Baseball

Sheryl Ring's Baseball Talk: Lance Berkman's Transphobic Beliefs Forgotten with "Good Guy" Label

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One of my favorite parts of the offseason is baseball Hall of Fame voting. There are the player profiles, like these from Jay Jaffe, that remind you of the great players of just a few years ago. There are the hot takes – so many hot takes – about who should be in and who shouldn’t. And if you’re at all like me, there’s the endless refreshing of Ryan Thibodeaux’s Hall of Fame ballot tracker, watching childhood favorites like Mike Mussina and Edgar Martinez grow closer and closer to induction.

But as I watched this past year’s Hall of Fame debate, I was struck by something. Each cycle, we discuss the meaning of the character and integrity clause on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.

We talk about it, most often, in the context of performance enhancing drugs, when we debate the eligibility of players like Barry Bonds. For the first time this cycle, we started talking about the need to consider character and integrity to the context of the #MeToo movement, with players like Roger Clemens, who groomed Mindy McCready for a sexual relationship beginning when she was fifteen years old, and Andruw Jones, who threatened to choke his wife to death – and actually tried. We talked about the character and integrity clause when it comes to players like Curt Schilling, who has compared Muslims to Nazis and called for the lynching of journalists. But however you fall on the question of how to treat this sort of behavior in the context of the character and integrity clause, we at least talked about it. We started a conversation.

Not so with Lance Berkman.

Lance Berkman is one of the sport’s good guys. Or, at least, he’s supposed to be. Bleacher Report talked about how scandal-free he was when writing up his candidacy. Bloggers talked about how underrated he was as a player.

https://twitter.com/brianmctaggart/status/1084920071267512320?s=20

No one talked about the character and integrity clause when it came to Berkman. No one even mentioned it. I couldn’t find a single article from a major publication about whether Berkman satisfies the character and integrity clause.

Jay Jaffe, my colleague at Fangraphs who did his usual admirable job of presenting other candidates’ more egregious behavior, didn’t mention it. And why would they? Berkman’s one of the good guys, right?

Good guys don’t go on television to call trans women “troubled men.”

https://youtu.be/Gdqfv9aGbgM

Yes, that is Lance Berkman in a 2015 major market political campaign ad opposing the rights of trans women to use women’s bathrooms. That’s him introducing himself by invoking his baseball bona fides. And yes, that is former Hall of Fame candidate Lance Berkman saying that trans women are nothing more than “troubled men.” You see, Houston, Texas had a proposed ordinance that would protect trans women from discrimination, particularly in bathrooms. And Berkman became heavily involved in opposing it. Not only that, though: Berkman didn’t just oppose the ordinance, he actively trumpeted the invalidity of trans people, particularly trans women.

"My wife and I have four daughters. Proposition 1 would allow troubled men who claim to be women to enter women’s bathrooms, showers, and locker rooms," said Lance Berkman.

And because that wasn’t enough, Berkman made a second video explaining his reasoning for doing the ad. This video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o3oSDzZxdyg&feature=youtu.be

And in that second video, “good guy” Lance Berkman, he who was so above reproach that the character and integrity clause was considered a mere formality in his Hall of Fame case, said this:

Who knows what the intent of that person might be. They truly might think they're a woman, which is a little strange to me. But they could be a child predator. They could be somebody that's in there who likes to look at women and just claims to be a woman. ... If we're going to go down to the zoo, I just want to be able to live life without having to have an extra thing to worry about when it comes to protecting my family. ... It's crazy. It makes me want to say... 'wake up, America!' And that's what I want to scream at people because, what are we doing here? We have the potential for men going into a woman's bathroom. The very few people that this could be slanted as discriminating against, is it worth putting the majority of our population at risk... to appease a very small minority of the population? I don't think so. I think it's crazy, and it's unbelievable that we're even talking about this. ... We have to try to rise up against this threat, and the only way we can do that is go and vote 'No' against Proposition 1.

Amazingly, Berkman wasn’t done yet. Those videos were turned into radio ads that blanketed the Houston metro area. Unsurprisingly given Berkman’s stature, the proposed ordinance went down in defeat. Berkman went on KTRH 740 AM to talk about how he was the victim of “digital persecution,” and that “I felt that I had an obligation to stand for what is right.” And then came this:

"To me tolerance is the virtue that’s killing this country. We’re tolerant of everything. You know, everything is okay, and as long as you want to do it and as long as it feels good to you then it’s perfectly acceptable do it. Those are the kinds of things that lead you down a slippery slope, and you’ll get in trouble in a hurry," said Berkman

And still, after months of being the face of a political campaign that successfully demonized an entire already-oppressed community, Berkman still wasn’t done. He then gave an interview to Craig Calcaterra, doubling down yet again on his hatred of the trans community.

"It’s not an easy topic. You’re taking their word for it, saying that’s the way they’re born," Berkman explained. "The issue is, what to do about a 15 or 16-year-old boy who thinks he’s a girl and wants to shower with the girls? Maybe he is [transgender], maybe he’s confused. But I wouldn’t want him in the shower with my daughters. We shouldn’t have the rights of 2% of the population trump the rights of the other 98%. Is it a mental choice? I don’t know. But it’s a Pandora’s Box."

So in the span of four months, Lance Berkman said trans women were “troubled men,” accused the entire community of being predators, said tolerance was killing the United States, implied trans people are lying about their gender, called being trans a “mental choice,” and said that trans people aren’t entitled to legal protections because we’re so small a population.

This was just four years ago. And yet, despite how high-profile that campaign was, despite the fact that Berkman’s campaign ads are still up on Youtube . . . the entire affair was completely forgotten. The Cardinals even honored Berkman for his faith on “Christian Day” in 2017, despite protests from the queer community. Since then, in mainstream media and culture, Berkman’s rols as the face of a movement inciting hate and violence towards an entire marginalized community was completely ignored and forgotten.

But that matters. Or, at least, it should matter. In an era where we rightly talk about whether or not statutory rape and domestic violence should keep someone out of the Hall of Fame, trans rights are not less important. Nor is this issue mooted by the fact that Berkman didn’t get in anyway. Berkman didn’t get into the Hall of Fame because of a crowded ballot, not because of his comments on trans people. In fact, those comments were completely ignored at best, and celebrated at worst. If Berkman had been elected, no one would have batted an eye.

You can follow Sheryl on Twitter @Ring_Sheryl


Lexington Legends Emma Tiedemann And The Play by Play of A Broadcasting Life

By RoseAnn Sapia

 

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It was a championship clinching game and Emma Tiedemann was in the booth.

It’s the thing dreams are made of, and Tiedemann got to experience it in her first season with the Lexington Legends.

“I was freaking out internally, but more calm on the broadcast”, says Tiedemann remembering that surreal moment when the Legends recorded the final out.  

The winning run was in scoring position at second base, and the infield convened for a meeting at the pitcher's mound. One more out to seal the second Championship in franchise history in the season which the team made history.

“It was an incredible series with drama; a back and forth with the BlueClaws.”

The final call: “...left side. Picked up by Diaz. Tags third base. LEGENDS HAVE DONE IT!" 

 

2019 SAL Championship Call

 

***

The 2018 season garnered a lot of attention for the Lexington Legends, the Single-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals, with plenty of buzz before the season began. The team named Emma Tiedemann new Director of Broadcast and Media Relations in early March, making her only the second female play-by-play broadcaster in Minor League Baseball history, and the first in the South Atlantic League. This season, she’ll be one of six women in the booth in the minor leagues.

With a change in personnel, Tiedemann is entering 2019 with a renewed focus. “We have a lot of arms this year in Lex. As a broadcaster, I’ll be focusing more on pitches, grips, and arm slots”, says Tiedemann.

The Mizzou alum will have the opportunity to focus more on the technical side of the game this season. Since she’s alone in the booth, she won’t have someone to bounce off of like a former pitcher who would have a lot of knowledge from pitching experience. Because of that, Tiedemann is ready to expand as a broadcaster. 

Although just her second year in Lexington, Tiedemann has been calling games since high school. Her journey started when her grandfather, Bill Mercer, invited her to assist him on the call of a women’s basketball game for the University of Texas at Dallas. She was just 15 years old.

“I knew I wanted to do play-by-play since 2010, but thought I’d want a network or college or university”, recounts Tiedemann who’s niche really surfaced when she took a broadcasting gig with the Mat-Su Miners of the Alaska Baseball League, a summer league for college players.

Tiedemann served as play-by-play and color analyst for the Miners in 2014. “Once I was in Alaska and got to work day-in and day-out at the ballpark, I fell in love with it”, she says.

Her broadcasting career led her to several teams in several leagues, allowing her to gain experience at varying levels. She spent two years as the Broadcast and Communications Manager for the Medford Rogues of the Summer Collegiate League, and one as the number-two broadcaster with the St. Paul Saints of the independent American Association, all leading up to her current role with the Lexington Legends, the Class-A affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. 

There’s something special about each of these leagues, and Tiedemann got an up-close look at what makes each unique. The game may stay the same, but the men who play it are quite different.

“I spent my first three years in Summer Collegiate League which was college guys trying to make that transition from aluminum to wooden bats”, Tiedemann shares. “There’s coaches from different backgrounds with different attitudes, and all the players have that sparkle in their eye hoping for that standout season”, she continues, mentioning that the guys playing in the Collegiate League are the ones hoping to draw interest from MLB scouts.

Then there's the Independent League, the fringey sibling of the minor leagues, who's gaining importance to MLB. “A lot of guys finishing their careers that want to play the game they love, and some that hope to get a call to the Bigs”, Tiedemann says. The men playing Independent League baseball are filled with passion for the game, and that had a huge impact on Tiedemann’s perspective.

According to Tiedemann, the Saints had one of the best office cultures. “Their slogan was ‘Fun is Good’ and I’ve carried that with me”, she shares, “That’s how I approach my work”. She took that attitude with her when she joined the Legends last season.

Now entering her second year in Minor League Baseball, Tiedemann has enjoyed the opportunity to get creative and have fun in the booth, noting that if she “botches” a play, she’s able to laugh it off and make a joke while on the call. “I apologize and tell them what happened, but I’m more relaxed and okay with things going wrong”, she says.

One of the unique parts about working with a Minor League club is that Major League teams are always watching. “The Royals and the visiting clubs are all paying attention to you”, Tiedemann remarks, adding that it’s important to remain professional as a broadcaster while having fun.

Although there are differences between the Collegiate, Independent, and Minor Leagues, there is one thing that has remained a constant during Tiedemann’s tenure with each. “I’ve actually called a Championship Series in my first year with every team”, she shares. However, she was on the losing end of each series until last season when the Legends won it all.

“I had former bosses reaching out, they were jealous”, Tiedemann says, then laughs, “Karma’s gonna get me and this’ll be my only Championship”.

 

***

A lot of work goes into being the Director of Broadcast and Media Relations for the Lexington Legends. The job doesn’t end with being the voice of the team.

Along with calling every home game, Tiedemann is in charge of writing press releases, game notes, and stat packs. She’s responsible for tracking and documenting roster moves, and oversees the happenings in the Press Box and AV Room. The team of 10-15 people she manages includes everyone from the PA Announcer to those working the cameras, and the in-stadium DJ.

“I absolutely love it, it’s a dream job”, gushed Tiedemann. “It’s long hours, but I can’t wait to go back every day.”

Since there’s always so much to do in her role, her job doesn’t end when she leaves the ballpark. To put it into perspective, Tiedemann shares that her play-by-play prep is done after hours.

“I take each player from every team and do a Google search looking for stats and streaks, and then I go to Google News”, says Tiedemann, “I do five to seven hours of research for every team”. She then puts all the information she collects into a binder she created that has a page dedicated to every player. She goes back to the binder each time a player does something notable to ensure her notes are up to date.

This is all done in an effort to “paint pictures more than numbers”. Tiedemann considers her style of broadcast to be more human than others, and she clearly puts a lot of work into making sure she accomplishes just that.

 

***

 

There are bus rides, and they are long.

“Travel took a lot of getting used to”, Tiedemann admits, when thinking of the way she’s managed traveling throughout her career. In the leagues she’s worked, bus trips at random times of the day and night become part of the lifestyle. However, the ten-year broadcasting vet does have a system to help navigate traveling.

When traveling through the night, Tiedemann makes sure to be actively preparing during the day. When traveling during the day, she turns to Netflix. “I have watched more True Crime Docs than anything," she says humorously. 

But every long trip does come to an end, which gives her something to look forward to. She explains that you're either at a new destination or finally back home, but says that one just gets used to that hectic pace.

“I didn’t really have an off day”, Tiedemann shares about her schedule this past season. In that rare occasion when she does have a day to herself, however, she likes to spend it relaxing.

“I try to catch up on sleep, but that internal clock goes off”, she says, adding that more than anything, she stays away from social media and her phone, and gets outside whenever she has free time. “Grab a cool beverage and find a nice pool and sit outside” is how she describes her ideal day off.

When the season ends, her schedule quickly goes from about six months of nonstop baseball to no baseball at all. That’s when she becomes a lot like the players she's watching all season. Winter jobs are necessary. 

“I have a lot of random jobs during the off-season."

She spent a lot of this past off-season driving around Lexington, Kentucky as an Amazon Delivery Driver and Lyft Driver. Both jobs helped her pay rent, and allowed her to meet the people of Lexington. Driving jobs functioned as a way for her to further immerse herself into the community, creating a deeper connection with her neighbors outside of the ballpark.

Her non-baseball work didn’t end there. In October, she was named the play-by-play voice of Morehead State University’s women’s basketball team, becoming the first woman to hold the position in university history.  

This gig allowed Tiedemann to get back to her roots of calling basketball games, just as she had done back in high school. She got to travel with the team, in what she described as a dream set-up.

“It was the best off-season I could’ve asked for.”

 

***

Rain is falling at Whitaker Bank Ballpark. The tarp has to come onto the field. In the booth, Emma Tiedemann sends her listeners to break, then sprints down to the field to help with the tarp pull. A daunting task that she's game for.

Once the tarp is on the field, she heads back up to the Press Box. She recalls all the rain delays from last season that she spent watching the AV team try to keep the fans entertained. She remembers one particular instance when the On-Field Host brought all the kids out for a rain delay dance party.

Rain delays are when she can really take it all in. She might not be on the field dancing, but she's living out a life she loves. And, in the process, has established a place in the baseball history books. 

 

Follow Emma on Twitter @emmatieds.

 

RoseAnn Sapia is a Features Writer and the Co-Editor of Lifer for All Heels on Deck. She's an East Coast girl. Follow RoseAnn on Twitter to discuss all things baseball (basketball, too) @_RoseAnnSapia.


Anthony Giansanti Talks Indy Ball & the Gift of the MLB Rules Experiment

By Jessica Quiroli

With additional reporting by RoseAnn Sapia 

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In 2018, INF/OF Anthony Giansanti confidently finished the season hitting .295/.357/.456, with 58 runs batted in, and hoped an affiliated team noticed. In the Atlantic League, where you're hoping to get somewhere else, somewhere better soon, players are working to earn those chances, even a look, that might lead to a chance. 

Giansanti's team, the Sugarland Skeeters are popular with locals; they ranked 3rd in attendance overall in 2018 with 328, 491. 

Good team, good league, but Giansanti thought his own 2018 finish would perhaps lead to a bigger opportunity. 

"I will be honest, I was pretty bummed I didn’t get signed after the season I had last year," he said last week. "Instead of feeling sorry for myself, I decided to get back to work and strap it on for another year in Indy ball."

Once he came to terms with the news, he moved forward. He knew he had a job and he was going to continue to make the most of the (key word) opportunity. Major league scouts now routinely scour the indy leagues looking for untapped talent or guys that were released, as Gisananti was in 2016 by the Chicago Cubs who signed him as a non drafted free agent in 2010, and that's been the glimmer of light for guys playing on the outskirts, completely out of affiliated baseball. But it was another year, and he knew where he was headed. Back to play it out, play it hard, maybe get that look.

Then something happened. 

In early March, the MLBPAA announced that they were partnering with the Atlantic League to experiment with rules that MLB is considering implementing in the future. Among the rules they're trying out, are no mound visits by players or coaches other than for pitching changes or medical issues, increasing the size of 1st, 2nd and 3rd base from 15 inches square to 18 inches square, and home plate umpire assisted in calling balls and strikes by a TrackMan radar tracking system. 

"I get this news which might not seem like it is a “break” for us Indy ballers," he said. "One of our few and far between breaks."

The "break" was an intriguing announcement, inspiring debate on Twitter. Ok, so the AL will be a guinea pig. That's undeniable. The league will act as a testing ground, with teams serving a purpose to Major League Baseball. Maybe that sounds crass, and it certainly will impact players. But Giansanti is adding that factor to an already devotedly disciplined routine, one that he's not giving up on after spending five years in the minors before signing with Sugarland. 

He spends many hours in the gym, and in the batting cage; he's on the phone and writing emails to scouts, friends, keeping his ears open for a shot at something more. To his better senses, this experiment serves him as well. 

"At this point what’s the difference? Anything to get out. It’s like being in prison and you’re given an escape root but you have to flee to west instead of east," he said, then laughed. 

He's not necessarily excited about the actual rules. No, his response isn't about cherry picking what to like about his current situation. His strong reaction is about being focused on how he can make this all work for him.

" I’m talking about it from the point of view of my situation and my fellow Indy ballers who are upset about it," he said. "And people who have no idea what it’s like to be on the outside looking in while [playing here.]"

Perspective, he says, is tainted; they can "fight the man," but, ultimately, "the man" is actually getting is getting players exposure to who they need to be exposed to. That's the point. That's what they're playing for. And so, he looks forward. East, if you will. 

"Now I get to be tracked by a track Man, mlb teams in every single game at every single stadium. I’m game."

To quote a folk hero from the Old West, Wild Bill Hickok said:

"It's a free for all, and I heard it said, Stakes are high and so am I, It's in the air tonight."

You can follow Anthony on Twitter @GianSanity


Talking Shop: John Sickels on the Business of Covering MiLB

Talking Shop: Minor League Life

By Jessica Quiroli

Look for this series to be featured throughout the season! We'll talk to someone in the minor leagues about the business and media, and how those worlds intersect and impact one another.

I'm happy to present the first installment with my longtime colleague and a pioneer in the business of covering MiLB, John Sickels. Now with The Athletic for the 2019 season, Sickels was the mind behind Minor League Ball on SB Nation, where I worked with him covering the minor leagues a few years ago. We talked recently about that website, what interests him most about covering the bus leagues and how the business of minor league baseball coverage has evolved.--JQ

 

JQ: When you started out covering MiLB, what were fans especially interested in? Because they're so savvy now, how has their interest shifted?
 
I started doing prospect stuff with Bill James in 1993 then transitioned to the internet in 1996 with ESPN.com. That was 23 years ago and the internet was just getting started, so in that way I was a pioneer.
 
At the time the main prospect interest came from fantasy players looking for a future edge. That is still true today, although the amount of information available today is far greater and so are the expectations. Back then a Top 50 prospect list was the gold standard. Nowadays you have Top 100 or 200 or 500 lists and information available on high school and international players who are years away from the majors.  
 
While fantasy players are still the main core of the audience, there has been increased interest from general baseball fans and specific followers of the minors.
 
JQ: When I started my own MiLB blog, Heels on the Field, in 2008, I felt unsure anyone would care about something entirely focused on the minor leagues. We're you skeptical when you began Minor League Ball? How quickly did the idea connect?
 
By the time I started Minor League Ball with SB Nation/Vox in 2005, I was fairly confident there would be enough interest to sustain daily blogging as opposed to occasional articles.
 
That was a success and although Vox pulled the plug at the end of 2018 for their own reasons, we ran for 13 years, an eternity in internet time. Our traffic grew every year and I’m proud of what we accomplished.
 
JQ: Do you think upstarts covering that specific aspect of baseball have a shot at connecting, or are bigger sites monopolizing the market?
 
I think we are in a consolidation process right now. Digital media continues to grow in terms of traffic but companies are still trying to figure out how to monetize it.
 
The pure advertising model used by Vox for example doesn’t seem to provide enough revenue, at least if you want to actually pay writers, and we are seeing more companies switch to a subscriber model.
 
My guess is that this trend will continue. Upstarts are going to have a rough time of it in the short run, but quality material will find an audience one way or another, eventually. It can take time though.
 
 
JQ: With so many people jumping to cover MiLB now, and getting more attention because of social media power, what motivates your focus? Why do you still love this?
 
I still love baseball but if I am completely honest, I was burned out on blogging after 13 years. I’m trying to make a living of course….I have a family to support and my wife and children are my main focus. The work supports them, not the other way around. That said, I have been very fortunate to be in the right place at the right time.
 
JQ: When we worked together at Minor League Ball, we often talked about the kinds of stories readers we're interested in. What pulls you in as a writer?  Do you think readers have the same interest as you do?
 
I have always been more interested in the underdog type prospects, the 10th round or 20th round or non-drafted free agents who work their way to the majors without big hype.
 
For fantasy owners these guys have value, but on a personal, human level they hold more interest for me than the well-known bonus babies. Those types of stories pull me in, players overcoming obstacles and exceeding expectations.
 
JQ: How do you think the business of covering MiLB will evolve in the next few years?
 
I think we will see an increasing focus on players as people. The recent attention paid to poor minor league salaries is an example of that. How the business will evolve as a business is hard to say given the consolidation in digital media mentioned earlier.
 
JQ: Finally, what do you hope to do going forward covering MiLB? What excites you?
 
I will be doing a weekly prospect column for The Athletic in 2019 but it is not a full-time gig. I own the rights to the name Minor League Ball but as I noted above, I am burned out on daily blogging and am still uncertain on what I want to do in the baseball world.
 
Follow John on Twitter @MinorLeagueBall
 

Postcards from the Minor Leagues: Padres Todd Van Steensel

Postcards from the Minor Leagues

This is the first installment in a four-part series this baseball season. Todd Van Steensel will check in with blog posts on his experiences in the San Diego Padres organization, giving us a front row view of MiLB life. Look for added features such as photos and special Q&A's with every installment.-- Jessica Quiroli, AHOD Editor

 

Greetings from Spring Training with the San Diego Padres!

 

How did I wind up here, so far from home in Australia? 

 

Let us start when I was part of the Minnesota Twins organisation. An organisation I had been part of for six seasons. But just over a month after appearing in the Southern League All-Star Game, and spending two weeks on the injured list, I was told that there was no longer a spot for me within the Minnesota Twins and I was handed my release. Although I was disappointed and had to say goodbye to some close friends that became like family, I was excited at what the future would hold and looking towards a fresh start somewhere else. 

 

A few teams came calling over the next few days, affiliated and independent league teams, but nothing really worked out. I decided to begin my off-season early and prepare to play for my hometown team in the Australian Baseball League. Heading into the ABL season there was a lot of excitement for me. For the first time in six years I’d be part of my first opening day roster and able to play a full season, our team was under new ownership by one of the most passionate baseball people I’ve met, and two new teams were joining the league. But the thing I was most looking forward to was showing teams what I was capable of doing on the field and try and secure a contract in the USA for the 2019 season. 

 

Week one of the season came along mid November and we were facing newcomers, Geelong-Korea. A team comprised completely of Korean players from the Korean minor league or former KBO players, but they were based in a town in Australia. I pitched twice that weekend and was able to get video footage and scouting reports from that weekend. I passed it all onto my agent, who quickly shared it to any MLB team he had contacts with.

 

Within a week of him sending out all that information, the Padres came calling, offered me a contract and I had signed. It was a sense of relief, to know I still have a spot in baseball, and someone saw value in me. 

 

The ABL season came to an early end for my team, the Sydney Blue Sox, as we were knocked out in the semi finals. I didn’t have too much time to be upset and dwell on it, because in a few weeks time I was going to fly to the US for spring training. That isn’t without a little scare at first whether I’d make my flight or not! 

 

As an international working in the US, I need a visa and, well, the visa process isn’t fun at all! I applied for my visa on January 10th, and had a flight booked for February 21st. You would think I gave myself plenty of time to have it approved and sent back to me. But, after sending countless emails, and one tweet, which received an immediate response, my visa was back in my hands on February 18th! In years past I would send my completed papers to the Consulate and have it sent back to me within ten days but the last two years it’s been a real struggle. Last year I actually missed my first flight to Spring Training because I hadn’t received it back yet! Nonetheless, I got my visa back and made my flight! 

 

And this is where I am today. Currently in Peoria enjoying my first spring training in Arizona and my ninth spring training overall. No matter how many years I do this, no matter how monotonous it gets or how many bullpens, drills, games, bus rides and meetings we go through, it’s still a special feeling being in spring training preparing for another Opening Day. 

 

You can follow Todd on Twitter @toddvs35

https://www.baseball-reference.com/register/player.fcgi?id=vanste001tod


Todd Van Steensel’s Decade-Long, Two Continent Experience In Professional Baseball Continues With Padres

By: RoseAnn Sapia

Upon returning home to Australia to pitch in the Australian Baseball League in 2018, Todd Van Steensel generated big league interest after just one game. 

His agent sent reports and videos from his first outing to major league clubs, and the Padres came calling.

“It actually happened really fast once my offseason began”, says Van Steensel, who announced on Twitter in late November that he’d signed with the Padres organization for the 2019 season. 

One might think a pitcher garnering this type of attention after only one game abroad wouldn’t have difficulty finding a spot in professional baseball, but this was after a “whirlwind” of a season, after Van Steensel played for two different teams, in two different hemispheres.

For the last five seasons, he pitched in the Twins organization, most recently with Double-A Chattanooga Lookouts. He was released in early August of last year, despite a successful tenure with the team. A three-time All-Star and two time Double-A champion while with the club, Van Steensel’s sudden release was as a shock.

“It was definitely a roller coaster”, Van Steensel recalls, “I went from pitching in a Double-A All-Star Game to being out of the job in the space of six weeks.” 

During a stretch of games when he didn’t have his best stuff, the Lookouts acquired lefty pitcher David Smelzer in August, and RHP Jorge Alcala earlier that summer. Both were assigned to Chattanooga, and essentially forced him out of a roster spot. Immediately after being informed of his release, he began looking for a place to play to fini. Immediately after being informed of his release, he began looking for a place to play to finish out what was left of the season. That would prove difficult.

After an affiliated job fell though because of concerns about medical issues (Van Steensel didn’t disclose details), a few opportunities to play independent ball arose. However, the 28-year old decided it was best to return to Australia, beginning his “off” season by preparing to play back home.

Not even a month after the Twins released him, the ABL Sydney Blue Sox announced that they’d signed Van Steensel for their 2018 season that was set to begin on November 15. Because he was released and had to begin his search for a new team, he got the opportunity to pitch a full season for Sydney. “That was something I hadn’t done in years”, he reflects.

There’s something “refreshing,” he says, about playing in the ABL after years in the minor leagues. The atmosphere is a bit different than American pro baseball, despite the fun, looseness of a minor league game.

“One thing that American imports tell me about the ABL that they don’t see very often in MiLB is how much passion goes into each game”, Van Steensel shares.

There’s a sense of selflessness around the ABL; a “team first” mentality that can get lose in MiLB, when guys are fighting to the top of a very long totem pole, national rankings, and money invested into top guys. MiLB is also a learning experience, designed to teach, and develop. 

But for most guys playing in the ABL, that’s their big leagues. They’re not as worried about personal stats or success, and getting to the next level. Most of the time, there is no next level. 

“Guys aren’t out there for money, they’re out there because they want to win”, said Van Steensel, “They work during the week at their 9-5 job, then from Thursday to Sunday they become fan favorites when they put on a Blue Sox uniform”.

There’s an added bonus that makes the experience more meaningful.

“There’s something special about playing in your home town, with your home town team’s name across your chest, with friends and family in the crowd each week”, he said, “It really gives you that extra motivation to do well.”

The Blue Sox high attendance might’ve helped as well. The stands were full throughout the season, with the team pulling 906 paying customers per night (3rd in league), and finished the season 3rd overall in attendance, with 17, 212.

“Sometimes I would just stand in the dugout and look at a full stadium wondering how this happened”, reflects Van Steensel. This wasn’t always the way things were at Blue Sox Stadium. A few seasons ago, the team struggled to draw fans to the ballpark. There wasn’t a “home field advantage”. 

The Sydney Blue Sox clinched their first playoff berth since 2015, but lost in the Semi-Finals to the Perth Heat. Van Steensel is proud of the efforts of new team owner Adam Dobb, who bought the club in 2018.

“Full credit to the new ownership, without [Dobb], and the new team it wouldn’t have been possible”, Van Steensel says about the atmosphere at the ballpark. 

 

In Reflection

Van Steensel’s professional baseball career began in 2008. He had just finished pitching in the U18s National Championship Game when his parents agreed to a deal with the Philadelphia Phillies organization, and was assigned to the Single-A Gulf Coast League team for the 2009 season.

That stint was short lived, as the team decided to release him in 2010.

He headed back to Australia, in order to attend the MLB Australian Academy on the Gold Coast. While there, he caught the attention of the Minnesota Twins organization, and got his second chance; after signing with the team, he joined the Appalachian League Elizabethton Twins. 

After 2011, he was again released, and again returned home to play with the Sydney Blue Sox. He would not return to America to play professionally again until 2014. The Twins organization that took interest yet again, and that was where he would stay until this past August. 

 

Going Forward

 

The pursuit of chasing a career in professional baseball isn’t for the faint of heart. There are countless stories about minor league life, and how challenging the professional baseball pursuit is. Van Steensel remains focused.

“It really comes down to how bad you want something”, he said.“It’s definitely tough when one day you’re a professional baseball player and the next day you’re out of the job, but you just need to back yourself. I would love to be a Major League Baseball player, this is why I do this, but when it’s all said and done the most important thing I want to be able to tell myself is that I chased my dream as far as the universe would allow me.” 

The grind of pursuing this dream goes far beyond the outfield fences of the ballpark. As players increasingly join social media to document their MiLB experiences, we’re getting a wider shot of what those dream chasers are enduring. 

“The average fan doesn’t know what it’s like, and when they hear about a few things it really opens their eyes that Minor League Baseball life is a grind”, he said.

Before players like Van Steensel began explicitly discussing the topic, one of the biggest misconceptions about minor league life was that players got paid a big-league salary. Not true, of course, as most players in the minors often have to live from paycheck to paycheck, in cramped quarters with other teammates. Many depend on host families for a season home, as well as meals.

Van Steensel’s Twitter feed is peppered with facts about minor league life: three guys sharing a one bedroom-one bathroom apartment is commonplace, with rent expenses almost cancelling out income received on payday even with those conditions.   

He hopes to bring attention to the situation, saying that it’s important for minor leaguers to be heard. Even still, almost all of his ‘MiLB Life’ tweets are accompanied with the hashtag “#AllPartOfIt”.

“We all know how lucky we are to be able to play baseball for a living, but just because we are living out our dreams doesn’t mean there aren’t certain struggles that go along with it”, asserts Van Steensel. “At the end of the day, we all remind ourselves that we get to play baseball for a living, and all the good and bad things that we endure are all part of it.”

Here's a fun fact: The guy who keeps pursuing a career in the majors (and who just won ABL Reliever of the Year honors https://twitter.com/sydneybluesox/status/1098828404307091456?s=21), was once a boy who had no idea what baseball was. When Van Steensel was seven-years old, his parents wanted his brother to start playing a summer sport. A friend on his brother’s soccer team invited him to play baseball, so he did. 

Van Steensel’s parents asked if he would be interested in joining the team, too, but he was against it since he wasn’t familiar with the sport. Then, something changed. “I went to my brothers first practice and saw how cool the uniform was, and then I told my parents I wanted to play so I could get the uniform”, recalls Van Steensel

“Even to this day I’m very particular on how my uniform looks,” he admits.

2019 begins with preparation to join the San Diego Padres later this month. That is, if his visa gets back to him in time. “The visa process has become a real struggle the last two years”, he said. He’s been waiting since January 10th to receive his visa confirmation.  

Prior to last season, Van Steensel had been approved of four visas in nine years without any hassle. What used to be no more than a ten-day process has become an inconvenient waiting game. It caused him to miss his first flight to Spring Training last year, but he’s hoping that won’t be the case again this year.

“I have a flight to catch on February 21 to head to Spring Training, so I’m hoping it’s back in my hands soon!”

As soon as that visa is back in his hands, Van Steensel will make his journey overseas to join the Padres. “They offered me a good deal, and it looked like a great opportunity, so it was easy to say yes to them”, he said.

Van Steensel is getting his fourth shot at achieving his dream, and true to his social media form, he’s ready to work, and to connect.

“If you see me around, don’t be afraid to say hi!” 

Maybe tell him how great his uniform looks?

 


Dodgers After Dark: The Sexual Assaults MLB Never Investigated, A Team's Culture Unexamined

A girl, seventeen, was running.

She was bouncing around from place to place, at one point residing in a group home that helped troubled girls, including those who were vulnerable to sex trafficking.

She was vulnerable, as runaways are, to being taken advantage of and endangered. She was one of the 75% of runaways who are female. And, as runaways often do, she found support where she could. Maybe on that February night in Glendale, Arizona, a city nine miles outside of Phoenix, she felt safe when she agreed to hang out with two women, who were a few years older than her, whom she’d met through social media. Panoramic-view-during-baseball-game

Maybe the prospect of hanging out with Los Angeles Dodgers players, in town for Spring Training, sounded like fun. What she ultimately experienced was a twisted night of physical, verbal and sexual abuse. And, once she made her story known, she was subjected to more trauma.

Dodgers minor league players Alex Verdugo, James Baldwin and Julio Urias, were preparing for the regular season with the Dodgers at Camelback Ranch, the team’s spring training facility. Verdugo and Baldwin partied with the women at a Hampton Inn near the stadium, including the one who was underage. Nick Francona, then assistant of player development for the Dodgers, said Urias was present earlier, but wasn’t included in discussions about the incident.

“Urias was apparently with the group at some point during the evening, but people went to great lengths from the onset to avoid having his name involved at all and didn’t even want to ask him any questions about it,” Francona explained.

 Per the police report, as the night went on, the girl became violently ill and vomited on a bed. And, as has been widely reported, the other two girls began beating her up. Here is a detailed description  of the beating Verdugo and Baldwin witnessed, per the official police report:

"*Kayla (not her real name), began yelling at her, pushing her head into the bed and throwing water on her, *Sarah (not her real name), then threw her to the ground in an attempt to physically remove her from the room. She then informed me (the reporting officer) that *Marilyn (not her real name) and *Kayla began punching and kicking her repeatedly in the face and body until she exited the hotel room."

Verdugo and Baldwiln did nothing to stop the assault and were apparently so entertained by the violence happening to this defenseless girl, that either Verdugo, Baldwin, or both of them, posted the video to social media. When she left the hotel room, the girls she considered friends whom she was safe with, nor Verdugo or Baldwin, knew if she needed medial care. She'd been traumatized, so she clearly needed help after such a violent attack. But no one followed her to make sure she was ok. 

The girl called a friend nearby to pick her up. There was more she was holding back. She later explained that something far worse had happened to her. A case manager with the Arizona Department of Safety contacted law enforcement. During an interview with the police, the girl said that one of the players in the hotel room had sexually assaulted her. Baldwin was investigated by the Glendale Police Department for the assault.

The girl explained that she’d been drinking a lot, and felt ill, so she rested on one of the beds. Baldwin approached her and began fondling her breasts, then put his hand under her underwear, fondling her clitoris.  This wasn’t consensual, she told them. She was passing out during the act. He gave up trying when the rest of the group re-entered the room, perhaps, she said, out of frustration.

After she was assaulted and thrown out of the room, after she found someone to pick her up, she confided in her grandmother about the assault. Her grandmother contacted Gabe Kapler, then Dodgers director of player development. They discussed the attack via email. Kapler intimated that he’d handle the situation, and do his best to be of assistance. He expressed concern, and encouraged her to contact him if she had further questions. According to Kapler's public statements, he had no knowledge of the sexual assault at that point.

There were photos on record of her physical assault. Her eye was bruised, her face swollen. As for the sexual assault, when she was asked to press charges, she declined, saying it wouldn't help her situation.

In August of that same year, Major League Baseball implemented a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault Policy. The policy states that, “The Commissioner’s Office will investigate all allegations of domestic violence, sexual assault and child abuse involving members of the baseball community.”

[This story has been updated to reflect clarification of the Domestic Violence, Sexual Assault and Child Abuse Policy as it pertains to Minor League Baseball. The policy, per Jeff Lantz, Senior Director of Communications for MiLB, was received in August 2015, and was to be distributed to MiLB clubs; MLB clubs then distributed the policy to individual players.]

While the incident migh not fall under the DV portion of the policy, which states that "abuse in any intimate relationship," and includes "physical intimidation," and "injury" as violations, the violence done to her was by her friends. It is an "inimate" violation, as she was among friends, in a social situation. The incident was also filmed, so that either Verdugo and/or Baldwin, failed to help a person being physically abused. 

The second portion covers sexual assault:

"refers to a range of behaviors, including a completed nonconsensual sex act, an attempted nonconsensual sex act, and/or nonconsensual sexual contact."

"...occuring when the victim is asleep, incapacitated, unconscious or legally unable of consent."

The alleged victim specifically states that she was extremely drunk, rendering her incapacitated and unable to provide proper consent to be touched or otherwise sexually engaged. 

The final portion addresses child abuse.

"Any act or failure to act on the part of a parent or caretaker...which results in serious physical or emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation of a child who is under the age of 18."

Investigation of Incidents

A. Process. The procedures set forth in this Policy shall be triggered when the Commissioner's Office learns that a player is alleged to have engaged in a Covered Act. Clubs are required to report any and all allegations of Covered Acts to Major League Baseball's Department of Investigation.

All of what *Sarah reported violated the Policy. The Commisioner failed to act. The entire incident was swept into a dark corner, without explanation. No "due process" occurred. 

And so, a vulnerable girl, without the powerful support of a major league baseball team, kept going. She was easily dismissed, easily discarded. The Dodgers could sweep her into the darkness. No one had to answer for what happened. There was no adherence to a half-baked policy. There were no consequences.

There are details in the email exchanges  between several individuals, including Francona, that reveal no one felt sure what to do about the physical assault (the only thing all personnel was aware of at that point), but everyone expected Kapler to take action.

One conversation, between Kapler and the girl’s grandmother, reads as follows:

GRANDMOTHER: {Granddaughter] has changed her mind because last night one of the girls said the guys and girls involved want to take her to dinner. She feels scared and that she’s being set up for something bad. Now I am feeling scared that she has to look over her shoulder. I really appreciate you trying to help her. Thank you.

KAPLER: I’m copying Nick Francona, our Assistant Director, Player Development.

This dinner is our initiative. We will ensure [HER] safety. We believe we can teach valuable lessons to all involved through this method of follow up. Don’t hesitate to reach out with questions. Thank you.

GRANDMOTHER: Good afternoon Gabe. [HER] boyfriend has kicked her out because of all this, so now she is without a place to live. Is there any way you can help her? She and I appreciate anything you can do to help her. Thank you.

[Kapler then sends an email with this conversation copied and pasted with the word “FYI” to Francona]

 

FRANCONA: Thank you for filling me in. Have you taken action on this?

KAPLER: No. Sleeping on it. I’m having a negative initial reaction.

 

After the Washington Post published a story on the assault and cover-up, Kapler, now manager for the Philadelphia Phillies, issued a statement. He published the full explanation on his lifestyle blog, Kaplifestyle.com,  describing his intentions in arranging the dinner.

“The sole purpose was to provide the opportunity for the victim to receive an apology.”

But in the email, he talks about the incident as being something everyone present in the hotel room needs to learn from. The young girl was essentially being asked to participate in a learning experience for people who hurt her. He said the idea was dropped once the victim declined. Were there questions about her well-being? About her emotional and physical health? The people who’d abused her were given a lot of leeway to make amends, but the victim wasn’t receiving the kind of care one requires after being exposed to violence. Even without awareness of sexual violence, physical harm had occurred, and a player in the organization had delighted in the violence against her, so much so that he thought nothing of sharing it on Snapchat.

Kapler also states that there was a request for money. In that email exchange, there’s no such request. The grandmother asks for help, because that’s what Kapler offered. Maybe that’s semantics, but the characterization that it’s a straight money grab isn’t accurate. That characterization helps shift the story: the victim as suspect. The spotlight shines on the victim’s worthiness, her level of guilt in her own victimization. The sentence “any type of offer,” quoted in Kapler’s statement, does not appear in the emails he shared with Francona. We don’t know if that request was made privately, by the victim or her grandmother, when talking to Kapler. It’s entirely possible that an exchange in which those words were spoken took place by phone, or in another email. In the only reported email to Kapler from the girl, reported by the WP, she writes, “The boys [players] got me drunk, and the girls beat me up. [Your player] videotaped it all.”

She had nothing to gain from reporting the player and pressing charges. She’d been offered an opportunity to confront her attackers, and, to possibly receive an expression of regret for the physical abuse. There was no harm in her asking for more help. That doesn’t erase her victimization.

In the email exchange, according to the grandmother, the women who physically assaulted her granddaughter initiated the dinner request. They suggested some sort of make-up dinner that involved everyone who’d hurt her. Her grandmother communicated that there was fear, on both their parts, that now the girl had to “look over her shoulder.”

The Dodgers didn't immediately know about what transpired that night. Kapler tells Francona, who’s asked if action has been taken, that he’s going to “sleep on it.” There’s also a promise to “ensure her safety.” A promise she had no reason to believe. Because she’d been assaulted, humiliated, abandoned and, after all that, asked to meet with those who’d harmed her. She didn’t know Kapler, and likely didn’t trust him any more than anyone else she met out in the world. Something told her that her safety wasn’t ensured. How Kapler felt he could do that isn’t clear. No matter how good the intention, the approach wasn’t conducive to healing trauma. It’s understandable that Kapler felt the situation was over his head. But while he’s known for an unconventional way of working with players, this was a moment he could’ve possibly benefited from some outside guidance.

He soon notified the Dodgers, and they failed to report the incident to MLB. Verdugo and Baldwin weren’t subjected to an investigation, as promised by MLB policy. And if there was any counseling or discussion, as Kapler suggested, in order to teach players responsibility, or, more to the point, to not assault women, or celebrate their abuse by videotaping a beating, there’s no record of the “teaching” they received.

As police officers tried to track down the girl again to gather additional details, they were given phones in her name. Any one of those numbers could have been current.  There was a duffel bag they were instructed they could pick up. Maybe that would leave clues. There was also the possibility that she’d been in prostitution, or as had been suspected, the victim of sex trafficking. The girl later denied that when police asked.

Her Grandmother didn’t want to rattle her granddaughter by asking her to come home again, or convince her to press charges. She’d seen no point in doing that. Her grandmother wanted something done, but, like so many girls and women, the girl didn’t do anything unusual by refusing to seek justice for herself.

That dinner never happened, of course. She’d been too afraid she was being “set up for something bad.” A thorough investigation by the police led to nothing, and the door to that night was shut.

In February, Verdugo was part of a trade that sent him to the Boston Red Sox, by all accounts his favorite team. Baldwin left baseball, and currently plays football for Golden West College. 

Urias remains a big mystery in the details of that night. Why wasn't he questioned? Why did the Dodgers go to such lengths to protect him? 

In June of 2019, Urias was arrested on suspicion of domestic violence. According to witnesses, he became violent with a woman in a shopping mall parking lot, shoving her to the ground. 

As for that girl, there was only one final footnote. When detectives tried to continue the investigation by contacting her, she shut that down. She didn’t want to talk about it.

 

In February 2015, a maid at The Hampton Inn was doing her daily work. A young man staying there kept harassing her. He wouldn’t give up, despite her protests. The maid later explained this to her manager, after he’d gone too far. She told her manager that after weeks of harassment, he grabbed her from behind. And then again.

The player, Luis Rodriguez, was discussed at length by team personnel who worked in Player Development, including, again, Kapler and Francona.

An exchange via text between Duncan Webb, current director of international player development, and Francona reads as follows:

FRANCONA: Can you get on top of this?

WEBB: Oh yeah. I plan on talking with him tonight. [Field Coordinator] Clayton McCullough and I were just discussing it.

WEBB: We’ll wait to hear from Kap [Kapler], but obviously this is a pretty serious offense.

FRANCONA: Yea, it seems like it.

In a later exchange, the conversation about the woman’s assault is again discussed, after members of player development staff had a meeting after talking to Rodriguez:

FRANCONA: Any initial thoughts on how to handle Rodriguez?

WEBB: Well, we just sat down with him (Clayton, Knapp, Juan, McGrath and me). We have to go to the hotel to get the full story because he denied it. But he was shady about it. I don’t trust him.

FRANCONA: Ok, got it. My take is that if it even remotely resembles the truth, this is very serious and needs to be far more than just a talking to.

WEBB: I totally agree. I don’t want to let it slide and then have the guys think they can get away with this kind of behavior. I’m going to the hotel today to speak in person with them, and we’ll go from there. Either way, great example for the others here.

While the final sentence appears to be sarcasm, Webb and Francona were clearly trying to do some investigating of their own. 

Later, Francona checks in with Roman Barinas, Manager of international player development. He initially doesn’t know what email or incident Francona refers to. Apparently, the story wasn’t making the rounds to the proper people. Once Barinas reads the email explaining what’s happened at the hotel, he swiftly reacts.

BARINAS: Holy F**k

FRANCONA: He should be in jail.

BARINAS: This is a send him home situation.

BARINAS: Especially since it is now documented.

 

In texts between Kapler, Juan Rodriguez and McCullough, Kapler makes a familiar suggestion as they contemplate what to do next.

RODRIGUEZ: Housekeeper confirmed the picture. Purchasing flight for tonight. She leaves her shift at 4:30. I’d like to keep him at cbr until then.

KAPLER: Any thought to asking him if he’d like to apologize before we send him home?

RODRIGUEZ: We can definitely ask. She seemed a bit off and not wanting to talk about it too much.

MCCULLOUGH: Absolutely. Apologizing is the right thing to do.

MCCULLOUGH: At least the hotel manager.

In later emails that have been reported, Kapler said he was “embarrassed” by the situation, in reference to Luis Rodriguez actions. He also, again, sees the possibility to create a teaching moment.

KAPLER: Although this was an isolated incident, it was egregious enough to warrant a conversation with all of our men.

Please ensure that we use this as a teaching and sharpening opportunity for all.

Rodriguez was eventually released, later signing with another MLB team. They too would release Rodriguez after a short stint.

Major League Baseball’s official statement by league officials showed no concern for anything being reported on. “This was handled as an internal matter by the Dodgers and we consider the matter closed.”

The woman did not press charges. And that’s not surprising. Analysis by the Center for American Progress showed that of complaints filed with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission, more than a quarter were from employees in service industries. Women represent the majority of employees in those industries.  There were apparently concerns that the woman was an undocumented immigrant. Perhaps she was of the 24% of undocumented immigrants in this country who work in housekeeping or maid service. Based on conversations, she wasn’t especially willing to talk to a bunch of baseball guys about anything. Whatever her personal reasons, following through might’ve seemed too troublesome. She reported what happened to her supervisor, and that was as far as she went. In the end, she didn't want to talk about it. 

The player flew under the radar. The Dodgers never had to answer for any of it. No one did.

With every email and text, a group of men employed in baseball search for ways to handle incidents of sexual and physical assault. They wrangle with the details, and the proper protocol. They carefully consider each step. They wonder who needs to know, and when, and, once both situations are confronted, at least one person wondered if an apology, as a response to physical and sexual trauma, was appropriate. Each person in every exchange seems to have their own approach, their own moral code and imperative. Kapler, and to a larger degree, the Dodgers, seem to operate by their own philosophy. Kapler kept it about a “learning experience” for the players, but perhaps that was as much as he felt he could do. Once these matters were brought to the attention of the Dodgers, they had a responsibility to report everything to MLB, and, in turn, MLB had a responsibility to uphold an agreement; one that gave a measure of hope to baseball fans, who’d been frustrated and appalled by incidents of violence against women by players, who seemed to get nothing more than a “talking to.”

There were conversations, meetings, calls, concerns, attempts at one botched solution after another. A teenage girl was beaten, and later reported being sexually assaulted at a hotel party. A woman was sexually assaulted in her workplace. Dodgers players were the accused abusers. The Dodgers knew all of these things.

Why has no one ever had to answer for any of it?

The system is broken for sexual assault victims in general. 63% of sexual assaults go unreported to police, per The National Sexual Violence Resource Center.

MLB’s system in confronting violence against women is also broken. Their policy allows for statements such as “we’re handling it internally.” What does that mean? Major League Baseball could have demanded the Dodgers pony up the details. They could’ve insisted on knowing. They violated the terms of their own commitment, one they so proudly announced that August.

A multitude of questions remain unanswered. They’re not answered in Kapler’s thoughtful, but incomplete statement. And they certainly aren’t answered in any of the Dodgers comments on the matter. Worst of all, is MLB's duplicitous actions, willful ignorance, and total disregard for their own contract to do right by victims of violence.

When will Major League Baseball, and the Dodgers, answer for this?

 


Lifer: A Baseball Fan Lifestyle Guide

Lifer Logo

 

Welcome back, Baseball Lifers! And welcome to the ninth edition of Lifer by All Heels on Deck! And Happy New Year 2019! We at All Heels on Deck hope you’ve enjoyed the holidays. We took a brief Winter Break, but your favorite baseball fan lifestyle column is back with yet another fun twist.

 

This week’s edition will feature a brand new segment called “Subscriber's Choice”, and will feature input from AHoD readers and subscribers. Of course, this edition will also feature contributions from our amazing Lifer team!

 

I’ll assume one of the first things everyone does when the schedule is released for the upcoming season, is head right to the promotions for any giveaways you must have, so you can plan your life accordingly. Maybe it’s your favorite player’s bobblehead, or a t-shirt that’s just too clever to miss out on. For Victoria Edel, it’s the New York Mets Spider-Man Bobblehead. This is a promotion you have to read about.

 

They say baseball is a child’s game. You know all the clichés: summer nights under the lights reciting all of those cheers you now hear ringing from your local Little League. Baseball is a happy place; every fan has some memory similar to that. So why not have a promotion that’ll really bring out the kid in you? Helen Silfin takes us on a nostalgic journey through her “bear”-y favorite promotion, one that is sure to bring joy to fans of all ages. Catch this as part of our Lifer subscriber exclusive. 

 

Some promotions bring fans more of a sentimental feeling. It’s always special when a team honors the players that won them a championship, or brings back the Old Timers to play a spirited scrimmage before the game. Promotions like this connect the older generation with the younger generation, and allows for a nice little history lesson for the youngsters. Karen Soutar reflects on her favorite Blue Jays promotion that celebrated a legendary season.

 

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

 

~RoseAnn Sapia

 

 

Spider-Man Bobblehead

By: Victoria Edel

 

The Mets have been very into dorky, pop culture promotions lately, and most of them have not tempted me. They did Noah Syndergaard as Marvel’s Thor twice, the only good one of these. They did Mr. Met as Han Solo with Chewbacca last year, and they’re doing Robinson Cano as Obi Wan Cano-bi this year. Mr. Met should not be Han Solo. Noah Syndergaard is also sitting on the Iron Throne from Game of Thrones in April; I assume a callback to his controversial season seven cameo. None of these have tempted me...until the Mets announced a Spider-Man bobblehead for July 7. I need it.

 

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Let’s go back. Peter Parker is canonically from Queens. The first Spider-Man comic I ever read was about Peter going to Mets games with Uncle Ben (where the Amazins always lost). There’s a Mets poster in Peter’s room in Spider-Man: Homecoming and there’s a Mike Piazza pennant on his wall in the Spider-Man: Far From Home trailer. This is the rare instance of brand synergy that feels extremely genuine and not at all forced (especially when compared to Obi Wan Cano-bi). The Mets are underdogs, Spider-Man is an underdog. The Mets are Queens, Spider-Man is Queens. I’m still just a bit bitter we never got a David Wright as Captain America bobblehead, but I will drag my butt to Citi Field for this Spider-Man one.

 

 

 

My Favorite Bobblehead

By: Karen Soutar

 

2018 marked 25 years since the Toronto Blue Jays 1993 World Series Championship.  To commemorate the anniversary, the Jays gave out a triple bobblehead of John Olerud, Paul Molitor and Roberto Alomar to the first 20,000 fans in attendance at the game on August 9th.

 

Screen Shot 2019-01-21 at 7.25.55 PM

 

This trio finished 1st, 2nd and 3rd in the American League in batting average in 1993.  Olerud won the Batting Title with a .363 average, Molitor finished second at .332, and Alomar, who went 3 for 4 in the final game of the regular season, hit .326, one point better than Cleveland’s Kenny Lofton at .325. This was the first time in exactly 100 years that three teammates finished 1-2-3 in batting average in MLB.  The feat was last accomplished by Billy Hamilton (.380), Sam Thompson (.370) and Ed Delahanty (.368) in 1893 with the Philadelphia Phillies.

 

Olerud, Molitor and Alomar were three of the five hitters for the 1993 Jays who became affectionately known as WAMCO – Devon White, Alomar, Molitor, Joe Carter and Olerud. It was their offense that carried the team to its second of back-to-back championships in ‘93.  

 

What a great souvenir to bring back memories for long time Jays fans, and an opportunity for newer fans to learn a key part of team history.

 

 

Subscriber's Choice: Brett Krasnov

 

 

There are two Philadelphia Phillies Promotions I look forward to more than any others.

 

The first thing I do when the promotions list comes out is to see what may be on my 17-game plan.

 

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The top one I look for is Fireworks night, which I do have this season. I am a bit of a pyrotechnics nut, and I still believe these are the best in the city every year.

 

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The second is $ Dog Night, which I dub, #DolarVeggieDogNight on social media. It is a night when I am free from having to prepare my own meal to have during the ballgame, so as not to have to pay the ridiculous prices for the few veggie choices of some kind at the park.

 

 

Subscriber’s Choice: Patti Gibbons

 

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The promotion I’m most looking forward to this upcoming season is the JD Martinez Bobblehead that the TriCity ValleyCats (NYPL, Astros) are giving away. One of my favorite aspects of MiLB at this level is being able to follow players from the very beginning of their professional careers. It’s fun to remember them “when”, as they succeed, gain skills and player value, and win titles with their clubs whether they stay with their original franchises or not. We get to see so many terrific young players in NYPL.

 

For MLB it’s harder. I’m kind of old school in the promotions I’ve enjoyed. I have a prized David Wright bobblehead (and a less-than-esteemed Jason Bay bobble). None of the upcoming Mets bobblehead promos are that exciting to me. I’m not much of a comic hero fan, at least not enough to make the 300-mile roundtrip to the stadium to take a chance on getting one. If I had to pick one, I’d love the Jacob deGrom Cy Young bobblehead because it marks a career highlight, or the Mr. Met on the Moon because it’s a historic novelty.

 

 

 


Lifer: Done The Baseball Way- Off-Season Survival Guide

Lifer Logo

Welcome back Baseball Lifers to the seventh installment of Lifer by All Heels on Deck! It’s hard to believe this is already our seventh issue of Lifer. We’ve gotten you through the Dog Days, Christmas in July, and the Postseason. Now, our Lifer team is here to get you through this time without baseball. Our writers have put together an exclusive “Off-Season Survival Guide” packed with everything you need to keep you sane until Spring Training begins!

Before we get into it, I just want to make everyone aware of some logistical details regarding the column. Lifer content will now only be available to our subscribing teammates, and will link with Patreon. Not a subscriber? No worries, certain items from every edition of the column will still run on the All Heels on Deck blog site, so you’ll still be able to get some fill of Lifer.

With that, let’s take a glimpse at our Off-Season Survival Guide! How do you spend the time between the World Series and Spring Training? Do you watch classic games of your favorite team? Tune in to MLB Network’s Hot Stove every morning? Well, starting in February 2019, you’ll have a new way to gear up for the season ahead. Our team is happy to announce that the All Heels on Deck Baseball Podcast will be here for the 2019 season, and we have the details!

Is it baseball season yet? We are officially 87 days (including today) away from the return of baseball! Lucky for us, we can turn to a commodity most of us are glued to when we’re bored to fill the gap. Yes, I’m talking about our cell phones and tablets. Do you prefer playing games on your phone? Are you more interested in keeping up with the stars of tomorrow? How about the personalities of today’s game? There’s an app out there for every baseball fan, and we’ll be featuring a few of them.

If all of that doesn’t pique your interest, All Heels on Deck creator Jessica Quiroli will be making her Lifer debut with a special contribution to our Survival Guide.

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

~RoseAnn Sapia

 

 

 

All Heels on Deck: The Podcast

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

It’s official, All Heels on Deck is getting a podcast! Actually, it’s more than just a podcast.

Coming your way in February 2019, the All Heels on Deck podcast will be operated as a network of podcasts, with each “show” bringing something unique to the platform.

Our goal is to interact with baseball fans everywhere, and bring you all fresh baseball content every episode.

We’re still working out all the specifics, but the All Heels on Deck podcast will feature analysis, discussion, and will allow all of us here to further connect with you! And, we already have an incredible graphic created by Devon Howard.

 

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While All Heels on Deck founder Jessica Quiroli won’t be hosting the podcast, I am so happy to announce that I will be the main regular host for the podcast. I’m really looking forward to having yet another platform to interact with all of our readers and everyone around baseball. We're looking into ways of making my segments as interactive as possible, so stay tuned for more info leading up to the launch.

We can’t give too many details away just yet, but know that you’ll have yet another way to engage with the sport we love. There’ll be fresh and new takes on topics all around baseball, and this'll be another extension of the mission here at All Heels on Deck.

Trust me, the All Heels on Deck podcast will be worth the wait!

 

 

 

 

An App A Day Keeps The Baseball Blues Away!

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

 







 

 

 1. MLB Tap Sports Baseball 2018

Perhaps my favorite way to pass time even during baseball season is playing Tap Sports Baseball. Officially licensed by the MLBPA, in this game you get to choose your favorite team and play your favorite game! You’ll start out with a handful of players from your selected team, along with others from all throughout baseball. It’s as easy as tapping your screen to hit the ball. Win or purchase draft picks to improve your team, win games, and advance up the rankings. Trust me, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of opening a draft pick to see it’s your favorite player! This game is available free to download in the App Store and Google Play.

2.MiLB First Pitch App

Believe it or not, I just discovered this app during the summer. The official app of Minor League Baseball, First Pitch keeps you up to date on all 160 minor league affiliates from Rookie ball to Triple-A. This is the perfect way to catchup on who’s been flashing leather or slugging away down on the farm now that you have time. This app will definitely keep you informed by giving you a look at who we can expect to see in The Show in the near future. It’s just as useful during the season as it is during the Off-Season. This app is available free to download from the App Store and Google Play.

3. Infield Chatter

This is basically the official app of the MLBPA, and I just recently downloaded. I’ve been following @InfieldChatter on Twitter for some time, and loved that it really gave a voice to the players. The best way to describe this is a social network dedicated to baseball and its players. It was created in 2016 at the request of the players who wanted a more meaningful way to engage the fans. Your feed will be all baseball all the time, and will allow you to catchup on the latest happenings around the league without any added distractions. All you need is an email address to sign up. The app if free to download from both the App Store and Google Play.

4. Sports Trivia Apps

Just type “Sports Trivia” or “Baseball Player Trivia” into the App Store or Google Play, and you’ll be surprised by just how many trivia apps are out there geared to sports fans. There’s no better way to pass empty time than by enhancing your knowledge of the things you love. Diamond Sports Trivia has some of the best reviews, and allows you to choose from several different sports trivia decks. Other apps feature team logo quizzes and name the player games, so you can see just how well you know the game you love. There’s no better time to brush up on trivia than during the Off-Season, and most of the apps are free to download.  

5. Twitter/Instagram

And finally, social media had to make this list. Most people spend their down time scrolling through their social media feeds or watching stories, so why not fill those feeds with baseball players? Keep up with what’s happening down on Johnny Cueto’s ranch (he goes live on Instagram A LOT), and stay up to date on Trevor Bauer’s latest opinions (super active on Twitter). It’s also a great way to catchup on the sights from MLB’s Japan All-Star Series that just wrapped up last week, (Rhys Hoskins has been great at documenting that).

 

 

 

 

Shop Your Off-Season Blues Away!

By Jessica Quiroli

  1. The start of the off-season is marked by A LOT of mentions of that Rogers Hornsby quote. Oh, you know the one. About the window? Well, now you can hang it in your home. As you stare out the window. Waiting... (On Amazon, Prime eligible)

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  1. Maybe you want to let your neighbors know how hard the winter is for a baseball fan. For $4 you "can." With a "tin" (get it?) sign featuring the baseball loving Peanuts gang. (On Stylin Online)

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  1. ...need more baseball AND the Peanuts gang? Cafe Press has you covered. Get a mug, fill it with your drink of choice, and think about fresh grass, bat, ball, and glove. You can find that here.

 

  1. Finally, maybe you actually want to do something to deal with no baseball being played. If you're able to take a drive, or perhaps you're further and want to take a big plane ride, head to Cooperstown in January. You can customize your tour experience through February. The new program promises to "connect fans with their favorite team and memories”. (Check site for pricing of package). Also, for some beautiful, fascinating history, head to the HOF as they celebrate Martin Luther King Day. (January 21st, starting at 9 am). 

Never A Doubt: The 2018 Boston Red Sox

By Helen Silfin

 

The 2018 Boston Red Sox had a season fans can usually only dream about. They won 108 games in the regular season and then those essential 11 postseason games to be World Series Champions. And while they always believed in themselves, and much of the fanbase believed too, many of the “experts” around Major League Baseball did not believe until the final pitch was thrown.

 

 

Just about every publication - including MLB.com, SB Nation, Baseball America, USA Today, and The Sporting News - had the Red Sox winning one of the AL Wild Card spots and perhaps making it to the ALDS but no further. Possibly undeservedly, they were underdogs coming into the season.

 

The 2018 Red Sox spent one day with a winning percentage under .500, and that day was the first of the season. They never had a losing streak of over three games and were never more than two games back in the American League East. Their “worst” month of the season was September, during which they were still four games over .500. They simply never stumbled and never took their foot off the gas.

 

However, on their way to 108 wins people still wondered if they were for real. Even once the playoff field was set, most of Sports Illustrated’s experts left them out of the World Series.

  Rick Porcello

What separated the Red Sox from the rest of the pack may be the same as the reason so many questioned their legitimacy. They feasted on lesser teams, going 16-3 against the Orioles, 15-4 against the Blue Jays, 6-1 against the Rangers, and 5-1 against the Royals. They built a cushion that would have helped had they struggled against contenders like the Angels, Mariners, and Braves. The cushion also helped them win the AL East by eight games even though they only won the season series against the Yankees by one game. They somehow made it through the entire regular season without appearing to be truly tested.

 

Yet, in the playoffs they beat the Yankees, Astros, and Dodgers handily - only losing one game in each series. Their offense bested both Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw along the way. They handled the best of the best like it was nothing.

 

So maybe their domination of lesser teams should not have been taken as a sign that they still needed to be tested, but rather a signal of their true greatness. They never played down to an opponent, collecting wins like coins in Super Mario. They collected so many that they were able to rest Chris Sale, their ace, in August and then essentially use real games in September as his rehab assignment before the playoffs.

 

A team with a Wild Card ceiling would never be able to do that.

 

It is a bit of a shame that the media never seemed to catch on to just how good this team was. Whispers of the 1978 Red Sox, 2001 Mariners, and the team’s 2016 and 2017 first round playoff exits surrounded them until they finally hoisted the Commissioner’s Trophy.

  Jason Varitek Joe Kelly

Just about everything related to the 2018 Boston Red Sox was unbelievable, but perhaps most impressively, they really did not make their fans sweat. The high of a 21-7 start to the season never wore off. Dennis Eckersley proclaimed “It’s time to party!” on July 12th and he was absolutely right.

 

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