March 13, 2017 [LINK / comment]
Baseball in South Florida
On my way back from South America last week, I spent a few days in the "Sunshine State" of Florida, where I saw a baseball game. My late father often complained about the two baseball teams in Florida, which he believed was just not right. As good baseball traditionalists know, Florida is for spring training!! (Likewise for Arizona, I suppose.) But like it or not, with the Marlins' shiny new retractable roof stadium, major league baseball is here to stay in Miami for at least as long as the lease continues, and probably for good. (St. Petersburg / Tampa Bay is another question.)
Visits to Marlins Park
Soon after arriving in Miami on March 5, I drove past Marlins Park. The skies were mostly clear, and I wanted to make sure I got some good exterior photos in case it was cloudy the next day, when I planned to take a tour there. I'm glad I did! As so often happens whenever I get too ambitious in planning long-distance travels, minor contingencies upset my carefully-laid plans, and I was unable to get to the stadium for the scheduled 2:00 tour on Monday, March 6. So, I contented myself with taking exterior shots from the east side, which is on the left field side. That structure is certainly imposing in size, and the palm trees, gardens, and various works of art give the Marlins' home a lot of class.
Marlins Park exterior from the west, closest to the first base side. (March 5, 2017)
That photo, as well as a panoramic shot taken at dusk from the east side, are now displayed on the Marlins Park page. I'll probably add a couple more photos later on.
Spring training game!
The following day, March 7, I saw my first-ever spring training game, at the brand-new spring training home of the Washington Nationals: "The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches." The Nats were facing the Boston Red Sox, once again expected to make it to the postseason. I was surprised by how heavy the traffic was on the way to the ballpark, and didn't make it inside until the first two batters in the top of the first inning had been put out. Almost as soon as I walked through the turnstiles, Mookie Betts smashed a home run way up onto the grass slope beyond left field. It wasn't a good sign for the Nats' young starting pitcher Joe Ross, who is being counted on to pull an extra load since Max Scherzer's finger has not yet fully healed. Then the very next batter, Hanley Ramirez, did the same thing, making the score 2-0. The Nats bounced back with a run in the bottom of the inning, thanks to a single by Bryce Harper and a double by Anthony Rendon, and they tied it 2-2 in the bottom of the second inning. But the Red Sox staged a three-run rally in the fourth inning, thanks to a clutch double by Pablo Sandoval. (I was told by some Red Sox fans that the stocky former Giants slugger has lost some weight, and is expected to do better than he did last year.) The Nats had bases loaded with nobody out in the seventh inning, but could only manage one run on a walk. D'oh! Final score: Red Sox 5, Nats 3. Attendance was 6,701 -- a virtually sell-out, apparently. I'm glad I bought my ticket in advance!
Bryce Harper singles in the bottom of the first inning; he soon scored. (March 7, 2017)
The Ballpark of the Palm Beaches from the third base side. (March 7, 2017)
Ballpark of the Palm Beaches
So, of course I had to make a quickie diagram of the Ballpark of the Palm Beaches*, and a rudimentary page with some of the photos I took there. The grandstand appears to be positioned exactly like Nationals Park, with the same angles and curves. The outfield dimensions are likewise very similar, but with right field (335 feet) and left field (336 feet) switched, and with a more symmetrical and slightly deeper (406 feet) center field. The design being so similar to Nationals Park makes one think that the Nationals were intended as the primary resident, with the Houston Astros being junior partners in the project.
* So just how many Palm Beaches are there? FOUR: Palm Beach, West Palm Beach, North Palm Beach, and Royal Palm Beach.
February 19, 2017 [LINK / comment]
Spring training has begun!
Well, here it's been three months since my last baseball blog post, and spring training is already upon us. Where the heck does the time go? Obviously, my priorities will have to change very quickly. As one example of that, I will attend a Washington Nationals spring training game for the first time ever, this coming March 7. It's against the Red Sox, in the Nationals' brand-new ballpark home in West Palm Beach, Florida. (Not far from Mar-A-Lago, by the way!) So here's just a few quick notes about things I have been meaning to comment upon:
Bagwell, Raines, Pudge to enter Hall of Fame
A few weeks ago, the 2017 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees were announced: Jeff Bagwell, Tim Raines, and Ivan "Pudge" Rodriguez. They will be formally inducted into the Hall of Fame next July. See MLB.com
I saw Pudge play with the Nats three times, but never got a good photo.
"Pudge" Rodriguez (#7) in the Nationals dugout, Aug 13, 2010
"Pudge" Rodriguez (#7) and the rest of the Nationals celebrate their win on July 4, 2011.
Nationals make modest acquisitions
The Washington Nationals hope for a better new year, but thus far they have failed to land a first-class closing pitcher. The biggest acquisition was center fielder Adam Eaton, in a trade with the White Sox. That means rookie phenom Trea Turner will return to his "natural" position at shortstop, where he will hopefully thrive. Also, former San Diego Padres catcher Derek Norris will replace Wilson Ramos behind the plate. We'll see how that goes.
One cause for worry is that Max Scherzer has not fully recovered from a broken ring finger in his throwing hand. We didn't even know about this until several weeks after the 2016 season. Hopefully he will be ready to pitch by the end of April.
If Bryce Harper returns to form, Daniel Murphy and Trea Turner hit as well as they did last year, and if Ryan Zimmerman and Jayson Werth play like their old selves, the Nats should be in good position to repeat as NL East Division champs this year. But that's a lot of if's.
One of the big "misses" by Nats GM Mike Rizzo was Aroldis Chapman. After a brief, tumultuous stint with the world champion Chicago Cubs (!), Aroldis Chapman is going back to the New York Yankees.
News about ballparks, etc.
Thanks to Jonathan Karberg for bringing to my attention the National Hockey League's annual Winter Classic, which was played at Busch Stadium (III) on January 2, as the St. Louis Blues defeated the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1. To mark that special event, I made a new hockey version diagram of that stadium.
As of November 1, U.S. Cellular Field was renamed "Guaranteed Rate Field," under a naming rights agreement that the White Sox announced last August. On November 9 Football Many thanks to Al Kara for sending a batch of photos of that game; some will be posted on that page soon. Northern Illinois Huskies battled the Toledo Rockets dnainfo.com
Newly-renamed "Guaranteed Rate Park" during the November 9 football game. Note how the bench-style bleachers in left-center field differ from the other seats. Photo courtesy of Al Kara.
Among the many things I neglected to get done last year was paying respect to a long-time fan of this web site who is no longer with us: Frank Joseph Trimborn, 71 passed away in Houston, Texas on June 7, 2016. See the obituary at unityfuneralhome.com. Rest in peace, Frank.
Another blog hiatus
My apologies for the length of time since my last blog post. I will resume blogging and updating diagrams after I return from Latin America and Florida in about three weeks.