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Special Feature: Sheryl Ring Honors Stonewall, Praises Yankee Stadium Commemorative Plaque

By Sheryl Ring

On June 17, 1969, the world changed. That was the day of the Stonewall Uprising – when LGBTQ people at the Stonewall refused for the first time in the United States to kowtow to police there to arrest them. Their only crime was being queer. Their only crimes was being themselves. Last week, the New York Yankees honored the heroes of Stonewall by erecting a plaque in their honor in Monument Park. Manager Aaron Boone described the plaque as a necessary symbol of inclusion:

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Photo Credit, Getty

"Inclusion, ultimately. You wear this uniform, you work for this organization, it carries a lot of weight and I think it's important that as an organization we welcome everyone not only to work for this franchise, but from a fan base. We want people from all walks of life to feel like this is a place that they can come and feel comfortable, feel safe, feel good about Yankee Stadium and the Yankees as an organization," he said.

"You walk through our clubhouse and you see people from all kinds of walks of life and I feel like we're stronger because of that, and this is a night that I think honors that. As I talk with our players sometimes: 'Love somebody that's different from you.' I think that's important and the more people, the more walks of life that we can get involved with this great organization, the better."

 

 

Boone’s sentiment was laudable, certainly, but also loaded. The Yankees, who play in New York City – the heart of the queer movement in America – were the very last of the 30 Major League Baseball franchise to host a Pride Night. And the Stonewall plaque comes just weeks after the Yankees’ minor league affiliate in Staten Island announced a season-long partnership with Chick-fil-A, a restaurant chain which continues to donate millions of dollars to support the debunked and abusive practice of conversion therapy. 

 

So it would be easy for me, as a lesbian trans woman, to write off the plaque and its accompanying ceremony as nothing more than pandering via an empty gesture. But as much as that might be true, I couldn’t do it. The plaque held great significance for me, beyond even a sign that I’d be welcome in Yankee Stadium.

 

Marsha P. Johnson was a Black trans woman. She threw the first brick at Stonewall, attacking the police and starting a movement. It was part of a lifetime of activism for Johnson, who became known as “the Rosa Parks of the LGBTQ movement.” Her friend Sylvia Rivera, another trans woman of color at Stonewall, also played an important role, as Elyssa Goodman relates for them.

 

Sylvia Rivera would always be quick to redress those who thought she threw the first Molotov cocktail at the historic Stonewall riot on June 28, 1969. “I have been given the credit for throwing the first Molotov cocktail by many historians, but I always like to correct it,” she said in 2001. “I threw the second one. I did not throw the first one!”

Today, Rivera is revered as a legendary transgender activist. She vehemently fought for early legislation banning gender discrimination; sought to create safe spaces for queer homeless youth; and spoke loudly and powerfully that her community of transgender individuals, homeless and incarcerated among them, be fought for in the move toward equality. At the time, though, many gay rights activists regarded her as a mere troublemaker.

Stonewall is today largely remembered, even on the political left, as the start of the gay liberation movement, with “gay” meaning white gay men. The role of bisexual and transgender women, especially women of color, in the uprising has been largely erased. A recent piece in The Nation downplayed the role of trans women in the uprising, reinforcing the narrative that it was led by white gay men under the title “It Doesn’t Matter Who Threw the First Brick at Stonewall.”  Modern retellings of Stonewall in the media largely make a point of including the deadnames of both Johnson and Rivera, when doing so serves no real purpose besides undermining their womanhood and the significance of what they fought for. 

 

And what is the result? This month, James Kirchik wrote for the Atlantic that the struggle for gay rights is over, with homosexuality now accepted. What Kirchik should have written was that homosexuality is acceptable for cis white men. A cis gay white man spoke at the 2016 Republican National Convention. Meanwhile, according to the Human Rights Campaign, the statistics regarding the transgender community reflect a very different picture. Just 4% of trans youth come out in their childhood, fearing repercussions from their families. Almost three-fifths of trans people (58%) report chronic, persistent harassment from police. Forty percent of trans people who are arrested are sexually abused. Half of all trans people – 47% - report being raped or sexually assaulted. A third of trans people experience homelessness. Thirty percent of trans people have been fired for being trans. More than half of all trans people who seek housing shelter are attacked or assaulted. While a cis white gay man runs for president, Black trans women are being murdered at the highest rate of any population in the country. The average life expectancy of a Black transgender woman in the United States is just 37, appalling by just about any standard. In 46 states – that’s 92% of the country – it is a valid defense to murder that your victim was trans. A movement that trans women of color started to protect all queer people has left them behind.

 

To be fair, the onset of rainbow capitalism hasn’t just had a negative impact on trans people. Queer people of color, bisexual women, and lesbians have also fallen well behind white men in the fight for equality. While over 2% of men in the U.S. identify as gay, half that figure identify as lesbian. Black gay men remain significantly more likely than white gay men to contract AIDS. Bisexual erasure remains a hallmark of American society, with even well-known bi figures forced to defend their sexuality in public ad nauseum. 

 

So when the Yankees put up a plaque for Stonewall, it meant something. It meant tat Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson deserve recognition. It meant that we could take time out of our days to say their names and tell their stories. The only other non-Yankees enshrined at Yankee Stadium are Nelson Mandela and Jackie Robinson – and yes, Sylvia Rivera and Marsha Johnson belong next to Nelson Mandela and Jackie Robinson. It means honoring two trans women of color for a lifetime of achievement that simply goes unmentioned in most history books. It means that queer children walking into Yankee Stadium will see the plaque, know they’re welcome, and ask questions. 

 

It means that Johnson and Rivera won’t be forgotten. 

 


Hard Hit: Working Through Postpartum Depression While Working in Baseball

By Jessica Quiroli

I started writing, and the baby started crying.

My sweet one. She doesn't know I just want five minutes to write, to breathe, to work on projects gathering dust. I don't feel guilt or that I'm a failure. I just feel overwhelmed.

After thirteen years as a baseball writer, most of them spent covering minor league baseball, I'm on the bench more often lately, waiting for the opportunity to jump in the action. I'd decided before I'd even known I was pregnant that I was changing course. I wanted to write more in-depth baseball stories, dig deeper. I envisioned trying new things and expanding as a writer. I knew I wanted to work on projects completely outside of baseball, such as continuing to study screenwriting. Connecting in that community has also been inspiring. As I was expanding my focus, with the biggest moment of my life just around the corner. I'd be expanding in other ways, of course. But I wanted to live quieter, simpler, and find more meaning in everything in my life. Learning I was pregnant actually aligned with my shifting focus.

Sometimes I'll keep writing, and she'll find something to do as she gains more independence. But it's usually not for long before my sweet one is crying or whining at my feet. This happens during phone calls, work emails, and so on. I spend my time wisely. I can no longer be so free with it. That's good for me, but sometimes that reality catches up and becomes frustrating.

The day I began this story, and she wouldn't quite give me a moment, I stopped, explaining softly that I needed a few more minutes.I played with her with one hand, while trying to form sentences for a story that I'd planned, done the research for, gotten sources on the record, and told readers, many of  them paying subscribers, that this story will see the light of day soon. I'll be late. I know that. It's ok. She needs me. I want her to need me. I don't ever want to miss anything, or for her to feel she's second. So, as I try to strike the balance and care for my needs, and still work and do things I love, I'm also always letting my child know that she's most important. I return to the story, to the stats, to the baseball stuff I know so well. I juggle the experiences. There are days I drop it all. I'll sit down to work, and instead I'll meditate while staring out the window. Or I'll read a magazine and eat dark chocolate. My mental health needs my focus too.

I write this not knowing if I should be this candid. Will this affect my career? Am I opening myself up on a personal level that I'll regret? The intersection of those parts of myself--the one that loves to create and share, and the one that safely guards my private thoughts and experiences--has smoothly co-existed and then crashed at different times in my life and baseball career.. I know I'm not the only one, but, as the story goes, I often feel that way. And the baseball world moves quickly, leaving you behind if you're not savvy, prolific and engaged on a consistent basis. You're supposed to be much more of, in the words of the wonderful Erika Jayne (The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills...yes, I watch that sh**), a "showgirl." Everyone in sports media tends to be more of a personality these days. That's never been easy for me. Now, more than ever, that aspect feels a bit strange. I like showgirls...or show business. But I'm not sure today's show bizzy style of sports reporting is quite my thing. I don't like the desperation over every job, every story, every bit of information obtained. I've also watched the impact of social media on colleagues. Believe me, they're obsessed with their stats too.. There's a need to be "verified," rather than just build relationships you value, while creating stories you're proud of. I don't want to focus on being liked or image building. I want only to write, connect on a genuine level and share ideas. 

I  looked around for work this season, investing most of my time and efforts to AHOD, I don't get tons of quality sleep, but I've learned to outsource, hiring someone to come to my home a couple of days a week, for 2-3 hours, to run errands, go to the grocery store, clean the house, and tend to her while I'm a few feet away trying to work. She's developing trust, relying more on being social.  I still can't reconcile the part of myself that wants to continue my baseball career with leaving her alone with a caregiver yet. I'm fortunate that I'm not the main source of income. I can make that choice. But if I want to continue contributing to this industry, I'll have to find ways to make this all work. But HOW? There are many questions, answers aren't always easy, the journey has an offering of many millions of books telling you HOW. But still...really, there is no perfect book no perfect answer.

Welcome to my baseball mama life.

And then, there's this...

I've suffered from severe depression and social anxiety from as early as I can remember. Writing, depression and anxiety have always been companions. In the last two years, I've searched for ways through debilitating depression, while also trying to be more open, comfortable and present. Social media and the sports industry can make everything-- anxiety, depression and even the most basic human insecurities-- worse. Social media can also deeply connect you with others with similar experiences. Social outlets provide a community; that community has grown with more high profile media people becoming increasingly open about their struggles.

Our strange lives in sports aren't always conducive to mental health. I've come to terms with that over time, realizing I've put myself in high pressure situations to do something I love. But many of us, in our own way, find a way to make it work, to thrive, to be authentic, and stay mindful of our needs. As social anxiety goes, I want to be seen and read, but not seen only read...sort of known, but only in ways I can control. But, yeah, that's not how this industry, or any industry, or, life in general works. That is, however, how social anxiety and depression work. Your feelings are often symptoms, and it's been eye-opening, and very helpful, to fully understand that.

Becoming a mother created the biggest challenge mentally and physically, while  also completely shifting my baseball career.Men in the industry have families to think of, yes.  They have children and partners they love and often miss, especially beat writers on late post-game deadlines.There are men in baseball who are the primary caregivers, many often working from home; they're the exception, not the rule. Maternity leave, the majority of childcare, and postpartum depression are issues that distinctly impact women. Our industry still works best for men, especially the single guy with no kids, moving around the industry with far more ease. I'm falling behind them. I can see that. It helps that I'm not upset about that very often. Even when I was on top of my game, those guys could move with a lot more ease through an industry that's mostly comprised of them. 

The care of children isn't all that's left to women. There's the obvious. The pregnancy and birth experience are long, stressful and absolutely life-altering.Your energy entirely shifts. Our recovery can take weeks or months or, in my case, two years. I took time to find my way back to the possibility of going back "on the field." And I'm scared. I'm not entirely sure of myself. I feel like I've started over again in some way. I'm different. I've got a lot more to consider. I have some things organized and operating smoothly. But there's so much that is not and I don't expect that of myself. That's freeing. I'm taking my time. I'm breathing. Postpartum depression has its own set of challenges. I'm doing my best. Going back, but going forward. This road has been long. 

My pregnancy was fraught with difficulties, trips to the ER and lots of bed rest. One week after finding out I was expecting a child, my Grandfather died. He was my hero, my baseball buddy, the person who knew me as no else does. He loved me like he loved everyone: with openness, joy and a healthy dose of discipline when one truly seemed to need that push.  I was still living in Florida, bedridden, worrying I was going to lose my baby after a scary incident one morning; I never told my grandpa I was pregnant. After that, I didn't tell many people. I stayed quiet. I grieved, gestated, and, while still studying stats and trying to contribute, studied pregnancy and childbirth. I tried to keep my grief from being too intense, hoping that my sadness or stress didn't impact my child. I turned to my loving partner with all my woes, all my needs, each one met. I was supported in my little cocoon. The daily physical toll of the illness, throwing up sometimes three or four times a day, unable to taste food, unable to keep food in the fridge because I didn't want to smell anything, kept me not only from leaving the house, but blocked me from focusing too much on emotions. Grief would have to wait. Joy over impending motherhood would be diluted by the excruciating relentless sickness. I had to focus all my energy on physical wellness and a delicate life I was completely responsible for. And, as a consequence, the baseball life I'd known for over a decade was halted. I didn't mind that much. But I also didn't know how to cope with all these changes, all at once.

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I took some baseball writing work, including one story I wrote in bed, bleary eyed, hungry, under intense stress, and on nausea medication that barely worked. Modern medicine is really slow on that front. In my second and third trimester I took more work, did phone interviews, and made a few trips to ballparks to work on stories. I knew my "leave" had begun when I climbed some familiar stairs, and almost fell over retrieving a pen. I looked down at the baseball field, feeling utterly disconnected from a space I was so accustomed to feeling at home in. I needed to actually go home. Baseball season was now gestation season. 

But while postpartum depression comes with motherhood, social anxiety is a whole other bear that's growled at me for years. I've ignored those feelings, and, upon reflection, I see how hard I pushed away that struggle. I still do at times. But now I'm much quicker to sense my twister of emotions building. I definitely care for myself with increased awareness. I no longer fear those feelings. They're more normal than I used to believe.

As much as we love social media for various reasons, there are many pitfalls for people struggling with mental health, who are trying to maintain success or just stay on track in life. I've always been slow to recover from heavy emotional blows. Just my makeup I guess. I move on quickly, but I tend to hold on internally, and memories can be fresh as the day the thing happened. I realized recently that I've spent the last couple of years trying to recover from a ton of those kinds of blows. And, I see now, I've not quite bounced back.That's motivated me to reassess my place in the world, and my place in baseball. 

In the past few years, I experienced professional and personal relationships crumble with people I valued and cherished. I'm the first one to call myself out. Apologies aren't hard for me. Supporting people via social media, or other ways, isn't conditional. I don't care how popular you are. I'll ride or die. But as I was rounding the bases (hey, that's actually pretty accurate *wink*) to arrive at pregnancy and motherhood, I learned that social relationships can be sticky or not what you might've believed. I also realized that sports media was getting so competitive that even I might've not noticed how desperate colleagues felt. I wasn't paying attention to a lot of things, and I was hurt by many people. I had to make decisions that weren't just about my career, but about the path my life was on. 

In the middle of that turmoil, a devastating loss, and pregnancy, I decided, almost inexplicably that, hey, now's the time to take on the biggest project of my baseball life! 

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All Heels on Deck was a very small idea in my head for a long time. Not the name, but the concept. I wanted to build a site that expanded baseball media. I didn't want to write on the site very often.. The focus was to be on others, my contribution mostly behind the curtain. I wanted to create a platform for others and pay them. And, to be exact, as you already might know because you're reading this site, the focus of the platform was baseball writers who are women, PoC and LGBTQI those underrepresented voices in baseball. They'd write about the game, and about all sorts of things related to the game-covering gender, race, homophobia, transphobia, and that would mix with baseball analysis, trade evaluation and other creative, fun baseball stories. I had a vision. After some planning, and asking for feedback from people in the industry, the plans was set in motion. 

I began developing ideas for stories and business aspects of the site, I was going through excruciatingly difficult months of early motherhood, while also feeling the combined intense protective love and joy that enraptured my heart, and took over my life. I struggled with so much, almost immediately. While I'd prefer to keep certain details private, I will say I felt emotionally ripped apart, lost and physically exhausted. 

My love for my daughter and tending to her needs, and my pride and excitement for AHOD's launch provided daily inspiration. There was some backlash--some people didn't like the name--but mostly there was tremendous public support, mixed with healthy, important debate and discussion about the name, the idea and what the platform could accomplish.

I was still scrambling to make sense of a lot that was outside of that experience. As I suffered through painful changes and normal adjustments, I was mentally overwhelmed by the fallout of those professional and personal relationships. Nothing was ever resolved. Baseball, life, motherhood, the process of adjusting and reassessing continued.

I don't have proper words to explain how difficult the management of AHOD has been. The blog, and Patreon for subscribers, have not run smoothly. As May unfolded, I found myself unable to process simple emails about the blog. Every time I tried to write a quick response, my heart raced. I have been almost entirely unable to write anything of length or depth, outside of this. I haven't posted in a newsletter in longer than is regularly scheduled. I haven't sent out a team memo in a couple of months. 

There are times I'm so overwhelmed, so exhausted, I question how I can put any effort at all into a baseball writing career. I've been at it a long time. Maybe I've lost my edge. Perhaps I just don't have the right amount of energy. Is it time for me to just do new things, entirely outside of that world I knew so well? I can't imagine the hours of commuting I used to do. Or the hours of research I used to focus on so intently, the hours breezing by. with my mind, stats and stories cruising through, developing mostly with ease. I have moments where I feel so disconnected from that person, and that period of my life where I was "Baseball Writer." I feel all the time like I'm watching a baseball game in the distance, on a screen with one eye, catching some moments, but still desperately wanting to BE THERE. I'm never in my seat for long. I am often unsure "who's on first."

In April, I connected with a health practice that focuses on women, and found a doctor that has been tremendous in helping me get healthy. She put me on a mild anti-depressant, something I would've been less open to, and would never have been open about in the not so distant past. I knew that I needed help, and couldn't function as I had been. My daughter needs me healthy, and so do I. Whatever that means, however I can take better care of myself, I choose that.

The minor league baseball season started and I set up my credentials with the Trenton Thunder, a place I'd spent so many formative years as a baseball writer. I had a few plates in the air, several outlets showing interest in my work. I felt ready. For what I still didn't know. 

On a beautiful June day, the kind of day that is so perfect for baseball, I was set to cover my first game in two years, I had a severe episode of postpartum depression and anxiety on the street, while walking my daughter. I stayed in contact with my partner, and he assured me he was on his way. She fell asleep, and I sat in Rittenhouse Square Park weeping amid the beauty of a place I love dearly. 

I don't now if I can return to baseball life this season. That day was a revelation. I slowed my mind down, fully realizing that I still have far to go. I'm still without answers. I know that's ok. I need to not worry about "Baseball Writer." I need to just worry about "Jessica." And my sweet one. 

Those high heels I bought for my return to the field will be sidelined for now.

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I've never quite figured out how to be in the baseball world as a person with clinical depression, or social anxiety. And I don't know how to be in the baseball world with the challenges of postpartum depression. The changes are more extraordinary than I expected. Many mothers will say the same. 

Like any mom juggling the roles, and tending to mental and physical health, I don't have the perfect solution. Things are always changing, and we're always learning, and growing within our hearts to understand ourselves and the world around us. I tried to take a dip back into field work this season. I turned around, and, just like in the final months of pregnancy, went home instead.

Everything is different, but in many ways I'm still just me. I'll keep working through the challenges. I'll keep writing. As I always have. Like any good baseball player, I'm adjusting. I'm focusing only on what I can control. I want to be present, not looking back or ahead. Baseball, like motherhood, like postpartum depression like love and life, gives you many opportunities to just go out there, try to do something you can be proud of and feel is your truest, purest self. 

Then, there's this...

I was sitting on the sofa with my sweet one, before that terrible June day, looking at the cherry blossom tree in full bloom outside our window. I could've stayed there for hours. I love baseball. I love writing. But I love the quiet of these moments in which I'm none of the things I used to be. I also love my wellness. I don't know how baseball fits into that picture, but I want it to.

In many ways I've expanded my point of view of baseball as a career, what I should be writing. And motherhood expanded and narrowed my point of view, probably equally. Much like postpartum depression and social anxiety. You have to see yourself as you are, and as you hope to be. Baseball requires patience. Motherhood and depression require even more patience. And so, I breathe, step to the plate when I can. And watch the world unfold from the bench, happy to be there, and happy to wait and see where I am needed next. As with everything in my life and career, I wait to hear where I'll be called.  

 

Follow Jessica on Twitter @heelsonthefield

 


Book Review--Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America

Neither Monsters nor Amazons: 

Futbolera Gives Women in Latin American Sports the Voice They Deserve

Review by Sara Rauch 

COVER_Futbolera

“It’s hard to imagine a more direct exertion on children than school programs instructing them in how to move their bodies,” write Brenda Esley and Joshua Nadel in the introduction to Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America. This sentiment feeds directly into Esley and Nadel’s thought-provoking analysis of how women’s physicality has been controlled and manipulated via socially acceptable physical activity in Latin America. Fittingly, this engaging social history takes its name from those who have struggled to gain equal access and representation on the field—Futbolera comes from a term used to refer, simply, to a woman who plays soccer, though over the years it has been used more generally as a shorthand for women who have pushed cultural boundaries. 

 

The book, published by University of Texas Press this May, focuses particularly on women’s place in sports in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Mexico, but covers other nations—Uruguay, Costa Rica, El Salvador—as well. As is the case in many Western cultures, the roles women have been allowed to play in Latin America has been severely circumscribed by nationalist, patriarchal values, and the narrative Esley and Nadel weave is one of direct state and bureaucratic control over women’s bodies. Futbolera delves into the archives across Latin America, seeking to fill the gaps of women’s exclusion from the record and providing a more balanced portrayal of women’s interest and participation. 

 

Beginning in the 1800s, physical education gained ground in Latin American countries by way of Swedish influence, first as a way of “bettering the race.” But it didn’t take long for “experts” to deem certain physical activities as better suited for women. Tennis, swimming, track and field (often with distance or weight modifications), and even basketball were usually considered acceptable for women to play, but more often things like dance or calisthenics were promoted “to stop the development of women’s muscles” and appease the worry that strenuous exercise would harm women’s physique and hormonal balance. While these “experts” advocated for “vigor and action” in men’s activity, they recommended exercise as a means of maintaining a woman’s beauty and preparing her for motherhood. Women who desired to play sports for their own sake were viewed—by politicians, educators, and even the general citizenry—as unnatural, or “monstrous.” Their sexuality was called into question: because “sports had been defined as essential to building and exhibiting proper masculinity, it constituted a dangerous terrain in terms of its potential to masculinize women”; alternately, sportswomen were “exoticized... as Amazons who existed outside of normal development.” Even female fans, coaches, and referees were considered dangerous.   

 

As might be expected, football (aka, soccer) plays a main role in the history of women’s sports in Latin America, and it is in the particular exploration of this group sport that the authors find their stride. Though there is evidence that women continued to play football despite the declarations against it, their social exclusion from the sport provides insight into the cultures’ prevailing ideas about sexuality and gender. Sports are fertile ground for understanding how race and class divisions are enforced within a society. The chapter “Policing Women’s Sports in Brazil” notes that as soccer became increasingly identified as Brazil’s national sport, “women’s exclusion... was part and parcel of marginalizing them as active agents of the nation.” In Brazil, the attitude that constrained women’s participation in physical exercise as a method of promoting beauty also “included a focus on whiteness.” Football, which gained popularity among working-class and black Brazilians in the 1920s and 30s, was particularly perceived as “violent,” thus furthering the idea that women shouldn’t play. In Brazil, and elsewhere across Latin America, “the exclusion of women [from football] took place at the very moment when the narrative of the sport as a democratizing and unifying force of national identity, particularly in terms of race, took hold.”  

 

What helps make Futbolera so interesting is that many of the struggles that women in sports have faced continue to linger. Consider that as recently as 2017 “the entire women’s [football] team of Club Nacional in Uruguay accused their coach... of gender discrimination.” The entire team! Sexism—which, among other things, dictates the type of physical body a culture deems attractive—remains rampant in the sports world of Latin America as well: in 2017 Adidas unveiled Argentina’s new team jerseys using male footballers... and female models. Examples such as these help expose underlying ideas about femininity, and women’s expected role in the public sphere—ideas that remain entrenched despite social change elsewhere.

 

Futbolera may focus on Latin America, but it’s not hard to see parallels with the current state of women’s sports in the United States and globally, where women continue to fight for equality. Think of the ongoing debates over Serena Williams’ actions and outfit choices in the United States, and it’s easy to see that women in sports are still the victims of patriarchal values that seek to keep them fit into a certain mold. 

 

The overarching history of women in sports in Latin America may be one of obfuscation, mistreatment, and mismanagement, but there are signs that the times are changing. Women’s teams in Uruguay, Argentina, Ecuador, and elsewhere are gaining in popularity and increasingly able to advocate for better access to facilities and financial assistance. Youth teams for girls are being promoted in Argentina, and in Ecuador, Vanessa Arauz has held the head coach position for the women’s national team since 2014.

 

As feminism continues to make strides in all aspects of life, a book like Futbolera helps illuminate the ways in which patriarchy has historically, literally, exercised control over women’s bodies. This well-written and meticulously researched history helps us understand the past, moving the female body out of the silence enforced upon it. History may have attempted to write women out of the story of sports in Latin America, but Futbolera puts the ball back in women’s possession.

 

Futbolera: A History of Women and Sports in Latin America

Brenda Eisley and Joshua Nadel

University of Texas Press

ISBN: 978-1-4773-1042-7

$27.95, hardcover 

 


Rochester Red Wings Host An Educational Celebration Of Deaf Culture

By: RoseAnn Sapia

All Heels on Deck's focus on inclusion includes writers who are disabled having a platform, as well as events that center their experiences. We'll continue to do that, and ask that if you send any similar event information to ahoddesk@gmail.com. Similarly, if you're a disabled baseball writer and would like to write something personal, or if you would like to write about a player or other story that focuses on disabilities, please pitch to that same address. We thank you!~Jessica Quirli, AHOD Editor

 

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Imagine attending a game at the ballpark, and it’s completely silent. Your favorite player steps to the plate, but there’s no walkup music, no introduction. There’s no background noise either. No sound effects or PA announcements. No one is chatting between innings or cheering every time a runner crosses the plate.

 

Many people aren’t accustomed to attending a social outing such as a baseball game with a hushed atmosphere, yet this is similar to what members of the Deaf Community experience when they’re at the ballpark. Experiencing a ballgame as a member of the Deaf Community is unique, and the Rochester Red Wings, the Triple-A affiliate of the Minnesota Twins, recently went above and beyond to cater to that.

 

On Sunday, April 28 the Rochester Red Wings hosted Deaf Culture Day at Frontier Field during their matinee against the Pawtucket Red Sox. They teamed up with Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf (NTID) and the Rochester School for the Deaf (RSD) to bring the idea to life in the most authentic way.

 

“We wanted to make this a celebration”, says Dan Mason, General Manager of the Red Wings, adding that they wanted this game to be for the people of the Deaf Community while educating fans who are not Deaf about the culture. Everything from the uniforms worn to content played on the video board reflected this idea.

 

As part of the celebration, the Red Wings designed a jersey and cap that utilized American Sign Language (ASL). The jersey read “Red Wings” spelled out in ASL, while the cap featured the ASL sign for “R”. After the game, the player worn jerseys were autographed and auctioned off via the LiveSource app with proceeds benefiting RSD and NTID. Discounted tickets were also made available to students, faculty, and staff from these schools and their families to attend the game.  

 

D5PlAVqXoAEWn64.jpg-largeImage from Red Wings Twitter

 

The festivities continued as fans entered the ballpark. Interpreters were stationed at the ticket office, concession stands, team store, inside the seating bowl, and on field for announcements. With assistance from NTID, the video board and closed-circuit broadcast at Frontier Field featured captions throughout the game, which is something they had never done before.

 

The goal of this promotion was to make this as geared to the Deaf Community as possible, so members of NTID and RSD were active participants throughout the ballgame. Jake Schwall, a student at NTID, signed God Bless America, other students from the schools signed the National Anthem, and all contestants during In-Game Contests were Deaf. A special NTID alum even reprised his role with the Red Wings on the field.

 

Ogden Whitehead, better known as Recycleman, worked with the Red Wings in the late 90s and early 2000s. He too is a member of the Deaf Community, and would lead the crowd in cheers during the games.

 

CutImage from Red Wings Twitter. Taken by Bare Antolos.

 

Describing him as having an infectious and outgoing personality, Mason believes Deaf Culture Day was the perfect time to bring Recycleman back in almost 15 years. “He’s such a great advocate for the Deaf Community”, he adds.

 

All throughout the game, the team highlighted famous Deaf people who made important contributions to society. This furthered the educational and celebrational tones of the day, as people left the ballpark with more knowledge about Deaf Culture.

 

The Seventh Inning is when the atmosphere of the game really keyed in on the Deaf experience. Referred to as the “Signing Inning”, the seventh was designed to make the Deaf fans in attendance feel at home, while giving all of the fans who were not Deaf a glimpse of what it’s like to be Deaf at a baseball game. The sense of sight was stressed, since there were no additional sound effects during the seventh inning, it was all about what fans could see. The inning put an emphasis on what the Deaf Community has to do to communicate, with ASL being integrated as much as possible.

 

During the Signing Inning, no music was played, no PA announcements or player introductions were made, and there were no sound effects. Instead, the video board showed the players signing their names as they walked to the plate. During Take Me Out To The Ballgame, a recording of Red Wings players signing different portions of the song in ASL was shown.

 

 

Everyone from the players to team employees got involved in the spirit of the day by learning a little bit of ASL. GM Mason learned how to sign his name and “Go Wings”. One usher went as far as learning how to sign “Can I help you?” and “Goodnight” in order to be as helpful as possible.  Mason followed that lead and signed “Goodnight” as fans left the ballpark after the game. Even though the Deaf Community knew they weren’t fluent in ASL, Mason could sense their appreciation for making an effort.

 

“We wanted to make this as comfortable an experience as possible”, Mason states, which is why the Red Wings partnered with NTID and RSD once the idea of hosting a Deaf Culture Day came to fruition.

 

Every time the team does a promotion, management tries to come up with something that will attract a different segment to the ballpark, whether they’re baseball fans or not.

 

Last season, the Myrtle Beach Pelicans, the Class A-Advanced affiliate of the Chicago Cubs, hosted a Deaf Awareness Night. According to studies as recent as 2017, Rochester, New York has the largest per capita Deaf population in America. Mason saw hosting an event similar to that of the Pelicans to be a great way to reach out and get that community engaged at the ballpark.

 

“In Minor League Baseball we all share our greatest ideas”, Mason says, noting that MiLB is nothing like Corporate America where no one wants to give their secrets away. In order to collectively get better as a whole, individual teams have to better themselves, too. “We share with our brothers and sisters in baseball”, he adds.

 

Knowing they wanted to host the larger Deaf Community in town at Frontier Field this season, the Red Wings used the Pelicans concept as a starting point, and added new wrinkles for their unique market to see if they could make it a success.

 

The first step to bringing Deaf Culture Day to life in Rochester was setting up a Steering Committee comprised of people from NTID and RSD in order to make sure every detail and aspect of the promotion would strike a chord with the Deaf Community. The Red Wings turned to John Panara, who although is not Deaf, grew up in a Deaf household and taught at NTID, to help select the committee.

 

***

 

Panara’s family is heavily integrated into Deaf Culture and history. Robert Panara, John’s father who became Deaf at the age of 10 as a result of spinal meningitis, is a Deaf Culture pioneer. He graduated from Gallaudet College in Washington, D.C. in the 1940s, and returned there upon graduation as an English professor where he taught for almost 20 years.

 

After joining the advisory board in 1965, Robert helped to establish NTID, and later joined the school as an English professor in 1967, making him NTID’s first Deaf faculty member. A poet and author himself, Robert would then aid in the creation of the school’s English Department and Drama Club. He taught at NTID for 20 years.

 

Because Robert did so much for the advancement of Deaf Culture, the U.S. Postal Service had a stamp made in his honor in 2017, three years after his passing. The stamp reads “Robert Panara, Teacher, Pioneer of Deaf Studies”, and shows an image of Panara signing the word “respect”. It is the 16th stamp in the Distinguished Americans series.  

 

114004-L0 Image from U.S. Postal Service

 

The Panara Family’s connection to Deaf Culture Day goes beyond their history and involvement at NTID. According to Mason, Robert loved baseball, and was a Red Wings Season Ticket Holder. What better family to help marry Deaf Culture and Red Wings baseball than the Panara Family?

 

John Panara was the first person the Red Wings called to invite to be a part of this event. He helped put together the Steering Committee, which included Skip Flanagan, a former baseball player at NTID who currently serves as the Athlete Development Coordinator at the school, among others. The Committee listened to ideas, and guided management to select the ones that would resonate most with members of the Deaf Community.

 

John even provided the Red Wings with Great Deaf Americans, the book his father authored in 1983, along with slides his father had of famous members of the Deaf Community to use as educational tools throughout the game.

 

The best thing that came out of the first meeting with the Steering Committee was the creation of the promotion’s name. They agreed they wanted to make this a celebration, and thus, Deaf Culture Day at Frontier Field was born.

 

***

 

Looking back at Deaf Culture Day, GM Mason sees the unique promotion as an overall success. Although it was a cold and overcast day, the Red Wings had a very good turnout, which was an encouraging sign.

 

For Mason, the best part of the day was being at the ballpark to experience it. “It was cool to walk in the stands to see people speaking in American Sign Language and having a good time”, he reflects.

 

Deaf Culture Day was really an extension of the services the Red Wings already offer at Frontier Field on a gamely basis. For about the last 10 years, the Red Wings have had interpreters on the field for the National Anthem, God Bless America, Take Me Out To The Ballgame, and some pre-game festivities, which was already more than other MiLB teams provide. This celebration took what was already in place, and raised it to another power.

 

Now that it’s clear the first ever Deaf Culture Day struck a chord with the Deaf Community in Rochester, Mason knows this is something they want to make an annual event at the ballpark. In fact, they’ve already started meeting to discuss what else they can do next year that would make the celebration even better.

 

“Hopefully we can encourage other teams, even in other sports, to do something similar.”

 

To see more moments from Deaf Culture Day at Frontier Field, visit @RocRedWings on Twitter or visit the photo gallery from the game here. Red Wings Deaf Culture Day merchandise featuring American Sign Language can be purchased at the Official Online Store of the Rochester Red Wings here.

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


Sheryl Ring: The Week From Hell

By Sheryl Ring

“Crusty tranny dyke.”

For some reason, of all that my wife and I endured during what we now call “The Week of Hell,” that’s what sticks in my memory the most. Three little words. “Crusty tranny dyke.”

How bad was it? I’ve dealt with hate before. You can’t be a woman – especially a trans woman – in any kind of even quasi-public setting without having some kind of vitriol thrown your way. But this was different. I’d been misgendered, mocked, harassed, called a “thing” and “that.” I’d even received anonymous threats before. But these – these were personal. I’m not repeating the threats here because I won’t give those people the public platform they so clearly crave. I won’t give them my platform, or whatever is left of it. But I will include a sampling of how social media responded to my story. It’s not, alas, all that much better.

T1 Sheryl

It started inauspiciously enough. I spent months working on the Cubs’ coverage of Russell, talking to people in positions who would know what was going on. I’m eternally grateful that of all the people they could have confided in, they chose to talk to me. I told no one of our conversations, because that’s what they requested – and I agreed. Eventually, one of the sources let me know that they would be willing to go on the record, at least anonymously. It’s an enormous responsibility to be entrusted with telling someone’s story, especially when that story involves issues as weighted as domestic abuse and freedom of the press. By now, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know what it is I’m talking about.

I’ve been a storyteller my entire professional life. In my day job as the legal director at Open Communities, I represent people facing eviction, foreclosure, or housing discrimination who can’t afford lawyers. My job is simple: tell my client’s story. Tell it truthfully. Explain why this person doesn’t deserve to be on the street, homeless, because they lost their job, or because of the color of their skin. My job for Fangraphs is similar, though – usually, at least – the stories are of less import. Until, that is, this weekend.

 

T2 Sheryl

 

I won’t deny that the Addison Russell saga is personal for me. I explained why for Fangraphs last year, with a piece that I was honored to receive a SABR award for writing. So the idea that an organization – a powerful organization, like the Cubs, with flagship radio and television stations and ownership connected to the politically powerful – would willfully try to shape how our society views a domestic abuser was alarming to me. It should, I’d argue, be alarming to everyone. I’m not going to opine here about whether Russell is or should be deserving of a second chance; that’s irrelevant now. And my point was never to denigrate the man. Rather, my point was that when a powerful entity tries to control how the media portrays an abuser for its own gain, that damages all of us. It normalizes abuse. It makes the abuser, rather than the victim, a sympathetic figure. 

These kinds of narratives are why women don’t report abuse. They’re why rape culture exists. And they’re why people felt comfortable telling me, in some detail, the process they would use to rape, kill, and dismember me. The first death threat I received Wednesday morning – the one that began by calling me a “crusty tranny dyke” – spanned three pages of this kind of detail. Why? Because the writer accused me of ruining Addison Russell’s life. You see, when you deliberately paint an abuser as a redeemed figure, you make it acceptable to abuse others. If abuse is a redeemable mistake, abuse becomes a trivial matter, and demands for accountability become the greater evil.

 

T3Sheryl

 

When Julian Green was saying that I had “absolute power unchecked” – he knew very well what he was doing. Of course, I had no such thing. But that’s the very essence of misogyny. 

When Julian Green was saying that I had “absolute power unchecked” – he knew very well what he was doing. Of course, I had no such thing. But that’s the very essence of misogyny, you see.Saying a woman has “absolute power” will inevitably lead to men trying to undo that power, especially when it hits a nerve those men see in themselves, like domestic abuse. Threats of rape are the ultimate way of removing women’s power.

Threats of rape aren’t about sex – they’re about power. There is something primal about the fear that comes with being threatened with rape. It’s a threat to take away your autonomy, your agency, your sexuality – and in so doing it does take away your autonomy, your agency, your sexuality. There are few things which can make you feel so powerless. Everything the Cubs did was about eliminating my power. Suddenly, when 670TheScore was talking about me, I wasn’t even allowed to be a lawyer anymore. Instead, I was listed as a person “whose Twitter account says she’s a lawyer.” It would have been easy enough to look it up, but they had to cast doubt on every one of my credentials.

And there’s little doubt that Green made a conscious decision. After all, a number of media members, reporters, and commentators – largely cishet white men like Mike Gianella, Herb Lawrence, and even Paul Sullivan – tweeted confirmations that what I had said was accurate. But Green didn’t go after any of them. He went after only the woman, and told a radio audience that woman was abusing her power. He may not have sent the rape threats himself, but he got exactly the response he was hoping for. Every woman knows that when a man publicly says you have too much power, he’s inviting the mob to put you in your place.

T4Sheryl

 

 

Take the threat which began “crusty tranny dyke.” That one went on for three interminable pages, describing how I would be raped, dismembered, and murdered. I didn’t read the whole thing before I blocked the sender, vanishing the message. But the memory stayed, burned into my subconscious. It’s impossible to read how a man is going to brutalize you so you will know your place without being changed. 

I was mocked for having a “GoFundMe” to pay for my transition surgery. The GoFundMe is humiliating enough – having to out yourself is brutal as it is – but having people spread the lie that I made this up to get money for my surgery is transphobic as hell. And that’s when the misgendering started, calling me a “TG Wannabe” and a man. Evidently, “TG Wannabe” became my new moniker on Reddit. Some threats even referenced my surgery.

Later on Wednesday, I was receiving so many of these terrifying messages that when a phone number I didn’t recognize called me on my cell phone, I froze and panicked, convinced that the caller was yet another threat. It wasn’t – it was actually opposing counsel on a case – but I was too terrified to answer the phone. I froze, utterly in shock, until I collided with the car in front of me. I was still hyperventilating when the police arrived – not from the crash, but from the fear. What if one of these people came and raped me whilst I was at the accident scene, unable to leave?

I spent hours crying in my wife’s arms. It impacted her, too; you can’t watch your spouse go through something like this without going through it with her. She was resolute the entire time, wiping my tears, telling me it would be okay, urging me to be proud of who I was and the stand I had taken. As the world closed in around me, she tried to hold it back with her bare hands. It was amazing and terrifying to watch, as the strain of what she was trying to do tested her. She didn’t sleep at all that week, keeping a watchful eye out in case someone decided to act on their threat in the middle of the night. My wife, who has lived in and around Chicago her entire life, watched as her home turned on her family. And when she didn’t think I could hear, she cried too. 

Before Julian Green reached out to Fangraphs, he didn’t reach out to me. In fact, he and I have never spoken. I didn’t mention him in my tweets, although his unflinching insistence that I was talking about him is pretty clear evidence I struck a nerve. Only two people reached out to me for a comment. Bill Baer talked to me before he wrote his story for NBC Sports. And Gabe Fernandez with Deadspin not only asked for a comment, but also asked for permission to use my name given the threats I was receiving, a courtesy I very much appreciated. Paul Sullivan, whose article in the Chicago Tribune rather backhandedly threw shade in my direction for making my account private (and made no mention of the threats I was receiving as the reason why), didn’t reach out to me at all. Neither did anyone from the Mully and Haugh show on 670TheScore, despite having Julian Green on the radio for a prolonged rant impugning my integrity. Green himself also didn’t talk to me before his screed, which ignited a new round of threats. Once the threats couldn’t come through Twitter, the threats came to my “Sheryl Ring, Esq.” facebook page, so I deleted that. Then they came through Instagram, so I made that account private. The sheer volume of hate was too much; I deleted the Twitter application from my phone, and let Meg Rowley and David Appelman at Fangraphs, and Jessica Quiroli at All Heels On Deck, know I was taking a leave of absence until the storm of harassment had passed. 

I don’t know when it will be safe to write again. I’m writing this, even though I know it will make things worse again for a while, because it’s important that people know and understand what happened here. I broke a story – a true story - about a powerful organization’s protection of a domestic abuser. Men with that organization responded with dog whistles that led to me receiving rape and death threats. There’s no better confirmation that my story was true than in how the Cubs responded. Misogyny, you see, doesn’t – can’t – hide. The Cubs organization valued the men who reported on my story. The only woman? She got thrown away. Silenced. Told to go back to the shadows. All so they could sell Addison Russell, abuser of women, as redeemed by playing a game.

It’s almost as if the Cubs don’t view women as human beings.

 

You can request to follow Sheryl Ring @Ring_Sheryl 

You can donate to her transition fund on her gofundme page-- https://www.gofundme.com/sheryl039s-transition-fund

 


Postcards From The Minor Leagues: Todd Van Steensel Faces New Questions With Optimism

This is the third installment in this series. The fourth and final part will run in July. 

IT’S ALL PART OF IT

Well, as you all know I am no longer in affiliated baseball and about to embark on my first journey into independent league baseball. I signed with the St Paul Saints who play in the American Association of Professional Baseball. It wasn’t something I had planned for this year, but with everything I’ve come across in life I’ve had to find a way to make it work and figure it out. And with the mentality that “It’s all part of it” I was going to make the best of a less than ideal situation. 

With being released came a lot of problems. One problem was where will I stay in the US while I find another team? Luckily the people I’m staying with were generous enough to let me stay with them for as long as I needed. It’s funny how the universe unfolds, because the person I’m living with here actually lived with my family and me in Australia for two months, about seven years ago when she worked for the Sydney Blue Sox of the ABL. So we hosted her back then, now gets to be my host here! It’s fun because her and her husband work in baseball, and are big baseball fans, so they understand the struggle of working in baseball. They have been more than accommodating to me. Image1

A second problem was how am I going to stay in game shape for the next month when I don’t have access to a baseball field? Luckily, I was able to find someone on Facebook who lives in Tempe who was also preparing to join a team in Canada. We met up everyday at a soccer field nearby to play catch. He would drive from Tempe, and I would ride a scooter to the field. Unfortunately he left to go join his team this week, so now I’m on the lookout for another catch partner! In the meantime, I’ll just continue to throw baseballs against a fence! Sometimes you just have to do the best with what’s in front of you. Find a reason to make it work instead of finding a reason you can’t do something!

A third problem was, how am I going to fund myself for the next five weeks? As everyone knows you don’t get paid a salary in spring training, so I was supporting myself with the money I saved in the offseason. Luckily I live at home in the offseason and my mum doesn’t make me pay rent, and she cooks for me every night, so I’m able to save nearly everything I make in the offseason playing in the Australian Baseball League. Along with funding myself for the next few weeks, how was I going to pay for the necessary things I need once I got to St Paul. When I got released by the Twins in August last year, another player moved into my apartment and used all the bedding, pillows and towels. Unfortunately when the season was done he wasn’t able to pack it all so I told him to leave it in Chattanooga for the next person to use. So those things were back on my shopping list of things I’ll need. Desperate times call for desperate measures and I thought, why not post my venmo account on twitter and see if anyone was willing to donate. It couldn’t hurt? People might make fun of me for it, but I’ve never been someone who has shied away from asking for help. In four days, people had donated a total of $583. That is enough to buy everything I need for my apartment, as well as contribute to paying rent. People have also messaged me saying that they can donate silverware and plates and other kitchen utensils. It is honestly heartwarming and humbling that so many people want to help you and support you. 

My mum is a big believer in paying it forward. After all the years of her taking in baseball players at our house in the off-season, her coming to the US and taking myself and teammates out for dinner or even making dinner, and just willing to help anyway she can, I think this is the universe paying it forward to me because of her. 

Which leads to the reason for this post. In times of struggle, no matter how big or small there will be people willing to help. When it’s all said and done, it’s never just you who got to where you are. Everyone who helped you along the way, they are the reason you get there. They are the ones who believe in you and support you when it gets tough, and for every single person who has gotten me to this point, I am eternally grateful.

You can follow Todd Van Steensel on Twitter @toddvs35


Blue Jays in MiLB: A Q&A with Buffalo Bisons Andy Burns

By Tammy Rainey 

Probably not a lot of MLB fans, particularly outside the Blue Jays’ fanbase, are familiar with the name Andy Burns. That’s not really surprising. Burns, a shortstop on draft day, was drafted by Toronto in the 11th round of 2011. Taking a similar career path to current prospect Kevin Smith, Burns was in AA within the second full season after he was drafted, but with less attendant fanfare. While he played mostly 3B as a pro he proved his ability to play all over the field along with solid offensive skills. He got a couple of cups of coffee with the Jays in 2016 which turned out to be just the beginning of his baseball adventures.

 

Over the winter before the 2017 season Burns signed with the most popular team in the Korean League, the Lotte Giants. After two productive seasons in the KBO he’s now back with the Blue Jays having signed before the season as a minor league free agent. Now 28, and the second most senior hitter on the Buffalo Bisons squad, Burns has a rare perspective on the ongoing discussion of minor league pay rates, the Blue Jays leadership on increasing that pay (as well as other investments in the success of farm system players) along with the experience of going from minor league prospect to KBO star. Recently I ask him to discuss with me the insights he’s gained on his journey as a professional ballplayer here and abroad.

--------------------------------------------------------------

 

TR: Thanks for this, Andy. I want to set the stage by bringing up the larger conversation going on around MiLB at the moment. There's a lot of talk over the last couple of years about the gross inadequacy of the pay for minor league players, particularly given the Blue Jays decision to raise salaries across the board. In a lot of these conversations some fans argue that players do alright because they get nice signing bonuses but that, as you know, is actually rare. You were drafted in the 11th round by Toronto, were you one of the few who got more than the most basic signing bonus?

 

AB: I was an 11th rounder but I was fortunate to receive an above slot bonus. it was a solid amount of money but as a young man I wanted to do my best to live off the money I was making and try not to dip into my signing bonus. I was never scraping by as a player but I was also very conscious of how much money was coming in and how much was going out.

 

So I assume you have, or witnessed, some creative survival stories from your five plus years (the first time around) in the Blue Jays system?

 

I don't know if I personally had full blown survival stories, but I know a lot of my teammates through the years had much harder times than I did. I remember my first year in Lansing I decided I would spend the extra 150 dollars a month to have my own bedroom in a three bedroom, one bath apartment. We had up to five guys in that apartment at one point and while $150 a month doesn't sound like much, when your making $1200 before taxes $150 is a large chunk of that salary. You hear the stories of peanut butter sandwiches for dinner and such and those are real, I was just fortunate enough to not have to grind like that.

 

What did you do to supplement your baseball income during the off season?

 

in the off seasons I would always do some lessons to supplement income, but the real star was my wife. While we were struggling through the minor leagues she would always pick up an odd job in the season or offseason to help bring in money to pay for rent or food. She put her career on hold to allow me to follow my dreams, and be with me in the process and she always did what she could to help bring in money.

 

On the field you experienced the oft-discussed difficulty of making the transition to AA. Still, even though the on-base rate dropped, a player who could play all over the field with doubles power and usable speed on the basepaths who made it to AA by 23 was far from a disappointment. That earned you your first invitation to big league camp in 2014. What was that like?

 

As a kid you always dream of being a major league player and the first time you go to big league camp, not only do you have that moment where you realize you are getting close to your dreams but also there’s a little bit of that star struck moment. (Also) I feel like that first big league camp for a lot of players is a lot of figuring out how to do things the big league way and figuring out how to interact with major league players.

 

In 2016 you made your big league debut, but you only got as many as 2 plate appearance in the same game one time. I know that the excitement of being in the big leagues kind of trumps everything, but looking back did you feel some frustration that you didn't get more of a chance to prove you belonged?

 

To make my major league debut in 2016 and look around the clubhouse and see Donaldson, Bats, Tulo, Eddy, Pillar, Martin, Smoak and so on, and be a part of a team that went to the ALCS I am honored to have been there. That’s a tough lineup to crack so even to be apart of a big league roster like that I feel fortunate. Would it have been nice to get my feet wet a little more in the big leagues? Sure but to be a part of a team with that lineup I was fortunate to be there and the things I learned in my time there are priceless.

 

So jumping forward to the next off season, the official transaction says that the Bisons released you in the first days of 2017. I assume you ask for that release so you could sign with the Lotte Giants in Korea?

 

I was DFA'D in December and I had interest (from the Giants) to go over there a week later. It was one of the toughest decisions I had to make in my career but I had a lot of discussions with Toronto’s front office and the team in Korea was able to buy out my contract and I was released so I could sign in Korea.

 

What was that process like? Do players in your position tell their agents to explore a deal in Asia, or do those teams approach targeted players in the U.S. first?

 

I think a lot of players have interest to go overseas and make money so it’s more Korea and Japan that initiate conversation. As a position player there are only 10 of those jobs in the world, to be a position player in Korea, so the teams more so pick through their list to find their guy.

 

That status, knowing you were chosen for such a select group, must have been a tremendous confidence boost before you even took the field there?

 

I think it’s something you don’t realize until you’re over there to be honest. Once the season starts you look around the league and there are only 10 of you. Heading over there is so much unknown that you really have to take everything day by day and sometimes hour by hour but after awhile you get adjusted and things become normal.

 

The difference in the pittance that an average player makes in the minors over here and what the Giants ended up paying you must have been pretty breathtaking?

 

I think players become better players and learn a lot about themselves overseas but what drives them over there are the salaries. Few people know how much your able to make over there and once they hear they go “Ooooooo I get it now.” That though was probably one of the hardest decisions I've had to make in my life. I come off my first year in the big leagues and possibly have a chance the next year to get playing time there or provide for your wife and future family. Nobody dreams of growing up and going and playing in the KBO but at the end of the day there is a responsibility to make as much as you can in the short amount of time you have in the game and I'm very thankful the Blue Jays allowed me to pursue that and give me a chance to set my family up for financial stability in the future.

 

What was the Korean baseball experience like? On and off the field?

 

Playing in the KBO was one of the coolest environments that I've experienced. It’s the major leagues just in a different country. Korea is all about cheer songs and bat flips and until I show people what I'm talking about they don't really understand. I think an understated part of playing over there and why players have success when they come back is you go from wondering if you belong to (a situation where) you’re the guy. You’re the guy everyone looks at to get a big hit in front of 20k people when millions are watching on tv. You’re the person everyone recognizes when you go to Starbucks in the morning before the game and wants a picture. You're the person everyone blames when you lose a game. learning how to play with that in someone else's country makes you a much better player.

 

It sounds like you are a supporter of more expressive play in North America as well  (bat flips and such).

 

Honestly the bat flips are the finish to their swing. You’ll see guys bat flip singles it’s just how they’ve finished forever. But I feel like the cheer songs is something that really keeps the fans engaged and having fun. I think that environment brings more than just baseball fans to the park and they enjoy their experience.

 

So after two very productive seasons there, what motivated you to return?

 

As I said earlier there are only 10 of those jobs in the world so they are hard to keep. our team over there didn't win last year and when a team doesn't win over there the first place they look is foreign players and coaching staff. The team decided they wanted to go a different direction and I'm very thankful to be back here with Toronto. I truly believe everything happens for a reason and I know Toronto has a far better player than they did before I left.

 

Is it happenstance that you ended up back in the Blue Jays system or did either of you make a specific outreach to the other?

 

I couldn't be happier than to be back with Toronto. They have treated me so well thru my entire career. When I knew I was coming back to the US I reached out to my scout who drafted me Blake Crosby. I'm very comfortable here and have a lot of great relationships with people in the organization and we were able to get something done. I think they knew the player who they let go to Korea but I think they are continuing to find out the player who they have now.

 

Now you find yourself surrounded by high profile young prospects like Bichette, Biggio, Alford and - for a little while at least - Vladdy,  what's been your experience as the relative veteran teammate of such a heralded group? Do they look to you for clubhouse leadership? Was that part of what the Jays were buying when they brought you back?

 

The group of young payers we have coming up in our organization is extremely talented and it’s fun to go to work with them everyday. With that we have some older guys in our group headed by Sogard who's a great leader and a great player. I had a lot of older veterans help me when I was younger in Buffalo and teach me a lot about the game and I hope to be able to do the same for these guys. We have a great group of guys here in Buffalo and we are pushing each other today to get better.

 

Obviously, you're only 28. You probably wouldn't still be doing this if you didn't think you'll get another chance to prove yourself in the majors, but do you have ambitions in the game beyond whenever your playing days end?

 

I've really struggled with the question and I've only thrown around ideas. I truly believe the second I start thinking about a career after baseball that I've given up on my career in baseball. so have there been brief thoughts sure, but not serious thoughts. Do I think there is a chance that I'm a baseball lifer? Yes.

 

Finally, I want to circle back around to the pay issue. As a minor league free agent, the Blue Jays' choice to raise all the base rates presumably didn't directly affect your salary this year, but you are in a clubhouse and an organization that added very few such free agents last winter, so most of your teammates must be buzzing about it. Do they, or you, feel like this is (even though it is frankly still not enough pay for the work you guys put in) a real game changing choice for the organization in terms of perception of the team among minor leaguers, inside and outside the Toronto system?

 

The Blue Jays deciding to raise the minor league wages for its players is one of the coolest things I've seen an organization do. What they have invested in each and every player so they can get the most out of their ability both at the field and in their paychecks is astonishing. I think for a player to have a bedroom and money to eat during the season will make such a huge difference in player’s lives. I was very proud to be a part of this organization when I found out they were gonna do this.

 

Similarly to that, the current management team has had a great deal to say, and taken a lot of concrete steps, to move to the cutting edge of player development. Can you describe the difference you see in the way things are done now with, say, five years ago?

 

Well the fastest way to find out is walk into the lunch room now compared to four years ago. The minor league side is getting the quality of food they need to perform as much as the major league side which is amazing. I feel like the attention to detail in every players specific development is unmatched around baseball. The structures of workouts to every single players specific needs, and truly addressing the mental side of this game which is really hard to tap into. To look back at 2016 and see the early stages of where the organization wanted to go, to now close to fully executed, is really cool.

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You can follow Tammy on Twitter @Tammy_Beth


Sheryl Ring: The Cubs, Laura Ricketts Fail to Show True Support for Queer Community + The Betsy Devos Connection

On Betsy DeVos, the Ricketts Family, and Why Representation Matters


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The queer community, a longstanding pillar of the Chicagoland area and an integral part of the Second City’s history, has long been linked with the North Side’s venerable baseball team. Back in 1981, the Cubs’ AAA affiliate in Iowa was run by an openly gay part-owner and executive, Rich Eychaner. The team’s annual pride night, called “Out at Wrigley,” was started in 2001 and is Major League Baseball’s longest-running queer pride event. The Cubs have long had a float in the city’s annual pride parade. In short, there’s no way to separate the Cubs from the city’s queer history.

Or there wasn’t until relatively recently. In 2009, the Tribune Company sold the Cubs franchise and Wrigley Field to the ultra-conservative Ricketts Family, which for decades had been heavily involved in Republican politics. Joe Ricketts, the family patriarch, is the billionaire founder TD Ameritrade and bankroller of GOP presidential campaigns, including a million-dollar donation to President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign. He’s also the figure behind the family’s recent racist email scandal and a longtime holder of white nationalist views. Joe Ricketts have four children who hold equally odious views. Pete Ricketts is governor of Nebraska and an employer of white nationalist aides. Todd Ricketts is the national campaign chairman for Donald Trump. Tom Ricketts, who is chiefly in charge of the Cubs’ operations, recently partnered the team with Sinclair Broadcasting, a media conglomerate that requires that the television stations it owns run virulently homophobic and transphobic content, misogynistic drivel attacking victims of sexual assault, and pro-Trump pieces. As an example of the type of people Sinclair employs, its chief meteorologist is known for referring to trans people publicly as “things” and “its.”

Then there’s Laura Ricketts, Joe’s daughter.

Laura Ricketts, a former litigation attorney, co-owns the Cubs and is the first openly lesbian co-owner of a Major League Baseball team. On the surface, Laura seems refreshingly open to the queer community, despite her family: she’s a philanthropist for queer causes from Lambda Legal to Howard Brown. She fundraised for Barack Obama. At first, Laura’s influence seemed to keep the Cubs squarely in the center of the queer community; in 2011, for example, at her urging, the Cubs became just the second MLB team to join the “It Gets Better” project. But as time went on, it became clear that Laura had less and less influence into how the team was being run. For example, in 2018, the Cubs acquired second baseman Daniel Murphy, who was known as much for his bat as for his repeated homophobic comments about the gay “lifestyle.” Laura defended the trade after discussions with her brothers. But the team’s acquisition of an openly homophobic player caused massive backlash among the city’s queer population and the team’s sizable LGBTQ fanbase.

In one move, the team had gone from the heart of the city’s queer community to well outside it, and Laura Ricketts had taken the side of her homophobic family.

 

But the reality is that Chicago’s queer community should never have had faith in Laura Ricketts to preserve the Cubs’ ties to the LGBTQ community at all – not necessarily because she wasn’t up to the task, but rather because she was always a flawed messenger. Remember, Laura comes from a remarkably conservative, homophobic family. For some – even most – queer people, having a relationship with an intolerant family isn’t even possible. Laura’s privilege was her family’s money, and in order to accept that money she turned away from the worst excesses of her family regardless of whom they supported. And lest you think that this is just about politics, it’s not. You see, we learned all we needed to know about Laura Ricketts when she participated in the purchase of the Cubs.

Why? Because the Ricketts family, as odious as it is, isn’t the most homophobic or racist family involved. That distinction instead belongs to their minority partner in the Cubs ownership group, the Devos family. Yes, as in Betsy DeVos, secretary of education.

The DeVos family was known for its questionable morals long before Betsy sat before Congress and admitted to intentionally rolling back protections for trans students because of the data showing increased suicide rates for trans children. Family patriarch Richard DeVos, who made his money with AmWay, a multi-level marketing scam that was probably illegal, and he and Betsy, his daughter in law, spent it on homophobic causes. In the 20 years before the DeVos family purchased a stake in the Cubs, they donated more than six million dollars to organizations supporting conversion therapywith Betsy leading the way. She bankrolled efforts which she said would “confront the culture in which we all live today in ways that will continue to help advance God’s Kingdom, but not to stay in our own faith territory,” and compared queer people to pigs.

In 2015, most of this was already publicly known. But the Ricketts family sold about 10% of the team to the DeVos family to finance the renovations of Wrigley Field anyway, and gave them an advisory role with the team. Laura, it should be noted, said nothing publicly, and did nothing publicly, to oppose the sale. There are no reports that she did anything to oppose the sale privately either.

And if you still don’t believe me, remember this. Laura Ricketts is a queer woman who sits on the Board of the Chicago Cubs. And yet she said not a word when the Cubs traded for domestic abuser Aroldis Chapman. She again said nothing when the team tendered a contract to domestic abuser Addison Russell. And yet, she has no problem playing Kingmaker in Chicago politics. If she won’t stand up against domestic violence and institutionalized misogyny by her team despite being a woman, why are we expecting her to speak up on behalf of queer people because she’s queer? In fact, she’s doing the opposite: using her position to shield her bigoted family from criticism over decisions like the Murphy trade.

 

So for those people torn about whether the Cubs are still a queer-friendly organization, I would argue you have your answer already.

Laura Ricketts, whether intentionally or otherwise, has allowed herself to be tokenized as the friendly, female, queer face of an ownership group that is ardently and effectively campaigning for the elimination of queer people and the subjugation of women. As much as Laura Ricketts is a lesbian, she’s also rich and white – two privileges which many people in our community don’t have. And she’s using those privileges to the detriment of women and queer people alike.

 


Lifer 10: How Do You "Gameday?"

Lifer Logo

 

Welcome back, Baseball Lifers, to the TENTH Edition of Lifer! 

How do you celebrate the new season? Do you load your shopping carts with new baseball themed tees for the ballpark? Do you start researching to find fun theme nights at ballparks you've never visited? This edition has a little bit of everything, including a brand-new segment we're excited to introduce. 

One of my favorite parts about being a baseball girl is the huge selection of creative baseball tees that only the real baseball fans understand. Baseball puns, baseball math, even hip lingo with a baseball spin make for fun additions to your wardrobe.  I’ll show you a few of the tees I’m eyeing this season.

Theme Nights always make for a fun time at the ballpark, and Minor League clubs have some of the best ones. But what happens when a MiLB Team celebrates an iconic film? The Salem Red Sox are having a theme night that's sure to be fetch. 

As mentioned, we've added a new segment to the column. Hit 'Em is dedicated to the intersection of baseball and music, and it will feature a new baseball related song each issue. We'll take a look at some classics and some new favorites that celebrate the game we love! [Editor's Note: The new segment at the end of this edition is a somber tribute, but a celebration of life. In the future, we will feature a variety of content. We started by honoring a lost life, and our hearts go out to those who are mourning.~ Jessica Quiroli]

Enjoy your baseball season, however you do it.

~RoseAnn Sapia

 

 

 

New Baseball Tees, Please

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

 

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Whatever your “resting baseball face” is, it’s one of the things that unites us all. There’s something about baseball that makes us tick, and, when things are going all wrong, turns us off, gets us furious. Because it's our passion. That’s why this tee caught my eye. Clever? Extremely. Trendy? For sure. But if this T-shirt doesn’t characterize every Baseball Lifer, I don’t know what will.

The “Resting Baseball Face” T-shirt by The Gameday Chic is available in sizes S-2XL, and can be found to order on their website. Click here for more information.

 

 

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I know I can’t be the only one this shirt resonates with. Some people can’t function properly without having coffee (“but first, coffee”), and others put their lives on hold for baseball. Hence this “but first, baseball” tee by For The Field Apparel.

Baseball Season doesn’t just mean going to the ballpark to enjoy a game every now and then, it means our whole schedule changes to accommodate the season. Have a family barbeque on Memorial Day? Have to make sure the game is on the radio. A night out with friends? We’re making sure the game’s on the big screen. Heck, sometimes we don’t even feel like going out or change our plans to accommodate the baseball schedule.

This “but first, baseball” T-shirt by For The Field Apparel is available in sizes S-XL, and can be found to order on their website. Click here for more information.  

 

 

 

On Wednesdays We Go To Baseball Games

By: RoseAnn Sapia

 

 

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That's right! This American Classic is turning 15 this year, and the Salem Red Sox are ready to celebrate. If you're a Mean Girls fan, you might want to make your way to Haley Toyota Field on April 17th to ensure you properly observe. 

However, there are some rules you'll need to abide by to guarantee you'll fit in. April 17th is a Wednesday, and "on Wednesdays we wear pink". It might be a Red Sox game, but you won't want to be caught in anything other than pink for this contest. Since it won't be Friday, you won't necessarily want to dress casual either since "we only wear jeans or track pants on Fridays". Oh yea, if you plan on wearing a ponytail, make sure you don't wear your hair like that the rest of the week. 

Mean Girls Night is the best time for all Mean Girls loving Baseball Lifers to take in a Salem Red Sox game. Never been to a Sox game before? April 17th would be a great time to attend. Salem fans will surely let you sit with them. 

 

Hit 'Em: A Celebration of Baseball Songs

By RoseAnn Sapia and Jessica Quiroli

Nipsey Hussle's"Bases Loaded"

NipseyPhoto courtesy of BBC

 

"Bases Loaded" is about survival, and Nipsey Hussle knew about that.

In his 2018 song, from the baseball-tinged titled album "Victory Lap," he is confident, while remaining cautious ("But I gotta make it to first, first"), as he weaves in baseball references, metaphorically examining his rise from intensely difficult times through the prism of baseball. 

Listen to my ambition 'cause I'm on one

Swingin' for the fences for the home run

Even further beyond the universe

But I gotta make it to first, first

It feels like every second is being stolen

I risk it for every ticket, we sold them

You got the ball, Imma take it home

But I'm lyin,' I'm gonna make it home

The sequence is masterful, breathtaking as the momentum builds; He's never relaxing that he has the game won. He's taking "risk(s)" and "swingin' for the fences," determined that he'll "make it home." But there's no guarantee, and he's going anyway. The larger theme of the entire song deals with overcoming racial injustice in schools, in society, the prison system, as well as the pain of trying to survive being born into gang violence, . He wanted better for future generations,and he wanted to be part of the solution, to give hope and a tangible chance to many who are often forgotten or misunderstood. 

'Bases Loaded' is poetry. Life lessons wrapped up in every moment of a hitter's purpose. It's grit and beauty, much like the game we love. Nipsey Hussle was talking about the journey of his life; despite the unbearable tragic ending, when he was murdered on March 31st, he leaves us with a message fueled with hope, he will never be forgotten. He'll be remembered for his musical contributions, as well as his incredible contribution to the world, and to so many who took comfort in his message and outreach.

 

RoseAnn's Take:

 

Boy south Slauson Ave know my demonstration

Born and raised y'all affiliated

This is really greatness

Riding around like I really made it

Loaded bases I'm gon' Willy Mason

 

There's a lot here to make you think about baseball. The imagery is vivid. 

But the word “affiliated” somehow jumps out.

Maybe that particular reference wasn't as Hussle intended, but affiliated...that's MiLB. Where you start, where you grow. The lyric choice paints a picture of a homegrown talent coming up through the system, and finally “made it” to the “greatness”.

Lyrical Breakdown:

“Born and raised y’all affiliated.”  This line conjures an image of a player who was drafted by the team he's now playing with in the big leagues. They invested in him, and he made his way through all their affiliates in the minors. He's not floating out there without a home or direction. He's not unaffiliated. There's power in that statement. 

“This is really greatness. Riding around like I really made it.” Now, this player who grinded his way through the Minors has finally made it to the Majors. Maybe that player sees the fans around town. They know him. They admire and appreciate him. He shows how much he cares about them. As it was with Hussle, and all of the people moved, inspired and uplifted by the entrepreneur, rapper and activist.

 

 


Postcards From the Minor Leagues: Todd Van Steensel

This is the second installment of this series featuring pitcher Todd Van Steensel's life in the minor leagues. 

Hey Todd, what’s spring training like?

 

5:20am - “Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy”. 

Is the sound of my Queen inspired alarm tone going off to wake me up for a normal day of Spring Training here in Arizona. I quickly jump in the shower and try and get out of the house by 5:40am. I opted not to stay in the team hotel during camp, instead living with a friend of mine and her husband in Scottsdale. So I get to enjoy a nice 35 minute drive to the field each morning! 

6:15am - “Good morning”

Is what I say to the attendant at the gate each morning as I walk into the facility. I casually make my way to the information board to see the schedule for the day and check if I’m pitching. On this particular day, I am pitching in an intersquad game at 1:00pm on Field Three at our complex. Now that I know what’s going on, I go get changed and head to the cafeteria to get some breakfast! If you don’t have to get treatment or workout, or have early work you get a lot of down time before stretch. So I usually just go back to my locker and relax until stretch time.

9:00am - “Behind the cones!”

Is what our strength and conditioning coach yells out just before we begin our stretch. A normal day on the field will consist of stretching, throwing, some sort of team defence. Could be working on your bunt plays, some PFP’s or 1st and 3rd plays. Once we get through all that, the pitchers go condition while the hitters get ready to take batting practise. The type of running you do changes from day to day, depending on when you pitch. Since I was throwing on this day, my conditioning was only 10 sprints to 30yds. Some would call this the easy day! 

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11:00am - “Lets go eat”

Is what I say to myself once we get back in the clubhouse after spending the morning out on the field. The food here has been really good which is a huge improvement on what we used to eat in my first few years of pro baseball. Used to get half a subway sandwich, so it’s good to see that the food has gotten exponentially better! After lunch, you have time to do whatever you want before the game. 

 

1:00pm - “Play ball!”

Is the sound of the umpire getting the game underway on the back fields at the Peoria Sports Complex. Spring training baseball is unique in a way that the games “don’t count” and it’s more about players getting their work in. So, it’s not unusual to see an inning get “rolled” if a pitcher is struggling and can’t record three outs. Unfortunately for me, that has happened twice this spring training! You try not to look into it too much, because as I’ve gotten older I’ve begun to focus more on the process than the results in the early stages of spring training and that you’re just figuring things out. A few years ago I would lose sleep over an inning getting rolled but nowadays I understand that everything will come together soon and I just need to get out on the mound more often. Also, one unique thing about spring training is that we know when we will pitch. So I threw the 7th inning in this game and it went quite well! Like I said, focus more on the process, and the process is coming along just fine and the results will follow. 

 

4:00pm - “Head to the weight room”

Is what the S&C coach tells you to do after we pitch, and we have to go workout. Now, I know anyone that knows me will laugh at the idea of me working out. I’ve never been good in the weight room, and have never really enjoyed it. But, it’s part of being an athlete so while I’m doing it, even though I’m not the strongest or the biggest guy, I’ll put in my best effort. I sometimes feel like a nuisance because I don’t know how to do certain lifts, but the S&C coaches here have been very patient with me and extremely helpful. So they definitely make it easier for me to enjoy working out when it’s not one of my most enjoyable activities! Once you’re done working out, you hit the showers, get dressed, check the schedule for tomorrow’s report time and get ready to leave.

 

5:00pm - “See ya, mate”

Is what I say to the gate attendant as I get to head back to my apartment for the day. A spring training day is quite a grind that’s for sure. But you know what you sign up for, and it’s all part of it.

 
As Spring Training was coming to a close, Van Steensel received some news. This is a continuation of his entry after that.-Editorial Note
 

“Thanks for your efforts”

I knew Monday was the day that they release players in camp, because Monday is the day they give us our $25 a day meal money for the week ahead. If they release you then they don’t have to give it to you. So I was prepared for it being a tough day at the ballpark for a few guys. Little did I know I was going to be one of those guys. 

I turned up to the ballpark around 6:00am, and just went about my business. Went to my locker and got changed and went to grab some breakfast. Once I was done I just went back to my locker to relax for a little while and was watching the news from back home in Australia on my iPad. 

One of the coaches then walked up to me at my locker and said “Hey, can we see you for a second in the office?”. Now I’ve been around long enough to know what that means, especially in Spring Training! So I followed him into the office where a few of the minor league coordinators were in. I took a seat while they all looked at me, then I was told “We’re going to release you this morning, we just don’t have a spot for you” and my response was “Okay”. They spoke a little more, saying a whole bunch of things, I basically zoned out because at that point you really don’t want to listen to what they have to say. They asked if I had any questions and I basically said “Nope”, shook their hands and walked out. 

I had a few things to take care of before I left. Had to head to the training room to do an exit physical, as well as meet with the travelling secretary to organise my travel. I did get a laugh out of it, because I was asked “Do you need a flight home? Or did you drive here?”. I wasn’t sure if that was a serious question! Because as you know, there isn’t a direct route from the US to Australia that I could drive home... yet! I told them to hold off on booking a flight home as I was planning on staying in the US a little longer to try and catch on with another team. 

Once I took care of all the formalities, I packed my bag, said goodbye to a few teammates that I got close to in the last few weeks and made my way out of there. I got there so early that I had my bag packed and was leaving while a few guys were still getting to the field that morning. So I actually may have been the first one there, and the first to leave! 

I began my drive home, and in the meantime my agent had been calling affiliated teams for me. I’m realistic, I understand how baseball works and know it is an extremely tough time to try and catch on with an affiliated club as they try to set their rosters for the season. But nonetheless he still was on the phone for me. While all this was happening, a few independent league teams were sending me messages asking if I’d be interested in playing with them. 

I got back to my apartment, took a moment to just sit down and relax before I returned some messages I received. Last year when the Twins released me, the St. Paul Saints who play in the American Association were aggressive in trying to sign me, but it just wasn’t a good fit at the time as there were only two weeks left of the season, so I opted against it. But still held onto their details. This time when St Paul called, it seemed like the perfect fit. Everyone I’ve spoken to about playing in St Paul said it’s one of the best places to play in “Indy Ball”, so after a few days I agreed to sign with them to continue my baseball journey in the US. 

Now, the hard part. I had to find a way to keep my arm in shape over the next month before I reported to spring training with the Saints on May 1st. Being in a city where I don’t know anyone this was going to be a problem. Luckily, a guy I played with the Padres wanted to help me out, and even after he spent all day at the field he said he would come play catch with me before he left for his affiliate. Once he left, it became a lot tougher! I played catch with my roommate here a couple of times, who hasn’t played competitive baseball since high school so I then went to the land of social media to send out a call to see if anyone could play catch with me. I had no luck early on, even contacted the local high schools and colleges asking if I could participate in practice but was told that it “was not permissible”. Eventually one guy got back to me, and we’ve been able to play catch and workout together for the last few days. One thing I’ve noticed about baseball players, is that they understand the struggle, and understand what it takes, so they’re always willing to help you out whenever you need it.

So as of now, I’m currently overstaying my visit with some friends in Scottsdale, playing catch with a guy I met on Facebook at a soccer field everyday, trying not to spend as little money as I can, and enjoying life as much as I can. 

I’m sure people are reading this going, you’ve been released four times? Why are doing this? Get the hint, no one wants you. But, I have reasons for why I do this. I have family and friends who have supported me for the last eleven years since I signed who have believed in me and never given up on me when I wanted to. And one day, I might have children who have this crazy dream, and I wouldn’t be able to look them in the eye and tell them “follow your dreams” if I didn’t do it myself. We all have our “why”, and I know what mine are.

 

Stay tuned for the next installment of this four-part series next month. 

Follow Todd on Twitter @toddvs35