Sunday 29 April 2012

6th inning, Foul ball

All kinds of people go to baseball games. Its unavoidable that some people will place too high a value on a souvenir. Lots of digital ink gets spilled over what people do wrong in this world. I would like to draw attention to how easy it can be to overlook when something is done just right.

On April 28th, in the 6th inning at the Rogers Centre, the Toronto Blue Jays and Seattle Mariners were duelling it out. A foul ball was pulled into the lower level seats by Edwin Encarnacion. It was picked up by a young fan, maybe nine or ten years old. Not unusual to see a foul ball caught by a glove toting young fan.

Then the boy did something that caught the attention of one of the camera operators. He ran down the aisle to an even younger fan, and gave him the ball. Perhaps he read one of the many articles on foul ball etiquette published after the couple in the link above seemed to miss the boat. Whatever his reasons, his actions speak for themselves, from my twitter feed:

Sure, it was his second foul ball, but Mike Wilner (@wilnerness590) caught a ball in the same game, and revealed that it was his first catch in over 2000 games that he has attended.  Never sure when you are going to get another one, so giving away the ball does mean something.

Seems that someone else at the stadium noticed the gesture as well. Again, from twitter:

I think it's a great story, too. One last add-on, to this little tale: When the boy and his older companion left early, (bedtime, I guess) the section he was sitting in gave him a round of applause. And he tipped his cap to the crowd.

Now, really, it doesn't get much better than that. He has a story that he can tell the rest of his life. I have a story to post on my blog. The littlest kid in this tale has a baseball. Everybody in his section gets to cheer for the good guy. I'm not the type to suggest that our foul ball donater will grow up to be a better man because of this incident. He seems like he might have a few things figured out about right and wrong already, but, you know, small sample size, and all that. What I would suggest is that, when you are at a game, and have a chance to share a moment with the fans around you, remember, all kinds of people go to baseball games. Once in a while, one of them might make a little magic happen in the stands.

Tuesday 24 April 2012

SF Giants: Illustrated Defense

I must confess, I find it difficult to come up with something that I feel is original enough to post here. I hop around the Internet, visit my favourite sites, and get directed this way and that by Twitter accounts I admire. Everything is covered. So I try to take things and show them in a slightly different way, and I certainly hope you find that entertaining. Maybe you don't spend half the night on the net like I do, and this is all new to you. That would be cool, too.

A couple of days ago, Getting Blanked, featured this post on Aubrey Huff's first career appearance at second base. It includes the following GIF. This is could be and instructional video on how not to turn the 6-4-3 double play.

I couldn't stop laughing the first time I saw this. Burriss knows exactly what to do, setting his body to make the throw to his left. The cameraman knows exactly what to do, panning over to second base. The umpire knows what to do, moving into position to make the out call. The runner knows what to do, sliding into second base, ready to 'take out' the second baseman with a hard slide.

Aubrey Huff does not know what to do. As the camera quickly pans over to the play at first, he appears to be strolling towards second base. I'm not sure why. I don't blame Huff, as Bochy was the one who sent him out there, but, WOW, does it look bad.

The Giants are a team worth watching, though, and by the time April 23rd came around, the middle infielders had completed the script for their new instructional video. I think the title is "How To Turn and Infield Hit Into Two Outs" or "Saving Pitcher Lincecum", whichever you prefer.

It appears that nobody has found the time to GIF this up, so here's a link to the video highlight.

Nifty little transfer, isn't it? First, Crawford says "I know the glove is for catching things, but I'm going to throw with it too." and Burriss responds with "Who needs the glove, I will use my hand for catching AND throwing, as is more effective at this time."

Pretty simple, really. I'm sure that's just the way they set it up when they take grounders every day.

This has been your How To/ How Not To entry for the day.

Saturday 21 April 2012

2 on, Nobody out. Line Drive

I could have called the blog 'Man, I Love Baseball', but that seemed to obvious and/or generic. Of course I love it. Hundreds of hours of my life spent thinking about it, voluntarily, make that apparent. There are times, though where I LOVE baseball. I watched Doc no-hit the Reds in a playoff game. Loved every minute of it. I had never sat down to watch a game before, and had it become a no-hitter. Nobody knew that would happen, and I watched it unfold with a mix of nervousness and excitement. That was cool.

There are a lot of things that you see very rarely in baseball. Fans hope that they see a player have a three or four home run game, or a no-hitter, or an outfielder starting a double play. An inside the park home run is always memorable. This post, is about a play that is one worth waiting for, the triple play.

Baseball has its most exciting moments when fortune smiles on one team or other. There are a few seconds of tension created after the pitcher releases the ball, before it is touched by a fielder, where nobody is sure what the result will be. When a fly ball heads deep into the corner with two outs and runners on, the fielder gives chase. That moment, where all eyes are waiting for a huge swing in the chances of winning the game, that encapsulates the reason baseball is unique and worth watching. Either runners score, fulfilling their purpose, or they disappear, representing only the opportunity unrealised.

The ultimate reversal of fortune is the triple play. The circumstances that bring one about require specific kinds of failures on the part of the defending team. There must be two or more runners on base. There must be none out. Thousands of innings go by without either of those first two criteria being fulfilled. The runners must be aggressive, with there first move being to advance to the next base. A pop-up or fly ball will not work. The ball must be hit sharply, again, the pitcher must fail again. Everything seems to be going wrong for the defence at this point. It really is. The run expectancy for runners on first and second, nobody out, is around 1.5 runs. Teams score all the time with this setup. About half the time they go on to score two!

And then, once in a very long while, chance says no, throw out your expectations. Magic happens. The sharply hit ball finds a fielder's glove, he's close to a base, and his instincts take over, telling him to get as many outs as he possibly can. Which is just what happened to Adam Lind last night.
Shout out to Blue Jay Hunter for the GIF action.
Simple enough, catch the ball, quickly to first, fire to second. Walk off the field. Suddenly everything has changed. Adam was interviewed by Jerry Howarth, and kept emphasising "It happened so fast, and we were back in the dugout." Yes, because if you had time to think about it, you wouldn't have had time to do it.

Ricky Romero thought it was significant enough to tweet about after the game.

When a team turns three, the Internet has a ripple sent through it, every website that follows baseball has the highlights, and one team is famous for fifteen minutes. Its a special moment, and one that stands apart from the results of the game.

It feels special to be able to say, yes, I saw that happen. I shared that with all the other fans who were hoping for something magical. I hope that you feel the same way too, when you watch your team. I hope that the magic moments are many and varied, and that they don't take 32 years to come around again.

As I write this, the Blue Jays are still diving and grabbing baseballs like men possessed, so I'm going to lean back and hope for more magic. When I see something special, I'll put it up here again.

Thursday 19 April 2012

Brett Lawire, Safety Tips

Brett Lawrie.

He's kind of been a full sentence, a complete statement, since he arrived in the big leagues. He is an in-your-face, give 100% all the time player. He makes other players more quotable. He appears to not care much what anyone else on the field thinks about him. Twitter users who follow the Blue Jays have a hashtag- #jerkball, which refers to skills with an attitude to match. It fits Lawrie's style of play perfectly. I think people identify with him, because he doesn't seem to be at work when he's on the field, he's still a big, powerful, hyper, kid out playing in the yard. It's easy to trade places with Brett Lawrie. Imagine hitting a grand slam home run, in front of twenty thousand people, a homer that brought your team from behind to up by three runs. Wouldn't you love to run back to the rest of your team and do this?

Now you and I, we can watch Brett from a safe distance, and marvel. We don't have to be the guy to talks to him after he tries to steal home, off a right handed pitcher, no less, and fails. The long term happiness of Lawrie and his less intense teammates depends on them finding ways to get along in close quarters.

This team is led, we are told, by Jose Bautista, a man whose bat is larger than life. So how does 'the man' deal with 'the kid'. He plays it safe, that's how. After becoming familiar with the aftermath of a Lawrie home run, Jose took precautions as below:

As with airplane seats, in the event of a Lawrie Home Run landing, dugout pads can be used as an emergency safety device.

There is a genuine magic moment here, one which makes me feel closer to my favourite team.When the long grind of the season has the players looking grim, drop back in and remember this little moment of fun.

Shout out to for the latter images.

Monday 16 April 2012

Tied, Top 8 PO, 5-3

Ryan Zimmerman is the kind of player you want at third base for you favourite team. He's a threat on both the offensive and defensive side of the game. He plays his position well, and over his career, has been a well above average defensive third baseman, getting a Total Zone Rating of between plus 10 and plus 18 for all of his full years playing, with the exception of 2011, when he was mysteriously below average.

We don't celebrate great careers here at Baseball Is Magic, though. We celebrate great moments, and Ryan Zimmerman had one on Sunday, April 15th, 2012. You'll see he's wearing number 42 on his back, because this was Jackie Robinson Day.

Zimmerman was channelling a different Robinson on this play, however.

Not, not Frank. Brooks. Or, Hoover, as he was called by his admirers.

Observe, four frames from the left field camera view:

Pitch on the way

Now keep your eye...

On the ball....

And he'll make it disappear!
Super job, Mr Zimmerman! The timestamp indicates that less than 2 seconds have elapsed from delivery to success. Well, success in stopping the ball. Ryan still has to make the play 100 feet away, where the first baseman is wondering how the heck he just did that.

The whole highlight is here on

Zimmerman's Snag

The tail end of the video is certainly worth it too, the batter is running well wide of the first base line. Why? He's looking to see how the left fielder is going to play the ball down the line. He has no clue Zim was even able to lay a glove on the ball. And he can go into the dugout and think about that for a little bit.

This story from the Washington Post brought Zimmerman's play to my attention.

Sunday 15 April 2012

8th inning, leading 8-2

When you and I have a day off, it might involve a little housework, maybe kicking back and watching some TV. Maybe a little shopping at the mall. When a baseball player has a day off, he still has to go to the office. Then he has to watch all of his co-workers do their jobs all day. Sometimes, if he's lucky, his boss will ask him to finish an important project, or to work the rest of the day for somebody who got sick. Any of those things would still constitute a good day off for a baseball player.

Sometimes, things get tense, and the score is close. Other times, a pitcher might be throwing a no-hitter with all eyes on them. Those are tough days to be on the bench, showing solidarity through the intense moments is probably almost as draining as being out there.

The worst time to be on the bench, especially in a televised Major League Baseball game, is when your team has run up the score. There is danger lurking, a danger unlike anything I experience in my work. People will, in a heartbeat, be willing to make you look like an idiot on national television.

From twitter uesr @spookylish

Tuesday 10 April 2012

Lineout CF

Baseball plays are, over time, reduced to simple phrases and numbers. E6, F9, K. They get to the bare bones of what happened, and from a scoresheet, you can reconstruct a game, much like a dot to dot in a colouring book. The subtle ways in which each F9 or 6-4-3 double play differ are lost in the piles of scoresheet data. You cannot copy a Rembrant using dot-to-dot. In baseball some plays deserve to be treated better, and better treatment is what I will give the following play: F8.

Colby Rasmus does not give the impression of being in a hurry. His pace from the dugout to the on deck circle, then to the batter's box, is deliberate. His words are chosen deliberately in interviews. He gives the impression of not really being pumped up for much of anything. Many of baseball's quickest outfielders give a much different impression. Bourjos, Gardner, even Rajai Davis, give the impression of a coiled spring, bouncing all over the place. Side by side with those guys, Colby looks like Eeyore to their Roo. This guy:

He is responsible for patrolling the vast expanses of centre field. There has been some doubt about his presence there in the world of Blue Jays fans. He hasn't been around very long.

Take away the reporters, take away the 'practice' label. Definitely take away the saddest attempt at portrait photography I've seen since grade three. Now, put him in a nice clean uniform and glove, and put him in centre field in front of 48,000 screaming fans. Put him somewhere where a little magic can happen.

That's where he was in the third inning on April 9th, 2012, Jarrod Saltalamacchia was at the plate for the Red Sox. Salty is a left handed hitter, but Rasmus was shaded well into left field. When the hitter made contact, it was a looping liner into short right-centre. And all 48,000 fans got to see what Colby Rasmus saves up his energy for.
Big shout out to @james_in_to for this follow him on twitter!
No doubt in his mind, no concern for his body, nothing but webbing. F8, but really, so much more than that. F8 + spectacular.

Come back here when you are down and out about a dropped ball or bobbled relay, and remember where the magic happens.

You can find me on Twitter at @coolhead2010.

Friday 6 April 2012

One minute in the 16th inning

260 pitches. 

J.P. Arencibia had caught 260 pitches in the five hours since the start of the Cleveland Indians' home opener. He had squatted 260 times and put down fingers, trying to guide his pitchers through the long early innings. He continued to do the same through the long, late innings. The ball hit his glove over two hundred times in those five hours. When it missed his glove, it hit his body, because that's what has to happen to a catcher when his pitcher misses the glove. He had thrown out a runner at second, and dove and tagged a runner out sliding into home plate. Right on his spikes. Some parts of J.P. Arencibia's body had to be hurting after five hours of that kind of punishment. Most likely, many parts of his body were hurting, more than he would care to admit.

And none of that effort mattered at all in this one minute. One minute in the top of the 16th inning. The only opening day 16th inning in Major Legue history. The mask and pads were sitting in the dugout. He had a bat in his hands, and a helmet on his head. He had a different job to do.
Courtesy of Daylife

Catchers who can hit well are a valuable commodity in the realm of Major League Baseball. The punishment doled out from being behind the plate, being involved in every pitch, takes its toll on the mind and body. When it comes time to grab the bat, catchers have already thrown more, moved around more, and had to think about defence more than anyone else on the diamond. It's harder to hit with sore hands. It's harder to generate power with sore knees. It's harder to focus when you've already set up for 250 pitches, trying to figure out a way to keep ahead of the opposing batter's adjustments.

Perhaps some of those factors can help explain why Arencibia looked down at his third base coach and saw a bunt sign that wasn't there. J.P. is not often called upon to bunt, which might be why he asked to see the signs again. Again, he saw a bunt sign that wasn't there. He has never sacrifice bunted successfully in his major league career. To noone's surprise, the bunt attempt resulted in another failure, in the form of a foul ball. The count was one ball, two strikes. J.P. Arencibia's career average with the count 1-2 was .134. Everybody in the park knew J.P. was in a horrible situation, and unlikely to be the hero. His odds of helping his team win were very long, indeed.

But baseball is magic.

The next pitch delivered by Jairo Asencio was the one labelled #4 in the following graphic.
Coutesy Brooks Baseball
A pitch which Arencibia punished, in exactly the way a flat slider down the heart of the plate should be punished. Three run homer. Nail in the Clevelan Indian's coffin. Celebration in the dugout.
Big shout out to Bluejaysbits for this one

In the long course of the 162 game baseball season, there will be a lot of moments, some predictable, some depressing, some amazing. This website exists so that we can all have a place to go to remember the moments that contain a little magic.