A League Of My Own – Play Ball!

Jose Berrios

Baseball’s Opening Day has come and gone.

There is a special place in hell for those that spoil the secrets of movies, the twist of a novel’s plot and the results of sporting events. Such was my experience on opening day. During the regular season, my life revolves around the Minnesota Twins. I live and die by the results of the game. On Opening Day, my team, MY TEAM was set to play Baltimore at Oriole Park in Camden Yards at 2:05 PM Central Time. Due to recent cost changes, my usual workday was even busier than usual and as a result, I knew that I had to rely on the re-broadcast of the game that evening on Fox Sports North to witness the game “as it happened.” My pure goal was to avoid the score, or any news of the game until I was finished with the day. I intentionally planned the day to that end. Prior to the start time, I turned off my phone. Such is the state of the 9 to 5 office worker. I am known throughout my office building as someone who loves, and knows a thing or two about, baseball. I have opinions on the game and co-workers feel comfortable asking me for my thoughts. There is no big secret there. I also made it pretty clear, at least by my workspace, that I wanted to avoid any knowledge of the game before I could watch it first-hand. I had a plan and I was committed to it.

Not everyone is capable of respecting such a well-devised plan. Just as I was getting ready to leave the office on Thursday, I was confronted by one such clueless clod that ignorantly exclaimed, “I won’t tell you the score other than to say it’s the eleventh inning.” Geez guy, thanks for holding back. You pretty much told me everything I was going to watch for the next three hours. His companion, deep in looking at his mobile phone, had only heard part of the conversation and helpfully pipes in “Baltimore just scored. The Twins lost.”

You guys are complete tools with no respect. When I am at work, I am there to work. You guys sat around listening to the game instead and then had the stones to go and ruin it for me. Like I said, there is a SPECIAL place in hell for people like this. If there is just one piece of advice you take away from this week’s column, it is this-do not ever reveal the score of any game to anyone at any time unless you are absolutely certain that they actually want to know the outcome. The only reason someone would do this is because they actually enjoy the arrogance of being “cool” or “in the know.” That is what we have Kim Kardashian for. We don’t need you.

A Minnesota Twins Fundamental Truth: No Retreat, No Surrender

Of course, I still watched the game. I am that kind of fan. Despite the loss, I was proud of my team. They were down 2-0 going into the ninth inning. With one out, left fielder Eddie Rosario singles on a ground ball to first. Baltimore Catcher Caleb Joseph commits a passed ball and Rosario advances to second. Logan Morrison draws a walk, but Ryan LaMarre takes over for him and stands at first base. Shortstop Eduardo Escobar strikes out swinging and my team is now down to their last out. I’ve seen this situation before and I remember a fundamental truth of this team.

Last season after the front office traded their All-Star closer Brandon Kintzler to the Washington Nationals at the end of July, effectively signaling to the team that they were giving up on the season. That wasn’t well received by the team. During a morning jog in California, Twins Manager Paul Molitor heard a song by Bruce Springsteen. Molitor is a well known, long standing fan of The Boss, as am I. This is music that speaks to those who “have been around the block” more than just a couple of times. It is inspirational. It is meaningful. It is truth in its rawest form. That day, Molitor posted the words of the Boss in Twins Clubhouse-“No Retreat. No Surrender.” The Twins went on to record a 20-10 record in August. “No retreat baby, no surrender.” Bruce was right.

Overall, Opening Day was a pretty eventful day around Baseball. The first game of the season was between the Miami Marlins and the Chicago Cubs at Marlins Park. The first pitch thrown by Jose Urena to Cubs center fielder Ian Happ was driven over the fence in right field. If I believe in the divine, and I do, this may stand as a grand metaphor for the season and for life. The Cubs

Ian Happ of The Cubs

went on to win 8-4. (I just want to say that I am picking the Cubs to win the World Series this season. Just sayin’…)

Now that the Yankees have the hitting duo of Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge in the same line-up, my visions of a reincarnation of Mickey Mantle and Roger Maris in 1961 got a boost when Stanton recorded two Home Runs against Toronto in the Bronx Bombers 6-1 win over Canada’s only team. I love the history and tradition of this game. Sadly, I wasn’t around to witness the greatness of the 1961 season. I only have old newspaper recounts of the events and Billy Crystal’s fantastic love letter movie “61*” starring Barry Pepper as Maris and Thomas Jane as “the Mick.” If you haven’t seen it, do yourself a favor and get ahold of it and watch it right now.

As much fun as all this is, I have to feel bad for the hapless Kansas City Royals. While the Chicago White Sox may have beat them 14-7 in their home opener in Kauffman Stadium, the real loss occurred the day before the game. Catcher Salvador Perez will be out 4-6 weeks after he tearing his Medial Collateral Ligament when he slipped carrying his luggage. He had apparently missed a step and his knee hyperextended. A true freak accident not unlike when Sammy Sosa sneezed so violently in 2004 that

Salvador Perez

he gave himself back spasms and a sprained ligament that sidelined him for a month. Between luggage and dust, this can be one damn dangerous game.

We live in a time of tremendous hype. In baseball, no one has had more of it heaped on him than Japanese player Shohei Ohtani. After several seasons playing for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, Ohtani moved over to the Major Leagues with tremendous interest from a number of teams. The interest was expected. The 23-year old comes to the big leagues with a pedigree as both a high caliber hitter AND as an ace pitcher. His four-seam fastball averages 96.2 MPH and has been recorded at topping out at 102.5 MPH. As a pitcher, he earned a 42-15 record with an ERA of 2.52. His batting average of .286 with 166 Runs Batted In is notable. It is with this set of elite skills that comparisons to the great George Herman “Babe” Ruth were originally bandied about. Unlike the Sultan of Swat, Ohtani can also run. Scouts have timed him making the dash from Home to First in a mere 3.8 seconds.

Shohei Ohtani

After much speculation, the Los Angeles Angels were able to sign the hitting pitcher, giving him a space alongside Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Kole Calhoun. So, just how badly was Ohtani sought after? Well, for starters, any team that went on to sign him would first have to pay the Nippon-Ham Fighters a $20-Million Dollar posting fee. This is just the opening payment on a contract that will eventually cost hundreds of Millions of Dollars. So, yeah, there is a bit of hype.

Ohtani was largely unspectacular during Spring Training, but still good enough to start the season on the Angels roster instead of a more traditional start in the Minors. Hey, if you have this much money and hype tied around a guy, you might feel the need to cut corners a bit. Sunday, the right-handed pitcher made his first start on the mound against the Oakland Athletics. Overall, a pretty decent start to his pitching career. He struck out the first hitter he saw and went three up, three down in the first inning. He ran into a bit of a jam in the second. With one out and two runners on base, he threw a slider to A’s Third Baseman Matt Chapman who sent it over the left center field wall to give the lead to Oakland. To his credit, Ohtani bounced back, retiring 14 out of the next 15 hitters he saw. No hits were allowed from that point, just a walk for Matt Joyce in the 4th as the Angels went on to win 7-4. While it is far too early to tell, this is one player to keep your eye on.

As impressive as Ohtani was, the best pitcher of Sunday was the Twin’s Jose Berrios. Now beginning his third season, he threw 107 pitches, 71 of them for strikes in his complete game shutout of the Baltimore Orioles. His focus was economical, only allowing three hits-two by catcher Chance Sisco and one by shortstop Manny “Mr. Miami” Machado. He worked with an

efficient quickness that kept Baltimore on edge throughout and was just flat out fun to watch. Brian Dozier continues to be the face of the club, hitting his first two Home Runs of the season, both to his usual spot in left center field.

Another great moment came Saturday night, when Twins left fielder Eddie Rosario made a spectacular third-out catch in the bottom of the sixth to preserve Kyle Gibson’s no-hitter. Trey Mancini lines one out to left and it hits Rosario’s glove, pops up and he catches the ball bare-handed with this right hand. This was one of those “did that really just happen” kinds of plays that make this game a pleasure to watch.

This is a long season with many highs and lows to come for each one of the 30 MLB teams. All I can say is this, whatever you do, DON’T TELL ME THE SCORE.

 

Daniel G. Moir is a freelance writer, musician, part-time DJ and baseball enthusiast. He hardly ever misses a Minnesota Twins home game at Target Field, and when the team is on the road he watches at home with his pal Brubeck. He can be contacted at @DMoir5150.

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