders and victims. In the bottom of the 8th inning, with the Mets down 2-1, Mets catcher Mike Piazza stepped to the plate. Chants of “Let’s Go Mets” filled the stadium and, in a scene that seemed straight out of a movie, Piazza crushed a home run straight to left-center. Carol Gies, who lost her husband, New York City Fire Firefighter Ronnie Gies in the attacks, was at the game with her three teenage sons. She described the scene as part of the exhibit.

“When that ball went over the wall, I saw my children smile for the very first time since they lost their dad,” Gies said. “9/11 went away for that one split minute. One split second. And to see my children excited and smile – and I was like ‘you know what? We’re going to do this. We’re going to get through this.’”  Gies’ thoughts possibly summed up the thoughts of a nation. It definitely summed up my thoughts. The Mets gave me a reason to smile again and 9/11 did seem to go away for a split second. 

In the 17 years since the attacks, it seems we’ve forgotten the impact sport has on society; not just in its ability to heal, but also in its ability to shed light on various causes and topics like social injustice. It would be unconscionable to tell someone like Joe Torre, who spent his time visiting men and women working feverishly to recover the remains of their fellow first responders and complete strangers, to ‘shut up and get back in the dugout.”  Just as professional athletes like Derek Jeter provided a sense of hope to a 10-year-old Brielle Saracini who lost her dad, Victor, a pilot on United Airlines flight 175, it’s important to remember that it goes beyond entertainment. Sport is a vehicle to showcase not only athletic ability, but to educate, inspire, motivate, and highlight the power of perseverance. 

As we reach another anniversary, I’m reminded by the words shared by Oprah Winfrey during the “Prayer for America” service held at Yankee Stadium on September 23, 2001: “Hope lives. Prayer Lives. Love lives.”  May our athletes continue to be beacons of hope, not only after tragedy, but also on a day-to-day basis in their communities.  May they continue to use their platforms for the greater good and give us all reasons to smile on and off the field.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Lifer: Baseball Life Through Image

Welcome to the fifth installment of Lifer!

Our team of writers have been hard at work thinking of new ways we could spice up the column. This week, we’re doing Lifer with a twist. In this edition, photos taken by our writers while at games is the focus. This is the most visual installment of Lifer yet, and we’re so excited to share our ballpark experiences with you!

What would it be like to have a VIP experience at the ballpark? To sit right behind home plate to get the best look at the action? Imagine no more! Our Karen Soutar got an exclusive opportunity to watch a Jays game from the Action Seats. She details her experience with the help of some up-close photos. You won’t want to miss these views!

Oh, what it must be like to be a die-hard fan of a team that’s not in contention for a playoff spot. But, just because your team isn’t in the pennant race doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the other great things about attending a baseball game. Helen Silfin shows us how to make the best of your ballpark experience even when your team is playing at its worst. She takes us through her typical day at Citi Field in this one-of-a-kind photo essay.

Do you have a favorite ballpark? Sometimes, there’s just something about a park that makes you fall in love with it, even if your favorite team doesn’t play there. For me, that park is PNC Park in Pittsburgh. I’ll take you through some of the beautiful sights you can soak in while attending a game.

You don’t want to miss this edition of Lifer! So, join us as we do life the baseball fan way!

 

~RoseAnn Sapia

 

 

In The Action Seats

By Karen Soutar

Ever wonder what a VIP baseball fan experience is like? Sure, it’s great any time you go to a ballpark and watch a game, but for something extra special, there are In The Action Seats at the Rogers Centre.     

These are field level box seats which are located behind home plate, behind first base, and behind third base to watch the Blue Jays play in Toronto. You can’t beat that view; being close enough to the action to see what brand of shoes the players wear. 

Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 5.43.58 PM Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 5.43.57 PM Screen Shot 2018-08-17 at 5.43.59 PM


Seats were padded and very comfortable with plenty of leg room – no need to get up when neighboring fans were coming and going.     

Gourmet food and non-alcoholic beverages were included in the price and brought to you at the seats. All you can eat, with alcoholic beverages available for purchase.

If you aren’t quite well off financially, you probably won’t be making a habit of this. But it was very worthwhile as a once in a lifetime treat!

 

 

A Citi Trip

By Helen Silfin

1

This outfit can only mean one thing...

Yes, “Welcome to Citi Field" where the baseball cards are large but the numbers on the back of them are not.

Of course, I'm here well before the game starts so there's plenty of time to visit Shea Bridge.

4

5

*stuffs entire burger in my face before the game starts*

Occasionally the Mets hit home runs. Here are one of those instances.

7

Time to go exploring again! Pictured here is an ancient artifact the Mets recovered from the ruins of “Shea Stadium.

8

Wow I found cookie dough! After all, you come to Citi Field for the food, not the baseball. 

9

Okay, maybe you also come for the views?

10

Making it through an entire Mets game is an accomplishment, right? Goodnight Citi Field.

11

 

 

A Beautiful Day At The Ballpark

By: RoseAnn Sapia 

Have you ever watched a game on TV and said, ‘wow that ballpark is gorgeous’? I’ve done that many times. My goal is to visit all 30 MLB ballparks. Even though I’ve only made a small dent in that, I may have already found my favorite ballpark.

The last two years, Little League games have brought me to Pittsburgh. That stadium looks beautiful on TV, so I knew we’d have to make a stop at PNC Park. As fate would have it, the Pirates weren’t playing at home during either of my trips. However, due to “Picklesburgh”, the Right Field Gate was open so that people were able to walk along the ballpark. 

The following are some of my favorite sights from the ballpark. It was even more picturesque than I expected. 

When you drive down towards the water, you’re greeted with an amazing sight. A larger than life statue of Bill Mazeroski overlooking the Allegheny.

Descending the steps towards the water, you’re greeted by an amazing view of the Pittsburgh skyline and breathtaking yellow steel bridges. 

The sights everywhere are gorgeous. If you’re visiting at the right time, you can turn around to get a glimpse of the Mazeroski statue in the sunset.

Walk along the outfield fences, and you’ll hit the bullpen. You’ll get a gated view of the outfield, but also come to one of the hidden treasures of the ballpark: Ralph Kiner’s hands. 

You’ll then come to my favorite part about this ballpark, the Roberto Clemente Bridge with a statue of Roberto himself located right by the Center Field Gate. 

I still haven't attended a game at PNC, but these sights alone make me want to return. 

1-Bill Mazeroski 2-Bridge 3-Mazeroski Sunset 4-Kiner's Hands 5-Bridge 2


6-Clemente Statue