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February 15: Home Stretch

Apologies, but though this piece was written on February 15th, technology conspired to keep it from appearing until February 24th… -ctan

It has been a long, cold offseason, but this year I’ve done everything in my power to try to stave off the pangs of withdrawal. There’s still a few weeks before exhibition games begin, though, and then a month before the actual season starts. Are you having trouble getting through it? I figure I ought to write down my cures for the off season blues, because maybe it’ll help you, gentle reader, survive the last few bitter weeks of winter, and because than I’ll have it written down to look at when next winter rolls around. As Casey Stengel once said, you could look it up.

First inning: Watch Ken Burns’ “BASEBALL” documentary. If you can’t afford to buy it, rent it or borrow it from the public library–this nine episode set (for nine innings, of course…) covers the entire history of baseball in the United States, the great players, great moments in the game, and how baseball is a part of American history. Pluses: How can you go wrong with a twenty hour long set of 9 video tapes (or DVDs)? It will keep you occupied for over a week. Minuses: You’ll have “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” or the “Star Spangled Banner” (or both) stuck in your head for weeks.

Second inning: Make weekly trips to the indoor batting cage. I’m not sure which I like better, hitting the ball or talking baseball with the guys hanging around waiting to hit. Pluses: It helped keep me in shape, too. Minuses: My wiffle ball timing is probably ruined.

Third: Read a lot of baseball books and player biographies. There’s so much to know about this game, it’s fun to become a scholar again. But the pure enjoyment I get from reading about baseball and the men and women who have lived it, has less to do with intellectual prowess or “studying” and more to do with the way a book on the game, any book, allows me to immerse myself completely. Ahhh… Pluses: There’s a hell of a lot to know, might as well get started. Minuses: There’s a hell of a lot to know, and you’ll never get through it all.

Fourth: Rent baseball movies. After the Kevin Costner ouvre, there’s no shortage of cinematic stories about baseball. “Pride of the Yankees,” “Bang the Drum Slowly,” “A League of Their Own.” Some of them succeed as baseball but fail as movies, others are the other way around, but it’s better than nothing. Pluses: Somehow baseball makes even the most cornball sentimental mush palatable. Minuses: This means some directors will use baseball as a vehicle to get as corny and mushy as possible, so get used to it.

Fifth: Play baseball video games. There’s a plethora of these out there, for every game platform, but my favorite is one I found in a video arcade on 42nd Street in New York. It allowed me to pit the 1999 Yankees against any other team. I put Roger Clemens on the mound against the Anaheim Angels. I, or rather Roger, struck out three in three innings, and induced a lot of ground balls. But I couldn’t get the timing of the bat controller, and had the entire Yankees lineup striking out and hitting dribblers. If it hadn’t been a dollar per three innings, I might have kept going to see if I could get the hang of it. I’m sure if the arcade were around the corner from my house, I would. Pluses: This is a great form of “fantasy” baseball to occupy yourself with. Minuses: It’s a lot of work being Roger Clemens.

Sixth: “Talk” baseball on the World Wide Web. I spent an hour a day reading and posting in bulletin boards like the ones at yankees.com and bronx-bombers.com. Pluses: You can really bond with your fellow fans. Minuses: Carpal tunnel syndrome.

Seventh: Watch the World Series videos of the past several years. Pluses: It brings back all the pulse-pounding excitement. Minuses: Well, only if you’re a Yankees fan.

Eighth: Read Baseball Weekly. Yes, they publish it all year round, even in the off season. Of course, I usually pick it up in airports to read when I’m on business trips, and I was dismayed not to find it on a lot of newsstands in January. Thank goodness I caught a connecting flight in Detroit and got it there, or my flight to Vegas would have been a long, boring one. Pluses: It keeps you up to date on all the trade rumors. Minuses: Still no crossword puzzle.

Ninth: There are more extremes one can go to, like a satellite dish system to pick up Venezuelan winter ball, or there’s the extreme I go to, which is to keep writing about the sport all winter long. This offseason I wrote an epic poem about the season, recapped many games in detail, reviewed books, and even created a bunch of trivia quizzes and puzzles for fans on the Internet.

Of course, today is the day pitchers and catchers are having their first official workouts all over Florida and Arizona, and that makes this the one year anniversary of the “Why I Like Baseball” journal.

As befits the end of my rookie season as a baseball writer, I figured I’d compile my stats. So here they are:

Words written: 71,373 Entries/articles: 64

Uses of the phrase “Yankee Stadium”: 64
Uses of the word “Yankees”: 259
Uses of the word “Yankee”: 218

Percentage of total words used that were Yankee/Yankees: .0067

Mentions of Derek Jeter: 127
Mentions of Roger Clemens or The Rocket: 104
Mentions of David Cone: 63
Mentions of Babe Ruth: 22
Mentions of Alex Rodriguez: 21

Books Read on Baseball: 18
Percentage of Books Enjoyed: 1.000

Number of games witnessed live: 16
-5 spring training
-1 Staten Island Yankees
-7 at Yankee Stadium
-3 at Fenway Park (all versus Yankees)

Number of Yankees games listened to/watched/attended: 110
-5 exhibition
-92 regular season
-13 post season

Number of games scored: 110

Number of other teams’ games listened to/watched:
-3 regular season
-2 postseason

Visits to Cooperstown: 0
Visits to Monument Park: 3

You could look it up? Yes, you could.

(Did you enjoy reading this blog entry? Please consider buying me a hot dog.)

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