One final weekend
In July 2013, Jordan and I went to the Baseball Prospectus event at Nationals Park. At that point, the Cespedes Family Barbecue had existed for six months, and had about 85 followers on Twitter. We were writing at least twice a week—way more often than we do now—exclusively on our own site because no one would ever have asked us to write on their site. For some unspeakable reason, we purchased a set of 400 business cards that had our name, number, and Twitter handle on them. Keep in mind: There was no #brand at this point; it was just two idiots, thirty dollars, an internet connection, and a bulk order from Vistaprint.
I remember the event itself rather vividly. I remember mixing up Ben Lindbergh and Jason Cole, which, in retrospect, is hilarious because Ben and Jason don't sound, look, or act like each other at all. Someone asked a Nationals front office official about why the coach assigned to hit Bryce Harper outfield fungoes was doing so from the pitcher's mound and not home plate. Someone asked Jay Jaffe about the market inefficiency of defensive indifference. We sat through the panel and soaked up everything the BP guys and the Nats guys said. After the event, we introduced ourselves to Jason Parks, told him we were big fans and watched someone hand him a Puyol action figure. We then gave Parks our business card and made a joke about Andrelton Simmons' sixth tool. "You guys are weird, but this is pretty funny," he laughed. "I'll tweet this out for sure." The rest was history. Extremely underwhelming, unimportant, and completely irrelevant history. Parks gave us a small platform and we ran with it the best we could.
Jake and Jordan find the holy grail of throwback paraphernalia and catch a Triple-A game in Tacoma.
I think baseball’s dress code could best be described as business casual-shlumpy. What other occupation requires its employees to tuck a short-sleeved button-down into a pair of matching lightweight pajama pants? The modern baseball uniform must be both comfortable for the player and aesthetically reminiscent of the sport’s odd beginnings. While it attempts to combine style and function, in reality it achieves neither. The ideal uniform for most players would probably just be a dry fit t-shirt and, if they were allowed, I bet that 80% of pitchers would wear shorts. Remember, no one practices in a uniform. And as far as style goes, baseball uniforms aren’t particularly formal or anything. You wouldn’t wear one to a Bar Mitzvah, a funeral, a prom, a quinceanera or anything like that.
Yesterday, we arrived at the final stop on our road trip: Seattle. We still have a few more days in Seattle before we fly home, but the majority of our time on the road is over. During the adventure from San Diego to Seattle, we drove over 4,000 miles and spent almost 40 hours in the car. We slept in some skeezy motels, ate awful food often, and were super exhausted the entire time. It has been a tough journey at times, so when we were driving up to Safeco Field, we felt pretty proud of ourselves. In our minds, we were conquerors of the open road, true kings of the paths untraveled; legends of adventure. We thought were all these things and more. That is, until we sat behind three-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey at the Mariners game.
Jake and Jordan pay more homage to Barry Lamar Bonds.
Statistically, Barry Lamar Bonds is indisputably the greatest baseball player of all time. You could maybe argue Babe Ruth, Ted Williams, or Willie Mays, but then I would argue Barry Bonds and then I would win the argument. On Monday, we saw a game at AT&T, but yesterday we set aside an entire morning to return to the House that Barry Built to admire his insane accomplishments. We did this because we had time to kill and because Barry Bonds did these things.
Jake and Jordan continue their baseball journey in San Francisco, with a brief stop in jail.
Alcatraz was once the Barry Bonds of the United States Penitentiary System. Today, it is merely the Barry Bonds of San Francisco’s tourist attractions. The island, located about a mile and a half away from shore, was once home to the country’s most secure prison. From 1934 to 1963, some of America’s most dangerous criminals spent time behind bars on what many call “The Rock.” Jordan and I are big history buffs who have never been to prison (yet) so we decided to hop on the ferry, head over to The Rock, and buy an Al Capone shirsey or two.
Jake and Jordan visit the wonder that is the Coliseum.
The Roman Colosseum is one of history’s most important buildings. Highlighting the might and power of Ancient Rome, the Colosseum played host to gladiatorial battles, in which slaves were forced to fight to the death. While retrospectively barbaric, these events were held in honor of and for the emperor, and were the primary source of entertainment for many. Gladiators themselves became symbols of bravery, brutality, and brawn as the victors won their freedom and became legends in the process. Those days are gone now, forever a memory of a bygone era. But its memory lives on in the form of a modern day Colosseum, or should I say, Coliseum on the outskirts of Oakland, California.
Jake and Jordan head to Stockton, but make a pit stop to throw out a ceremonial first pitch.
Jordan Shusterman is a six-foot, 145 pound right-hander from Chevy Chase, MD. His wiry frame lends itself to tree comparisons. He hasn’t played organized baseball since 2009, but still shows a morsel of natural talent. He didn’t play on the baseball team at the College of Wooster, but did live with the D3 home run champ, which has to count for something, right? Wrong. Fastball sits at 71 with no movement and comes from a motion most commonly associated with that of a paper boy. His curveball is easily the best pitch and flashes potential to improve. Also throws an awful changeup/splitter type thing that would get crushed at the upper levels of the minors, not to mention the upper levels of little league. Big makeup guy, but I don’t think he makes it past A-Ball or a ball. Might want to look into throwing an eephus.
Jake and Jordan bat flip their way north to Visalia.
They travel from far and wide in the hope of someday making it big. With an unyielding belief in their own talent, they leave everything behind to pursue a passion. Some make it and some don’t. Every year, thousands of people come to Los Angeles to try and fulfill their dreams. We did that. So we left.
In December of 2012, Jordan and I started the Cespedes Family Barbecue in my living room. Inspired by the Up and In podcast, we had recently become extremely interested in the ins and outs of baseball and wanted a place to put all the dumb jokes we were making. A blog seemed like the dorkiest and most obvious choice. But at first, we didn’t know what to call it...
Jake and Jordan visit High Desert and talk to a Canadian about Australia.
After the Las Vegas 51’s game on Tuesday night, we met up with Baseball Prospectus math wiz and overall Cool Guy, Zachary Levine. Zach is a Vegas veteran and offered to lead us children on a PG tour of the strip. We happened upon a lot of ridiculous things, including a mezuzah on a door of a trashy clothing store and a guy who we think was trying to sell me Phil Coke in a fantasy league or something. But the most insane thing we saw in Vegas was this: on the sidewalk in front of the MGM Grand there is a Las Vegas Walk of Fame. On this Walk of Fame is a star dedicated to the runner-up of the 2003 AL Cy Young race:
Jake and Jordan find themselves in Bakersfield. On purpose...
We were told not to come here. Friends and followers alike heeded warnings about its dilapidated state. They said, “Why are you going there? Just spend a few extra days in San Francisco. The Giants have a beautiful stadium. You’d love it.” Only a few sung its praises, our expectations formed through the underwhelming experiences of others, but we are not your conventional baseball fans and this is not your father’s baseball road trip. We ignored these passionate calls for prudence, eager to lay our eyes upon the horror show we couldn’t stand to turn away from. Through the desert and mountains we drove until it appeared, like a dim lighthouse: Bakersfield in all its beauty.