Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The Final Post

Hello readers!

Well, I hate to say it, but our May Term is over. Upon our return to Cedar Rapids, we unpacked, did laundry, and dug into our writing assignments. We had our final class period on Saturday, where we held conferences to discuss some of the essays we were working on. It was nice to get some feedback and also hear what my classmates were writing about. Our final meal was at Xavier's, a pizza place right near Coe. It was an excellent lunch; we essentially threw inside jokes around and talked baseball.

What's not to love about that?

It was a bittersweet moment. After you travel with people for more than 100 hours in a van and cover more than 6000 miles, you definitely bond with them. We saw a lot of really good baseball and I know, I learned a lot about the game and myself.

And I sure wasn't baseballed out. As I unpacked, I immediately turned on my TV to WGN to watch the Cubs and watched Junior Lake hit two homeruns in consecutive at bats. I know baseball will be a common thread in my summer life and that excites me.

The past couple of days, everyone in our class has been hard at work on our final portfolios. We wrote and revised and turned in good work. Our email to Dr. Bob with our final portfolios (due at midnight tonight) means the class is truly over.

As a class, we want to thank you for following our adventures. Make sure to go back and double check you've read all the posts (some got added recently). We're sad this blog (and our trip) is over, but summer stretches out in front of us and we can only hope we will see more seventh inning stretches, catch more foul balls, and eat more dollar hot dogs.

Signing off, the blog captain and the eighth inning stretch crew.

Some Baseball Related Summer Reading

Our month of May consisted of both baseball and books. We had our anthology (which we wrote about earlier on the trip) as well as Baseball: A History of America's Game by Benjamin G. Rader. I think most of my classmates found the book enlightening (we learned a lot about the game) although at times it was a little dry. However, the history was important and at least for me, helped me to gain a new perspective on the game. 

On top of those two books, we also chose one book to read on our own and then report back to the class. We spread out the book talks throughout the trip and I added several books to my summer reading list. Here's a brief recap of the books we read, maybe you'll want to pick one of them up!

From NPR
Moneyball by Michael Lewis. Yes, it was a book before a movie. Read by Ryan A., Moneyball digs into the numbers behind the game. The book focuses on Billy Bean, the Oakland Athletic's General Manager. Essentially it follows Bean as he attempts to create a winning team on a low budget. The sabermetrics revolution has some of it's popularity from Bean's strategy. He looks at stats such as on base percentage as a more accurate way of judging a player's ability. This is definitely a book I want to check out (and I need to see the movie).

From Scientist Gone Wordy Blog
Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella. Another book into movie choice read by Kaylie. This story was later made into the classic baseball movie, Field of Dreams. I feel that this story can be summed up with the phrase, "If you build it, they will come." This is what main character Ray Kinsella is told. This voice prompts him to build a baseball field in his cornfield, much to the confusion of the town. It's a story of adventure and also a story about baseball. A must read if you like the movie.

From Field of Dreams website
Chasing Moonlight: The True Story of Field of Dream's Doc Graham by Brett Friedlander. Katie read this book and was a nice follow up to Kaylie's Shoeless Joe. Friedlander wrote a biography about one of the characters Ray Kinsella befriends in Shoeless Joe, Doc Graham. The fact I really remember from Katie's report is that Doc played in the minors and went through medical school. How crazy is that? To me, that seems like a daunting and nearly impossible task!

From Simon and Schuster
Opening Day: The Story of Jackie Robinson's First Season by Jonathan Eig. Since Brendan was especially interested in Jackie Robinson and how he broke the color barrier, this book seemed right up his alley. By the time Brendan gave his report, we had already toured the Negro Leagues Museum. The class was able to have a solid discussion about the color barrier and how Robinson was key in the whole thing. We also discussed how Robinson wasn't the only key player in breaking the barrier. Branch Rickey was also mentioned and the role he played. This was a great discussion because we were able to incorporate what we had learned.    

From Barnes & Noble
One More Around the Park: A Baseball Reader by Roger Angell. Now, if you have never read anything by Roger Angell, you really need to fix that. He was probably one of my favorite authors I discovered on this trip. We had a few essays in our anthology and then Rachel read a whole book dedicated to his essay. Angell is often considered "the man" who writes about baseball. He's also the stepson of E.B. White, so that's pretty nifty. But back to the book. This collection of essays talks about all elements of the game. Rachel really enjoyed it and it was fun to hear her talk about the various essays. Again, this one hits my reading list!

From Goodreads
I Don't Care If We Never Get Back: 30 Games in 30 Days on the Best Worst Baseball Road Trip Ever by Ben Blatt and Eric Brewster. This was actually the book Dr. Bob read. It sounds like an interesting read -- two guys on a 30 day road trip attempting to see 30 baseball games. Unlike our trip, travel days were long and difficult (no extra days like we had). Also, what makes the story more engaging is that one guy is super into baseball and the other is simply a friend along for the ride (he actually doesn't like baseball). Would make for an interesting trip (and a book)!

From UPenn website
The Sabermetric Revolution: Assessing the Growth of Analytics in Baseball by Benjamin Baumer and Andrew Zimbalist. This book was read by Ryan R. and sort of a nice follow up to Ryan A's Moneyball. Baumer and Zimbalist are responding to Moneyball and showcasing their own ideas about the sabermetric revolution. The book is full of information as well as pages upon pages of stats to back up their claims. In the end, the two authors don't necessarily disagree with the conclusions Lewis came to, but just wanted to raise some questions. While I don't have a great grasp on the ins and outs of sabermetrics, I think this book paired with Moneyball would be a pretty good introduction.

From Barnes & Noble
Wait Till Next Year: A Memoir by Doris Kearns Goodwin. I saved the best for last. Actually, it was the book I read so naturally I think it's awesome. Kearns Goodwin grew up in the late 1940s early 1950s in New York. Her family were Dodger fans, back when the Dodgers were still in Brooklyn. She fell in love with baseball when her father gave her a scorebook and she listened to the Dodgers on the radio. It was a great memoir, and in the process, I think I might of fallen in love with the Dodgers as well. It's a great read and I highly recommend it.  


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Cardinals vs. Royals 6/5/2014

Our final game of this trip brought the group from Dallas all the way up to Kansas City.  After waking up early and making the long drive, we arrived at the downtown Marriott hotel we were staying at for the night.  We checked in and shortly after met to go back to Kauffman Stadium for that night's game against the in-state rival St. Louis Cardinals.  We got to "The K" on a beautiful night shortly before the first pitch and sat down in our seats in the upper deck behind home plate.

The pitching matchup was a good one.  For the Royals was their ace Yordano Ventura who came into the game after having a solid start to his 2014 season.  His opponent was young potential superstar Michael Wacha.  After having a great 2013 postseason and helping the Cardinals reach the World Series, Wacha was off to a great start with an ERA in the mid-2s.

The crowd filled about 3/4ths the stadium, a large attendance for the Royals.  About half the crowd was supporting the visiting Cardinals however.  While rivals, the crowd seemed friendly and more focused on whether their team won than bashing the other team.

The Cardinals struck first in the 2nd inning with a Peter Bourjos triple that made the score 1-0.  The Cardinals would tack on another run with a 4th inning Matt Carpenter single.  Michael Wacha was flying right through the Royals attack for the first 5 innings; this all changed in the bottom of the 6th.  Back to back doubles by Alcides Escobar and Nori Aoki to start the inning cut the lead in half to 2-1.  An Eric Hosmer single tied the game at 2 with still nobody out.  A Salvador Perez one out single gave the Royals the 3-2 lead.  Wacha got through the inning, but he was done for the day after that.  The Royals held on to the lead after a few key replay reviews and won by the final of 3-2.

Bottom of the Ninth

It's hard to believe our trip has already come to a close. We've seen a lot of incredible games the past few weeks, and tonight was no different. We made our way back to Kansas City, Missouri bright and early this morning to make a 7:10 pm game, the St. Louis Cardinals were facing the KC Royals. This game was the one that I had been looking forward to since day one of the trip. A face off between the Royals, my hometown team, and the Cardinals my favorite team of all time, what could be better?

As we walked into the stadium I couldn't believe the number of fellow Cardinals fans that I saw. As I looked out into the crowd, I saw the stadium flooded with Cardinal red, I couldn't wait to watch the game unfold! This game was by far the most exciting and energetic game that we experienced throughout the entire trip. Because there were so many fans present for both teams, there was applause for every play. You don't really realize how quiet a typical crowd at a baseball game is until you experience a 'rivalry' game like the one we saw tonight.

Michael Wacha was pitching for the Cardinals and Yordano Ventura was the starter for the Royals. Cardinals started off strong in the second inning when Peter Bourjos tripled and sent Jon Jay home to put the Cardinals ahead 1-0. In the top of the fourth the Cardinals scored their second and final run of the evening when Matt Carpenter singled on a sharp ground ball and allowed Jay to score again.

The Royals remained scoreless through most of the game, but in the bottom of the 6th, they came back with a vengeance. Nori Aoki, the Royals lead off batter, doubled on a ground ball to left field and allowed Escobar to score. Eric Hosmer then singled, allowing Aoki to come home. The game was now tied and the crowd went wild. We finally had ourselves a game! Salvador Perez singled on a ground ball to center field, sending Hosmer home for the winning run of the game. Royals defeated the Cardinals in a 3-2 victory, clenching the series.

I was sad my Redbirds lost, but I couldn't have asked for a better final game! We are spending the last evening of our adventure at the historic Muehlebach Hotel in downtown Kansas City, another perfect ending to our trip (thanks Dr. Bob!). In the morning we will have a final breakfast and get on the road to make our way back to Cedar Rapids. What an incredible journey!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Deep in the Heart of Texas!

Tonight we were scheduled to watch a game in Texas’s finest ballpark, in my personal opinion. The Texas Rangers (29-30) were hosting the Baltimore Orioles (30-27) for the second night of their series. The Rangers record for winning home games was slim this far in the season, losing 11 out of 15 home games. Before their series began with the Orioles they were coming off of a 7-4 road trip.

While looking up the lineups before the game it was a little disappointing to not see Adrian Beltre, four time Gold Glove winner, and his partner in crime Elvis Andrus in the starting lineup for the field. Beltre was the DH for the entire game and Andrus did come in part way through the game. Rangers were starting their rookie pitcher, Nick Martinez, who coming into this game was 1-1 with an ERA of 2.75. 

The Orioles starting pitcher was Bud Norris. Previous to this game he had only allowed one home run over the three starts he had, after today he will have tied the season high for runs allowed, five. Norris would retire from this game in the fifth inning after being hit by a line drive hitting his forearm hit by Mitch Moreland.

The Orioles took the lead in the top of the first after Nelson Cruz, former Ranger, reached second base on an error and after Adam Jones hits a single to send him around to score. Going into the bottom of the first the Rangers lead off hitter, Shin-Soo Choo, was hit by a pitch to reach first base. Sardinas grounded into a double pay to remove both of them from the field. Mitch Moreland walked only to be brought around the bases by Beltre’s first home run over the right field fence.

The top of the third did not go too well for the Rangers. Nick Markakis homered, followed by Manny Machado hitting a double and Cruz reaching first on yet another error. Adam Jones hit a single to earn an RBI as Machado crossed home plate. With Cruz on second and Chris on first on a walk, James Hardy hit a sacrifice fly to bring Cruz to score.

The top of the fourth had a great play that unfolded right in front of us when Caleb Joseph hit a ball out to Left field to Choo and took to second only to be thrown out by Choo in Left.
The top of the fifth had another home run for the Orioles, Chris Davis. Moreland led off the bottom of the 5th and delivered a line drive that connected with Norris’s forearm. Norris did not go out of the game right away, after the trainers came out to check on him and he threw a few warm up pitches to see how he felt. Norris stayed in to pitch to Beltre. He probably should have taken himself out because on that pitch Beltre hit his second home run while Luis Sardinas and Mitch Moreland were on base to tie the game. Beltre is the first Ranger to hit two home runs in one game in this season. He currently has the second highest batting average on the team at .306, following Alex Rios, .316.

To start out the sixth Markakis singles to left field to hit Caleb Joseph in who was on base by bunting and earning his 21st RBI of the season. The next few innings were pretty routine and quiet until the eighth. In the bottom of the eighth Alex Rios led off with a single against the Orioles sidearm pitcher, Darren O’Day. Donnie Murphy who attempted another Ranger bunt which the Orioles catcher Caleb Joseph got too quickly and fired to second to pick off Rios. In the bottom of the ninth, the Rangers last attempt to score. Andrus was successful in his bunting attempt and reached first. He was doubled off when Choo went lefty-vs-lefty to closer Zach Britton on a grounder to shortstop. Sardinas singled and manager Ron Washington sent in Michael Choice to bat for Mitch Moreland. Sadly he struck out to end the game. The Rangers are one game under .500 and eight games behind the Oakland A’s in the AL West.

It happens in the game of baseball,you win some and you lose some. It’s still early in the season and hopefully the Ranger will still be playing in October!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Angels vs. Astros 6/3/14

After leaving San Antonio, the group made the journey across southeastern Texas to Houston.  After checking into our hotel and eating some authentic Texas BBQ, we made our journey to Minute Maid Park in downtown.  Entering the air conditioned retractable roofed stadium was a relief from the oppressive heat and humidity outside in the Texas sun.  Being a White Sox fan, I had some sight-seeing to do before the game started because the Sox won Game 4 at Minute Maid Park, clinching the 2005 World Series.  I walked to the spot where Juan Uribe fell into the crowd to record the 2nd out of the 9th inning of that game and did some reminiscing of my childhood.

We found our seats in the upper deck and waited for the game to start.  Minute Maid has probably the worst sound system I have ever heard as it was hard to understand words said by the P.A. announcer.  The park has a very odd mixture of classic and new that includes a giant roof that can open and close, but yet it also has an older style of design on the outfield wall, a glass wall behind left field allowing you to still see the surroundings, odd dimensions like old ballparks did, and a train that runs every time the Astros hit a home run.

Pitching for the Angels was ace CJ Wilson.  Wilson was off to a solid start to his season with a 6-4 record and an ERA in the low 3s.  For the Astros was Collin McHugh, who was also off to a solid start with a sub-3 ERA.

The Astros changed the game in the 3rd inning after the first two batters walked, a Jose Altuve single, a Singleton walk and a Grossman single quickly made the score 5-0.  CJ Wilson's day was already done at that point.  The game continued to slowly drag on and in the 8th inning, the Angels made it interesting with Cowgill and Hamilton solo Home Runs to make the score 5-2.

Jon Singleton was the story of this game.  The young 1B was one of the best minor league prospects who was making his Major League debut.  After two errors and a strikeout early, Singleton managed his first RBI in the 3rd inning.  In the bottom of the 8th inning, Singleton saw a pitch he liked and smoked it deep in to right center for his first Major League hit and first home run.

Carter of the Astros added on to the Houston lead with his own 8th inning solo home run to make the score 7-2.  The Astros would go on to win by the same score.

A Note From the Blog Captain!

Hello readers!

If you can believe it, the Eighth Inning Stretch crew has only three games left in our series. We're currently in San Antonio, Texas, getting ready for our morning drive to Houston. It was a long day yesterday, as we covered the large expanse that is west Texas. Our night got a little longer when a fire on the interstate closed down the road for at least an hour (I fell asleep so time is very hazy to me). When we finally arrived at our hotel at 3 AM, we were ready for bed. We see the Astros tonight, the Rangers tomorrow, and the Kansas City Royals on Thursday. We really can't believe our trip is almost done; there seems like there is so much baseball we haven't seen and so many stories we haven't written yet!

Our constant movement will make blogging the next couple of days a little difficult. Bear with us as we do our best to write in vans and post when we arrive at our hotels with free wifi. Our goal is that by the end of the trip, all blog posts will be published and someone can go through it all and see how our journey progressed.

Thanks again for being such great readers and enjoy the last days of our west coast adventure!

Your blog captain,