25 Days of Baseball – Trades

Today is one of those days where it’s hard to be romantic about baseball.

I had another post planned for today, but decided to push it back.

Being traded, in a word, sucks.

Imagine. You’re having to uproot your whole life after a phone call. Most players, I would assume, are used to it. You never really have 100% job security. Most jobs do not. But, most jobs do give you some sort of warning. With trades, you find out most of your information via rumors, social media, and/or TV.

I’m not trying to put myself in the shoes of these families. It’s one of those circumstances where unless you’ve experienced it before, you don’t really know what it’s like. But I do like to think of it like this:

I’m sitting on the couch, and my husband’s phone rings. His face falls as he listens to the speaker on the other line. He ends the call, looks at me and goes: “I’ve been traded. We’re moving to __.”

Immediately, my mind would go to my family, if we had one. Where would our kids go to school? What is the housing situation like? The community? Do I know anyone there who could help? Even something as basic as where the nearest grocery store was.

Ultimately, you know the deal is done. You are moving. No protest.

I’ve always been somewhat of a homebody. I like Cincinnati. I love traveling, but at the end of the day, I like knowing there’s one place I can fully call home, where I have friends and family and people I can talk to.

Players have this. They have the places they were born and raised. It’s no secret that Homer Bailey is a Texas boy, and that Joey Votto is a Canadian. Those are their homes. But the odds of them playing in their hometown are slim to none. They adapt to their surroundings, and make a new home.

If anything, the uncertainty would kill me more than anything. Simply not knowing. Do I put a down payment on a house if I won’t be here for long?

My mom moved around a lot as a kid. Every year, she said, she was in a new school, having to start all over and make new friends. It forced her to be outgoing and social, and she’s already pretty extroverted. My father lived in the same house his whole life before going off to school. I can see how their past living experiences have shaped their current way of being. I know my father will never leave Cincinnati. He’s stubborn and stuck in his ways. My mom, on the other hand, is more open to change, because she had to be.

The players who were traded these past two weeks (Latos, Simon, Heisey) will, I believe, enjoy their time in their new cities. Because ultimately, a place becomes a home by the people there. Cincinnati is my home because of my friends, family, and sorority sisters. Heisey will find friends in LA. Simon will find friends in Detriot. And Latos will find friends in Miami.

I’ll miss them all for their own special reasons. But I wish them nothing but good luck. Go be awesome like we know you are. Have stellar careers. Find a cool house and most importantly, go find people that will make your new city, home.

25 Days of Baseball – Scorekeeping

We love documenting our lives. From taking hundreds of pictures of our children to tweeting every five minutes, we love being able to share our triumphs, joys and stories with the world. Social media gives us the perfect opportunity to show the world who we are, what we love, and what we’re doing. There has been an absolute surge in those who are involved in social media because of the sport they love. For me, it’s baseball. But before there was Twitter, there was the scorecard.

The scorecard was one of the original mediums for communication in the baseball world. Box scores were published in newspapers. They were the generic, universal base for all those interested. But the scorecard was different. It was personal and individual. It allowed those early fans to feel like they’re a deeper part of their team, sport and organization. It was also a prime conversation opportunity – How do you keep score? What marks do you use? Hey I wasn’t looking – what happened in that at-bat?

Cincinnatian Chris Hendrixson is an avid supporter of scorekeeping. A lifelong Reds fan from Mason, Ohio, Chris first remembers taking score when he was around 10.

Chris at Blue Ash Sports Center

Chris at Blue Ash Sports Center

“I remember keeping score once when I was probably 10 years old,” Chris recalled. “It was for the All-Star Game and my favorite player growing up, Ken Griffey Jr., was the starting center fielder. Inside of one of my baseball magazines I found an All-Star Game scorecard that I was very intrigued by.”

It wasn’t until 2012 that Chris fully fell in love with scorekeeping.

“A couple of decades later I kept score again on April 8, 2012. I went to the game by myself and picked up a scorebook and AM radio on the way down to the ball park. Chris Heisey hit a walk-off double and I was hooked.”

That moment changed everything for Chris. As a designer, he began to look at the scorecard in a completely different way. He wanted to design his own scorecard, and most importantly, bring it to the people.

“After I kept score for the first time in 2012, I immediately wanted to design my own scorecard. That moment was also pivotal in the forming of the vision for my company Blue Seat Media. I was overwhelmed by this feeling that keeping score on an iPad could be amazing. Since I rekindled my interest in scorekeeping in April 2012 I’ve designed numerous versions of my own paper scorecards, developed a working scorekeeping prototype app for the iPad and even taught scorekeeping classes to Reds fans at GABP.”

Chris's self-designed & used scorecard

Chris’s self-designed & used scorecard

Chris is one of the co-founders of a local startup called Blue Seat Media. Named after the coveted blue seats from Riverfront Stadium, Blue Seat is a product studio based in OTR that works to design and build high-quality and fan-friendly apps for baseball fans. Their most known app is Cincy Lineup, and they plan to build a scorekeeping app and release it to the public in the next few years.

Chris believes that there is a prime opportunity to teach fans of all ages the art of scorekeeping, especially those in Cincinnati.

“You can always look around and find a few scorekeepers (most of whom have been doing it for decades) but I don’t believe a large number of fans at GABP currently keep score. Many fans don’t keep score simply because they don’t know how. They become intimidated by the odd nomenclature and weird symbols and never give it a try. If we can teach more fans the basics of scorekeeping they will become hooked just like myself and others. Most people believe that scorekeeping is a lost art but I believe we are about to see a major resurgence of the scorekeeping tradition and that will be a wonderful thing for the game.”

Chris has been a Reds fan his whole life. He was eight years old when the Reds won the World Series in 1990 against Oakland, and has fallen in love with the team ever since.

“I remember watching Todd Benzinger catch that ball in Oakland for the final out of the series (a Foul Out caught by the First Baseman for those of you keeping score at home).

Similar to the prestige surrounding the Diamond Club, being able to sit in the blue seats was everything a young kid or baseball fan could aspire to during Riverfront’s golden era. One day, Chris’s mom surprised him with just that.

“When I was probably 7 or 8 years old my mom woke me up for school one day and, to my complete surprise, told me that she was taking me to the Reds game instead of taking me to school. We sat in the blue seats. It was one of my only memories sitting in the blue seats at Riverfront and quite possibly my favorite Reds memory of all time.”

Now, Chris is living and working full time on his life’s work and passion, Blue Seat. He wants to take that love of scorekeeping and transcend it for the tech world.

“I believe our smartphones and tablets will play a huge role in the future of scorekeeping, not just for current scorekeepers but also for new adopters. A digital scorecard could help guide fans and teach them through interactive tutorials or by simply “following” someone else’s scorecard. The future of scorekeeping will be digital and much, much more collaborative.”

The core nature of baseball fans has not changed much since the early days of the game. We all want to feel like we belong in our organization, like we have a significant impact of the game both on the field and off. Chris believes scorekeeping does just that, and will continue to do so in the future.

“When keeping score you are interacting with the game in a different way and are more in tune with the complex things happening on the field. It feels like pulling the curtain back on a baseball game. Baseball has all kinds of quirky rules and since I’ve been keeping score regularly I’ve learned a ton of new things (the difference between a “passed ball” and a “wild pitch” for example). Charlie Rose once said, ‘The more you know about something, the more interesting it is.’ “

25 Days of Baseball – Keeping Positivity

Redsfest is over. The postseason is in full swing. In dark times like these, it’s hard to maintain a positive attitude. In darker times such as the end of this past season, it’s even harder.

When all hope seems lost, how do you keep positivity?

I reached out to Reds fan and birthday girl Genny Connley and how she maintains a positive attitude. Genny is a mom of two who grew up in Illinois, right in between Cubs and Cardinals territory.

Jenny Kemme (left), Teddy (middle) and Genny (right).

Jenny Kemme (left), Teddy (middle) and Genny (right).

“My family was pretty split between the Cubs and the Cards,” she recalled. “I grew up a Cubs fan. Our local single A team always went back and forth between Chicago and St. Louis.”

Growing up, Genny’s grandfather was a huge Cubs fan. She believes he instilled her love of baseball.

“My grandpa, who just recently passed away, was the worlds biggest Cubs fan. I remember growing up; he was always sitting at the kitchen table watching the games. He was either playing solitare or keeping score to the game. I was convinced he would live until they won the World Series. Now that he’s in heaven, I wouldn’t put it past the Cubs to take it all this year.”

Genny moved to Cincinnati in 2005 and began attending games in 2006. Ever since 2007, she has only missed one Opening Day.

Opening Day 2011 particularly stands out for Genny and her husband, thanks to their good luck charm.

“I was about 7 1/2 months pregnant. Back-to-back homers by the Brewers to start off the game made it look like it was going to be a long day. I remember standing up in the bottom of the ninth with Ramon at the plate and two on. We were down by two. My husband and I were rubbing my belly for good luck and then BAM – a no-doubt-about-it bomb for the win!”

Despite big moments such as Ramon’s walkoff, Genny is well aware of the difficulties that encompass keeping positive.

“You have to remember that it’s just a game. I truly don’t understand the point of letting a game ruin your day, month, season. I support my team through thick and thin. Is it easier to be a fan when you’re team is winning? Well, of course. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t support your team during the down times too.”

Ask anyone, and they’ll tell you baseball season is an absolute grind. Sometimes you have to be able to look at the big picture, and enjoy the game itself.

“Take a deep breath and just enjoy the ride. And do not attack players or their family on social media!”

25 Days of Baseball – Redsfest

This post is coming to you a day late, due to the extreme craziness of yesterday. There will be two posts today. One will come later in the evening.

Redsfest. In a word, it’s tiring. But it’s the kind of tiring where, for some reason, you manage to find any sort of energy and still sprint to your favorite player’s autograph or photograph line. You can barely feel your feet, but you’re still moving. That, my friends, is the core of your soul pushing you forward. That is your Reds heart.

Or your insanity. Whichever works.

The beauty of the event is that it means different things for different people, but everyone is there for the same common purpose: the Cincinnati Reds.

To me, Redsfest means good times with good friends, and a weekend of pure exhilaration and exhaustion (similar to what Reds games mean to me).

Reds fan Nzinga Brooks attended her first Redsfest last year. She loves interacting with the players and all of the photo ops, from Sam LeCure to Great Person (Brayan Peña). But nothing compares to her favorite Redsfest memory – meeting Aroldis Chapman at an exclusive autograph session.

A Cincinnati native who currently resides in Miami, Florida, Nzinga has been a Reds fan all her life.

IMG_2447

“I grew up watching the Reds on TV with my mom,” she recalled. “I didn’t ‘become’ a Reds fan, I just was one. I remember watching Pete Rose break the hit record on TV and Marge Schott presenting him with a brand new car. Dave Parker, Eric Davis & Barry Larkin were the ultimate in our house. I would get tickets for getting good grades so mom and I always enjoyed going to Riverfront Stadium.”

Her relationship with baseball has grown over the years, from a love for the Atlanta Braves to her involvement on with the Reds on Twitter.

“During middle school, I became a big Braves fan because  their CF was from Cincinnati. I started going to all the games when the Braves were in town. In 2009, I re-dedicated myself to the Redlegs. I would catch an average of 5 games per season. Then I attended my first tweet up in 2012 and met a few cool Reds fans. That December I won a 6 game pack for the 2013 season – which turned into about a dozen games and led to my first Redsfest. I became a season ticket holder with the 20-game plan in 2014 (a great season on a personal level).”
 Similar to other Reds fans interviewed, her favorite Reds player is none other than Barry Larkin.
“Barry Larkin is my favorite of all time. He’s a Cincinnati guy, he played the game the right way & with respect, and he takes a great selfie!”
Nzinga, Barry and myself at a game last season broadcasted by ESPN

Nzinga, Barry and myself at a game last season broadcasted by ESPN

Nzinga recently moved down to Miami, Florida at the end of this past baseball season. A traveler at heart, she’s following her dreams, and having a blast while doing so.
“Now, I’m in beautiful Miami waiting to see my fellow Reds fans and lamenting the fact that the Reds don’t play the Marlins here until the weekend before ASG. Gotta figure out a way to convince everyone that it’s a great time to visit!”

25 Days of Baseball – Autographs

Happy first day of Redsfest!

Today begins my favorite two-day holiday of the year. To celebrate, I’ve decided to dedicate today’s post in honor of one of the main things people attend Redsfest for – autographs.

I’m not a big autograph person. Someone’s signature may bring someone money or pride, but I’ve always enjoyed the photographs (a prime profile picture opportunity) and engaging in thoughtful and awkward conversation.

There are many types of “collectors,” if you will. On one end, there are those that collect with a true passion for the team. But on the other, there are those that collect out of greed and eBay.

Josh Shortt remains strictly on the positive end. He is a “true collector,” meaning he’s not in it for the money. Over the years, he’s grown into a face well known around Reds Authentics, and even the clubhouse itself.

 

Josh and Johnny Bench

Josh and Johnny Bench

Josh’s “collecting” began where it starts for most – baseball cards.

“My best friend’s mom bought me a pack of baseball cards,” Josh recalled. “It was all over from there. As for autographs, the same friend showed me how to send cards through the mail and to players at their stadiums. The concept of autographs fascinated me.”

The process for collecting an autograph is different for each person. Some prefer attending paid sessions where they are guaranteed a signature. Some prefer waiting alongside of the first base line before games begin. Some prefer waiting at the player’s entrance of the parking garage. But most will do a steady combination of every possible opportunity.

Josh will do the latter. He’s a Reds season ticket holder, so he is able to attend special events by the Reds for their season ticket holders. He’s also a regular face around different autograph signings throughout the area, such as those put on by Sports Gallery in West Chester.

As to what to get signed, it all depends on how much Josh likes the player.

“I typically just like a single ball signed on the ‘sweet spot’ from players that I like. Usually if you’re at batting practice enough, the opportunity will present itself. If I really like a player, I may try to grab a game used bat, and if I REALLY like a player, I’ll try for a game used jersey.”

Over the years, Josh has accumulated items that are even located in the Reds Hall of Fame in Museum. He has a close relationship with the guys at the HOF, and whenever they ask him for any item, he is typically able to oblige. He was able to give me a personal tour of his items a few weeks ago.

Most collectors have their preferred people they work with as well. For Josh, there’s no one better than the people at Reds Authentic’s and the people at Sports Gallery.

“Reds Authentic’s, which used to be run by Jon Cline, and is now run by Jared Dvorsky, is the official game used leg of the Reds. If you want to be 100% certain your item is legit, they are the only way to go. It would be very hard to find more accommodating folks than Jared and his crew. They are truly willing to work with collectors to make sure they get the Reds items that they desire, and usually at a pretty fair price (as those things go). If you’re looking for autograph signings from current and former Reds, the Fugate family and their Sports Gallery are absolutely top notch. Mark has been collecting for years, and is one of the most trusted names in the hobby as far as Reds autographs and game used memorabilia goes. They have gotten the appearances at their place down to a science, and as long as the player is in a good mood, there is rarely anything to complain about.”

Throughout his collecting career, Josh has grown more discerning over the items that he does choose to have signed.

“When I got back into the hobby as an adult, it was all about getting whatever I could, in order to decorate my basement walls. Eventually it turned into a ‘quality over quantity’ thing, where I had to start replacing things on the walls that I deemed ‘lesser,’ with nicer items. That, in turn, gave way to me buying game used items over just simple autographed items.”

Josh is different from other collectors for the primary aspect that he believes in treating the players like they are normal people, not baseball players. He has always valued relationships more than any item, something that I admire quite dearly. He has grown especially close with Jay Bruce and the Latos’.

“Since his days in Single-A Dayton, I have always liked Jay Bruce, and have a pretty solid collection of unique items from his career. I was fortunate enough to meet Jay when he was promoted to Louisville. Over the years we got to know each other a little, and he has become a bit of a friend. On top of being a solid player, Jay is a genuinely great person, and it’s hard to overlook that. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention Mat Latos. He was a player I admired from afar when he was with the Padres, so naturally, I was excited when the Reds traded for him. Through a series of random events, I became friends with Mat and his wife, Dallas. I love Mat’s fire on the field, and if you ever see him wearing a pair of Air Jordan’s on the mound, I probably helped make that happen.”

While Josh doesn’t feverishly collect as much as he used to, he still wants to encourage a positive, friendly collecting culture.

“My advice to collectors (current or aspiring), is always be polite to the players you’re asking for autographs, as well as those around you. You might not think it, but players remember faces/behavior quite well. If they are going to take time out of their busy schedule to do you a favor, and sign something for you FOR FREE, be courteous. Basic common manners that we learned when we were three, like saying “please” and “thank you” work wonders.”

So when you’re scrambling for autographs tonight and tomorrow, here’s some final words:

Be kind, be polite, and don’t put them on eBay.

25 Days of Baseball – Statistics

Numbers are not my thing.

I’ll be the first to admit it. I am awful with numbers. There’s a reason English, Reading and History were always my higher grades in school.

However, with every non-numbers person, there is another pro-numbers person. Today, that person is the one and only Joel Luckhaupt.

The infamous "stats guy"

The infamous “stats guy”

Most people “know” Joel – they’ve heard his name, read his books, and have seen his name on Twitter. Similar to most people, I don’t know exactly what Joel does.

“It’s okay, not a lot of people do,” Joel laughed. “Not even some people I’m close with. I’m the Reds Statistician.”

Joel works at the ballpark in the TV broadcast booth. He’ll watch the game, and if he notices something peculiar or odd, he’ll pass it along to the broadcasters.

“My title is ‘Statistician’ but I’m really more like a researcher,” he spoke. “It’s my job to find stuff during the game to make the announcers sound like they are on the ball – which they usually are, even when I’m not helping. The best part of my job is that I have a great view, right next to the play-by-play guy, and I get to watch baseball every night. It’s definitely a job, but it’s one of the coolest jobs a guy could have.”

First and foremost, he was a baseball fan. The youngest of seven, he grew up with his siblings playing all kinds of sports. He quickly realized that he wasn’t interested in playing, but rather the information behind the game.

“I used to read through boxscores in the paper every day. Since there weren’t as many games televised, that was the only way to get the story on many of the games from the prior night. Also, I read a lot of different baseball books and magazines, whatever I could get my hands on. That’s when I discovered Bill James and other stat books. When I was bored, I would sit and flip through those, devouring the numbers and challenging my brothers with quizzes. My brothers and I also played a table-top baseball game called APBA, which led to extensive compilation of stats. All of these things really built my passion for numbers and baseball.”

He never imagined he would be working in baseball. For him, it was always a hobby, never a job. He worked in IT for ten years before stumbling upon the statistician opportunity.

“I liked it [the IT field], but I wasn’t happy,” he simply stated. “It wasn’t what I love.”

Joel has written two books on Reds baseball, The Wire-to-Wire Reds and 100 Things Reds Fans Should Know and Do Before They Die. The Wire-to-Wire Reds was co-written by John Erardi as well.

“The Wire-to-Wire Reds is a history of the 1990 championship season that I wrote with John Erardi. It was my first foray into doing something legitimate with baseball, but to be honest, I was very naive about the whole process and if John hadn’t joined me, it would have failed miserably. John was able to get us interviews with many of the players while I did a large portion of the daily research. We split the writing between us and churned out the book in a quick 3.5 months (which I’m told is a very fast turnaround).

“The second book – 100 Things Reds Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die – was also a quick turnaround. I wrote that one on my own as part of a series from Triumph Books, who has similar books for dozens of other teams in multiple sports. Most of that book was written by using library and SABR resources for research as well as with some help from a few people within the Reds. It took me about 4.5 months to write, which is fast compared to many of the books I’ve heard about other people writing. My hope is that the next book I write will allow me a bit longer of a timeline so that I can breathe while I write it.”

When Joel isn’t fumbling through Internet articles, he spends his offseason being “a father for his children.”

Despite his job and published works, Joel would like to be remembered first and foremost for his humility.

“I’d like to be remembered as the greatest, most influential mind in Reds history. But since that’s not going to happen, I just hope to keep enjoying the game and the team throughout my life. Baseball’s fun. I hope it keeps being so.”

25 Days of Baseball – Baseball Movies

Moneyball

Moneyball

How can you not be romantic about baseball?

Moneyball is one of my all-time favorite baseball movies. Billy Beane went out a limb with everyone against him and produced a winning team. Although they didn’t enjoy a long post-season, Beane made a statement. The game could be changed. And sometimes, taking a risk is worth it.

We all have our favorite baseball movie. I enjoy the classics, so mine is The Sandlot (as discussed here). I quickly fell in love with the pure idealism and simplicity that the young boys portrayed. They loved the game not for championships or titles, but for the game itself. They loved baseball, not theatrics. And yes, I tear up every time I watch it, especially the Fourth of July scene.

I spoke with Reds fan and season ticket holder Jenny Kemme (@JennyKemme) on the topic of baseball movies. A Reds fan since birth, Jenny is well-known for her “A League of Their Own” costume, which so happens to be her favorite baseball movie.

Jenny and her main man Gapper

Jenny and her main man Gapper

“I’m going to say A League of Their Own ,” she proudly spoke. “I used to
play baseball when I was younger and it gave me a sense of hope that
maybe women would be allowed back in to the league someday. Plus, it’s
freaking hilarious.”

A Cincy girl, Jenny has been surrounded by baseball since birth. She comes from a family of huge baseball fans.

“My Aunt and Uncle would take us to games a lot. They didn’t have any children so they
treated their nieces and nephews like their own. My parents also love
baseball, so we would watch games together all the time. My dad used to get Diamond
Seats for free which was freaking awesome. It was cool being able to
be so close to the field. And the free food/drinks didn’t hurt either.”

One of Jenny’s favorite moments as a Reds fan was when she attended the Reds’ ladies night out last year entitled “A Night of Their Own.”

“Last year, I took part in A Night of Their Own at the stadium. It was
really awesome being able to go onto the field and in the dugout and
all that stuff. I’m doing it again this year.”

While she loves “A League of Their Own,” she also would love to see a movie made one day about the Big Red Machine.

“It feels like there are a lot of different topics that movies have already covered. I’d like to see a “Hard Knock” kind of thing for a baseball team. As a Reds fan, maybe a movie
about the Big Red Machine. That would be cool.”

People enjoy movies because they can give the opportunity to place themselves in the shoes of someone unique and different. They allow you to escape to a new time and place and become wonderfully encompassed into this new life, new way of being, new enthralling experience.

“Movies can take you to places you’ve never seen. They can make you feel like you get a behind-the-scenes experience. If the movie is done right, you don’t feel like you’re watching a movie. You feel like you’re there in the stands watching it take place. Rooting for Jackie Robinson to steal home in 42, rooting for Wild Thing, Bull Durham, Jimmy to sober up and win in A League of Their Own… a movie can put you there.”

Despite the beauty of movies, Jenny still believes that the best fan experience comes from actually going to the games and making your own story.

“The best fan experience comes from you going to the game and sitting in the stands and rooting on your team to win.”

So I ask you – What is your favorite baseball movie, any why?

But most importantly, don’t be afraid to go out and make your own movie. Make your own story. You may just experience the next Sandlot or Moneyball.