26 April 2010

Photos from Phillies-Diamondbacks 4/24/10

Before the game began, the Diamondbacks unveiled their newest addition to the ballpark - the retired numbers of Jackie Robinson situated above the right field bleachers, with plenty of room for future players to be retired there as well. (Randy Johnson's #51, anyone? Or maybe Mark Grace's #17?)
Here's a close-up view of the new numbers:
The other brand new addition to Chase Field is UPTOWN, the "Mannywood" of the Diamondbacks for right fielder Justin Upton! On Saturday, the DBacks' red-clad fans were there in force:
Also on Saturday, it was the APS Green Series, where the Diamondbacks organization powered the stadium with 100% green energy. In tribute to their super-powered counterparts, the Incredibles, the inflatable Renewables stood guard over right field as well from a perch high above the field:
Out in left field, where I sat, the sporting world's greatest mascot, D. Baxter, came out to visit! You can't tell from this photo, but he was hugging a little kid here. In another photo I have, he's mocking a Phillies fan about four rows away from me.
I was lucky to grab this shot of the moonrise over Chase Field with all the light banks in my way, but luckily, I set the camera's exposure correctly!

25 April 2010

Spring 2010 Hiking Pics

As I mentioned in my prior post, I have photos from my hikes to share. Catch them below the jump break!

Beehive! Glad I'm not allergic!!!
A cactus in bloom:

Phillies vs. D'Backs 4/24/10

It's been far too long since my last post, but I've been busy lately, so thank you to my loyal fans for the wait! I've been trying to get in as much hiking as possible while the weather remains nice, before the 90+ temps come back for the summertime. I've taken a lot of pictures, which I intend to post soon, so look for that coming up shortly.

But this post, I figure I'll make about baseball. I went to my first game of the 2010 season at Chase Field yesterday for the Justin Upton 2009 All-Star Game Bobblehead Day against the Philadelphia Phillies - the defending two-time National League Champions. Because of the struggles of our offense and our bullpen, I expected something of a Phillies blowout, and was pleasantly surprised when the score was very close, decided by a ninth-inning Phillies home run.

I got to the ballpark at about 1:45pm, and was forced into parking in the garage since I had to detour around the 202 freeway because it was (for some idiotic reason) shut down again this weekend and I couldn't make it to my normal park-and-ride station. It was inconvenient for me because I had to spend an additional $12 on parking, but c'est la vie. All that meant was that I didn't get a hot dog and I didn't have to ride the light rail with a million other people after the game.

I bought my tickets using a voucher I obtained last year for two free bleacher seats to any 2010 home game excluding Opening Day (subject to availability blah blah) from a contest I won, and waited for the gates to open so I could get to batting practice in the very nice 78-degree weather and the sunshine. After about a million season ticket holders were allowed in before us, my line got through and I raced into left field to note a few fans spread throughout the bleachers, but plenty of open space. I made my way down to the wall about midway between the Diamondbacks' bullpen and the center field wall and put on my glove. The boys in Sedona Red were still hitting, and Chris Young didn't disappoint me, hitting a hard liner which bounced off the grass just in front of my position. I reached WAY down the wall and watched as the ball sailed straight into my glove. Woohoo! First ball of the season, about five minutes into my being there! I might also add that that ball was the first that I ever caught outright. I've gotten others from balls players have thrown to me, and one that was a foul ball that I scooped up off the dirt as it rolled to my seat, but this one was the first that I caught in the air straight off the bat.

Shortly thereafter, the stands began to quickly fill with other spectators hoping for baseballs (I had been at the very front of my line and thus got in sooner with relatively empty stands). I was shut out the rest of Diamondbacks BP and all through Phillies BP. Most of it I spent out in left field near relief pitcher David Herndon, who was having fun teasing the kids before throwing balls into the stands now and then. A group of Little Leaguers was also stationed out there, begging for a ball, but when Herndon didn't give them one right away, they began turning into little snotnosed brats. I know it's the Phillies and all, but when the kids start saying things like "I hate you," "I hope you die," and "Go to Hell," it's about time for the parents to come get the little monsters and go home. I felt bad for the poor relief pitcher, but in classy fashion, Herndon, before he went in, saved one final ball for the little kid standing near all of the others who had been quietly holding out his glove for 20 minutes in the hopes that he'd get one. David Herndon, rule five guy who in today's game had a tough outing, probably one of my new favorite relief pitchers.

Anyway, after BP, I wandered around the concourse, but because it was bobblehead day, I found it hard to get through some of the crowds, so I made my way back to my seat, grabbing a copy of Diamondbacks Insider magazine as I did so. I was reading through it and when I got to the middle pages, someone very intelligent on the Diamondbacks' staff had put a copy of an official scorecard in there! I love to score the games, and sometimes I don't being my big scorebook and pens and stats sheets and whatnot because, well, it's bulky and hard to lug around. This was phenomenal to have it right there, easily accessable, and not dependent on me going to guest services to ask for complementary scorecard and pencil.

I spend the game itself in my seat, scoring the game, and putting on my glove whenever a big righty came up to bat (Mark Reynolds, Justin Upton, Ryan Howard, Jayson Werth, Chase Utley...) so as to be ready. You knew the game was going to be a weird one when the woman singing the National Anthem had to start over because she was singing the wrong verse (not the wrong words, mind you, just verse two when it was supposed to be rockets' red glares and all).

And the game didn't disappoint. Ian Kennedy allowed six baserunners over eight innings, sitting down 16 consecutive batters at one point (the end of the 2nd through the 7th innings). All the runs scored came on home runs - three solo shots by the Phillies, and two by Jayson Werth, and a two-run home run from Kelly Johnson, who's on FIRE to start the season!

Sadly, the game ended with a Werth home run in the ninth to make it 3-2, and the D'Backs could not answer in the bottom of the ninth against Madson. But overall, it was a good game, a fantastic pitchers' duel, and I can't wait to get to my next game!

06 April 2010

The Long Ball

One of the most well-recognized idioms in all of sports is the home run: the tater, the long ball, the big fly, the bomb, and the four-bagger. Everyone knows the great home run hitters, like Roger Maris, Babe Ruth, Hank Aaron, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, Albert Pujols, and (if you're a Diamondbacks fan) Mark Reynolds. (Okay, so Mark doesn't exactly belong up there yet... but someday....)

Well, even though you might be familiar with the highlight reels of the best of the best - Reynolds long ball into Friday's Front Row at Chase Field, Hank Aaron's Opening Day #714, or the "Shot Heard 'Round the World" for example - what you might not know is just how far those baseballs traveled. It's very, very hard to judge a baseball's true distance, since you can't exactly run out onto the field with a (very long) tape measure and get an accurate distance. Or what about those that fly out of the stadium, or hit a wall and never go their full potential distance? Well, last year I found a website that, using mathematical calculations and taking into account various environmental factors, gives a "true" distance for every home run ball hit over the course of a season going back to 2005 (and a few notable homers from the past). That website is http://www.hittrackeronline.com/.

How does it work? Well, I'm no mathematician, but the website's owner uses factors like wind speed, temperature, and altitude (all of which contribute to the force of air slowing the ball down in flight or helping it along) combined with the exact (or very near exact) location of the ball's landing point and the time of flight to calculate the "true" distance of the baseball from home plate. The true distance, in this case, is the distance the ball would have traveled if it had not struck some other object (i.e. bleachers, light poles, foul poles, railings, what-have-you). The spreadsheet tool also calculates a "standard" distance for each home run - the distance the ball would have traveled if it had been hit in a zero-wind, 70-degree, sea-level altitude situation. This makes it nice and easy to compare home runs from different players on a level playing field (Albert Pujols to Augie Ojeda, for instance).

Then, using some fancy trigonometry and calculus math, one can calculate the height of the ball in flight, the speed at which it came off the bat, the angle of elevation of the ball as it flew, etc. Not that the average fan is going to care or need that info, but it is interesting. For example, the true distance of the homer that Mark Reynolds hit, which was the second-longest in the majors last year, into Friday's at Chase Field was 481 feet. If it had been 70-degrees out, at sea level, that distance would have actually been shortened by about four feet to 477'. That ball, while it would have still been a home run, got a boost of four feet from the conditions inside Chase Field with the roof and the heat of the day (it was a day game, and I was there!). The ball's speed off the bat was 118.6 miles per hour, about 10mph faster than Reynolds' average, and he hit it at an angle of 25 degrees reaching an apex of only 98 feet off the ground. That's what you call a line drive home run!

Anyway, while most people are only going to care about the true distance number, if you're a fan of the big fly, you need to check out http://www.hittrackeronline.com/. I know I check it on about a nightly basis because I write in the distances of each DBacks homer on my scorecards. (If you're looking for a specific homer, say, Jason Heyward's blast from last night, the website will usually have all of the info plugged in a day or two after the hit, as it takes time to do all the calculations and such, so be patient!)

05 April 2010


If you ask me of my opinion on internships, as many of my closer friends know, you'll probably get some sort of long-winded rant about the stupidity of unpaid indentured servitude for people who are no longer in college and using the internship to gain credit. (If we're talking a PAID internship, I'm less likely to rant.)

First off, is it just me, or am I crazy for subscribing to the notion that a person should get paid for his or her work? Yes, getting coffee and filing papers or answering telephones is not exactly a glamorous mode of employment, but it should still command at least minimum wage. Employers expecting a prospective employee to have years (in some cases) of internship requirements before they can be hired for an actual, paying job are in my opinion absolutely cheating new graduates out of their time. Don't get me wrong, I worked for two years as a congressional district office intern, answering phones, getting coffee, shuffling papers, cutting news clippings, faxing, copying, and otherwise earning my way into some valuable experience - in college. Now when I need a paying job, most places are telling people like me to get internship experience first.

This brings me to what I consider the biggest crock of the 21st century: Ryan (of Ryan Beck's Communications Commentary fame) recently sent me an article from the New York Times all about the latest job hunting craze - paying services to find you unpaid internships. SCREECH! Stop the car right there: paying a service to find an UNpaid internship is about as stupid an idea as putting metal in a microwave oven. Or smoking at a gas station.

In the case of the kiddies mentioned in the article, parents are shelling out sometimes THOUSANDS of dollars to use these services. One kid's parents paid a service $8,000 to land him at an internship in New York City with Ford Models.

For the services, it's just business: "Students don't have problems finding internships, students have problems getting internships," said one representative of an internship-placement service. Apparently, the employers like the middlemen, as it saves them the time and expense of actually looking for qualified candidates to pour steaming hot mugs of coffee and fax paperwork. Some people worry that it's not letting the kiddies or graduates fend for themselves and develop great life rejection skills.

Unpaid internships are unfair to begin with, weeding out potentially stellar talent by forcing only those who can afford to stay with their relatives for years on end while working menial jobs trying to sock away a little money until an agency gives them a transition from intern to paid worker. Whatever happened to the philosophy of John Locke: you reap what you sow? If I am going to do work, I damn well better be getting paid for it.

That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.