After graduating from college six weeks ago, I decided to embark on a classic post-college road trip (a.k.a. postponing Real Life). I eventually found myself in Houston, just in time for the All-Star Game. Given that I had less money in my bank account than the face value of the cheapest ticket to the All-Star Game, I knew scalpers weren't going to be my route into Minute Maid Park. My mission became clear--find a way into the All-Star Game without spending a dime.
From the outside, the Juice Box looks more like a warehouse than a ballpark, especially with the roof closed. It's a monstrous piece of construction, and as with all the other retractable roofed parks I've been to (Miller, Bank One and Safeco), it doesn't have the same kind of baseball feel as an outdoor stadium. And while the park is no longer named after a controversial company (unless you have an irrational hatred for orange juice), it's worth noting that the area behind left field that Berkman and Tejada peppered during the Home Run Derby is dubbed Halliburton Plaza.
Two hours before game time, I dip my toes in the scalpers' pool, and find that the going rate for a standing room ticket is around $150--well out of my price range. Some church was handing out free water, so I grab a couple of those, which come in handy in the triple-digit heat. There's a large crowd at the Pepsi Plaza, where little kids can play t-ball on a mock field, right next to a bunch of Budweiser Clydesdales suffering in the heat. The entire area around the park is filled with corporate-sponsored booths, including one poor group of Kerry supporters deep in the heart of Bush country.
Carlos Gomez is a work in progress. At 26 years old, the Puerto Rico native has only 60 innings of professional ball under his belt in baseball backwaters such as Canton, Ohio and Allentown, Pa. With a high school career hampered by injury and a college career marred by ineffectiveness and then a bout of "Ankielitis," envisioning any kind of professional career at all for Gomez seemed a stretch. But persistence and a willingness to experiment have allowed Gomez to cast off his pitching woes and remake himself as a sidearming reliever, and intellectual curiosity has spurred him to incorporate objective research into his pitching approach. His is the story of Moneyball writ small, one player searching for any advantage he can get in order to rise through the professional ranks.
Traveling under the handle "Chad Bradford Wannabe," Gomez began posting to Baseball Primer last fall. Our first encounter found him searching for a way to gauge the level of his independent-league competition using Equivalent Average, a query which brought him to the attention of Baseball Prospectus' writers. Since then, he's become a popular member of the online baseball community, chiming in several times this past off-season on his experiences playing winter ball, his own research, and his evolving approach to the game. Gomez is slated to pitch for the New Jersey Jackals of the Northeast League this year.
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''Over the course of nine innings hundreds of silent signs and signals are given and received by managers, coaches and players...'' So begins Paul Dickson's new book, The Hidden Language of Baseball (Walker Books, $22.00). Hidden serves as a history of this fascinating, though often misunderstood, part of baseball. Prospectus correspondent Peter Schilling Jr. discussed with Mr. Dickson the nature of signs and sign stealing in baseball today, as well as the controversy surrounding Bobby Thomson's ''Shot Heard 'Round the World.''
Baseball Prospectus: What was it specifically that got started on this book?
It's a good week. I've got the MLB Extra Innings package, and after a long day of tinkering and swearing, my TiVo can now record up to 220 hours of baseball. I've seen so much fine baseball I feel like I'm in a pleasure coma--being able to sit down and watch NL teams I hardly ever got to see, while knowing that every Mariners game will be archived for my off-season amusement.
Speaking of teams I don't get to see very often, the Rangers have a new mascot, "Rangers Captain" who I saw for the first time this week. The Captain is a six-and-a-half foot fuzzy horse who, from what I can determine from seeing him on television, walks around the Ballpark at Arlington hugging hot women. This is made all that much funnier because the guy in the suit is reportedly 18-year-old Walter Dootson, a junior at Trinity High School in Euless, Texas ("at the intersection of 10 and 183"). I imagine that in addition to the usual mascot duties of say, the Mariner Moose--weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, corporate functions, "and any other special event where a lovable, domesticated moose would fit in"--the Captain is also going to be booked to do bachelorette parties.
For now, this is a conversation that took place on Thursday, September 6
between Gary Huckabay and two long suffering citizens of Red Sox Nation. The
three of us watched the 1978 one-game playoff together at Ralston
Intermediate School in Belmont, California, after the two moved to the Bay
Area from Massachusetts. BC & GH both attended college at UC Davis, before
BC returned to Framingham.