Scenes from Spring Training: The Most Interesting Man in the World

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After I left the ballpark yesterday afternoon I came back to my hotel and placed my health first among all other things. First, I moved into my new non-smoking room, which was good for my lungs. Then I went to the fitness center and ran on a treadmill for 45 minutes which was good for my heart, body and soul.

Then I went to In-n-Out Burger and ate this followed by a trip to a dive bar called TT Roadhouse where I hoisted the moist with a friend of mine. No, I don’t think it’s safe to say that I’m in the best shape of my life after all of that. Hell, I’m not even in the best shape of the bloggers on this site.

The friend of mine was a former sportswriter and former blogger named Connor Doyle who I met back in the Shysterball days.  When I was here last year, as some of you may remember, I had beers with him and DIPS legend Voros McCracken and nearly started a race riot. Last night wasn’t quite as scary, but it definitely turned strange.

We had been there a little over an hour or so when a man with a gigantic head wound came up and sat down at our table and began talking to us. He began in mid-sentence as if he had been with us all night, and took up the political conversation Connor and I were having. Well, OK then. He did pause long enough for Connor to ask him what happened to his head. Seems he was walking with a girl last week when a man ran him over with a car and then drove away. He treated the explanation as though it was bothersome and unimportant and continued on with his political monologue. Well, OK again.

The substance of the monologue: if he had a time machine and could go back and change one historical event, it would be to prevent women getting the right to vote. Really: that’s when he believes all of our country’s problems began.

“The 50s were great,” he said. “Everything was going just fine until women got the vote.”

“You realize that by the 50s women had been voting for over 30 years,” I said.

He just kind of stopped for a second, considered the thought, ignored it and moved on. And to be fair to him, he did expand the point: it wasn’t just women voting that was the problem. It was all racial minorities, homosexuals and “children.”  I thought I’d comfort him by telling him that children still don’t have the right to vote, but I couldn’t really get a word in.

From there we moved on to evolution (“So you believe we came from monkeys? That it went ooze-fish-monkeys-man? Really?”) and then on to religion (“I’m not one of those crazy people, but religion has done more to disprove science than science has to prove evolution”).  He noted at one point that he got a concussion in that hit-and-run last week. I nodded.

Eventually our friend — who would not let me take his picture sadly, because I believe that by that time he realized (a) I was a writer; and (b) I was taking mental notes — mentioned that three women were coming to meet him there and implied that, if we played our cards right, maybe  Connor and I could get lucky.

I figured that was his tallest tale of the evening but I’ll be damned if three women didn’t eventually show up. One had a boyfriend with her. None of them seemed like people who would hang out with our friend, here. Indeed, when he went to use the restroom, one of the women said that she didn’t know the guy’s name and that they just call him “the guy who got hit by the car.”  I am still unclear on why they would all meet him out at a bar.

I was likewise unclear why I was still talking to him, but eventually he disappeared into the night.  I’m still not 100% certain that he existed. It’s possible someone spiked my Double-Double animal style or slipped a mickey into Moose Drool brown ale.  But if he did exist, just know that people like him walk the Earth. Well, sort of stagger the Earth, but still.

Freakin’ Arizona. Drink here at your peril.  Or maybe just don’t go out with Connor Doyle, because for as great a guy as he is, he seems to attract the weird ones.

Back to baseball this morning. I’m heading to the Peoria Sports Complex where I will witness the debut of Yu Darvish.  A man who, until last night, I figured would be the most interesting person I’d meet in Spring Training.

Reports from the ballpark later, my friends.

Biden praises Braves’ ‘unstoppable, joyful run’ to 2021 win

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports
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WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden said the Atlanta Braves will be “forever known as the upset kings of October” for their improbable 2021 World Series win, as he welcomed the team to the White House for a victory celebration.

Biden called the Braves’ drive an “unstoppable, joyful run.” The team got its White House visit in with just over a week left before the 2022 regular season wraps up and the Major League Baseball playoffs begin again. The Braves trail the New York Mets by 1.5 games in the National League East but have clinched a wildcard spot for the MLB playoffs that begin Oct. 7. Chief Executive Officer Terry McGuirk said he hoped they’d be back to the White House again soon.

In August 2021, the Braves were a mess, playing barely at .500. But then they started winning. And they kept it up, taking the World Series in six games over the Houston Astros.

Biden called their performance of “history’s greatest turnarounds.”

“This team has literally been part of American history for over 150 years,” said Biden. “But none of it came easy … people counting you out. Heck, I know something about being counted out.”

Players lined up on risers behind Biden, grinning and waving to the crowd, but the player most discussed was one who hasn’t been on the team in nearly 50 years and who died last year: Hall of Famer Hank Aaron.

Hammerin’ Hank was the home run king for 33 years, dethroning Babe Ruth with a shot to left field on April 8, 1974. He was one of the most famous players for Atlanta and in baseball history, a clear-eyed chronicler of the hardships thrown his way – from the poverty and segregation of his Alabama youth to the racist threats he faced during his pursuit of one of America’s most hallowed records. He died in January at 86.

“This is team is defined by the courage of Hank Aaron,” Biden said.

McGuirk said Aaron, who held front office positions with the team and was one of Major League Baseball’s few Black executives, was watching over them.

“He’d have been there every step of the way with us if he was here,” McGuirk added.

The president often honors major league and some college sports champions with a White House ceremony, typically a nonpartisan affair in which the commander in chief pays tribute to the champs’ prowess, poses for photos and comes away with a team jersey.

Those visits were highly charged in the previous administration. Many athletes took issue with President Donald Trump’s policies and rhetoric on policing, immigration and more. Trump, for his part, didn’t take kindly to criticism from athletes or their on-field expressions of political opinions.

Under Biden, the tradition appears to be back. He’s hosted the NBA champion Milwaukee Bucks and Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers at the White House. On Monday he joked about first lady Jill Biden’s Philadelphia allegiances.

“Like every Philly fan, she’s convinced she knows more about everything in sports than anybody else,” he said. He added that he couldn’t be too nice to the Atlanta team because it had just beaten the Phillies the previous night in extra innings.

Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was later questioned about the team’s name, particularly as other professional sports teams have moved away from names – like the Cleveland Indians, now the Guardians, and the Washington Redskins, now the Commanders – following years of complaints from Native American groups over the images and symbols.

She said it was important for the country to have the conversation. “And Native American and Indigenous voices – they should be at the center of this conversation,” she said.

Biden supported MLB’s decision to pull the 2021 All-Star Game from Atlanta to protest Georgia’s sweeping new voting law, which critics contend is too restrictive.