At Citi Field this summer with my family: Alan, Benjamín, Adrian, Daniel, Melody, and Brian (me).
Driving back home to San Antonio in early August, I couldn’t help but stare out the window and reflect as the scorching Texas sun set on another wonderful family baseball road trip. It still amazes me that we only have five out of 30 major league stadiums left to see.
In 2012 my dream of seeing my favorite team, the Orioles, play at Camden Yards in Baltimore came true, marking the beginning of my family’s ballpark-chasing days. Instead of having a big party for my Bar Mitzvah, my dream was to see all 30 MLB stadiums. What began as a simple wish has turned into unbelievable adventures with my family driving across the U.S. (and Canada!) to see all the MLB ballparks.
Over the last four summers, I have gotten to witness and do some extraordinary and really fun things: from taking in the spectacular views of the San Francisco Bay and the downtown skyline in Pittsburgh, to enjoying deep-dish pizza in the friendly confines of Wrigley Field and eating Dodger Dogs in Los Angeles, to feeling goose bumps while singing “Sweet Caroline” with 37,000 of my closest friends at Fenway Park.
SOUTH WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. (AP) — With more than 42,000 fans cheering against them, the Tokyo players found themselves down eight runs in the first inning of the Little League championship game against Lewisberry, Pennsylvania.
That brought out manager Junji Hidaka's inner Yogi Berra and sparked a record rally that saw the Kitasua Little League pound out 22 hits in an 18-11 comeback victory in a battle of undefeated teams.
"I told the players it doesn't end until it ends," Hidaka said through a translator.
The ceremonial first pitch is a baseball tradition. Those who are given the opportunity are generally celebrities, local heroes, big supporters of the team, charity representatives, or people that have won contests. On August 17, I was joined the list when I tossed the first pitch at Fenway Park before the Boston Red Sox faced the Cleveland Indians.
I was humbled and honored to throw out the first pitch as the winner of the Jimmy Fund Big Idea Contest. The Jimmy Fund sponsored a national contest to search for an idea that would generate awareness and funds to fight cancer. My idea was "Jokes For Jimmy: Laughter is the Best Medicine.” It’s a social media campaign where kids and adults can videotape themselves telling a joke and pledging to make a donation to the Jimmy Fund, then they’d post the video on Facebook and tag friends. It's similar to the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, but without the ice. The idea is that we have to fight cancer with positivity, creativity, care, and laughter. I will help the Jimmy Fund launch the idea in 2016, and hope that everyone will participate!
The chance to throw out the first pitch was a fun and exciting prize. What made it even more special was that my family and friends came out to support me. My cousins traveled to Boston from Cleveland for the game. My Little League baseball teammates were there, too. They all gave me advice, but the overall sentiment was simply to try my best.
In the end, last year’s Little League World Series was marred by scandal. A Chicago team that had captured the city’s heart on its way to a U.S. championship was later stripped of all its victories after rules violations were uncovered.
One can only hope that this year’s tournament, which begins Thursday afternoon in South Williamsport, Pennsylvania, will be free of controversy. So far, at least, none have developed, and the focus has been on the hundreds of 11- through 13-year-olds who will take the field in the coming days.
These young ballplayers make up 16 teams from 16 towns and cities in nine countries. A sampling: There are teams from Bonita, California; Taipei, Taiwan; Tokyo, Japan; Santiago de los Caballeros, Dominican Republic; and Barquisimeto, Venezuela. The teams are All-Star squads, assembled a couple months ago from a city or town’s best players specifically to qualify for — and now play in — the Little League World Series.
From Thursday until August 30, the five-round tournament will progress in a double-elimination bracket format that includes several consolation games. One side of the bracket is devoted entirely to the eight American teams; the other includes the eight international squads. The U.S. champion and international champion will meet in the overall championship game on the 30th.
The New York Yankees and Toronto Blue Jays are in a battle for the American League East. The Yankees are currently one game up on the Jays, and that’s thanks in large part to Alex Rodriguez.
Last night, down 4-1 to the Minnesota Twins in the bottom of the seventh, the Yankees looked listless. And when A-Rod came to the plate with the bases loaded, fans in the Bronx hoped for something, anything, to get the team going. But they weren’t holding their breathes. After setting the league on fire, hitting 24 home runs through July as the Yanks’ DH, Rodriguez had been held homerless in his last 72 at bats.
But that all changed on a 1-0 pitch. Rodriguez pounced on it, driving it to center field for a grand slam. It put New York up 5-4, which led to the team earning a crucial win, 8-4.
When it comes to what happens on the field, we tend to focus on things like no-hitters, epic home runs, and wacky plays. But sometimes the best moments happen before the first pitch — and that was certainly true in Boston last night.
Dick Flavin is the Official Laureate of the Boston Red Sox. That means he gets to write poetry about baseball! He has compiled all his poems in one book, Red Sox Rhymes, Verses and Curses, which was released in July. This new book appeals to all Red Sox fans, young and old, as Flavin shares the joys, struggles, victories, and losses throughout the years of Red Sox Nation. His poems are historical, hysterical, and memorable. With his charismatic personality, sense of humor, and oratory skills, he never fails to delight the audience when he recites his poems. (If the poetry wasn’t enough, Flavin is also an Emmy-award winning television writer and commentator. And he serves as a Red Sox PA announcer at games.)
I recently had a chance to speak with Flavin about his poetry, writing Red Sox poems, and what he does when not thinking in verse.