Tagged: My Team(s)

Nats Pound Dodgers

I’ve been flying the Giants and Red Sox banners this year, pursuing some old, unfinished business as well as some new, unfinished business, but make no mistake, I’m ultimately a Nationals/Orioles man.  All baseball, like politics, is local, and MASN owns me.  But since I have been following the Giants this year, it is especially gratifying to watch the Nats beat the **** out of the Dodgers tonight.  Church just went yard to seal the deal.

I haven’t watched any of the Giants (this year’s team) versus the Mets (last year’s team).  I suppose I win either way.  But then, again, I lose either way.

So I’ll just enjoy…did I mention the Nats were beating the **** out of the Dodgers?

— Michael Norton

O Say

Well, He11, after watching the Tides defeat the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees last night I realized the impossibility of ignoring the Orioles, the parent club of my Norfolk Tides.

There is a part of me that envies fans who live in the same city their entire lives and get to root for one team from birth.  I suppose this is the classic American story: very few of us really have roots anymore.

On the other hand, the grass is always greener in the other ballpark, and in a sense I’m blessed.  I have experienced the great variety this land of ours has to offer.  I have at one time or another been a Giants fan, a Yankees fan, a Red Sox fan, a Cubs fan, a Rangers fan and a Mets fan, and enjoyed every minute of it.  I suppose I am fortunate to have not one but two major league teams within an hour of each other.

One should have an AL team and an NL team I’ve always said.  It’s not like these two teams are likely to ever meet in the World Series.  So I suppose rather than a Nats fan or an O’s fan, I could be more properly called a Chesapeake fan, property of MASN, the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network.

Thanks, Peter Angelos.

Red Glare

Well I’m back where I belong: as a Nats fan.

I was a Nats fan in 2005, and would have been one last year had it not been for being blacked out as part of MLB’s concessions to Baltimore owner Peter Angelos to allow the team in Washington.  After the first part of 2005 I couldn’t even catch the Nats live on MLB.TV.  So rather than face the prospect of being unable to follow my team visually, I reverted to my default strategy of following the parent team of the local AAA team, last year New York.  All seemed to be going well.

Then the Norfolk ownership decided not to renew the Tides’ almost four decade long affiliation with the Mets.  A pretense was made at negotiations with Washington, in no small part due to the fact that opinion polls showed the majority of fans preferred the Nats (or Mets) over the O’s.  That was never going to happen.  The president of the Tides, Ken Young, had been purchasing Orioles minor league franchises all up the east coast.  Regardless of whether the local fans preferred the Mets or the Nats, the Tides were next in line to become an Orioles affiliate.

I considered continuing my farm/parent team approach, but because of the heavy handed approaches by both the Orioles and Tides I gagged at the thought of rewarding Angelos and Young.  Fortunately for me the blackout on the Nats is being lifted this year.  Washington is closer to home than Baltimore, and is really the natural market team for this area.  Virginia, the “Mother of Presidents” has always been closely associated with the nation’s capitol.  Hampton Roads was in contention for the team that became the Washington Nationals the year I arrived.

I was watching the Nationals play the Orioles at Harbor Park when it suddenly dawned on me:

I’m a Nats fan.

— Michael Norton

O Say Can You See

The Orioles, new parent club of the Norfolk Tides, played the Washington Nationals at my beloved Harbor Park yesterday, winning 6-5.  It was a thrill to see the park on television, especially fly balls descending with the giant cranes in the shipyards on the Elizabeth River as a backdrop.  Reminded me of how enjoyable evenings at Harbor Park are.

Surprisingly, this was the first MLB game in Harbor Park.  The last time a MLB game was played in Norfolk was 1974, at the old Mets Park, which is no small part of the reason the Tides snubbed the Mets and signed on with the Orioles when their 38 year affiliation ended last year.  A sellout crowd greeted the O’s to their new AAA home, which should feel familiar considering Harbor Park was designed by the same company that designed Camden Yards.

Thought I’d pay homage to the moment by trying on the new colors.

— Michael Norton

Hometown Heroes

My son and I caught the Redskins game Monday night at Hometown Heroes, a local sports pub-no relation to the current MLB promo. We received the best service I’ve ever experienced anywhere, anytime, from a young woman with that wonderful New Englandah accent. She asked rather sheepishly if we were Redskins fans. She was, of course, a huge Patriots/Red Sox fan. Believe it or not, I, myself, was once a Red Sox fan, before there even was such a concept as a “nation”.

I am a lifelong Sooner fan (talk about a nation, I see bumper stickers everywhere), but I must confess my ardor has cooled considerably since moving from Oklahoma to Virginia. It is difficult to follow a team closely remotely. The local print no longer bleeds red, the airwaves are no longer filled with coverage of the crimson and cream. I miss that, which is why, I suppose, I was at a sports pub watching the Redskins.

Someone once said that all politics is local. The same could be said of our diversions. That principle was drilled home to me as a baseball fan. No matter how often I betrothed myself to another team-the Red Sox, Giants, Cubs, Yankees–ultimately it proved, season after season, impossible to escape the gravitational pull of the home team Rangers. Technology is loosening these bonds, a significant topic for another time; but baseball franchises are still very much territorial animals, as attested by the strife between the Orioles and Major League Baseball in regards to the Washington franchise. Eventually I resigned myself to being a fan of the former Senators, now in Texas headed by a future President. I even embraced the StRangers, largely because the local Oklahoma Redhawks nee 89’ers were the top of the Rangers farm system.

Fortune is fickle, however, and acceptance seems to invite change. Seems no sooner had I taken to the Rangers than fate called me to Hampton Roads, home of AAA Met affiliate Norfolk Tides. I followed the Tides and Mets, but the Nats stole my heart in spring training of their inaugural year. I caught the first 24 games ever by the Nationals via MLB.TV. Washington, not New York, is really the natural team for the area in the same way the Redskins are. When I moved here Norfolk was still in contention for the Expos franchise. I could still be a Nats fan. But Baltimore owner Peter Angelos ensured I wouldn’t be able to watch the Nationals, just when I was starting to develop good will towards the Orioles, who appear regularly on television here in Hampton Roads.

So now I’m a Met. And we’re in first.

— Michael Norton

Last Day of an Era Gone By

There was a day in the not too distant past when New York trailed Seattle by 17 ½ games. On September 10, 2001, the Mariners had compiled a 104-40 record while the Yankees, who had upended the surprising Mariners for the pennant the previous year en route to their third straight World Championship, were the second best team in the American League with an 86-57 record.

On September 10th, the Mariners were the jewel of the 2001 baseball season. A city which had agonizingly been a baseball loser, not only of games, but of teams, had been in a short span transformed into the winningest team–ever. Despite having lost a player widely regarded as the best shortstop of all time, Alex Rodriguez, to division rival Texas, as they had lost Randy Johnson the year before. The Mariners had never even been to a World Series, much less won one. And 2001 did not look to be their year. According to one prognostication, “pitching will keep Seattle in the hunt for a wild-card berth”.

The Mariners opened the season against the team that was favored to win the division, Oakland and surprisingly took two out of three. Then came a widely anticipated matchup against the Rangers and their new shortstop. The great fear was Rodriguez would humiliate his former team. Instead, the Mariners took another two of three. Then they got hot. By the end of April the Mariners were 20-5 (.800), and never played less than .667 ball in any month the rest of the season. They won 15 of 20 against the Rangers, who finished in the cellar, 43 games back.

Bret Boone, Mike Cameron, Freddy Garcia, Edgar Martinez, John Olerud, Kazuhiro Sasaki, Jeff Nelson, a rookie named Ichiro all made the All-Star team. Suzuki went on to win both the American League Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards, not to mention a batting title with a .350 average. As if that weren’t enough, Ichiro and team mate Mike Cameron picked up Gold Gloves.

Seattle led the league in hitting, pitching, fielding-and attendance. Over 3 ½ million fans went crazy in Safeco that summer. Seattle, not particularly known as a sports town, was in love with their Mariners. There was electricity in the air. Banners flew downtown. Newspapers and television seemingly talked of little else, as did Cabbies and co-workers.

I was there in Seattle the day time stood still. Seattle was a virtual suburb of Silicon Valley. The Internet Revolution had made Seattle a very wealthy city. BMWs were being raffled to raise money for youth sports teams! The jewel of the Northwest, the Emerald City, had become a shining symbol of the prosperity of the end of the century. The success of the Mariners was part of that.

On September 10, 2001, I was returning to my hotel from one of my “authentic cuisine excursions”, a nice little Ethiopian restaurant, ruminating on a news report that a resolution declaring Israel a terrorist state was being rammed through the U.N. I remember thinking of the tragedy of the U.N., how the Arabs had twisted that once beacon of hope into a ridiculous implement for flogging their favorite whipping boys, in no small part because both were impotent.

The Mariners played the Angels in Anaheim that evening. They wouldn’t play again until the 18th of September, a week when baseball seemed suddenly, utterly unimportant, and a week in which we learned who we are as a people, and, correspondingly, just how important baseball really is.

— Michael Norton

Note: After posting this, I discovered a nice piece on the subject written by MLBlogs own Mark Newman, Baseball to Mark Solemn Anniversary. Check it out!

Some Ballyard

Upon his first visit to Yankee Stadium, even the undauntable Ruth reportedly quipped: “Some ballyard”. This has been a special year of baseball for me, stretching back to last year’s miracle, the Red Sox casting off the Curse of the Bambino. I’m not worthy of being a member of the Red Sox Nation, although I did visit Fenway Park on a business trip, in the middle of winter, just to touch its hallowed walls. Nor am I a Yankee hater—quite the opposite. For many years the Yanks were the closest thing I had to a favorite team, mostly because Mickey Mantle was my first hero and all those pinstripes filling the books of baseball lore.

I can’t honestly say I have a favorite team, although I felt a certain affinity with the Nationals this season. I acquired that affinity in spring training, when I had an eye on the Mets. I had just moved to the Hampton Roads area, where the local team is the Norfolk Tides, the Triple A affiliate of the Mets. Hampton Roads made a credible, though ultimately unsuccessful bid for the Nationals nee Expos. This didn’t particularly break my heart. In Oklahoma City I acquired an appreciation for Minor League baseball following the Oklahoma Redhawks, the Triple A affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Minor league ball puts you in touch with the larger world of baseball, the organization of baseball. That perspective led to the discovery of college ball, even high school ball. Shawnee (OK) took great pride in its high school program, with one of the better high school fields hosting tournaments every year which attracted the best high school and American Legion teams. Some Ballyard.

I’ve also learned that there are many different means of interacting with baseball. I lay on my sofa, closed my eyes, and listened to the Norfolk Tides fall to the Toledo Mud Hens in the first round of the International League playoffs. Having been to a number of games at Harbor Park, including several against the Mud Hens, I could visualize the game in such a marvelous way space lost all meaning. Some Ballyard.

Baseball has embraced the newly networked world in a way which must be the envy of other professional sports. I have been able to watch an amazing amount of baseball this year on my Desktop via their All Access package, including most of the Nationals exciting run in the first half of the season. One can follow many, if not most, Minor League teams across the country on Internet simulcasts. Gameday pages, online sortable, searchable stats, web sites, and blogs. Some Ballyard.