Cincinnati Reds turning press box into luxury seating

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Several years ago the Chicago White Sox put in a new press box down the right field line and turned the old one — right behind home plate — into luxury seating. This angered a lot of the working press who, for understandable reasons, like to be behind home plate to do their jobs of covering baseball games.

When the stink arose, Bud Selig told the Baseball Writers Association of America that he heard them loud and clear and that no team would be allowed to do that again. Since then the Angels, the Blue Jays and a couple of others have moved their press boxes out to the outfield and turned the former press boxes into luxury seating.

I know, I’m as shocked as you are that Bud Selig’s word was not kept. I’m not sure what to believe anymore!

Add one more team to the list. The Cincinnati Reds:

As you can read above, the Reds are adding a fun, ironic twist: actually branding the new seating “The Press Club,” thereby monetizing a romanticized, throwback idea of the “press” while moving the actual working press out to left field. It’s like one of those new urban in-fill developments that knocks down a block of apartments and storefronts to build new “mixed-use” buildings with high-end condos, expensive restaurants and mobile phone stores and talks about how they’re, finally, bringing housing and retail to the city’s center.

Now, before you go asking me why anyone who is not a member of the working press should care about this, allow me to say that, no, no one who is not the working press should care about this. Indeed, even if I don’t — as at least a nominal member of the press — approve of this, I’m shocked more teams haven’t done this frankly.

The baseball press corps is smaller than ever. Some cities only have one newspaper reporter, the person and the visiting press at some games. And, as you may have read this week, not all clubs have a high opinion of reporters. In contrast, they certainly care a lot about high-revenue seating areas and clubs with expensive drinks. Moving the shrinking press corps to a less prominent location and turning their couple of rows of desks, seats and plugs under fluorescent lighting into a high-end bourbon bar serves a baseball team’s interests quite well.

Moreover, as someone who has covered games from “auxiliary press boxes” (i.e. places way out in the far reaches of the ballpark where they put non-BBWAA-accredited people for high-profile events like the World Series and All-Star Game) I can tell you that it’s quite possible to cover a game from the cheap seats. You have your laptop with real-time, data-laden updates. Most of the time you have video monitors to see what happened on the field up close. Team media relations hands you stacks of printed out sheets with stats, facts, and other key in-game information. The part that the BBWAA will tell you that is most important — pre and postgame access to players and managers — will not change. It’s doable, even if the sight lines are not as good.

Still, it’s worth observing this change and reminding ourselves that baseball teams are in the profit-making business. They are not governmental or quasi-governmental entities or public trusts who, at least when acting properly, care all that much about the press or the part of the public that doesn’t fork over money at the ballpark. And that’s the case even if they act like they’re public trusts when it comes time to get those new ballparks that, in the future, will no doubt have press boxes placed way out in the outfield as a matter of initial design as opposed to subsequent renovations.

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

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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.