Podcast: Ahead of Their Time

I’m a baseball nerd. Ever since I was a kid, I was enamored with the history, statistics and strategies of the game. I know not everybody is as interested in that in-depth stuff as much as I am, but odds are, if you come to this page, you have more than just a passing interest in baseball.

Well, this is an episode of a podcast put out by FiveThirtyEight called “Ahead of Their Time” where the host talks about a singular topic and the impact it ended up having on the game. This one tells us the origins of the defensive shift as first popularized by then Cleveland Indians player-manager, Lou Boudreau as a way to stop Ted Williams from just killing them with the bat and how other teams picked up on it before it fell out of the game.

Eventually, the Tampa Bay Rays brought it back in the mid-2000s and it became the wonderful ruiner of baseball that people hate and/or love depending on how your team manages it, but the story of and about it was absolutely fascinating to me and I think you’ll enjoy it as well. Give it a listen.

It’s a pain in the ass to find a direct link because godforbid ESPN make it easy on you, but here’s the FiveThirtyEight¬†podcast page¬†where you can stream it; titled “Why Baseball Revived a 60-year-old Strategy Designed To Stop Ted Williams”.

Ballpark Experience: Cleveland’s Progressive Field

Sorry I’ve been quiet for the past week. Between traveling and work and basic adulting, I haven’t had much time to come here and give you my expert analysis of a sudden offensive juggernaut of a baseball team.

One of my favorite things about baseball is the ballparks. Each stadium has its own quirks and personality that make it distinctly different than the other parks around the league. Whereas an arena housing basketball or hockey or even a football stadium are pretty much interchangable, baseball stadiums stand out for their idiosyncrasies and can become – to people like me – tourist attractions.

Each year, I try to get to a few new stadiums. Usually, it’s just a day trip so as to not burn vacation time from work, but in cities where I have friends or there’s other things I’d like to do, I can and have made it a couple of days. I don’t always pick my visits just to see the Mets, but I will admit that I do make more of an effort to see them just because it gives me more reason to be invested in the game.

That being said, a weekend series in Cleveland against the Indians immediately caught my attention when the schedule was released. How often do the Mets play in fucking Cleveland? It seemed like a mighty good excuse to knock Progressive Field off my list.

A few weeks ago, I grabbed a great seat off StubHub. Three rows off the field on the Mets side, just a couple of sections down the right-field line. I paid $47 once taxes and fees and all that bullshit were included. That’s pretty good value.

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Gates only open one hour before first pitch except for the Right Field Gate which opens two hours early. It gives you the opportunity to catch what’s left of batting practice, but most of the ballpark is still closed off to foot traffic and you’re pretty limited to just the Right Field bleachers and food court area behind.

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I was one of the first people in the building and was able to grab a spot against the rail and saw basically all of Mets’ warmups. The fun part about this is meeting all of the other Mets fans who made the trip as everybody was more than happy to share their story of where they traveled from, where in NY they or their family was originally from and how they still keep in tune to the team while living in another market. Obviously, I was too happy to join in these reindeer games as living in Tampa, FL makes me ready-made for these types of conversations.

Now besides the game, the best part is exploring the culinary offerings provided by each park. I contacted the one person I know in Cleveland, Impact Wrestling Knockout, Marti Bell. She is actually a pretty frequent attendee at Progressive Field, but alas, would not be here this night because she was actually in Tampa to work for Shine Wrestling that night. Irony at its finest. But she did tell me that I had to eat at a spot called Melt and that I would thank her for it.

As batting practice wound down, I headed behind the seats in RF to what is apparently a newly-designed food court and found the Melt stand. After perusing the menu for a minute, I went with a BBQ Pulled Pork Grilled Cheese and a beer.

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I very rarely say nice things about Marti in public, but this was the best advice she has ever given me. This was goddamn delicious and, there was almost zero spillage from the bread which is a big deal when having a sandwich. In the words of Jeff Spicoli, “awesome, totally awesome.”

OK, so back to the stadium. Progressive Field has the look of being smaller than almost any other stadium I’ve been to. The outfield doesn’t seem very spacious, but the building has a nice, homely feel where the seats seem to hover over the field allowing for a lot of good views throughout various sections.

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I found the Indians fans to be very friendly. I kind of expected that as there’s no rivalry between the teams, but I was able to be engaged in night-long conversation as basically anybody within three rows all jumped in to talk about our run to the Series last year and – especially – the Indians teams of the 90s when they were just a powerhouse.

From what I’ve read online, they’ve done some serious upgrades to concessions since last year and the offerings and beer selections were pretty good. Bathrooms were relatively clean and walking areas were spacious and unconstrictive.

While Progressive Field isn’t one of the better parks I’ve been to, it definitely made for a fun night at a ballgame with reasonable prices on tickets and concessions. The biggest drawbacks are the views and setting (San Francisco is just on another level than everybody else when it comes to that) and the fact that, as an excursion destination, there just is many attractive tourist spots to hit in Cleveland. I did consider going to the Rock ‘N Roll Hall of Fame before my flight the next day, but decided I can see much of the same memorabilia at the various Hard Rock Cafes around the country and ended up going to see a movie to kill time instead.

I give Progressive Field a 5/10. It lacks in aesthetics and has an almost “small-time” vibe to it, but does provide good value for your dollar and features a race between a hot dog with ketchup, a hot dog with mustard and a hot dog with onions that is exactly as creepy as it sounds. I’d recommend it, but it’s not one of the stadiums you have to put on a bucket list.

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Seriously…creepy AF.

 

Contact: @MaximusSexPower or elshoeshatemail@msn.com