Thursday, August 29, 2013

2 Out Hits Can Bring You Home: My First Trip To AT&T Park

In 1883 a professional baseball club joined the National League and played its home games in New York City. They called themselves the Gothams. That first season they finished 6th of 8 teams, 16 games back of the Boston Beaneaters. Two years later the name of the team changed to the Giants and a franchise was established.

My father grew up in New York City rooting for these New York Giants. In his lifetime he saw the Shot Heard Round The World, The Catch, and a World Series victory. But he also saw heartbreak. After the 1957 season the Giants moved across the country and set up home in San Francisco.  His heroes, especially Willie Mays, moved so far away.

It didn't deter him though. He continued to cheer for the Giants. After the Mets came to be in 1962 he would go watch them play whenever they came back to New York. He loved his team. My Parents moved to Chicago for good in the mid 1970's. This just meant the visiting ballpark changed. He would still wear his Giants hat to games and cheer. It's also my original hometown.

Which brings me to Saturday August 24, 2013. For the first time in my life I was attending a Giants home game. Something that always seemed a far off possibility was now coming true. Obviously my entire life I have cheered for the Giants. When they won it all in 2010 I was on the phone with my dad crying and cheering at the same time. After last year's championship I yelled loudly with great joy. I love the Giants.

At the beginning of August I covered my first Giants game from the Trop down here in Florida. So in anticipation of this game I requested another one. The following day I was going as a fan with my family. I figured covering this game would give me a unique experience for a lifelong fan attending his first ever home game. 

The main rule in the press box is no cheering. So, for obvious reasons, I couldn't visibly react when our boys did well. I had forced myself in to a situation where I couldn't even applaud the outstanding achievements. I didn't mind at all. The next 14 hours of my life were some of the most exciting and thrilling ever in my 34 years.

I arrived at the Giants offices around 2:25 for a 6:05 game. I signed my name and was handed my pass. I officially had my golden ticket to AT&T Park. The ballpark that is the crown jewel of baseball was finally steps away for the first time. I headed in and let the day begin.

You walk through the underbelly of the stadium before getting on the elevator to the press box. This meant that the first view I would ever have from the inside would be from right there. I walked towards the field and just stopped and scanned. I'm pretty sure a "whoa" slipped out. It was magnificent.

I noticed Ally Williams, you may know her better as @itsallyduhh, was sitting there on her laptop. I went up and introduced myself and unpacked my stuff. I was in the front row of the box almost dead center behind home plate. I walked around, got the pre game notes and sat down to start tweeting and setting up my pregame story. A little before 3:30 we headed down to the field for BP and Bruce Bochy's presser in the dugout.

There I am standing in the Giants home dugout, holding out my recorder like everyone else to hear what he has to say. The usual assortment is there. Hank Schulman, Andrew Baggarly, Carl Steward, John Shea to name a few. There is a CSN cameraman straight on from Bochy as Amy G sits next to him with the microphone the get the sound bytes. And the reporters ask questions for about 10 minutes and that's it.

The Giants were taking batting practice and I stood and watched for a little bit. I mingled, but not a whole lot. I took a ton of pictures. This is the first time I am ever at the home ballpark of the team that I love, and I'm on the field. How does that even happen? There's no way that I could have dreamed this as the 8 year old that cried himself to sleep when the Giants lost the 1987 NLCS.

I just stood there and soaked it all up. The guys that made me so happy as a fan were right there just going to work. The view of the ballpark from down there is just spectacular. I allowed myself to enjoy if for a while. The man on the outside looked calm cool and collected. The little kid on the inside was screaming "Can you believe you're standing here? None of this is real! Wake up!".

I was able to pry myself away from that and I went back to the press box to write my pregamer for Around The Foghorn. I got to use stuff I heard Bochy say 30 minutes earlier. It was the most fun I ever had writing a pregame story. 

There's this window of time when covering a game between BP and the actual game itself. You get time to go eat, write, run to the supermarket, whatever you want. So I decided to walk around and meet up with friends I have made through writing and social media.

My editor at AtF, Melissa, and I hung out first. We just sat there a few rows behind the plate and chatted. I finally walked around the park a little when we went and met up with her husband Alex. It was really the only time I paid attention to the concourse area. I felt so at home walking amongst fans dressed in the orange and black that I love.

I made my way up to the View Level to meet up with my pal Jamie. Everyone I was getting to meet had only been Twitter handles and pictures. Finally the people that I so enjoyed watching games with I finally got to see in person. It also gave me a chance to really see the cove and bay out beyond the walls of the park. It was a postcard.

First pitch was coming so I headed back down for the game. I got back to the press box just as Hot Buttered Rum was singing the National Anthem. It was then that I finally met the guys from the Torture Cast podcast. Ben Lee had gotten a seat by Ally, but Chad King and Willie Dills ended up on the other side of the box. I went over and said hi for a few minutes. We made plans for after the game and I took my seat for the first pitch. 

My love of Tim Lincecum as a pitcher has been well documented in this space before. For the second time in as many games, I got to see him take the ball for the Giants. I always felt that he was the key piece that led to the Giants run of success. He single handedly changed the culture from long bombs off the bat of Barry Bonds, to strikeouts, flyballs, and low scoring games. My dad used to love to point out to me how well the Giants pitchers all learned to pitch to the strengths of AT&T after that. 

Any thoughts or hopes that I would see another Lincecum no hitter were pushed aside after Jose Tabata battled through 10 pitches to lead off the game with a single. As much as I would have loved to see how deep he could go before giving up a hit, it was nice to know I wouldn't be holding my breath and trying not to cheer come the later innings. Timmy struck the next guy out then got McCutchen to hit into a double play.

Then something magical happened. Out of nowhere the Giants exploded for 4 runs in the first inning. All nine guys came to the plate. They didn't hit the ball all over the yard, but for a team that can't score sometimes, it was a tsunami. I breathed a sigh of relief knowing that it was the Giants that would be the team in control of this game. 

After an inning and a half I had witnessed four strikeouts, two looking which is not usual for Timmy, a double play ball and all the Giants swing a bat. Am I going to wake up soon? Are things like this supposed to happen? It was sitting there through a dream.

During the third inning I headed down to the @Cafe in left field of the park. Once again I met up with everyone from earlier, Aura included, and we hung out and watched the game together. It was a chance to talk a little bit and not just say hi and goodbye. We sat right by the control room of the social media experience at AT&T Park. Which is fitting if you think about it. A lot of the joy of this experience was finally meeting the faces behind my social media Giants family.

Back in the press box during the 4th inning I got back in to the flow of the game and watched the drama unfold. Things got interesting at times. In the top of the 6th inning Lincecum pitched in to a jam. After a walk and a double he was done for the night. Timmy struck out 8 Pirates and the crowd showed its approval by giving him a standing ovation as he walked to the dugout. I got chills.

The bullpen gave up two runs on the next 3 pitches and the lead was cut to 5-3. It was a ballgame again. Then a wonderful thing happened. After the Pirates scored those 2 runs, Pablo Sandoval made sue they knew the Giants still had this game. With Hunter Pence on 3rd base and 2 outs Sandoval knocked a single to drive him home and extend the lead to 6-3. The Giants were scoring runs with 2 out hits. 

Things got dicey again in the 7th and the other key moments of the game happened. After Marco Scutaro muffed what could have been an inning ending double play, the Pirates best hitters were coming to the plate. Sandy Rosario got the dangerous McCutchen to fly out the RF for out number two.  Bochy went to Javier Lopez to face the tough hitting Pedro Alvarez with 2 outs and runners on the corners.

My favorite stat all season has been how many inherited runners Javi has left stranded. Entering this appearance he had inherited the second most runners in the NL (48) and allowed just 10.4% of them to score. That's the lowest percentage in the league. He just gets it done. Against a guy that had homered the only other time they faced each other, Lopez struck Alvarez out on 4 pitches. The crowd roared, and the Giants got off the field with the lead. Javi does, what Javi does.

The bottom of the 8th ended with a 6-3 Giants lead. Then one of the most amazing things I have ever seen took place. El Mechon started over the loud speakers as Sergio Romo walked from the bullpen mound to the center of the diamond. The place erupted. Everyone started dancing in their own crazy way and just soaking up the festive music. Smiles were on faces everywhere as people laughed, sang, and serenaded the bearded closer. It was a party and everyone was invited. 

He returned the love that the hometown fans showered upon him by closing the door on the Pirates in the 9th. He allowed a 2 out double that was meaningless and then that was it. The Giants were victorious for my first ever game in San Francisco by a score of 6-3 over the Pirates. I met up with the guys from the Torture Cast and we all headed down for Bochy's postgame presser. 

I sat in the back, turned my recorder on when he entered and just listened. Then, with the final question of the night, Amy G helped put a cherry on top of this whole experience. She asked Bruce Bochy the following question.

"Bruce, I know that things went right for you guys tonight, but we saw the return of the 2 out hit that you guys had been missing. That was off the bat of Pablo. So how nice was it to see that 2 out hit, and to see Pablo get it?"

Bruce Bochy responds to the final question of the night.

"Ya, I thought that was a really important at bat. You know it gave us a little bigger cushion there. Game's within 2 runs at that point. Of course, we get a 2 out hit with a man on third base and it helps settle the guys down a little bit."

I turn and look to my left and all I see is smiles on the faces of the Torture Cast guys and Ally.  We were in utter shock. It was all we could talk about walking up the stairs back to the press box. I couldn't believe she asked him that question and that he answered it, both using the phrase "2 out hit". This night couldn't get any better.

I wrote my game recap back in the press box and then made the walk on over to Zeke's to hang out with the Torture Cast guys and record a podcast. It was there that I also got to meet yet another Twitter friend Erin. We sat at the bar and talked for a bit. Jamie joined us as well and everyone was just as awesome as I had imagined. 

I sat down to hang out and record the Torture Cast bonusode with the guys. We were also joined Ally Williams and Jen Cosgriff. I hadn't met Jen yet, but by the end of the night we became TFF's (Twitter Friends Forever). That and many fun times came from the next hour of recording the podcast. It was a fantastic time and I recommend you listen to it if you like to laugh. We had a great time, hope those that listen do too.

Go check it out at this link. There is background noise, so headphones seem to work best to hear us clearly.

We sat around and just continued talking and hanging out. I mean, who wants a night like this to end? The crowd thinned out and a few of us closed down Zeke's. I had a great time hanging out with those guys. All of them were smart and passionate about the Giants. I was amongst friends that cheered for the same team as me for the first time in my entire life. They had the same memories, and thoughts on favorite players growing up. We all had are where were you moments. 

I don't get to do that. All my friends have been fans of another team. The night couldn't have ended any other way. Just talking Giants baseball for hours and hours with good people would have made the entire trip to the game memorable. Everything else that happened was really just gravy.

The long walk to the hotel and a few beers later it was time to finally put this puppy to bed. Chad and I hung out for a bit and then the sun was threatening to come up. I had an afternoon game to attend the next day. That story is for another time.

That Saturday did so many things for me. The reason we came to San Francisco was to lay my father to rest. He passed away before the 2012 season and last weekend was when we got together to honor him. None of this love for the Giants, the ambition to write, or the things I want to pursue would have happened without him.

The Giants did everything in their power to make the night special for me. The man that turned the franchise around, Tim Lincecum, pitched to a crowd that loved him. The Giants scored 4 runs in the 1st inning and it felt like a victory lap for the last 34 years. There were standing ovations and a crowd that was in to the game. It didn't matter that the Giants had struggled this season. All that mattered was how they played that night. And it felt like they played that was just for me and my dad.

I've never been a person to think that any dream can come true. But there's just some nights that you can't argue with the facts. August 24, 2013 will always be one of those nights. Thanks Dad.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter

Friday, August 16, 2013

Congrats To The Original "My Guy"

Ryne Sandberg was named manager of the Philadelphia Phillies today. I couldn't be happier. I may have grown up a Giants fan, but I did grow up in the Chicago area.

It was hard for me not to follow the Cubs. I grew up going to Wrigley. I rooted for them every chance I got. They were the hometown team, and more importantly in the National League. 

I'm not a huge fan of the American League and the DH, but that's for another time. I actually think the DH is coming for all of baseball and there isn't anything we can do about it. But like I said, another time.

This is about Ryno. 

When I was 7 years old I was the youngest player on my team of 7 and 8 year olds. I had a good first year in T-Ball the season before, I was an All Star, but these boys were bigger.

So I got put at second base. My arm was not as strong as the older boys, but I could field the ball. So I guess they figured that was the best place to put me.

So naturally since I watched a lot of Cubs games, what with afternoon baseball and WGN, I fell in love with Sandberg. He was the guy I saw playing my position every day. 

His was the first batting stance I ever tried to copy. It was so quiet the way he stood in the box. I tried to emulate Sandberg every chance I got. The problem was I couldn't hit the ball. I only had 3 hits the whole 1986 season.

The next year I improved a whole lot and was an all star again. I played all over the field. The Giants went to the NLCS and Robby Thompson became my guy.

But Ryne Sandberg was there first. He was the first ball player I ever looked up to as a kid. I was so proud back in 2005 when he entered the Baseball Hall of Fame. I still regret not making the journey.

Now I'll admit, it will be a little strange seeing him with the "P" on his hat as he guides the hapless Phillies. I figure it's how Yankees fans must feel when the see Don Mattingly in Dodger blue.

I know he started out in the Phiilies' organization as a 3rd baseman. I have the baseball card stashed somewhere. But Ryne Sandberg will always and forever be a Cub in my 6 year old eyes.

I'm glad he's getting the chance to manage. He set his mind to doing it, and now it's here. Much like his career on the diamond. 

I won't be rooting for the Phillies, but I'll sure pull a little extra hard for number 23.

Eric Nathanson
Catch me on twitter @2outhits

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A Change In Plans


As many of you have read here before I will be going to San Francisco for my first time ever on August 23rd.  My family is making the trip to honor my father who passed last year. 

I had planned on doing a meet up before the August 24th Giants game against the Pirates.

But there's been a change in plans. Unfortunately I won't be able to meet up before the game. You see, I'll probably already be inside AT&T Park. 

Once again I will be attending a Giants game as a memeber of the media.

This gives me the chance to cover the Giants for a day. Then I can come as fan the next day and enjoy the park, and the afternoon, with my family. 

Of course, if you are at Sunday's game and want to say hi, just let me know.

So I will be covering the first ever Giants home game I attend from the press box on Saturday August 24th.

But alas, that does not mean I don't want to meet up. I surely do, and we will.

I figure I will station myself somewhere in the park for an inning or two during the game so some of us can get together and meet. I'll tweet out the details as we get closer and also on that day. There are so many of you I can't wait to see.

As far as after the game, I would love to hang out somewhere nearby and enjoy a Saturday night after Giants baseball.

I'll figure out where, when I'm in town. Again, I will tweet the details that day as well.

I look forward to covering the Giants that day from the press box, and am excited to see many of you that weekend.

In other news, that weekend will probably be the last you see of the Giants on this blog for a while. You see, I have joined on as a staff writer at Around The Foghorn. So I hope you'll come on over there and check us out.

I plan on putting all of my Giants writing efforts into stuff over there. That doesn't mean I am closing shop, far from it. It just means that now I have 2 Out Hits to write about other things and expand over many topics.

So thank you all that have come here for Giants baseball, don't go away just yet, a lot more is coming next weekend.

Eric Nathanson
Catch me on Twitter @2outhits

Sunday, August 4, 2013

My Cup Of Coffee

On Saturday August 3rd I was fortunate enough to receive the media credential pictured above. I wasn't just a guy going to the game anymore. Suddenly I was the writer covering the game,

I'm not going to lie. I am amazed that I got this chance. I did everything in my power to not be an idiot. I think I succeeded.

So what's it like to be in the press box during a game? It looks like a pressure packed situation, I know. But it really isn't. 

Social media is the biggest difference now. The writers all tweet out the lineup pregame. It's almost a contest to see who gets it out first.

I avoided it. I mean, I had barely gotten there when the lineups came out. Why repeat what you alll saw already? 

After I collected all the stat sheets that are laid out for the media, I finally settled in. My computer was plugged in and my iphone was fully charged.

There are certain spots on the tables for visiting media. It's basically 3 long counters. I sat at the 3rd one. The top. I mean, who am I to get front a row seat? So i took the top. There was a family with 2 girls ages 12 & 8 sitting next to me pre game. The 8 year old thought it was funny that we both were in the press box for the first time. Who knows? She may be there again before me. But I digress.

So a little after BP starts is the dugout chat with Joe Maddon. The Rays are the home team and take BP first. I took the elevator down, walked through a tunnel, and emerged on the field. I just stood there  for a moment and soaked it all up. The last time I was on a Major League field was a picture day at Wrigley when I was a kid.

I spent Maddon's pre game talk outside the dugout. I didn't hear much of what he said at all. But at that moment I thought it was cool to listen to a big league manager.

Shortly after Joe Maddon talked to us the Rays were done hitting, That's when I had to hold the line between fangirl and journalist. The Giants players streamed out of the clubhouse right past me. I had to keep it together. 

I was in the dugout for Bochy's pregame media gathering. I learned a little bit. Everyone on the active roster is healthy according to Bochy. He told us the staff has not considered September call ups yet.

Don't be shocked if Gary Brown gets called up in September.

Hunter Pence put on a show in BP. The Rays fans ooohed and aaahed his deep bombs. He even hit the digital ad board above the LF bleachers. Was a good 450 feet away.

As I stood in the Giants dugout for BP I was able to talk to some different guys. The first man on the Giants staff that I talked with was Tim Flannery.

He was awesome. We stood there and talked about music for 10 minutes or so. It was the perfect way for me to feel comfortable. I was so worried about talking to any of the guys, and it took a short conversation about music to put me at ease. 

After a while I found myself standing there all alone with Brian Sabean. I shared with him the story of how I once was a server at a restaurant and had served his In-laws. We talked about that and then moved on to other things. I'll be honest, we talked about some personal things. It was 5 minutes of my life I will never forget.

There was nothing down on the field that would top that for me. So I decided to wander around the park and check some things out.

It was a good crowd at Tropicana Field last night. They gave away "Joe Gnomes". I was fortunate enough to get one. It's a neat little thing and will sit on my desk forever. There were many Giants fans at the park as well. I saw a whole lot of orange and black as I made my way through the concourse.

It was almost game time so I grabbed a quick bite to eat with Alex Pavlovic of the Mercury News in the press dining room. It was a burger, nothing fancy. I was just glad I remembered to eat. It wouldn't have been such a good thing had I passed out in the press box.

After all the prep work, watching BP, and standing there for Bochy's pregame chat with reporters, it was finally time for baseball. 

David Price vs. Tim Lincecum was the match up. I got lucky. 

As the game got going a gentleman to my left began to engage me in conversation. His name is Russ White and he has covered baseball for 50 years. We sat there and talked for much of the game. He told me stories of Ted Williams and Mickey Mantle. It was special. 

Russ told me he hadn't been to the Trop in about 9 years. He is retired and living in the area. The picture is of his lifetime pass to any MLB park. As he got ready to leave in about the 7th inning, he wasn't feeling well, Russ shared something nice with me. He told me that he had two thrills that night. He got to meet Kruk and Kuip and they signed a ball for him. The other, he said, was meeting me and talking baseball for a couple of hours. That was very touching. The feeling is more than mutual.

It was an exciting game down on the field. Lincecum and Price both pitched well. The Giants managed to scratch a run across in the top of the 3rd. In the bottom half of the inning Lincecum walked Molina to lead off and he came around to score.

And that was it. It stayed 1-1 for a while. The bottom of the 9th was quite entertaining. Bruce Bochy and Joe Maddon staged a chess match of players that was worthy of October baseball. But this proved to be the undoing for the Giants in the 10th.

Jean Machi could not find the strike zone in the bottom half of the 10th. He walked the leadoff batter, and well you know the rest. If not, go look it up here. That was not my favorite part of the night. The Giants lost 2-1 on a Wil Myers single to left with the bases loaded.

The Giants lost, but I'm going to be honest with you. It did not matter to me. I mean I would have loved to see a victory, but the day was so much more than that for me. 

I didn't have clubhouse access, so after the game when the writers made their way down for quotes, I was pretty much done for the night.

My long, strange trip through Tropicana Field was coming to a close. I snapped a few pictures, packed up my stuff and headed out. One of the greatest nights of my life had finally come to an end.

What an amazing experience that was. It was one of the greatest days I have ever had in my entire life. I'm just a guy with a blog, noting more. I give both the San Francisco Giants and the Tampa Bay Rays a lot of credit for the chance. Thank you to both of those organizations.

I was active on Twitter all night from the park. I really felt like alot of you were with me at the Trop. It would have never come to be without you. I hope you all enjoyed my night as much as I did. It was something I will never forget. I love you guys. Thank you.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on Twitter

Friday, August 2, 2013

I'm Going To The Show

Tomorrow night I am doing something I never could have dreamed possible. I will be covering the San Francisco Giants at Tampa Bay Rays game as a member of the media.

I've been writing this blog for almost a year now. It started back in October of last year.
When I first started writing it was a healing tool. As I have mentioned before my father passed right before the start of the 2012 season. 

Baseball, and especially the Giants, was always our connection. So writing about that 2012 team helped me heal. You can find more about this here and here. But it has turned in to so much more than that for me.

So how did I get here? How on Earth did I manage to get a pass to cover a game at Tropicana Field? Well, I live in Tampa, and social media of course. You. People like you that are reading this helped me. 

A little over a week ago as we were watching the Reds beat the Giants for the final time I decided to give it a shot. So I sent out this tweet...

I really didn't think anything would come of it. I really, truly didn't. But then a few tweets came out and Twitter started to work its magic. There were a couple like this...

Although to be fair, I'm pretty sure not everyone thinks I am that good. Anyway thanks Jamie, those were kind words. And then wouldn't you know it, a DBacks fan even helped me out...

That was a nice feeling. Thanks Heather I appreciate it. 

So I went to bed after that game and hadn't heard anything. It was late here on the East coast after the Giants game ended so I crashed. The next morning I woke up to this glorious tweet from Bryan Srabian, the social media director for the San Francisco Giants.

A week later, and after a few emails, I was told that they could help me out. I didn't know which game I was gonna get to see, it didn't matter.

Then yesterday afternoon I received an email from the media relations manager for the Giants. He told me that he talked to his counterpart with the Rays and that they would grant me a credential for Saturday August 3rd.

And just like that, I have been given a chance. It's all because of readers like you, my Giants family on Twitter, and the great people over at reddit. Thank you.

One day I do hope to be able to write about baseball full time. I would love it if there is a day where going to the park to cover a game is just a normal part of life for me. But I'm not there yet.

I'm still a fan, just like you. Of course I will be live tweeting from the game. You can follow me here. If I see or hear something that I find interesting I will share. The experience of doing this for the first time should be amazing. I don't want to lose that sense of wonder I will have when I walk through those doors tomorrow. So I'm gonna try to soak it up. 

I'm just a guy, that's getting a great chance thanks to the San Francisco Giants organization. I hope I don't embarrass myself. 

Tune in tomorrow. It's Lincecum vs. Price. I couldn't have asked for a better match up for my first time covering a game. Hope you enjoy the ride as much as I do.

Special shout out to the guys over at the Torture Cast podcast. Go check them out. Without the work that they do I don't think I ever would have had the courage to try to cover a game. You guys really helped inspire this, thanks.

Eric Nathanson
@2outhits on twitter