baseball

Scenes from Spring Training: Easy come, easy go

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Know what I have never done? I have never caught a foul ball at a baseball game. At least not a major league game.

The only time I got anything was at a single-A game in Myrtle Beach back in 1989, and that hardly counts as the park then was smaller than some high school stadiums and there were only a few dozen people in the place.  Otherwise: bupkis. Nothing at double-A, triple-A or major league games. It never much mattered to me — I’ve written about how souvenirs aren’t that important to me —  but the fact still stands.

Or stood. Until yesterday.

I was at the Angles-Indians game in Goodyear. I was hanging out with Jonah Keri and, because that park’s very small press box was full, we asked if we could squat in one of the empty luxury suites. The ballpark folks obliged, so we took in the game from the front row of the outdoor balcony, above the screen, directly behind home plate.

Midway through the game — not long after Jonah and I actually discussed the fact that I had never snagged a ball — Felix Pie came to bat. He fouled one up and back and it landed on the nearly empty suite level, just down the outdoor patio from me.  Jonah said “There! There’s your chance! Go get it.” And I believe he was only 85% mocking me.

I slow-jogged over to get it — didn’t want to appear too eager — picked it up and admired it.

Just then Jonah said that he thought that there was a boy who would really like to have it. I turned around and there was a boy — maybe 10 or 11 years-old — who had been sitting on the far side of our level, looking hopefully in my direction. I gave it half a second’s thought, walked the ball over and gave it to him.

It wasn’t a hard decision. Just as Jonah pointed the kid out I was already beginning to think how silly it would be for me to keep the ball and that maybe I’d drop it down to a kid in the seats below us (though it was kind of far and might have hurt someone, so perhaps I would have had to keep it as a matter of public safety).  But there was a brief moment when I thought “wait, no fair!”

But it passed. And I guess now the question is whether I can say that I’ve snagged a baseball at a major league game.  It was in Arizona, not a big league ballpark. And I guess it was Felix Pie, and he only qualifies as a major leaguer at this point under only the loosest standards. And of course I didn’t walk away from the game with a ball.

Screw it. It counts. I got a ball.

On to Maryvale to see the Brewers today. At least I think. Over breakfast I may decide to pull a crazy Ivan and hit Scottsdale for the Reds and Giants. I dunno. I’m all discombobulated over yesterday’s events now, so who knows where I’ll end up.

Jake Peavy is having a bad go of things right now

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - MAY 25: Jake Peavy #22 of the San Francisco Giants pitches against the San Diego Padres during the first inning at AT&T Park on May 25, 2016 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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Veteran hurler Jake Peavy has not signed with a team. It’s not because he’s not still capable of being a useful pitcher — he’s well-regarded and someone would likely take a late-career chance on him — and it’s not because he no longer wishes to play. Rather, it’s because a bunch of bad things have happened in his personal life lately.

As Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports, last year Peavy lost millions in an investment scam and spent much of the 2016 season distracted, dealing with investigations and depositions and all of the awfulness that accompanied it. Then, when the season ended, Peavy went home and was greeted with divorce papers. He has spent the offseason trying to find a new normal for himself and for his four sons.

Pitching is taking a backseat now, but Peavy plans to pitch again. Here’s hoping that things get sorted to the point where he can carry through with those plans.

The AT&T Park mortgage is paid off

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This is fun: The San Francisco Giants recently made their last payment on the $170 million, 20-year loan they obtained to finance the construction of AT&T Park. The joint is now officially paid for.

The Giants, unlike most other teams which moved into new stadiums in the past 25 years or so, did not rely on direct public financing. They tried to get it for years, of course, but when the voters, the city of San Francisco and the State of California said no, they decided to pay for it themselves. They ended up with one of baseball’s best-loved and most beautiful parks and, contrary to what the owners who desperately seek public funds will have you believe, they were not harmed competitively speaking. Indeed, rumor has it that they have won three World Series, four pennants and have made the playoffs seven times since moving into the place in 2000. They sell out routinely now too and the Giants are one of the richest teams in the sport.

Now, to be clear, the Giants are not — contrary to what some people will tell you — some Randian example of self-reliance. They did not receive direct public money to build the park, but they did get a lot of breaks. The park sits on city-owned property in what has become some of the most valuable real estate in the country. If the city had held on to that land and realized its appreciation, they could flip it to developers for far more than the revenue generated by baseball. Or, heaven forfend, use it for some other public good. The Giants likewise received some heavy tax abatements, got some extraordinarily beneficial infrastructure upgrades and require some heavy city services to operate their business. All sports stadiums, even the ones privately constructed, represent tradeoffs for the public.

Still, AT&T Park represents a better model than most sports facilities do. I mean, ask how St. Louis feels about still paying for the place the Rams used to call home before taking off for California. Ask how taxpayers in Atlanta and Arlington, Texas feel about paying for their second stadium in roughly the same time the Giants have paid off their first.