Tag Archives | Baseball

Keep Calm and Joe Panik [T-Shirt Design, Christmas Gift Ideas]

My Keep Calm and Joe Panik Shirt DesignMy Keep Calm and Joe Panik Shirt Design

During the World Series broadcasts, I saw a Keep Calm sign related to Joe Panik, and it inspired me to “design” (I don’t know what other word to use) a shirt for it. It’s a Christmas gift to myself! I thought having a long sleeved black shirt would be a great complement to wear under a Giants jersey – you can wear it straight up, but if you are at the ball park, you wear a jersey over it to be warmer and somewhat recreate this look (see shorter sleeves and black undershirt underneath jersey):

NY Daily News: San Francisco Giants rookie star from NY, Joe Panik, is a big hit

I couldn’t use the official San Francisco Giants font, but the orange color matches relatively well. The “12” (Panik’s number) on the back does match the Giants jersey font, found at ffonts.net. I put a World Series trophy (to celebrate 2014!) on top in replacement of the typical “Keep Calm” crown. By the way, the origins of Keep Calm are really interesting, I had to read up to make sure I wasn’t doing something in violation of a trademark.

Here’s the real life version that I received:

What do you think? (If you like it, you can order this design at FunnyShirts.org.) Thanks to Kim, Ha, Emil, and Midland for the feedback on the design!

The Future of Baseball on TV – GoPro + Catchers [Business Ideas]

I am really excited about the Oculus Rift, the Virtual Reality gaming platform – I’ve been heavily interested in virtual reality since I was a kid. Relating to this, I really liked the idea of Scottie Pippen Slam City for the Sega CD, which was first person full motion video (another game feature I loved in the 90’s) virtual reality-like sports. You can play basketball through the eyes of the basketball player.

The game wasn’t very good, but it almost seems like we’re closing in on the technological advances to make such a game a reality.

Beyond this, after attending both Oakland Athletics and San Francisco Giants games this past week, I really noted how fast sports is when you see it up close and live. The speed of the game is something you can appreciate, which I don’t get the same feel for watching from the upper decks or on TV. There’s some disconnect and it’s easy to dismiss how good the players really are from far away.

This is especially true with pitching and hitting and baseball. At the Giants game, I was sitting right behind the visitor’s bullpen and could see pitchers throwing up and throwing in the low 90’s. I also had a great angle to see Madisom Bumgarner throw as well. On TV, with the center field camera, it’s easy not to get a feel of how fast these pitches are. But up close, 90’s is extremely fast. And to think how fast a 97 mile per hour fastball could be to a hitter, yikes!

That’s how I was reminded of this recent Businessweek article on GoPro, GoPro Goes Big as a Hybrid Media Company/Videocam Maker.

I’d love to see more footage shown from the hitters’, catcher’s, and umpire’s perspective, so you can get a better feel of what Sergio Romo’s slider looks like and the time you really need to react to a high octane fastball that has just a bit of movement. I want to be able to be fooled while watching live, swinging and missing with my eyeballs. What does  a knuckleball look like when it’s good versus when it’s bad?

I think this is where GoPro can have an impact. You can see some of the potential here:

In these examples, we can tell it’s not quite so perfect yet to get the right angle. But I do think this should be the next evolution in TV coverage. From a financial perspective, it may just feel like another cost to Major League Baseball, and perhaps that is true. it’s also enriching the overall media experience, which is a continued process in competing with other entertainment options. On the other hand, I think it’s a great opportunity for a sponsor like GoPro or another company that wants to sell the technology to mass market consumers (think of baseball players at the youth level). I also think it’s possible to ask fans to pay extra for the content, such as the “All 22” footage that the real NFL coaches go by, not the cropped footage we watch on TV.

Beyond this, I would love to see a slick interface on top of a catcher or umpire’s view video. Imagine getting pitch recognition and speed information from this view. The biggest reason why I like this view is because it reminds me of playing High Heat Baseball for the PC many years ago.

What do you think, would you want footage like this when watching baseball on TV? Let me know your thoughts!

10 Things to Learn from Working at the Ballpark [Baseball, Sports Jobs]

image

Working at the Ballpark: The Fascinating Lives of Baseball People from Peanut Vendors and Broadcasters to Players and Managers by Tom Jones should be first on the list of books to check out if you would like to work in the sports industry, and most especially, baseball. It’s the sports equivalent of It’s a Living by Dr. Gerard Sasges, which discusses the working lives of Vietnamese.

Almost any job you might imagine, from the famous (ball player) to (seemingly) mundane (ball boy), is in the book as Jones interviews people across multiple baseball clubs about their jobs. Interviewees simply talk about what their working lives are like, and overall, two things stand out – 1) they love their jobs 2) working in Sports is long hours.

The book serves as a listing of all the things you could do in Sports, with the interviews providing insights on what day to day life is like, the pros and cons, and also implicit tips to consider on how you might want to differentiate yourself when applying. I really learned a lot from the interviews with specific coaches (do you know the full extent of what a bench coach or 3rd base coach does?) as well as team staff such as the Director of Entertainment (Baseball is entertainment today, not just a sports game. The ball park is like an amusement park with lots of side attractions for the family), Groundskeeper, and the Traveling Secretary.

To list the 10 best things to learn was a bit difficult since the book covers so many jobs, but I hope you’ll still gain some insights and check the book out. I’ve added job descriptions in [] to clarify each excerpt.

1) [Managing General Partner] “Baseball teams are small businesses. We’re not talking about General Motors here. We’re talking about $150 million or so in revenue. That’s not a real big business. The profile we have is so extraordinary that it’s a great platform for representing the city, and leading other businesses in the sense of corporate citizenship. Many people think that professional franchises are one indice of municipal status. So in that sense, I think it’s more of a quality of life issue than it is an economic, or standard of living, issue. I think baseball, and other professional sports, do have an economic impact, but I think it’s far surpassed by just the psychic benefit that’s derived from a city from being associated with a successful professional franchise. It can be an economic catalyst, but more importantly, I think it can be a cultural societal leader.”

2) [Senior Director of Player Personnel] You’re risking years of your life trying to get to the major leagues, and you are not really getting there because of the money. You’re getting there so you can say that you’re a major leaguer. If you’re not going to be one of those guys that really makes the money, you’re risking possibly ten years of your life. You’ve got a good chance of coming out of high school or college and being twenty-eight, twenty-nine years old, and really have no skills for the job market.

3) [Pitching Coach] The lowest batting average in the history of baseball is [against] the down-and-away strike. All the great pitchers own that part [of the strike zone]. When you own down-and-away, that allows you to go to all the areas of the strike zone.

4) [Manager] nobody should ever beat you mentally. I think that’s the thing that separates the good teams from the mediocre teams. How do you cultivate that? You just have to talk about it a lot, especially in extra-innings games where you get into a tough spot, then you really see guys bear down. They get through it and come out on the other side and win the ballgame. Then you point to it and say, “We were mentally tough tonight.” It becomes a part of the culture.

5) [Player] about the pureness of trying to hit it right. I like to hit, but the end-all is the feeling of when the ball is hit perfect—just like a golf shot if you smoke one right down the middle of the fairway with your best drive. That’s the physical feeling. What that feels like is the same in any sport: same with a tennis racket, same with any ball-striking sport. What that feels like is what it’s all about. That’s what I’m after. A home run is the one that is the ultimate. But the fact is if you strike it, it feels the same on a home run as it does when you strike it square on a low liner. That feeling is indistinguishable to me.

6) [Umpire] I guarantee you very few people actually know the rules. There are some that are tough enough where it would take four umpires together to make a decision. Let’s take interference for instance. In the rulebook, it says, “No runner shall advance or score on interference.” It’s plain and simple. There it is. Four pages later, there’s a situation where there’s interference and a guy can score. Well, wait a minute; you told me no one could ever score on interference on page ten, but on page twenty-two a man can.

7) [Ticket Reseller] They used the term “ticket scalping.” When I said, “This is wrong. I see what you’re doing here,” they came after me. So I’m in court, and it was “Scalper-this, John-scalper that.” I stood up and I said to the judge, “Listen, that term is a racist term. It doesn’t belong in your court-room. It’s denigrating to the American Indian. It’s like calling an Irishman a ‘bogtrotter’ or a Jewish person a ‘kike’ or a black person a ‘nigger.’” I said that he shouldn’t have that kind of a term in his vocabulary.

8) [Writer / Journalist] So, yeah, what often happens in sports is you will quote players accurately and you will quote them in context, but then they’ll get grief from their teammates or from the organization, and they’ll come back and claim that they were taken out of context or that was supposed to be off the record. It really is smart if you’re talking to a player on a touchy subject to lay the ground rules, “Is this off the record? Is this on the record? Is this on the record, but not for attribution?” Just to make sure that you’ve got your bases covered with the player.

9) [Groundskeeper] Once the game starts, it’s in the umpires’ hands. The umpires make the call. Any other time, it’s up to the general manager and the groundskeeper. Most of the time, the groundskeeper decides, “Am I gonna put it on overnight, or not?” If we have a chance of rain overnight, and you don’t cover the field and you get to game time and your infield’s too sloppy to play—but it’s not raining—then you lose the game, and it’s the groundskeeper’s fault. You don’t want that to happen to you. You could lose your job whether it’s in the minor league where you might have five thousand dollars at risk, or whether it’s in the major leagues where you have over a million dollars at risk. So that’s always on your mind. People say, “Luke, why don’t you put the tarp on every night just to be sure?” Well, if you do that, the grass will die. You’ve got to really manage it properly. When you put that tarp on, especially in the summer, it’s creating like a big incubator dish for disease, and the next thing you know you’ve get a big square dead spot out there that’s 170 feet by 170 feet. My rule of thumb was: If there was a 30-percent chance of a quarter inch, or more, I would put it on; if there was a 20-percent chance of an eighth of an inch, probably not. That was something that I was used to, but always dreamt about the Southwest and how those guys didn’t have to pull the tarp much.

10) [Director of Entertainment] One of the things about baseball that I feel, and I think that many people feel, is that it’s so different than any other sport because of the pace of the game, which is criticized a lot. What it allows is for you and your family to come to a game, and be able to converse while things are going on. To relax and enjoy the company of each other while still being able to follow the game, whereas, in hockey and some of the other games, you can’t do that.

10a – BONUS!) [Director of Merchandising] Like most retailers, we do a large amount of our business in the last quarter of the year, so we’re continually selling Indians product. We sell everything from shot glasses, keychains, pins, plush blankets, throws, T-shirts, hats, foam fingers, pens, pencils to three- to six-inch Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner bobbleheads. We carry authentic merchandise for authentic fans. I mean, you can go to any other retailer and find a T-shirt or a hat, but you can’t go there and find a set of poker chips and playing cards, or golf balls. You can’t find vintage pieces like a Satchel Paige figurine in motion, where he’s actually throwing the ball. We pride ourselves on doing the things that are outside the normal retail chain.

A Summer Night in the Minor Leagues (San Jose Giants)

Last night, Midland (above left), Mike (right), and I all went to see the San Jose Giants, the A Minor League Baseball Team at Municipal Stadium. For just $11-$16, you can watch the potential future stars of the San Francisco Giants. On this night, we saw former #1 draft pick Chris Stratton pitch what was likely his best game at the pro level. Steven Okert, who was just named a California League All-Star, got the save, but we actually left during the 9th as the temperature dropped to the low 60’s with a slight wind coming in.

It was a fun, relaxing time, and for a few hours it felt like we were in a small town, just hanging out. (By the way, I recently watched Sugar, and it’s great film at showing life in the minor leagues. It’s not a documentary, but it feels so honest that it easily could be).

What I enjoyed most about the game was the proximity to the field. Even the general admission seats are within 10 rows and it’s nice to see things in so much detail. Particularly, you can really sense the pitching speed, how difficult it must be to try to hit a baseball. To sit as close at a San Francisco Giants game could easily cost 10 times the amount.

As for food, definitely check out Super Churro Man (the positive reviews are deserved!) – churros are $3 each. These came out nice, warm, and moist. Turkey Mike’s, however, was not so great, and a bit expensive (BBQ dinner set was $18, and small water bottles were $3.50 each).

For more photos, see below or my Smugmug gallery.

10 Things to Learn from Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy

image

Looking at Clayton Kershaw, I imagine he’s close to being this generation’s Sandy Koufax, both being left-handed Dodgers strike-out kings. As long as Kerhaw doesn’t lose velocity like Tim Lincecum of the Giants or deal with injuries like Koufax, there’s no reason why he won’t be one of the best ever. Jane Leavy’s Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy is an excellent biography of the Jewish superstar, and here are ten key things I learned about him:

1) Koufax held the ball aloft to show the proper grip on the curveball: between the middle and ring fingers with his middle finger resting inside the long seam of the ball. His thumb, index finger, and even his ring finger were largely superfluous. He threw his curve off his middle finger, karate-chopping the air, pulling down on the seams with uncommon force and friction, thus generating unprecedented spin. “When you push back up, you’ve got to bend your wrist, hook it, so your hand is almost inside your arm,” he explained. “You can’t throw it as hard. You can’t spin it as fast pushing up as you can pulling back down.” Pulling down also places less stress on soft tissue and prevents the ball from popping up into view. In photos, you can see his thumb sticking straight up as if hitching a ride.

2) ‘Look at that guy, he’s built like a Greek god.’ We looked. It was Koufax. He was sixteeen years old then.” “Nobody knew how strong Sandy was,” Buzzie Bavasi said. “Great upper body. Got it from his mother. Lovely woman.” Great lower body too. In a pickup basketball game at the YMCA, Cohen said, “he split his gym shorts, his thighs were so big. Cheap shorts.”

3) When he was growing up, baseball was neither Koufax’s dream nor his passion. His dream was to play for the New York Knicks. Wilpon was the sandlot star for whom a major league career was confidently predicted, the boy with all the tools, a polished pitcher at age sixteen who piqued every scout’s interest. Koufax was a tagalong. Sometimes he kept Wilpon company when he was summoned to Ebbets Field to throw batting practice. The Dodgers made Wilpon an offer; he does not remember how much. “Everybody got an offer,” he says.

4) As for throwing behind the barracks, everyone did—that’s where the string area was. Joe Pignatano caught him in the spring of 1955. “Everybody said, ‘Sandy’s wild, wild, wild,’” Pignatano said. “He was not that wild. A little high and low in the strike zone. Once they put that tag on you it stays with you. They never stayed with Sandy long enough to give him a chance until later when they had nobody else.”

5) Drysdale came sidearm; Koufax came over the top. Drysdale’s ball beat you up, Koufax’s rose to greet you. “Drysdale was like going to the dentist without Novocain,” Joey A. liked to say. “Sandy had the Novocain.” Facing him was painful only in retrospect.

6) Though he was a heavy smoker and the surgeon general’s report on tobacco hadn’t yet been released, he would not be photographed smoking a cigarette. In an era when caution labels were not yet required reading, he refused to endorse either tobacco or alcohol. He did a sweater ad. He owned a piece of a motel on the Sunset Strip, Sandy Koufax’s Tropicana Inn.

7) In the spring of 1966 to say of a man he’d a played for nuthin’ was the ultimate accolade and the ultimate fiction. They played for money, just a lot less of it. The conceit of mercenary selflessness is a fin de siècle construct, a gauzy, revisionist mythology which allowed fans to think better of their heroes and owners to keep salaries down. When spring training camps opened that February, the minimum player salary was $7,000—one thousand dollars more than it was when Koufax signed with the Dodgers in 1955. Winning mattered. World series checks weren’t just latte money.

8) The Dodgers not only counted on him to win, they counted on him to make them all better, to infuse even the most modest among them with his quiet bravado. If he was bullet-proof, so were they. He wasn’t exaggerating when he told Ron Fairly late in the season, referring to rookie Jim Barbieri, “If I pitch well from here on out, I can double the man’s income.” And when a television network offered him $25,000 to film a documentary on a day in his life, he said he would do it for $35,000—and only if $1,000 was given to every member of the team and coaching staff.

9) Doctors were injecting steroids directly into the elbow joint. Once he had an adverse reaction. He was lying on the training table when infielder Jim Lefebvre walked in. “His arm, it was, like, twice the size,” Lefebvre said. “It was like a boil. I looked at him and I said, ‘Oh, my God, your season’s over.’ He looked at me and he goes, ‘No, no, Frenchie, it’s too late in the season. I won’t miss my start.’ And he didn’t.”

10) On September 9, 1965, Sandy Koufax and Bob Hendley pitched one of the best baseball games ever played. Hendley pitched a one-hitter, the game of his life, and lost on a young catcher’s error. The only run scored on a walk, a sacrifice, a stolen base, and a bad throw. As Scully said, “The only hit, you almost couldn’t dignify as one.” Hendley’s teammate, Ken Holtzman, calls it “the greatest loss in baseball history.”