The Good Press — Issue #62: The Baseball Experience
There’s nothing like the experience of being at a ballgame with people you care about. You might even see something unforgettable and/or never-before-seen
Hello and welcome to another edition of The Good Press, a newsletter of observations about life, sports, and/or anything else that comes to mind.
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The Baseball Experience
For the first time since their retirement to Florida this winter, my parents will be flying up to New York this afternoon for a nice summer holiday up north.
One way that we’re going to celebrate being back together is with a big family outing to the ballpark to take in a baseball game tonight. Weather permitting (always tricky during the dog days of summer!), tonight will be the first game back at the ballpark since the start of the pandemic for most of us attending the game tonight. For one of my little cousins (who is no longer the littlest cousin!), it will also be her first time ever at a ballgame. I’m very excited.
Suffice to say, a trip to the ballpark to see a ballgame is one of my favorite things in the world. Anyone who knows me knows I love the game, but what I especially love is sharing that love of the game with people I care about.
In Other Words
What better place to be than at the ballpark on a summer evening?
What better people to be there with than with people you love?
Hopefully, the weather cooperates and tonight will be the first of many incredible memories of quality time with the family at the ballpark for my cousin, who will be turning four in a couple of months. I may be the biggest baseball nut in the family, but both sides of my family tree have made quality time together at the ballpark a tradition that we’ve enjoyed for generations.
It doesn’t matter if you’re a big baseball nut like me, a casual fan like many others, or even just someone who’s in it for the shared experience with loved ones. Just being there, spending that time together, that is what these events are all about. It’s fun for me to follow the games so closely, but who you’re there with, especially after a long-awaited reunion? That is simply priceless.
One of the beautiful things about baseball is that on any given day, you never know what you’ll see. Whether you’re attending the game in person, watching on television, or reading postgame recaps online or in the papers, every day there’s a chance to see something that you’ve never seen before.
Unless you’re a baseball fan who can vividly recall the exploits of George Herman “Babe” Ruth in 1918 and 1919, there’s one player, in particular, who is wowing people with never-before-seen experiences today: Shohei Ohtani.
Ohtani, a 27-year-old player for the Los Angeles Angels, is a do-it-all type of player who is remarkably a full-time batter and a full-time pitcher, something that hasn’t been achieved since Babe Ruth was doing it over 100 years ago. (And even The Great Bambino wasn’t a two-way player for all that long, either.)
Not only is Ohtani capable of holding his own in his dual roles, but he’s excelling at an unprecedented level this season, proving himself to be the best player in the world, and frankly, the best baseball talent I’ve ever seen.
It’s hard to put into words how great Ohtani has been. A native of Japan, his exploits in his home country were so awe-inspiring that fans couldn’t help but imagine how his incredible talent could translate over in the big leagues. He was a sensation in 2018, winning American League Rookie of the Year with the Angels, but he required a Tommy John elbow surgery late that year.
Fully healthy now, the Angels have let him loose this season, allowing him to play nearly every day as a batter and bat for himself on the days when he pitches. The results have been as remarkable as one could have imagined.
The numbers change on a daily basis, and I’ve actually wanted to write about him for months but haven’t been able to pause and jot it all down because he’s practically doing something unprecedented each and every day now.
Here are some things to read that try to break it down better than I can:
Shohei Ohtani Unleashed
With the so-called Ohtani rules junked, the Angels' "super freak" is dominating as a hitter and a pitcher. "There are…
'Generational talent' Sho seizes MLB HR lead
NEW YORK -- It's only fitting that with two-way star Shohei Ohtani doing things no one has seen since Babe Ruth, he's…
Failing to describe the visceral delight of Shohei Ohtani's Yankee Stadium week
There's little to say about Shohei Ohtani that isn't reiteration or hyperbole, so let me just briefly try to record the…
Japanese broadcasts of Angels games have a Shohei Ohtani cam that stays on him all game
If you haven't watched Shohei Ohtani in action yet you need to add it to your to-do list. If he's not hitting a home…
The Greatest Shohei on Earth
The Angels' two-way star has been one of the most valuable players in MLB this year, even before accounting for the…
As Ben Lindbergh wrote in his article for The Ringer back on June 1:
“He’s a credible MVP candidate based on stats alone, before factoring in the high degree of difficulty of his dual roles, the excitement he generates by breaking the mold, and any extra value that the Angels accrue from squeezing a hitter, a pitcher, and an occasional outfielder into a single roster spot. He’s also leading all hitters in win probability added, reflecting the fact that many of his hits have come at opportune times.”
Oh, is that all?
Back on April 4, Ohtani threw a 101-mph fastball in the top of the 1st inning, then minutes later crushed a 451-ft home run in the bottom of the 1st inning.
If you’re a stathead like I am, that two-week stretch from June 15 to June 29 translates to a .327 batting average, .411 on-base percentage, 1.082 slugging percentage, and 1.492 on-base plus slugging (OPS). In 104 plate appearances from June 5 to July 4, he hit .329 with a .452 OBP, .988 SLG, and a 1.440 OPS.
He was also spectacular over 59.1 innings in his first 11 starts on the mound, with a 2.58 earned run average and 12.4 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. His 12th start was a dud, seven runs allowed in less than one inning in triple-digit temperatures in the Bronx, but all proved is that he might be human.
Ohtani’s peers have been so impressed with his pitching that they voted him into the All-Star game as a pitcher. Fans voted him into the All-Star starting lineup as a hitter, making Ohtani the first player in All-Star Game history to be selected as both an All-Star hitter and All-Star pitcher in the same season.
If you’ve got a chance to see this guy play, in person or on television, I would do everything I could to do so. The Shohei Ohtani experience is unlike any other experience in baseball. All in a sport that offers great experiences daily.
One place that the whole baseball world will get to experience Ohtani’s superstardom is at the annual Home Run Derby next Monday evening. Ohtani is technically the first pitcher to participate in the Derby, though most years, pitchers aren’t leading the major leagues in home runs like Ohtani is.
One of the other competitors at this year’s Derby is Trey Mancini of the Baltimore Orioles, who is one of the great feel-good sports stories of 2021.
In early 2020, around the time of his 28th birthday, Mancini and his family received the shocking news that he had been diagnosed with Stage 3 colon cancer. Joe Trezza of MLB.com wrote a deep-dive in March about what life was like for Mancini and his family as he went through that terrifying ordeal.
Trey Mancini beats cancer for a triumphant return to the field
Nearly a year to the day before Trey Mancini's emotional return to the field in late February, his parents, Tony and…
Now cancer-free, Mancini has made an inspiring return to the field in 2021 with a renewed appreciation for the experiences one can have at the ballpark, culminating in his first Home Run Derby appearance and a chance to represent a comeback story for those who have been affected by cancer.
Orioles' Trey Mancini plans to use Home Run Derby to 'show people that there's life after cancer’
After missing all of 2020 because of surgery to remove a malignant tumor from his colon and the ensuing chemotherapy…
Wins and losses at the Home Run Derby are never the highest of stakes. It’s the experience that matters. It’s about being there in that casual setting, reveling in what makes baseball so special: the people and the experiences.
Some of the people who make those experiences the best they can be? They’re not always just the players or the coaches. Sports Illustrated had a tremendous story a couple of weeks ago about the professional translators who work with players like Ohtani and others to ensure they’re understood.
Beyond Words: For Ohtani, and Others, an Interpreter Is So Much More Than You Think
One afternoon in May, the most famous baseball player in the world was running late. Shohei Ohtani had taken the last…
Finally, I want to share one last story about an unforgettable baseball experience that represented a dream fulfilled after 60 years in the making.
Gwen Goldman, a Yankees fan from Connecticut, wrote a letter to the team at age 10 back in 1961, expressing interest in the chance to be a bat girl.
“I said, ‘I love the Yankees. I want to do what these boys are doing, and I can do it,’” Goldman recalled last month about the letter she wrote back then.
While the Yankees declined to take her up on that offer back then, they did write back informing her of that decision, and she was so thrilled to have received the letter from the Yankees at all that she’d had the letter framed.
She never got the chance to be a bat girl as a child, but she kept the letter the Yankees addressed to her in 1961 all throughout her life, through her career as a school social worker, her marriage, parenthood, and grandparenthood. When Goldman’s daughter emailed a copy of the 1961 Yankees letter to the team a few months ago, they were surprised when they got another response from the Yankees, this time from current general manager Brian Cashman.
“Although your long-ago correspondence took place 60 years ago,” Cashman wrote in his letter to Goldman, “… I feel compelled to resurrect your original request and do what I can to bring your childhood dream to life. Here at the Yankees, we have championed to break down gender barriers in our industry. It is an ongoing commitment rooted in the belief that a woman belongs everywhere a man does, including the dugout. And despite the fact that six decades have passed since you first aspired to hold down the position as a New York Yankees Bat Girl, it is not too late to reward and recognize the ambition you showed in writing that letter to us as a 10-year-old girl.”
And so, on Monday, June 28, 70-year-old Gwen Goldman served as a bat girl.
Sixty years later, Yanks fulfill bat girl's dream
NEW YORK -- Gwen Goldman wiped a tear from her left eye as she set foot on the warning track behind home plate at…
Bat girl fulfills 60-year-old dream with Yankees
NEW YORK -- Gwen Goldman exchanged fist bumps with the New York Yankees, whom she had been admiring for decades from…
Gwen Goldman had the baseball experience of a lifetime, and while it may have taken a long time to get there, she was able to experience it with family.
When I’m at the ballgame tonight with my family, we will just be one big loud row of fans in a big stadium full of loud rows of fans. But how many other places out there can you gather some of your favorite people and get loud?
There will be pictures tonight, surely, along with souvenirs and keepsakes. Anything and everything to remind us many years later of that experience. Even if my not-so-little-anymore cousin doesn’t remember the score of the game or who pitched that day, you can’t beat the family baseball experience.
So here’s to the first of many great ones.
And may the scattered storm clouds pass through harmlessly.
Till next time,
Previously in The Good Press
The Good Press — Issue #61: Refresh
A fresh new champion is guaranteed in the NBA, some thoughts on Olympic athletes chasing their dreams, and always seeking refreshment
June 23, 2021
The Good Press — Issue #60: Pause
Reflecting on 60 straight weeks of writing The Good Press and what comes next
June 9, 2021
The Good Press — Issue #59: Play
Full crowds at big games have been electric, but the atmosphere’s been dampened by unacceptable fan behavior and the…
June 2, 2021