Archive for the ‘ Dailies ’ Category

Catch a Moment in Time

By Craig Muder

Less than 24 hours after Saturday’s Hall of Fame Classic, the sun fired up Doubleday Field for another perfect day in Cooperstown.

All that tangibly remained of the June 16 legends game were some lines in the dirt: Bert Blyleven’s spike marks on the mound, the outline of Military All-Star Ryan Hurtado’s diving catch on the left field warning track.

On Sunday morning families gathered at historic Doubleday Field to have an old-fashioned game of catch – a fitting treat for Father’s Day. (Carter Kegelman/National Baseball Hall of Fame Library)

The echoes, however, still sounded.

Then, a new noise: The brushing of soles against the ground as parents, grandparents and children arrived for Sunday’s Family Catch. As the gates opened, they walked expectantly onto the grass, bringing with them the aroma of sun screen and leather gloves. Finding a space on the field, they began the ancient ritual of a game of catch.

Fathers and sons, moms and daughters, granddads and grandmas. It was a fitting Father’s Day scene in baseball’s hometown, where generations connect everyday.

Throughout Hall of Fame Classic Weekend – at Friday’s Youth Skills Clinic, at Saturday’s parade and game, at Sunday’s Family Catch at Doubleday Field – the National Pastime brought folks together, a centrifugal force that crosses time and culture. That force is what brings fans back to Cooperstown.

In five weeks, it will once again be on display for the world during the July 20-23 Hall of Fame Weekend. The moment will be for Barry Larkin and Ron Santo – the Class of 2012 – but the celebration will be for everyone who loves baseball.

Thank you, Cooperstown.

Craig Muder is the director of communications at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum

Opening Day: A National Holiday

By Trevor Hayes

Today should be a national holiday. Close down the schools, shutter the offices, go home and watch baseball.

While I know this will never happen, Opening Day might be the best day of the year. Of course you’ve got the other big holidays, like Christmas, the MLB All-Star Game, New Year’s, the start and finish of the World Series and Thanksgiving. But one thing Opening Day has – shining over all the others – is the fresh start not only of the baseball season but also the beginning of summer. Yes, today’s predicted high of 47 degrees in Cooperstown isn’t exactly summer weather, but you can’t deny thinking of glorious summer days when talking about baseball.

Diehards of perennial basement dwellers like myself (a Royals fan) or say my boss (a Pirates supporter) always welcome the day in which every team is in first – though that’s not exactly true today because of last night’s opener and the Japan Series last week. Regardless, Opening Day is a day of hope, when dreamers see their franchises lifting the World Series trophy.

A fresh start. That’s what today is about. And that’s something that can be applicable to anyone, not just us seamheads who celebrate today more fervently than Columbus Day – a day which many people do get to take off.

The first Opening Day I really remember was 1994. I was too young and too new of a baseball fan – having just moved to Kansas City the prior summer – to have negative many memories of the strike. So for me, that season is marked more by my first real summer of being a baseball fan. And on Opening Day in 1994, in Mrs. Wood’s third grade classroom, the Royals game played. I bragged to my friends that my dad was in the crowd that day and vowed to go the next season. It was the coolest day of school ever, watching baseball while pretending to do math homework at my desk.

Of course it wasn’t until 2007, my first season working for the Royals, that I got to go to my first Opening Day. I skipped two classes to go and my college professors weren’t mad, instead they were jealous that I was going and they had to stay and teach.

This will be my first year not attending the Royals home opener since 2007 and I’m a little sad. Even the last three years while living here in Cooperstown, I’ve flown back home to make my pilgrimage. This year though, I’m holding out my annual Kansas City baseball trek for the All-Star Game, which will be a memorable experience in itself, but I’m sad my streak will end this season and more sad that I probably won’t make it to a major league game in April.

But I know that this Opening Day will be just as memorable as the last 18 I’ve spent as a baseball fan, watching the tickers, coming the Internet for updates while trying to get work done. It’ll be like those years in high school and college when I tried to glean every possible stat I could.

I know I won’t be as productive today as I am normally. How could I? It’s Opening Day. It’s the start to the National Pastime, the beginning of summer and a clean slate. Those sound like good enough reasons to me for a new national holiday.

Hope springs eternal today. I know in my heart the Royals will make the playoffs and win the World Series – and I wish each and every one of you a happy Opening Day!

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Tying the knot in Cooperstown

By Craig Muder

Don Johnson and Jeannie Gleason love baseball – and each other.

So what better place to share their feelings – and exchange lifetime vows – than at baseball’s home in Cooperstown.

Johnson and Gleason were married Saturday at the Hall of Fame, professing their love of the game during a civil ceremony in the Museum. The two diehard New York Mets fans toured Cooperstown for the whole weekend as they launched their life together.

“Baseball is my second love – right behind Jeannie,” said Don, a subway motorman for the Metro Transit Authority in New York City. “I’ve got six years left until retirement, and then we’re moving here. This place is awesome.”

The Johnsons had planned a simple ceremony for their wedding, but hit upon the idea of getting married at the Hall of Fame when they picked up their wedding license.

“We were coming here for the honeymoon, and we thought: ‘Why not just get married here?’” Jeannie said. “We asked, and everyone at the Hall of Fame was so nice. They said: ‘Sure, come on up!’”

Now, the Johnsons’ history is part of the home of baseball history.

“I want to come to work here after I retire,” Dan said. “There’s no place like the Hall of Fame.”

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Announcements from Pettitte, Chipper have fans thinking Cooperstown

By Craig Muder

The breaking news has been flying fast and furious out of Spring Training this week.

Chipper Jones is retiring. Andy Pettitte is returning. And the conjecture is resuming: Will either or both of these two fantastic players make it to Cooperstown?

Predicting the future of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame vote is best left to those who have a vote. But the eligibility rules for Hall of Fame candidates remain perfectly clear.

Start with Chipper, who announced Thursday that the 2012 season will be his last as a Braves player. If he plays in at least one game this year and hangs ‘em up as planned, Jones would be eligible for the Hall of Fame in 2018. Eligible candidates must not have appeared in a big league game in five straight seasons, meaning Jones would need to stay retired in 2013, ’14, ’15, ’16 and ’17 before he appears on the BBWAA ballot.

The 1999 National League Most Valuable Player has 454 home runs and 1,561 in both the runs and RBI categories – talk about symmetry – entering the 2012 season. Among Hall of Fame third basemen – Chipper has made 82 percent of his big league appearances in the field at the hot corner – only Mike Schmidt and Eddie Mathews have more home runs and only Schmidt and George Brett have more RBI (Jones trails Brett, the Hall of Fame leader among third basemen, by just 35 RBI).

Pettitte, meanwhile, is returning to the big leagues after retiring following the 2010 season. Technically, Pettitte’s Hall of Fame clock has not yet been reset – since that happens only when a player appears in a regular-season game.

As of today, Pettitte remains eligible for the Hall of Fame Class of 2016 – assuming he adds 2012, ’13, ’14 and ’15 to his non-active 2011 season. The 240-game winner, who also holds the MLB record for most postseason wins with 19, has pitched in 16 big league seasons and been a part of eight World Series teams and five World Series champions.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

McRae giving back in Cooperstown

By Trevor Hayes

It’s always a thrill when you get to meet a boyhood hero. And at the annual New York State Baseball Coaches Association Clinic at the Hall of Fame on Friday, I got to do just that.

My family moved to back to Kansas City in 1993, just in time for me to catch Brian McRae’s last two seasons as a Royal. Both of those seasons were the formative years when I chose players from the team being managed by Brian’s dad Hal – a fellow Royals legend – to be my “favorites.” During that two year span, I proudly declared notables like the younger McRae, Mike MacFarlane and 1994 Rookie of the Year Bob “The Hammer” Hamelin (and his coke-bottle glasses) as my favorites.

Retired for 13 years now McRae, now 44, lives in Kansas City and was in Cooperstown to talk to New York State coaches about their practices, approaches to the season and share tips that he used to play 10 seasons in the majors.

McRae said it had been since 2003 or 2004 since he’s been back to the Hall of Fame – a place he’d visited three times before. His favorite part?

“The Buck O’Neil statue, with me being a Kansas City guy and having a good relationship with Buck O’Neil during his time in Kansas City and I’ve spent time at the Negro Leagues Museum, so that’s kind of a neat thing,” he said. “That was once of the first things I saw when I came in. That was neat seeing that and Buck’s legacy will stand for as long as people are talking about baseball.”

During the clinic McRae talked hitting, defense, fundamentals and drills. He related his experiences to the coaches, giving them examples of what made him successful, for example McRae was an infielder-turned-outfielder. So when asked about how to keep young high school outfielders involved and interested, he said he brought his infielder mindset to the outfield.

“Every inning, I thought the ball was going to be hit to me,” he said. “I’m out here because I can do a job. I don’t want to be caught off guard. When the game is over, I’m mentally drained because I just calculated 150 pitches I thought were going to be hit to me.”

Aside from emphasizing defense – caring about your work in the field and not just at the plate – McRae talked about how he lets players use their natural talents and only highlights fundamentals such as making sure the batter is taking the shortest distance to the ball in order to square up, but he won’t mess with a player’s hands. Plenty of players have found success without “proper” mechanics, like Gary Sheffield’s wiggling bat or Kevin Youkilis’ bat held over his head.

“They found a way,” McRae said. “You wouldn’t teach that, but as you can see there are a lot of ways that you can be successful, there’s not a textbook way. So I don’t like the cookie-cutter way that everybody has to stand this way and everybody has to hold their hands this way. Because people have different shapes, sizes skill sets and you just have to find a way to work from there.”

For the former center fielder, clinics like Friday’s are almost par for the course – in some form helping younger players improve. While last week’s event was all about helping the coaches improve their programs, McRae runs a non-profit baseball organization in Kansas City called the Kansas City Sluggers, does speaking engagements through the Royals Alumni and this summer will coach a summer league team in the Coastal Plains League in Moorhead City, N.C.

“I enjoy working with the high school-age kids, college-age kids,” McRae said. “That’s where I feel I can relate the most and get the most out of them and where I feel my expertise fits. It keeps me fresh and keeps me young.”

Trevor Hayes is the editorial production manager at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Spring Training comes to Cooperstown

By Jenny Ambrose

“That’s what it looks like.”

When Hall of Famer Pee Wee Reese saw Alex Traube’s photographs, he claimed the images “captured something about Spring Training – about baseball in general – which is recognizable and true to anyone who has spent time in training camps and ballparks.”

This year, the Baseball Hall of Fame Library has an extra special reason to celebrate the return of Spring Training. Photographer Alex Traube donated the images he shared with Reese to the Museum’s permanent photographic collection. Traube’s donation consists of 79, 11 x 14 inch, black and white photographs depicting Grapefruit League Spring Training in Florida in 1978, 1979 and 1980. And Pee Wee was right: The images truly capture the character of spring training.

Traube had press access to training venues, “but was entirely on my own in terms of who and what I shot,” he said.

Traube used his creativity and skill with a camera to create a portfolio of work that is remarkable both for its aesthetic quality and content. He took informal portraits of players sitting in the dugout, warming up before a game, or hanging out by the batting cage. He captured players being interviewed or photographed by the media, or signing autographs for fans. The photographs show games in progress and batting practice. Traube photographed fans in the stands wearing the striking plaids and checks particular to the era. He depicted teammates lined up across the field hats over hearts for the playing of the National Anthem, kilted marching bands, and members of a color guard rehearsing.

The photographs provide an inside view into day-to-day events at spring training, and express the flavor of preseason from an earlier decade. Reese wrote that the images “present us with a portrait of the rituals which are an everyday reality to the players.”

Traube’s photographs are now part of the Hall of Fame’s collection of more than 500,000 images, documenting every aspect of the game of baseball. They join hundreds of other photographs depicting Spring Training from the early 20th Century to the present.

Jenny Ambrose is the curator of photographs at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Carter was truly an All-Star

By Craig Muder

It was the summer of my discontent, when baseball stopped.

For almost two months in 1981, I slept on the couch in our den – seemingly uprooted from my bed due to the cataclysmic work stoppage that rocked the National Pastime. I woke up each day and flipped on the TV (we had no access to ESPN back then, so it was the national networks) to see if the strike had ended.

Finally, on July 31, it was over. The season would resume after 713 games were canceled. And it would start with the All-Star Game in Cleveland.

On August 9, baseball returned before 72,086 fans at Cleveland Stadium. Gary Carter was the hero.

Carter’s two solo home runs – one in the fifth that tied the game at one and another in the seventh that cut the American League’s lead to 4-3 – helped the National League prevail 5-4.

More importantly, it showed that baseball was stronger than any work stoppage.

I cheered for Gary Carter that day and his performance was rewarded with the All-Star Game MVP Award.

That season Carter’s Expos made their lone playoff appearance, thanks in large part to the Kid. Three years later, during one of the best seasons of his career – hitting .294 with 27 homers and a league leading 106 RBIs – Carter would again earn the All-Star Game MVP Award with another key home run.

To date, Carter is one of four players to receive the honor, joining Willie Mays, Steve Garvey and Cal Ripken.

He made baseball a better game – and the world a better place. He will be missed.

Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

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