Tag Archives: California

The pleasures of day baseball

Back in our old neighborhood in Alameda today, a friend and I decided there could be no better way to spend the day than by making the short drive to the ballpark. My friend, my younger son and I were rewarded with an entertaining game at the coliseum in Oakland. The Kansas City Royals pounded out 15 hits en route to an 11-6 victory over the Athletics in a game that was much closer than the score shows.

While the temperature was about perfect in the upper sixties as we sat along the third base line, the wind was giving the ball plenty of carry to the outfield. KC’s Billy Butler took advantage by swatting two home runs. His second was a monster that clapped off a wall well past the center field fence and tied the game at 6-6.

The Royals erupted for five runs in the top of the ninth. The A’s went meekly in the bottom half to end the game, which also featured Kansas City turning a flashy 4-6-3 double play.

As is typical at the Oakland ballpark (now called the O.co Coliseum, if you want to get technical, and I don’t), the crowd was thin, just 14,577 of us.

There were plenty of highlights on both sides, if you look past some shoddy pitching. All in all, nothing beats a day of baseball in the sunshine.




New batting helmets in minor leagues getting high marks for safety

Here’s a story from today’s Modesto Bee about the new batting helmets being used in Minor League Baseball.  The specs from Rawlings say their S100 model is built to protect a batter struck by a pitch thrown at up to 100 mph.

The Bee story says the helmets are getting rave reviews for their safety, if not their style.

I never worriedmuch about getting hit by a pitch in my playing days as a shortstop in youth leagues in Cleveland, although I was well aware that the Indians’ Ray Chapman was the only major leaguer ever killed in a ballgame. He was struck in the temple during the Tribe’s 1920 championship season and died from the blow.

No one wore helmets in those days.  I’m glad I grew up in an era when helmets were required, and I applaud all the efforts to make helmets safer.

Now if we could just get rid of those awful aluminum bats….

The Tour of California – and how hard it is to shoot cycling

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For Stage 4 of the Amgen Tour of California, I played a small part for my news organization’s coverage, staking out a turn in downtown Modesto with a couple of cameras. If I learned anything, it was how hard it is to shoot the fast-moving sport of cycling.

I was parked under the billowy leaves of a huge tree at the north end of 16th Street in Modesto, a decent position until the clouds came about an hour ahead of the riders’ arrival. It stayed overcast through the end of the race, and I was worried that my images would be too dark.

I had my Canon zoom set wide, and I used the burst mode to capture as much of the action as I could. I also carried an aging Fuji Finepix S9000 with a busted blaster, so I saved it for some cross-my-fingers single shots. The images from my Canon were a bit dark but salvageable, nothing special. This was my first attempt at shooting a cycling race, and I was startled at how quickly the riders passed.

I had one lucky shot with the Fuji — of Lance Armstrong cruising along in the final lap at the head of a bunch of riders. It wasn’t a great image, but I’d managed to capture Lance, one of my objectives for the day.

Unexpectedly, my best images were from my tripod-mounted Flip video camera. I just turned it on and let it roll as the riders made each of their three finishing circuits. The footage was clear, and even the sound was surprisingly good. My Flip is about a year old — a standard definition model that continues to impress me with its capabilities.

I’m hoping the tour comes back to Modesto next year. I’ll be better trained and better positioned to capture the action.

Early look at the 2010 Pebble Beach U.S. Open golf caps

The U.S. Golf Association is offering early sales on 2010 U.S. Open merchandise, including a number of caps trumpeting the tournament at fabled Pebble Beach Golf Links.

The major tournaments for 2009 are behind us, but it’s not too early to think about the great drama that awaits next year. For any golfer or golf fan, a visit to Pebble Beach is on the “must” list. I’ve been to the course a couple of times, stopping in the pro shop and ambling around the grounds on a few brief visits. I also attended the AT&T Pro Am there for the third round of the tournament  in 1997, and it was a memorable day.

Pebble’s ocean-side setting is even more dramatic in person than it is on those sweeping panoramas shown on television. If you can arrange a trip for the ’10 Open running from June 14-20, book it. But even if you can’t make the tournament, a trip to Pebble on the spectacular Monterey Peninsula at any time is advised and encouraged.

Cooperstown Ball Cap’s awesome collection

1910 Alameda ball capAs one might expect of someone who blogs about baseball caps, I spend a little bit of time every now and then scouting the Internet for information on the subject. In a serendipitous search last night, I wound up on ballcap.com, which is the site for the Cooperstown Ball Cap Co. The company is in Cherry Valley, N.Y., not far from Cooperstown and the Baseball Hall of Fame.

The firm makes authentic replicas of old-time ballcaps. I was familiar with their major league and Federal League caps, having ogled them in many a catalog and Web site. But I had no idea of the depth of caps the company recreates. There are caps from Negro Leagues teams, railroad teams, military schools, Native American tribes, even night clubs!

The caps come in a variety of styles, including those 19th Century ones with the band-like crowns and short brims. With only a few photograph exceptions, the Cooperstown site offers only artist renderings of its caps, such as the 1910 model above from the Alameda, Calif., professional team. Having lived on that wonderful San Francisco Bay island town for several years, I’ve put that cap on my wish list along with a few others. (Hint to any relatives with $48 to spend – the 1920 Cleveland Indians cap looks mighty fine.)

A baseball fan could spend a lot of time — and probably money — on the site. I recommend it.

The Amgen Tour of California returns

I am spoked stoked! The Amgen Tour of California bicycle race has returned to the Golden State, with Lance Armstrong mounting his comeback in fine style today in Sacramento.

I first encountered the Tour of California one year ago, when one of the stages started here in Modesto. It was a thrill to watch the racers take off on a 100-mile-plus ride to San Jose over Mt. Hamilton. The 2009 tour started today with a prologue of time trials in the capitol city. For the next week or so, Armstrong, Levi Leipheimer, Floyd Landis and several dozen other of the best cyclists in the world will be wheeling through California. It’s a privilege to have them here (and I’m very happy to report having scored an Amgen cap to complement the cow bell I picked up last year).

Juxtaposition: New Jersey and Yosemite National Park

What possessed me to take my “Weird N.J.” cap to Yosemite National Park? I guess my subconscious mind was trying to make a statement about the breadth of the American natural experience. Whatever the motivation, I wore the cap yesterday on an absolutely gorgeous fall day. This was my third trip to Yosemite, and the weather finally was clear. That made for some great photos. I shot this one of my cap on a snag in the Mariposa Grove of giant sequoia trees near the south entrance to the park.

The cap is a souvenir of my New Jersey days, from a story I did on the two Jersey guys who publish the “Weird N.J.” magazine and Web site. They had just come out with a book by the same name, and they’ve since branched out into writing about all things weird across the United States.

The “Weird” book on New Jersey playfully reports on all the wacky sites in the Garden State, which once you get away from the refineries hard by Newark airport turns out to be a varied and charming place. I’ve visited 46 of the 50 states, and New Jersey must be the most unfairly lambasted of them all.

Yosemite, on the other hand, is one of the most praised locations in the United States, if not the world. After a warm day there in the November sunshine, I can state unequivocally that the park’s reputation is in no way overrated.