March 13, 2013 [LINK / comment]
Spring training is two-thirds over
Outside here in Virginia, the piles of snow are slowly melting away, a sign that spring finally is just around the corner. (I think Mr. Groundhog fooled us on February 2!) Down in Florida and Arizona, baseball's spring training (which ought to be called winter training) has been underway for nearly a month, with only two weeks left to go. The game scores during the preseason mean very little, of course, but for what it's worth, the Washington Nationals are 7-8, in the middle of the National League pack.
The team's pitchers have had a few shaky starts, but that's nothing to worry about. Stephen Strasburg, Gio Gonzalez, and Jordan Zimmermann have proven themselves before. Among the batters, Bryce Harper is red-hot, with a .444 average. Close behind him is future prospect Anthony Rendon, batting .375. Nats manager Davey Johnson had previously insisted that Rendon was too young to considered for inclusion on the Opening Day roster -- just like Bryce Harper last year! Rendon went 4 for 5 and hit the game-winning home run the Nats' 9-7 win over the Astros in a split-squad game on Wednesday. See MLB.com. Rendon plays third base, so where would he fit? Might he play second base instead of Danny Espinosa (shoulder problems), or should Ryan Zimmerman play at second? That is a disconcerting scenario to contemplate.
Most teams would be jealous of having such an overload of talent. It's not a guarantee of success, but barring any major injuries, it's hard to see how the Nationals can be beat this year. At a minimum they ought to win the National League East again, and anything less than a trip to the League Championship Series would be a disappointment. With the character-building tribulations of last October, the Nats ought to be able to overcome just about any impediment to victory this year.
Gio: drug tests negative
Apparently, there was nothing to the earlier news that Gio Gonzalez was implicated in a sports doping ring led by Anthony Bosch. He told reporters that he took blood and urine tests, and says the results were negative. See MLB.com. That's a big relief.
Nationals' head-to-head matchups
While taking a look back at the Nationals' historic 2012 season, I went about figuring the win-loss records against each team. What stands out is the Nats' lopsided winning margins over the Cubs (6-1), Reds (5-2), Astros (7-1), and especially the World Champion Giants (5-1). In interleague play, the Nats swept the Red Sox and Blue Jays (3-0), and got swept in turn by the Yankees (0-3); the Orioles beat them in four of six games. Among their divisional rivals, the Nationals dominated the Mets (14-4), edged the Braves (10-8), and tied both the Phillies and Marlins (9-9).
Including postseason games, the Nationals were tied with the St. Louis Cardinals, 6-6.
Eventually I'll do similar compilations for all years going back to 2005. I know it wouldn't be hard to find such data on some of the big-league baseball statistics Web sites, but I've got most of the raw data in a spreadsheet already, so it shouldn't be too much trouble.
RFK Stadium minor tweak
I recently made a rather minor adjustment to the RFK Stadium diagrams, showing the structural members which protrude from the back side of the roof perimeter [for the first time]. Also, the outer ramps are about three feet wider than before, making the total diameter six feet bigger, but nothing changed further inward.
Perhaps more importantly, that page now shows a more complete set of stadium data. Seating rows in each deck, the overhang/shade percent for the upper and lower decks, fair and foul territory, and fence height. On January 19 I began including fence height and seating row data. Once I'm sure that's the best way to present such data, I'll go ahead and do all the stadium pages the same way.
March 16, 2013 [LINK / comment]
Birding field trip in Waynesboro
This morning I led a special Augusta Bird Club field trip along the Greenway in Waynesboro, with Mary Katherine Froehlich, proprietor of Stone Soup Books. The outing was part of The Community Read, sponsored in part by Community Foundation of Central Blue Ridge in their One Book One Community program. The 2013 book is "A Walk in the Woods" by Bill Bryson, hence this event. More information can be found at sawcommunityread.org. (Text from the augustabirdclub.org Web site, which I wrote.)
It was the first time I had walked along the Greenway, the first phase of which was completed last year. The plans are to extend it by another mile or so during the next couple years, and it will make Waynesboro a much more desirable place for nature and recreation. Unfortunately, no one else showed up for the field trip, probably because it was raining at dawn. By 8:00 the precipitation had ended, however, and we had a rather successful outing. The highlights of what we saw included Phoebes, a Brown Thrasher (both first-of-season for me), a Yellow-rumped Warbler, both the Golden-crowned and Ruby-crowned Kinglets, and a Great Blue Heron, pictured below. Robins and Grackles were all around, as well as the ubiquitous Starlings.
Needless to say, I was hoping to use my new camera, but the high likelihood of rain persuaded me to keep it in the car until we returned to the parking lot. As it turned out, it didn't rain at all until late in the afternoon, so I probably missed some good photo ops.
Great Blue Heron, with wet, spiky feathers, by the South River.
What follows is the official report I submitted to eBirds.org, including birds that I heard but did not see:
South River - Invista, Waynesboro, US-VA
Mar 16, 2013 8:00 AM - 10:00 AM
Canada Goose 25
Great Blue Heron 1
Black Vulture 1
Turkey Vulture 3
Rock Pigeon 10
Mourning Dove 4
Belted Kingfisher 1
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker 1
Northern Flicker 2
Eastern Phoebe 3
Blue Jay 3
American Crow 8
Fish Crow 1
Common Raven 2
Carolina Chickadee 4
White-breasted Nuthatch 1
Carolina Wren 1
Golden-crowned Kinglet 3
Ruby-crowned Kinglet 1
Eastern Bluebird 4
American Robin 12
Northern Mockingbird 2
Brown Thrasher 1
European Starling 60
Yellow-rumped Warbler 1
Song Sparrow 20
White-throated Sparrow 4
Dark-eyed Junco 8
Northern Cardinal 8
Common Grackle 20
House Finch 2
This report was generated automatically by eBird v3 (http://ebird.org)
On my way home, I stopped at Bell's Lane, where I saw a lone Tree Swallow, the third first-of-season sighting of the day for me.
In preparation for the field trip, I went out to scout the Greenway trail the day before, and managed to get some good photos of two Kingfishers, of which the one below is the best. [All the bird photos on this page, and many more, can be seen on the Wild Birds yearly photo gallery page.]
Belted Kingfisher (male), above the South River, chewing on a fish he caught for dinner. (Friday)
The new Greenway along the South River in Waynesboro, with the Invista (formerly DuPont) synthetic fibers manufacturing complex and the west slope of the Blue Ridge in the background. (Friday)
Other recent bird news
I have been checking Bell's Lane two or three times a week, but nothing really spectacular to report. There was, however, a flurry of activity out back the other day when a hawk of the accipeter variety zoomed in to catch some unwary songbirds feeding on the ground.
[ Cooper's Hawk, adult, in Staunton, on March 7. NOT a Sharp-shinned Hawk, as previously indicated; thanks to Allen Larner for the correction. ]
March 18, 2013 [LINK / comment]
World Baseball Classic: U.S. out!
In the World Baseball Classic semifinal game tonight, the Dominican Republic came back from a 1-0 deficit and defeated the Netherlands, 4-1. All their runs came in the fifth inning, as a single by Jose Reyes batted in the go-ahead run. The final games are being played in AT&T Park, home of the World Champion San Francisco* Giants. See MLB.com.
Meanwhile, Team USA failed to advance to the final round. Four years ago, the U.S. made it to the final round, but was defeated by Japan, which went on to win its second WBC championship. This will be the first time that Japan has not played in the championship game, as they were beat by Puerto Rico on Sunday, 3-1. So, the final contest will be between two islands in the Caribbean Sea (actually, the Dominican Republic is only half of an island), tomorrow night.
* Speaking of San Francisco, how many people noticed that the new Pope Francis, the former Cardinal Bergoglio of Argentina, chose as his papal name the saint for whom the home city of the World Series winners was named? ("Saint Francis" = "San Francisco") Mere coincidence?
Serie del Caribe 2013
But wait, there was more international baseball action! The Mexican team won the 2013 Serie del Caribe, beating the Dominican Republic 4-3 in 18 innings. The Caribbean Series (English translation) was played in Nuevo Estadio Sonora, a literally new facility in Hermosillo, Mexico. See sabr.org.
More "baseball" movies
I was watching the movie Woman of the Year (1942), starring Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy recently, and noticed that there is a scene filmed in Yankee Stadium. Actually, there are few film clips of Shibe Park and Crosley Field mixed in there, and the film editors evidently thought nobody would notice the difference. Well, I did!
I also saw Game 6 (2005), starring Michael Keaton, which deals with the personal trauma suffered by Red Sox fans during the 1986 World Series. It came out in the same year as Fever Pitch, which had similar theme but with a much higher budget and thereby garnered much more popular acclaim. See imdb.com for more info.
The Baseball Movies page has been duly updated with the latter movie. Cinematic works in which baseball is only incidental are not included on that page.
Shea Stadium update
That movie prompted me to make some revisions to the Shea Stadium diagrams. Including the entry portals proved very useful in getting the stadium size just right. I realized that the main grandstand was exactly two-thirds of a complete circle, about ten feet longer on each side than I had previously estimated. I also corrected the position of the lateral walkways, and added a new second deck diagram. As with all newly-updated diagrams, I have estimated the total area of fair and foul territory. The addition of extra rows of box seats in the late 1990s reduced foul territory from about 25,400 square feet to about 21,900 square feet.
Also, while going through my old digital photos, I realized that I could put two of them together and come up with a pretty dramatic panorama of Shea Stadium and Citi Field, when the latter was in the final stage of construction:
Panoramic view of Shea Stadium and a corner of Citi Field from the subway station on the east side. (Two photos spliced together.) Click on the image to see a full-size view.
Also, for the record, I made a few more small tweaks in the RFK Stadium diagrams, mostly with respect to the position of the entry portals.
The mail bag: stand by
I'll be responding to a number of e-mail inquiries later this week.
March 26, 2013 [LINK / comment]
Dominican Republic wins WBC
Felicitaciones (congratulations) to the Dominican Republic team for winning the World Baseball Classic. They prevailed over Puerto Rico, 3-0 in the final round at AT&T Park, and were undefeated throughout the entire tournament, a three-stage modified round-robin arrangement. It is the first time the Dominican Republic has won that title, Japan having won the WBC in the first two occasions: 2006 and 2009. See MLB.com.
Estadio Hiram Bithorn update
Well, I just had to mark the occasion by updating the Hiram Bithorn Stadium diagrams, since that was one of the WBC venues this year. (Too little, too late, perhaps?) The main changes are that the grandstand angles out more widely, and is about 20 feet deeper than before; most of the latter difference is in the concourse. There are a few new details, and I will probably get around to adding a "roofless" version to show the entry portals, roof supports, and the rear concourse. I noticed that four rows of box seats have been added, from the dugouts on outward, so I created a new (2013) version. It still has a huge foul territory (about 38,700 square feet), nearly as big as Oakland Coliseum.
The mail bag
It looks like I will have to do another revision of Citi Field some time soon, as the Mets have added a new section of seats behind home plate. See metsblog.com, hat tip to Brian Hughes, who notes that it is "like what the team did back at Shea Stadium during the 2006 post season."
Kevin Scalley asked me whether the Cleveland Rams played at League Park in the late 1930s. I didn't know, but he was subsequently able to find out that they did indeed, briefly. See sportsecyclopedia.com. Yet uncertain is the exact placement of the gridiron.
Many more items to get to, including news from Mike Zurawski. Stay tuned!
March 30, 2013 [LINK / comment]
Day trip to "Waltons Mountain"
Jacqueline and I paid a visit to the Waltons Mountain Museum in the village of Schuyler, Virginia last weekend, and it was very rewarding. That's the town where the author whose writings launched the TV show grew up: Earl Hamner. The actual Hamner family home is just a block away from the museum, not out of town, as the Waltons' home was. We watched a video about The Waltons, with Richard Thomas (John Boy), Michael Learned (Ma), Ralph Waite (Pa), and other cast members remembering the years they were doing the show. The museum has several rooms made up to look just like the kitchen, parlor, and John Boy's bedroom, with period furniture, antique telephones, radios, etc.
I noted on Facebook that I didn't pay much attention to The Waltons when the series was first broadcast in the 1970s. "Being young and foolish, I thought those traditional values were silly and outmoded, and just failed to appreciate the high-quality drama, which has become almost extinct on TV." And of course, just like my generation did, the kids of today's world look down on history... "Some things never change." You can look up episodes of the show, the actors' names, etc. at the-waltons.com.
Goodnight, John Boy!
Then, we drove around Schuyler and saw what used to be Christ Episcopal Church, and later became a Mennonite church; it appears to be abandoned now. We also saw the Rockfish River Dam, and the adjacent mill ruins, as well as the soapstone ("Alborene") quarry where Earl Hamner's father once worked.
After that, we drove north into Albemarle County, first along the familiar Route 29, and snacked at the Crossroads Store in North Garden. Then we drove west on some back roads that were new to us, pausing briefly in the village of Batesville. But the main objective was the Miller School, one of the most prestigious prep boarding schools on the east coast. (See millerschoolofalbemarle.org.) I often heard about it when we lived in Charlottesville in the 1990s, but I never had any occasion to see it for myself. I was astounded by the size and the architectural excellence of the main buildings. Finally, we drove a few miles west to photograph Holy Cross Episcopal Church, and then we headed home.
Miller School Main Hall, north of Batesville, Virginia.
Other recent photos, including some of government buildings in Lynchburg, can be seen on the Spring 2013 page.
Monthly links this year:
Culture & Travel
Science & Technology
January 1, 2013 ~ Happy New Year! / State of the diagrams, 2013
January 7, 2013 ~ Br-r-r! Winter field trip to Highland County
January 21, 2013 ~ Continuity: Obama begins his second term
January 28, 2013 ~ NatsFest 2013: NL East champs!
February 13, 2013 ~ But wait, there's more bird photos!
March 16, 2013 ~ Birding field trip in Waynesboro
March 30, 2013 ~ Day trip to "Waltons Mountain"
April 1, 2013 ~ Play ball! The 2013 season begins
May 31, 2013 ~ R.I.P. YuLee Larner (1923-2013)
June 8, 2013 ~ Nats come from behind, and WIN!
June 30, 2013 ~ Expedition to the top of Elliott's Knob
July 18, 2013 ~ A Midsummer's Day Dream *
July 20, 2013 ~ Various random day trips
July 26, 2013 ~
Nightmare on South Capitol Street: Harper, Zimmerman save Nationals from doom
August 24, 2013 ~ Nats keep bouncing back from total disasters
September 3, 2013 ~ Nats are barely clinging to life
September 30, 2013 ~ Baseball season comes to an end
September 30, 2013 ~ Fall bird migration reaches the peak
December 26, 2013 ~ Catching up with baseball
December 26, 2013 ~ 2013: Republicans keep defeating themselves
December 26, 2013 ~ Hawk watch: Up close & personal