Daniel Strumpf, pitcher for the single-A Wilmington Blue Rocks, a Kansas City Royals, was the hard-luck loser in a 1-0 game against the Winston-Salem Dash. He pitched well after getting roughed up in his previous start, but the team had a runner thrown out at the plate and left an armful of runners on the basepaths and couldn’t get him the win. We spoke with him briefly about his approach to the game.
Baseball, Baseball (Minors), Royals, Video Interviews / No Comments
Ballpark Visits, Baseball, Baseball (Minors), Royals / 6 Comments
I made certain promises that were not mine to make, and it ended up costing me. On a sunny Sunday afternoon, we visited Frawley Stadium in Delaware to see the Wilmington Blue Rocks play the Winston-Salem Dash in a single-A Carolina League game. Every time the Blue Rocks score a run, I told my two kids and their three cousins, Mr. Celery will come running of out that door and onto the field to CEL-ebrate.
It was our first Blue Rocks game, and we waited patiently for the home team to score. After our middle-of-the-fourth-inning helmet sundaes, seeing Mr. Celery became our primary focus. Early on, one Blue Rocks runner was thrown out at the plate trying to score from first on a double, later in the game, a handful of runners were stranded in scoring position, and a mere two hours and 21 minutes after it started, the game ended with the Dash winning 1-0 on a rally-killing double play in the bottom of the ninth.
On this day, there would be no Mr. Celery.
I recently had the opportunity to attend two baseball games in Chicago—one White Sox game and one Cubs game. When I tell most baseball fans about this experience, they ask, “How did you like Wrigley?” and I say, “I went to a White Sox game, too,” and they say, “Oh? Wrigley’s amazing, huh?” and then I say, “Do you want to hear about the White Sox?” And then their eyes turn to little spinning computer beach balls, as though they are trying to process something and it’s not working and I’m going to have to force quit and start the conversation over. And then they say, “Did you know you can see the game from the rooftops of the apartment buildings across the street from Wrigley?”
So I thought I’d offer this point-by-point comparison of the two stadiums and see which one is really better. The result may surprise you!
Wrigley Field, celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, is iconic. (Because I am a sentimental baseball fan and a blogger, I am required by law to use the word cathedral when writing about Wrigley: cathedral cathedral cathedral.) While Wrigley is a relatively comfortable place to watch a game, old ballparks offer certain challenges. When I asked an usher in the upper deck where the nearest men’s room was, he started with “Go down this ramp…” and ended with “It’s not as far as it sounds”—which means it was far. Still, it is one of the historic cathedrals (I told you) of baseball that all fans must see at least once, along with Fenway, Dodger Stadium (to a lesser extent), and before they tore it down and replaced it with an exact replica, Yankee Stadium.
On the other hand, US Cellular Field, which opened in 1991, was built in an architectural style called Soviet Prison Bauhaus. It’s blocky and gray, but functional. Even with wide concourses and bathrooms right there on the same level that you’re already on, it’s basically the last of the crappy old stadiums built immediately before the nice new ones starting with Camden Yards (1993) and Coors Field (1995).
Quick, name a profession where you get paid a lot of money, and if you do a lousy job you get rewarded? OK, Wall Street stockbroker, that was the easy answer. But I would have also accepted “NBA player.” Because if you suck, you’re still going to get paid an outrageous salary. And the worse you do, the better your chance of being rewarded by playing alongside a top draft pick next season. You know it’s true. The NBA’s annual race to the bottom rewards teams that do poorly. While some would argue that that’s a very American thing to do, I say it’s time to do the European thing. It’s time for relegation.
If you’re not a fan of British Premier League Football, relegation might be a new concept for you. Basically, the three teams at the bottom of the standings at season’s end are sent down (relegated) to a lower league (what Americans call “the minors”). The top two teams in that minor league are promoted to the Premier League, while the teams in 3rd through 6th places have a playoff to determine which of them also gets promoted. For the relegated teams, they lose a substantial amount of TV money, which means they usually can’t afford their best players. And contractually, players on relegated teams take huge pay cuts, often as much as 30%. That’s right, if you do a bad job, you get paid less.
Last week I told you about the music of The Baseball Project. And last night I went to see — for the first time — a Texas musician named Sam Baker. Full disclosure: I’ve been a huge fan of Sam for years, so much so that my dog is named for him. Sam’s story is amazing: he was visiting Peru in 1986 when a terrorist blew up his train, killing everyone around him and badly injuring Sam. He survived the blast damage, a severed artery, renal failure, and gangrene, was med-evaced by the Air Force back to Texas, and relearned to play the guitar with a mangled hand, ringing in his ears, and short-term memory loss. Now, the songs he writes are poignant vignettes of everyday life in America. Which brings us to Baseball. Take a listen. Somewhere this weekend in America, this song will be happening. As someone reminded me last night, we’re all living in a Sam Baker song.