Results tagged ‘ All-Star Game ’

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.

Thankful to be in Cooperstown

By Craig Muder

The brain aneurysm that changed John Olerud’s life is visible today by only a small indentation on the left side of his forehead.

But the effects of that event shape Olerud’s outlook to this day – and has left the 17-year big league veteran with a deep sense of gratitude.

Olerud visited the Baseball Hall of Fame on Thursday with his wife, Kelly; two of their children, Garrett and Jessica; and his in-laws. The 42-year-old Olerud, who lives in the Pacific Northwest, made the trip to Cooperstown based on the recommendation of former teammate Ed Sprague.

“Ed told me what an incredible visit he had, getting to see all the history,” Olerud said. “I have to say: He was right.”

Olerud, looking very much like the strapping 6-foot-5, 205-pound first baseman he was with the Blue Jays, Mets, Mariners, Yankees and Red Sox from 1989-2005, marveled at Museum artifacts like a Babe Ruth bat and a Roberto Clemente cap.

He even held a bat that he donated to the Hall of Fame in 2000 after recording the first-ever hit at Detroit’s Comerica Park as a member of the Mariners.

His .295 career batting average, 2,239 hits, two All-Star Game selections and three Gold Glove Awards were enough to secure him a place on the 2011 Baseball Writers’ Association of America Hall of Fame ballot. But the modest Olerud, a key member of the Blue Jays’ back-to-back World Series winners in 1992-93, downplayed his own accomplishments.

“I’m just so thankful to have had the chance to get married, have kids and play the game I love,” said Olerud, who suffered the aneurysm while he was working out at Washington State University in 1988, but recovered to debut with the Jays in 1989 after bypassing the minor leagues entirely. “When you’re playing, you don’t really think about something like the Hall of Fame because you’re just trying to help the team and keep yourself in the lineup. And now that I’m retired, I’ve been so involved with my family, it seems like that time when I played is so far away.

“But to come here and see all this, it reminds you of how fortunate you are to play baseball.”

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

Cooperstown comes to Arizona

By Steve Light

The baseball world has descended on Phoenix, Ariz., for the Mid-Summer Classic – including the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum. Since Friday, the masses have flocked to Major League Baseball’s annual FanFest at the Phoenix Convention Center, just blocks away from Chase Field, where they can experience the world’s largest interactive baseball fan event. Fans have taken advantage of batting cages, clinics, free autograph sessions, retail locations and of course, an exhibit put together by our curators at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

For the Hall of Fame staff in Phoenix this week, we have the unique opportunity to interact with fans here in Arizona, hear some of their favorite baseball moments and bring a bit of Cooperstown across the country to them. In addition to our exhibit, the Hall of Fame has offered live interactive programs throughout the day.

Each day at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m., I’ve had the opportunity to present hands-on programs to enthusiastic FanFest attendees. At 11, our Tools of the Trade program breaks down the evolution of baseballs, bats, and gloves – using replica artifacts from the Hall of Fame’s Education Collection. As part of the program, audience volunteers are able to come on stage and work together to try to put a number of different gloves and bats in chronological order. So far, our fans have had great success in their efforts.

At 2, we shift gears a bit and delve into the science behind the National Pastime, as we conduct experiments with our audience to find the sweet spot of the bat, learn about the impact of weather and altitude on the ball and unlock the secrets of the curveball and knuckleball. In addition to these programs, fans have a chance to test their baseball knowledge during our popular Hall of Fame Trivia contest.

All in all, our FanFest experience has allowed the Hall of Fame staff a great chance to interact with fans who share our love for the National Pastime. If you are in the Phoenix area, stop on by – Fan Fest continues right up through Tuesday’s All-Star Game.

Steve Light is the manager of museum programs at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Eve of FanFest

By Lenny DiFranza

The All-Star Game is still five days away, but FanFest starts the entertainment tomorrow and baseball history will be there.

The Hall of Fame team is putting the finishing touches on our FanFest exhibit in Phoenix, luckily unimpeded by the remarkable dust storm that hit the city Tuesday night – a fast-moving wall of dirt that was reported as a mile high and a hundred miles wide! Safe inside the Phoenix Convention Center, the last pieces to go into place will be used for presentations.

The opportunity to explore the host city is one of the fringe benefits of working at FanFest. We’ve taken advantage of this trip by going to the Heard Museum, with exhibits demonstrating and interpreting the arts and cultures of the Native peoples of the Americas. It’s an impressive collection and inspiring for us to see how another world-class museum works.

We also visited the Arizona Latino Art and Cultural Center, a thriving studio, gallery and theater located just a block from the convention center. We’ll be bringing some new ideas with us when we return to Cooperstown.

For this year’s FanFest, we’re bringing some gems from our film archive, including highlights from the 1971 All-Star Game. Forty years ago, baseball’s best put on a memorable hitting display in Detroit, with six home runs by future Hall of Famers. We’ll also show highlights from the game 10 years later, 1981, when Gary Carter led the National League to victory. Another video program celebrates the Arizona Diamondbacks thrilling, seven-game defeat of the New York Yankees in the 2001 World Series.

Our live programs include a hands-on review of the evolution of equipment, showing examples of the bats, balls, gloves and other “tools of the trade” that major leaguers have used over the game’s many years, and giving fans a chance to take a close look at the latest innovative equipment.

Our most popular live program returns this year: Hall of Fame Trivia. Fans can test their knowledge of baseball history, compete for prizes and have a lot of fun. If you are in the area for the All-Star Game, join the festivities and stop over and see the Hall of Fame team.

Lenny DiFranza is the assistant curator of new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Getting ready for FanFest

By Lenny DiFranza

Next week, the All-Star Game will bring baseball’s biggest stars to Phoenix, Ariz., for the game’s midsummer classic. While the players seek to entertain fans in events like the Home Run Derby, the Baseball Hall of Fame will bring baseball history to life with artifacts from the game’s greats.

The Hall of Fame team arrived in Phoenix on July 4th so we could get started early the next day. We braved a 110 degree evening to find dinner.

By the following morning, we had learned that the heat wave had passed and we could expect a seasonable 107 degrees – quite a change from the weather in Cooperstown. We spent the morning unpacking the more than 100 artifacts we shipped from Cooperstown.

The Hall of Fame has been traveling to FanFest for many years, and even though we make changes every year, we have developed a regular routine. This year was no different, and everything has gone smoothly – of course there are always surprises along the way.

Fans who visit us in Phoenix will see a Dodgers cap worn by Jackie Robinson in 1955, the year of Brooklyn’s only World Series victory. Diamondbacks items include the hat worn by Curt Schilling after 9/11 through the World Series, as well as the bat used by Luis Gonzalez to knock in the series-clinching run for Arizona’s only World Championship.

We still have a couple days to finish preparations for the video presentations and live demonstrations that fans can enjoy here July 8th through the 12th. Check back for updates about our progress and the opening of FanFest 2011.

Lenny DiFranza is the assistant curator of new media at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.

Gonzalez shaping baseball’s stars of tomorrow

By Trevor Hayes

He doesn’t strike the average onlooker as a former Major Leaguer. But the impact Luis Gonzalez made on the game of baseball is unmistakable, his place in history is secure and – despite his unassuming looks – he is a recognizable figure for fans.

Fans know him as the offensive star of the 2001 World Champion Diamondbacks – the man with 57 home runs and the Game 7 game-winning hit off Mariano Rivera. They remember his 30 game-hitting streak (a bat from which resides in Cooperstown along with his Game 7 bat). In Arizona, he’s the first player to have his number retired and he’s now immortalized each during each D-backs home game as the racing Gonzo – a more than eight-foot tall caricature of the 19-year vet – that competes in against Mark Grace, Randy Johnson and Matt Williams.

This summer he’ll serve as the All-Star Game Ambassador when the Mid-Summer Classic heads to Chase Field in Phoenix. But on Monday, Gonzo sported a little gray stubble on his face and an Arizona T-Rex’s T-shirt while at the Hall of Fame with his son’s Little League team for the second straight year.

 

“There are a lot of hopes and dreams in baseball,” Gonzalez said. “That’s why it’s so exciting to bring the kids. It’s exciting to be able to show them your artifacts and show them you actually did something in the game.”

Gonzalez, his brother Rex and a former minor league teammate of Rex’s coach the T-Rexes who are competing in a weeklong tournament at nearby Cooperstown Dreams Park. Like last summer, Gonzalez and the T-Rexes met with Hall of Fame President Jeff Idelson before touring the Museum.

Idelson briefed the team on the Hall’s history and purpose before telling them about the importance of character, integrity and good sportsmanship in baseball. After posing for a few photos with the young ballplayers, Idelson wished them luck for the remainder of their week in Cooperstown and told them to enjoy the Museum.

“It gives these young kids a chance to come out and see the history,” Gonzalez said. “When they leave here, it’s amazing to see how they appreciate everything. This is the history of the game and it means a lot to them.”

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

Bo Knows Records

By Trevor Hayes

I’ve been a Royals fan for most of my life. Ever since my family moved back to Kansas City in 1993, I’ve cheered for the Boys in Blue.

Unfortunately, Bo Jackson was already gone by the time I fell in love with the Royals. His last season in K.C. was 1990. But I remember seeing his larger-than-life persona everywhere. Even in rural Oklahoma, where baseball and football weren’t on my attention landscape, Bo was there.

Between Nike’s “Bo Knows” campaign, his Heisman Trophy, playing in the NFL “as a hobby” and his All-Star Game MVP Award, Jackson’s exploits became folk legends. He’s like Paul Bunyan and John Henry wrapped in to one when people talk about his run, literally up the wall in Baltimore, or his throw from the warning track in left to gun down Harold Reynolds at the plate in the Kingdom.

Video of him doing amazing things in Royals Powder Blue is engrained in my mind. But I’ve only seen the man in the person twice. The first time was in 1994 – the last season of his career. Jackson was on the warning track, chatting with fans before a June Angels-Royals matchup at Kauffman Stadium. The photo I have from that night shows a massive man – even after hip replacement surgery. He was an impressive sight.

Looking back at the box scores, Jackson only played in two of the three games that series. My memory is fuzzy as to which game I went to, so I may not have even seen him play. But the record of his career will lives on, not just in my mind, but in baseball lore.

In fact, among his more amazing accomplishments, one feat actually made it into the record books – since steps taken on a wall while parallel to a field and number of astonishing outfield assists to create plays at the plate aren’t official stats.

In July and August of 1990, Jackson tied the record for home runs in consecutive at-bats. It’s an interesting story, as most Bo legends are. On July 17, 1990, Jackson connected for home runs in his first three at-bats, pounding Yankees starter Andy Hawkins to the tune of seven RBI. He hit one in the first inning with Hall of Famer George Brett on base, connected for another blast in the top of the third – scoring Brett again – and hit his third in three trips to the plate in the fifth, scoring Brett a third time and adding Kevin Seitzer to his runs batted in. Even the Yankee crowd had to applaud. Brett called the performance colossal.

But in the bottom of the sixth, fellow two-sport star Deion Sanders came up with the Yanks threatening. A run had just scored and with a man on third, the Royals were up 8-5. Sanders hit a fly to deep right-center and Jackson started tracking it. Jackson’s diving stab missed the ball and the Yankees’ speedy rookie circled the bases for an inside-the-park home run. Jackson was removed from the game and put on the disabled list the next day with a partially dislocated left shoulder, missing out on his chance for the coveted four home runs in a single game.

But Bo wouldn’t rest without setting some kind of record. The first ball he saw in his first at-bat back from the DL, he hit for a monstrous shot at then-Royals Stadium on Aug. 26th. Estimated at 450 feet, he said he saw the ball’s threads on the offering from imposing Seattle ace Randy Johnson.

Twenty-five batters have hit home runs in four consecutive at-bats, but I can almost guarantee none did it quite like the iconic Jackson. I saw him for the second time in person on Opening Day this spring in Kansas City. Impeccably dressed in a suit, he still looked like a man who could do amazing things. While Jackson’s specific record won’t be included in the Hall of Fame’s new One for the Books, the story behind his achievement is what the Hall’s new exhibit is all about, which makes me excited for the opening on May 28th.

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

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