14 years ago today, on May 17, 1998, my Dad took me to my first ever Major League Baseball game. Also on that day, New York Yankees starting pitcher David Wells pitched a perfect game. Did I mention that the game my Dad took me to was the Yankee game? Because it was.
And so began my love affair with baseball. I was young, not even fully grasping what I had witnessed. At five and a half I was simply thrilled that it was Beanie Baby Day. After meeting up with my cousin and uncle, who were also at the game, Jayne and I spent most of the game playing with our new toys. Little did we know that on the field, Wells was putting together a gem. Even for years after that I had trouble understanding just how great it was, calling it the ‘perfect pitch’ rather than the ‘perfect game.’ The fact that he had faced the minimum 27 batters was still lost on me.
As I got older and began to understand baseball better, my love of the Yankees grew, eventually developing into a love of the game as well. Wells’ playing days ended a while ago, with that game undoubtedly one of the brightest spots of his career. He does analysis during the playoffs for TNT, and his Yankeeography premieres tonight on YES (I may or may not be going to make sure the DVR is recording it after I publish this post). Valentino, my beloved Beanie Baby has lived to see his fourteenth birthday, and still holds a prime spot on my bed. He is a constant reminder that the baseball gods had it out for me early.
This past December, my collection received a most unexpected addition. When my boyfriend and I exchanged holiday gifts I was given very specific instructions about which present was to be opened last. It was a simple bag filled with tissue paper - it could have been holding anything. Reaching in, I quickly discovered that it was a baseball. Amassed over years of trips to Spring Training, my boyfriend has quite the collection of signed baseball memorabilia; I simply figured that he was helping me start a collection of my own. Never did I stop to wonder who could have signed the ball, or which game it would be from.
Perfect, no? And now I have the initials to remind me that it wasn’t just a single pitch that was perfect, but the whole entire game.
On April 28th, Bryce Harper arrived in the big leagues. Born in October of 1992, the Washington Nationals outfielder is at the ripe old age of 19 - and almost a full month younger than yours truly. Teenagers don’t see a whole lot of Major League Baseball, so the fact that he was called up signals that he must be something pretty special. He’s only played in 8 games, but thus far he’s proved himself a hard worker, with the potential and the talent to back up the atmosphere of phenomenon that currently surrounds him.
His most eventful game, though, occurred just last night. He didn’t hit his first home run, or even help his team to a victory (final score: Nats-3, Phillies-9). All he did was get hit. In his first at bat facing Phillies ace Cole Hamels, Harper was plunked in the back. Later in the inning, he eventually scored a run by stealing home, but the drama was just beginning.
That night, Hamels admitted to hitting Harper on purpose. Apparently, it was his way of welcoming the rookie to the big leagues. No fruit baskets or housewarming gifts in baseball. Today, the story continued to unfold, as Hamels was handed a 5 game suspension for purposefully hitting a player. I took to twitter to voice my opinion about it, but soon found that there was no way I could fit my thoughts into 140 characters. (Though I’m becoming much better at it, seriously.)
I found that I was having trouble because I like neither player. Respect their talent, yes. But personality, character? I can think of a few others I like better. Back in 2009 when the Yankees faced the Phillies in the World Series, Hamels all but gave up. While the Yankee fan in me loves just about anything that paves the way to a championship for us, the baseball fan in me lost any respect and admiration for his work ethic that I might have had. Couple that with his flippant, ‘I didn’t do anything wrong’ treatment of the Harper issue, and he’s not exactly easy to stomach. And honestly, how old school can he really be at 28? My dislike of Harper is also seeded in how he plays the game. After hitting a home run in the minors Harper took his time, watched the ball leave the park, and for the cherry on top blew the pitcher a kiss as he rounded the bases. Not exactly the picture of maturity. And as Mike Schmidt points out in this article, “at some point the game itself, the competition on the field, is going to have to figure out a way to police this young man.” His behavior in the majors has been nowhere near that flashy, but maybe Hamels wanted to be the one to keep him in check anyway. Now, of course, his manager Charlie Manuel just wishes he had been a bit more discreet about his intent.
That being said, Hamels likely won’t miss a start due to a conveniently timed off-day. He’s not appealing the suspension, and seemingly feels no remorse about what he did. Nationals GM has had plenty of words for Hamels, clearly not liking anyone touching his rookie phenom. The only one who hasn’t chimed in on this yet? Harper himself. And as Steve Berthiaume pointed out, maybe that means our rookie might be a little calmer and quieter than that guy in the minors.
Think we’re looking at a new rivalry readers? Stay tuned!
Cherish this post, readers. It may be one of the few March Madness posts you get from me that does not sing the praises of my beloved Tar Heels. (They won yesterday, in case you were worried.)
If you’re up on all the greatest food blogs out there, you know that my best friend came to visit me this past week. In order to maximize our time enjoying the beautiful weather and varied food options of Chapel Hill, I tried to get as much work done in advance of her arrival on Tuesday. However, there was one order of business that still had to be taken care of: filling out my bracket. Here at UNC, spring fever is not just limited to an excitement about the changing seasons and an anxiousness to have class outside. It is also the beginning of March Madness, where meals, group projects, and sleeping patterns are all planned around when the game starts. And do we limit ourselves to just watching the Tar Heels? Of course not! This is the time to size up the competition, root for the underdog, see if our early predictions were right.
I do have a confession to make though, readers: before this year’s tournament, I had never filled out a bracket. But having been convinced by my friends to join their pool, I sat down on Wednesday night to decide the fate of 64 teams. I made quick work of the Midwest Region, ‘home’ to my #1 seeded Tar Heels. (You know who else picked my boys to win? This guy. Just saying…) The rest, unfortunately, was not as obvious. Who had the greatest momentum going in? Who had an easy path to the Final Four? Who would be this year’s Cinderella story?
As I was clicking away determining match-ups, my best friend said to me “Hey that looks like fun! Can I fill one out?” A short while later, our brackets were set - we both had the same National Champion, but with slightly different paths getting us there. My friend then promptly found what will be our favorite app for the next few weeks: ESPN’s Bracket Bound. With constant updates and a live view of the bracket, it’s the perfect way to manage the madness. In fact, this app did me a great favor last night. Having been glued to my seat watching UNC, and then the stunning 15-over-a-2-seed upset of Norfolk State over Missouri, I took a much needed break for dinner. I was back in my room later that night when I got a surprising text from my friend, mentioning something about the Duke game. Like Missouri, Duke was a 2 seed. Also like Missouri, they were falling behind a 15 seed, in this case Lehigh. Personal rivalries aside (okay, maybe not that far aside), I was shocked not only that an upset of similar magnitude to Missouri was occurring, but that it was occurring on the same day. And here was my best friend, not a sports fan by any means, bringing me up to date on it, thanks to a tip from her app. Consider me a very happy sports blogger.
So readers, what do your brackets look like? Has it been busted like mine? (Thank you Missouri, thank you Vandy) Share! It’s going to be an interesting few weeks, and I can’t wait to see who will be celebrating in New Orleans.
Full disclosure readers: I did not want to talk to you today. For the past several hours I have been dreading writing this post. How could I possibly face you after last night’s game? To put it in perspective, I have never been as devastated about a sporting event as I was last night. Not even a Yankee game has ever left me like that - and if you know me, you know that’s saying something.
The day started with so much hope! Despite the valiant attempt of myself and my roommate to score last minute tickets to the game (4 hours on a standby line people), we were unsuccessful, fated to watch the greatest rivalry in sports from our dorm’s lounge. We were in good company though, and in the hours leading up to the game, it was impossible to be in a bad mood. Campus had extra doses of energy, spirit, and pride flowing through its veins. We were excited. We were ready. As the game clock wound down the atmosphere heightened even more. Jealous as those of us in the lounge were that we couldn’t be at the Dean Dome in person, we slyly counted ourselves lucky that we were in prime position to rush Franklin Street. Already we were imagining ourselves jumping over bonfires and hi-fiving random strangers about the awesomeness of the game.
Alas, readers, it was not to be. There we sat, stunned and silenced as our phones began notifying us that all our ‘friends’ at Duke had something clever to say to us about the game. After the buzz of the previous day, campus was noticeably quiet today. We avoided the paper, commiserated with classmates and some professors too. While many had declared game day their holiday, others of us began to wonder if the day after needed similar treatment.
I am not 6’8”. I don’t run very fast. Free throws and 3-pointers are not my strong suit. So far be it from me to sit here and criticize what our players did last night. I stand by them, regardless. (Speaking of which, have you voted for Tyler Zeller for the Lowe’s Senior Class Award? You should.) Bias or not, I will still tell you that we did not get outplayed last night. I am proud of what our boys did, and what’s more I am confident that we can go into Cameron in March and get what’s ours: Victory. Revenge. Duke and Carolina have been playing each other for a long time. So in case anyone asks you, the overall record for all of those match-ups is 131-102, in favor of Carolina.
I’ll let Stilman White take us out. Till next time readers.
What a sports week readers! And it’s only Monday!
We haven’t talked about football much, so for those of you who don’t know, this blog’s alliances lie with Big Blue, with the GMen, with Eli. And what a show those New York Football Giants put on last night. As always, Brady and the Pats were fierce competitors in a game that literally came down to the last play. In their two Super Bowl match-ups though, Eli has two rings, Brady has none (don’t feel too bad for him though, he’s got 3 from other games - just none against the Giants. Zero). Do what you want with that, say what you’d like about the younger Manning but don’t forget - you can’t spell Elite without Eli.
Let’s focus on a different player from the Giants though - Hakeem Nicks. Not only was he fantastic last night, but he is a product of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, the fine institution I am currently attending. I have a warning for you, readers. A strong, strong bias is about to present itself here on The Female Fan. While football highlights will still be playing on ESPN, here in North Carolina our minds are already elsewhere. Wednesday night at 9 o’clock, the Blue Devils from that school 8 miles down the road roll into our basketball cathedral, the Dean Dome, and they’ll be looking for blood. They’re our rival, so this is nothing new, but tensions will certainly be heightened since d00K (yes, I spelled that right) is just coming off of a loss at home. Don’t believe me? Ask these guys. And thus, my Sunday night was off to a great start - seeing Cruz’s TD, the safety, and Manningham’s catch was all just icing on the cake.
So please, before you comment and email away, know this: I cannot be talked out of this rivalry. Sure, the baseball fan in me sometimes trumps the Yankee fan in me and allows some begrudging respect of the Red Sox. Not in this case though. It’s Beat Duke Week - in Chapel Hill, at The Female Fan, and hopefully at the Dean Dome come Wednesday night. I’ll be here, documenting it all just for you. Stay tuned…
They say that when one door/window/entryway closes, another one opens. The baseball world saw something akin to this on Tuesday morning. As one player tearfully announced his retirement, another took over the headlines with the announcement of a big bucks long-term contract.
On Tuesday morning, at a press conference filled with emotion, Jorge Posada officially announced his retirement. Surrounded by his family, with an audience that included some of his closest teammates, he ended his 17 year career as a major league catcher. And what a career it was. Playing only for the New York Yankees, winning 5 World Series, and earning the respect and blessing of Diana Munson - all feats that should not be taken lightly. Not that it was all easy. As his career drew to a close, many people speculated that it was time for him to hang it up, with these speculations coming before he ever contemplated retirement himself. Tensions grew as his role as a catcher diminished and he was shuffled around the line-up, with manager Joe Girardi trying to find an appropriate place and use for the aging hitter. Is he a first ballot hall of famer? No. He is not a definite inductee, by any means. Yes, he has post season experience and success. He also has numbers comparable to those of the catchers already in Cooperstown, not to mention the fact that he’s up there in terms of other Yankees catchers. Writers can be tricky though - my favorite, Buster Olney, is claiming uncertainty - and it will be interesting to see what the perspective on Posada is 5 years from now.
Now for that monster contract I alluded to - Prince Fielder and the Detroit Tigers. Over the course of the next 9 years, the Tigers owe Mr. Fielder $214 million. (Just pocket change to Pujols.) So what does this mean? Well, for one thing, there are now 2 new scary power hitters in the American League instead of just 1. And while the offense is there in spades for the Tigers, they also have some defensive issues to address. Their first baseman, Miguel Cabrera, now moves to third. He wasn’t much to write home about in terms of defense in the first place, but the risk goes up now that he’s moved to third. This move also displaces Brandon Inge, who just recently declared his desire to start. All of this aside, 9 years is a long time. What happens when Prince starts aging and needs a half day off as a designated hitter? And what happens when that comes at the same time that Cabrera and Victor Martinez are starting to feel aches and pains as well?
Should be interesting, readers. Stay tuned! Baseball season isn’t as far away as you think…
Okay, readers. Time to try something new. As I watched my Heels play in Blacksburg, VA last night, I decided to take some game notes for you. As you’ll very soon see, it quickly turned into my stream of conscious thoughts about the game as it played out. Do I seem a bit anxious at first? Keep in mind we were coming off of a very, very ugly loss. Also remember that this was an experiment! If you want slightly more reliable up-to-the-minute thoughts about various Carolina games, I encourage you to check out the twitter feed for Tar Heel Monthly. Enjoy!
19:37 First possession, missed basket. Don’t worry me already boys…
19:01 Messy rebounding, VTech gets to inbound it, Roy’s already yelling. And he looked so happy before the game!
18:32 Carolina on the board with 2! We have a lead! I had almost forgotten what that felt like…
17:48 Zeller a bit sloppy on a pass, but since he was the only one trying last week I can’t be mad at him.
17:33 Missed 3. Something about that shot just hasn’t been right lately.
16:31 Zeller scores. Told you it’s hard to be mad at him.
16:25 Reggie in for Dex – so happy he’s healthy this year.
15:55 3 for the Hokies, let’s work on defending that outside shot, shall we boys?
15:11 2 for Kendall, bringing the score to 8 – 4. If he can continue to improve his shot, he’ll be unstoppable. Did I mention he also got the foul shot for this? He got the foul shot.
13:44 Zeller again. Making it look easy, again.
13:09 I should be writing about Henson’s unbelievable block, but instead I’m telling you about the 3 that resulted from it. A 3 for them.
12:20 And again. Can we not make a habit of this, please?
11:00 That would be another 3 point shot made for the opposing team. We’re still up 2, but let it be known that I do not like this.
10:36 And with 2 made foul shots we’re tied at 17.
10:16 Another 3 pointer gives them the lead! (Them being the bad guys, the exclamation point being sarcastic.)
9:14 Kendall drives to the basket, 2 well earned points – that’s my boy.
8:20 What a beautiful, beautiful steal. Get that lead back, stay strong boys!
7:30 And by ‘stay strong’ I meant let them drain yet another 3, to bring their lead to 4.
6:24 Zeller being the big man he is.
5:43 Style points for Henson – the dunks may not count for anything extra, but they sure are fun.
4:58 I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if we want to win here, we need to start defending 3s and start making shots of our own.
3:48 Finally a rebound – well done boys!
1:24 Barnes on the line – makes both shots, a welcome improvement.
AT THE HALF – UNC 34, VA Tech 39. My thoughts? Except for that last dunk to end the half in style, nothing terribly exciting has happened. We need to stop them, and more importantly we need to stop giving them opportunities to hit 3s. If they can make a habit of this, so can other teams.
19:14 First score of the half belongs to the Hokies
19:05 AND 1 for Henson to counter. Can he make it? He cannot.
18:41 That trend of theirs to score 3s has continued into the second half.
17:32 Harrison drives to the basket and dunks. I’ll take it. Down by 2.
17:02 Zeller on the line, makes 2 to tie it up.
16:44 Dex goes down hard. When athletes make faces like that, it’s not generally a good sign. Leslie, Desmond and Stillman come to help him off the court. This is not good folks.
16:14 And with that 2 from Harrison, we take the lead. Silver linings people.
15:30 3 for Reggie. Play for Dex boys!
By this point, I had the sound turned back on, and my comments proceeded to be yelled at the television rather than typed for your reading pleasure. Samples include ‘Oh that wasn’t a foul!’ and ‘How did that not go in?!’ With 8 minutes still to go in the second half, HB had already hit 20 points, much to the happiness of the boys on the bench (and the fans in the dorm). Watching Dex go down was hard, but seeing the rest of the team pick it up afterwards was encouraging. A very important game and a much needed win. The question remaining now is who gets to starts. I’ve been hearing calls all season for PJ Hairston, but some love has also been shown for Reggie Bullock. Any thoughts readers? I’m always listening, and it will give me something to think about before the next game. Till next time!
FINAL SCORE: UNC 82 – VA Tech 68
“Hey, I’ve got an extra ticket to the game. You interested?” This, readers, is a question that should (almost) always be answered with a resounding “Yes!” Especially when it’s hockey. Yes, you read that correctly. The under-appreciated Canadian cousin of the NFL, MLB, and NBA, the National Hockey League puts on some pretty exciting games. Three fast-paced 20 minute periods, complete with hard hits, skillful goals and the occasional rousing fight (or two, or three), I have no qualms declaring ice hockey my favorite live sport. I promise you’re not hallucinating. Despite my love (obsession) of baseball and my three-semester-old relationship with college basketball, nothing will ever replace the thrill of going to a hockey game.
And so when I was given the opportunity just a few short hours ago to attend a Rangers-Islanders game at the always lovely Madison Square Garden (if you haven’t yet, you should see something there - anything), I jumped at the chance. It’s break! What was I doing? Sleeping. Reading (for pleasure, finally!). So why on earth not? Did I have any particular allegiances to either of the teams? No. I would call myself a New Jersey Devils fan, thus giving myself a reason to hate the Rangers, but that wouldn’t really be fair. In fact, I’ve known that they are fourth (out of five) in their division for about the same amount of time it has taken me to type this sentence. The fact that I was accompanying three Islanders fans initially swayed me in one direction, but I soon realized we were vastly outnumbered by the home crowd, and in a surprisingly smart move (I am, after all, the girl who wears Yankee clothes in Boston), decided to keep to myself and root instead for a good and exciting game.
Unfortunately, I cannot report a happy outcome for the Islanders fans I was with, as they fell 4-2 in regulation (note: they are that fifth team out of the five in the division I mentioned earlier). There was, however, plenty of excitement to go around. Baseball has its bench-clearing brawls, and football and basketball players alike have been known to exchange words from time to time, but there is nothing quite like a fight in hockey. Though no one is cheering for a concussion or a broken limb, fans are quick to offer words of encouragement and suggestion. “Yeah!” “Get him!” “Rip his head off!” (Well that last one might be a bit harsh. I got swept up in the moment?) And interestingly enough, the referees aren’t exactly quick about breaking anything up. They step in after a certain point, when they deem things are getting out of hand, as if in the hopes that the players will get it out of their systems. Not that this is always an effective strategy. Tonight saw two fights and lots of penalties - AWESOME. (Violence is bad, kids, very bad.)
If you take one thing away from my last minute trip to the Garden tonight, readers, let it be this: hockey is not for the faint of heart. This is a sport that puts player fights up on the big screen, so that no fan should miss a moment of it. This is a sport that, not happy just being held indoors over a frozen sheet of ice, decided to host an annual game outdoors in the early days of the new year. This (cleverly named) Winter Classic is not held in Miami, or Hawaii, or somewhere else warm and toasty - the ice would melt! Think Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Boston, Chicago. I want a blanket just typing about it. So if you’re curious, from the comfort of your heated house, turn the game on come January 2nd. Can’t wait till then? HBO has you covered. Their series 24/7 follows both teams on the road to the Winter Classic. I haven’t tuned in yet this season, but if it’s anything like their coverage of the Penguins and Capitals last year - and knowing HBO, it might even be better - then it is most definitely worth your time. For those of you new to hockey, think about it this way: I have provided you with the easiest of New Year’s resolutions. Promise that you’ll try getting into something new and different in 2012. By the time the horn signals the end of the third period on January 2nd, you will have already lived up to your word. Done! How many other resolutions can boast that?
For my returning hockey vets - what incentive do you need? I know you’ll be watching.
Well readers, what a crazy few days it has been in the sports world. And would I let some pesky finals studying get in the way of keeping up to date with sports news? Never! (Hi Mom and Dad. I’ve been attached to my text book for the past two days. I can have my ESPN break, right? Right.)
We’ve talked about Albert Pujols. All-star first baseman. Home-run hitter. World Series Champion. Machine. This off-season, though, the most important label he carried was Free Agent. Where would he end up? Many (including my brother) hoped he would stay faithful to St. Louis, sign a contract that would keep him there until the end of his career. Did the Cardinals have the money to make that happen though? Then the
Florida Miami Marlins looked to be at the head of the race, despite their, um, colorful new uniforms. They were throwing money at Jose Reyes, at Mark Buhrle - surely they could throw some at Albert Pujols, one of baseball’s best.
Not to be, folks. Thursday morning brought news that Pujols had signed not with the St. Louis Cardinals, not with the the Miami Marlins, but with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. The price tag? A cool $254 million over 10 years. (Have fun with those tax returns, pal.)
And what to make of this? As the relative of someone who has a Pujols Fathead on his bedroom wall, I understand the shock and disappointment of all Cardinals fans (funny how that price dropped…). I also would not be surprised if many National League pitchers are sleeping much better, knowing they will no longer have to pitch to one of the scarier hitters in baseball nearly as much. My thoughts as a Yankee fan echo this a bit. In past playoff races, the Angels have been notorious Yankee killers. Somehow, someway they usually find a way to beat us. Though we finally conquered them in 2009, this formidable addition to their lineup isn’t exactly reassuring. Add to that the fact that they also signed coveted pitcher CJ Wilson (5 years, $77.5 million. Pocket change, whatever.), and the Angels look to be in pretty good shape. Will it be all championship rings and parades for them from now on? Of course not (I hope not). Ten years is a long time, bringing Pujols to 41 at the end of the contract. He’s in better shape than most, and being in the American League will allow him to take ‘half days off’ and DH through any aches and pains, but there are no guarantees in baseball. In short - this is going to be fun to watch.
Is that all though, readers? Nope! Los Angeles has been busy. Now that the NBA has come to the realization that fans will only pay them when there are games to be watched, there have been plenty of moves, and even more rumors about moves. The story is still developing so we’ll come back to it later, but Chris Paul wants out of New Orleans. A trade involving the Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and New Orleans Hornets was in place, sending Paul to LA. Only problem was that the league got nervous about fair trades and nixed it before it could be finalized. The trade has since been resubmitted, and is now awaiting approval.
The Lakers and Angels are typically both contenders in their respective sports. The Angels are well on their way for next season, and the Lakers are certainly hoping to join them. Will they get the chance? Stay tuned…