Who is Clayton Kershaw?

“The day after Clayton starts a game, long before the gates open and fans enter the stadium, he’s already at work preparing for the next start. The fact that he’s out there, ready to go the day, after isn’t unique–most starting pitchers have a routine between starts. Weight lifting, conditioning and a throwing schedule are the norm. In fact, because most starters strictly follow this routine, they are considered stubborn, detailed and even superstitious. The ones who take it to the extreme are called crazy. Clayton is down-right insane.” (A.J. Ellis in Arise: Live Out Your Faith and Dreams on Whatever Field You Find Yourself)

Clayton Kershaw is one of the baseball’s greatest stars. His career earned run average (ERA) is the lowest among starters in the live-ball era with a minimum of 1,000 innings pitched. He is also a three-time Cy Young Award winner and the 2014 National League Most Valuable Player. He became the first pitcher in history to lead MLB in ERA for four consecutive years when he did so in the 2011 through 2014 seasons. Back in 2013 he was was the fastest Dodger to 1000 strikeouts, while earlier this season he became the second-youngest active player to reach 100 wins at 27 years, 57 days old. Just days ago, Kershaw became only the third Dodgers pitcher to make five consecutive All-Star games – the others were Sandy Koufax and Fernando Valenzuela. Even in a downseason when compared only to his phenomenal track record, Clayton Kershaw is still undisputedly regarded as one of baseball’s elite hurlers.

Clayton Kershaw. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Clayton Kershaw. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

Clayton Edward Kershaw was born on March 19, 1988, in Dallas, Texas, and lived in nearby Highland Park. When Clayton and his best buddy, Matthew Stafford were 12, Matthew’s dad, John, coached them in baseball. Kershaw had pinpoint control and a filthy changeup. When Kershaw pitched and Stafford caught, they formed a potent combination.

Claytonk Kershaw and Matthew Stafford when they were kids.

Clayton Kershaw and Matthew Stafford when they were kids.

As a child, Clayton played team sports such as baseball and soccer at the Highland Park High School, which had one of the most successful sports programs in Texas – they won state titles in tennis, swimming and many other sports. Football was the top sport at the school, however. In 2003, Clayton played center on Highland Park’s freshman football team and Stafford was the quarterback. Kershaw and Stafford were teammates often and sometimes rivals in soccer, football, baseball and basketball. When they got bored of real sports, they made up their own games. At Kershaw’s house, they played hallway hockey, the rare game they played inside. It involved sawed-off hockey sticks, a roller hockey ball, pillows for their knees and chest, and a line of tape strung the width of the hall to mark off the goal. After freshman year, Clayton quit the football team, and Matthew stopped playing baseball after his sophomore season.

Kershaw as a young football player.

Clayton worked hard to become a better pitcher after he stopped playing football. He began lifting weights. “By the end of his junior year, you could tell he was special,” said Lew Kennedy, Kershaw’s varsity baseball coach. “People were taking notice by then. There were a lot of radar guns in the stands.” By his senior year, Clayton’s body was full of muscle and by his senior season he became the best player on the Highland Park baseball team. He also grew to six feet three inches tall. Outside of team practice, he trained with Skip Johnson, who was a baseball coach at nearby Navarro College at the time. He and Clayton practiced pitching together once a week for almost three months. “That was actually the first real pitching lesson I ever had,” Clayton said. Working with Coach Johnson paid off. Clayton’s pitches were faster than ever. In a game against Northwest High School in May 2006, he struck out all 15 batters he faced.

As a senior, Clayton had a perfect record of 13 wins and zero losses for Highland Park. He struck out 139 batters in 64 innings. His earned run average (ERA) was an incredible 0.77. In their story on Clayton, Baseball America called him “the top high school prospect” in the country, so he drew the attention of scouts from all around the country and many colleges offered him scholarships. However, in June 2006, MLB held its annual draft, where the Los Angeles Dodgers chose Clayton with the seventh overall pick. Kershaw was the first high school player chosen in that year’s draft.

The young pitcher had a tough decision to make. He could take one of the scholarships and go to college. Or he could start playing professional baseball right away. Clayton’s first college choice was Texas A&M University. His girlfriend, Ellen, was set to attend the school that fall. But Clayton couldn’t pass up the chance to get paid to play baseball. He decided not to go to college.

Clayton Kershaw 2006

Clayton Kershaw as a rookie.

In 2008, the Dodgers assigned Clayton to Jacksonville again. But he didn’t stay with the team for long. After pitching in 13 games for the Suns, the Dodgers called Clayton to the major leagues. Clayton’s first MLB game was on May 25, 2008 in Los Angeles against the St. Louis Cardinals. He allowed two runs in six innings, struck out seven batters and gave up only five hits. The Dodgers won the game, 4–3. Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt was impressed with Clayton. “He’s just a great kid, willing to learn,” Honeycutt said. “He’s the whole package.” Clayton pitched in 22 games for the Dodgers in 2008. But his 4.26 ERA for the season showed that he still had some learning to do.

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Clayton Kershaw and Los Angeles Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt.

In 2009, he pitched for Los Angeles all season. His 2.79 ERA was eighth best in MLB. He struck out 185 batters in 171 innings. The next season, Clayton had the league’s 12th best ERA at 2.91. After just two MLB seasons, Clayton had become one of the game’s best pitchers. During his first spring training with the club, legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully called his devastating curveball, “Public Enemy No. 1” and he quickly began drawing comparisons to another legendary Dodger lefty, Sandy Koufax.

In December 2010, Clayton and longtime-girlfriend Ellen got married. The two began planning a trip to Zambia in Africa. One month after their wedding, Ellen and Clayton travelled to Zambia, which really had a big effect on Clayton. It was there where he decided he wants to do something good for this world besides baseball. Clayton has also volunteered with Habitat for Humanity and two years later, the Kershaws built a home for children without parents in Zambia. It was his humanitarianism that won him the Roberto Clemente Award, which is a annual award that MLB gives to a player who helps others outside of baseball.

Clayton and Ellen with kids in Zambia.

Clayton and his wife Ellen with kids in Zambia.

The 2011 season was Clayton’s finest yet. He won 21 games and lost only five. His 2.28 ERA led all major-league pitchers. Clayton earned the 2011 Cy Young Award as the best pitcher in MLB’s National League (NL). In 2012, Clayton’s ERA of 2.53 was tops in MLB for the second year in a row.

Clayton as the 2011 Cy Young Award winner.

Clayton as the 2011 Cy Young Award winner.

In 2013, Clayton posted an incredible 1.83 ERA over 236 innings. He was awarded the Cy Young for the second time. The Dodgers finished the season in first place in their division by a whopping 11 games. But Los Angeles lost to the Cardinals in the playoffs.

In October 2014, the Dodgers finished in first place in the NL West. Clayton reached the top of his game, leading MLB in ERA and wins. On June 18, 2014, Kershaw threw a no-hitter and struck out 15 batters in one of the most dominant performances in baseball history. That game came in the midst of a stretch in which he threw 41 scoreless innings, the sixth longest in baseball’s expansion era.

Kershaw celebrating one of the most dominant performances in baseball history. (AP Photo/Chris Carlson)

“He’s the best pitcher on the planet right now,” Dodgers catcher A. J. Ellis said. “There’s nobody even close.” Kershaw was awarded the Cy Young for the third time in 2014, as well as named the National League Most Valuable Player. He extended his contract with the LA Dodgers organization in January 2014 – he will receive $215m over a seven-years span, which makes him the first MLB player with an average salary over $30 million. Kershaw’s contract is the richest deal for a pitcher in baseball history and his average annual salary of $30.7 million is the largest for any player. This year he will make about $909,000 for each start.

Clayton's 2014 season in numbers.

Clayton’s 2014 season in numbers.

Although the first two months of his 2015 season were less-than-stellar, his statistics improved later on and he still leads the major leagues with 160 strikeouts this season. Clayton Kershaw threw his first shutout of the year against the Phillies a week ago, his first of the year, striking out 13 and walking none.

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Catcher A. J. Ellis congratulates Kershaw after his first shutout of the 2015 season.

Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Clayton Kershaw has been one of Major League Baseball’s (MLB) best pitchers since he joined the league in 2008. Clayton’s powerful left arm brought him to the top of the baseball world. His hard work and dedication have helped keep him there. But it is his passion that has made him a star on and off the baseball field.

Adapted by Jon M. Fishman book (by Lerner Publishing Group, Inc., 2015)


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HAPPY 82nd BIRTHDAY, ALL-STAR GAME!

It’s just a little over a week to the All-Star Game that is going to take place at the Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati on July 14 and die-hard baseball fans are already finding out whether their favorite players made it to the team this year.

Are you ready for this year's All-Star Game?

Are you ready for this year’s All-Star Game?

But did you know that the All-Star game is celebrating 82nd Birthday today? Yes, it was exactly 82 years ago today that the first All Star game was played in Chicago’s Comiskey park, the home of the Chicago White Sox of the American League.

The All-Star Game was a brainchild of Arch Ward, a sports editor at the Chicago Tribune, and it coincided with the celebration of Chicago’s Century of progress exhibition. The event was also designed to bolster the sport and improve its reputation during the darkest years of the Great Depression.

Arch Ward, the father of The All-Star Game

Arch Ward, the father of the All-Star Game

The idea was to organize a one-time event, a “Game of the Century” where the best players of the American and National leagues would face each other. But the plan had two interesting twists – the fans would be able to vote on the lineup and all the proceeds from the game would be donated to a charity for retired players.

Before the game, the ballots were printed in 55 newspapers across the country and the fans cast several hundreds thousands of votes. Babe Ruth himself drew 100,000 votes. Players like Jimmy Foxx, Lou Gehrig, Al Simmons, Joe Cronin and Lefty Grove also made it to the team. Here are the American League and National League All-Star rosters from 1933:

American League Roster
Earl Averill
Ben Chapman
Joe Cronin
General Crowder
Bill Dickey
Jimmy Dykes
Rick Ferrell
Wes Ferrell
Jimmie Foxx
Lou Gehrig
Lefty Gomez
Lefty Grove
Oral Hildebrand
Tony Lazzeri
Babe Ruth
Al Simmons
Sam West
Manager – Connie Mac

1933 American League All-Star game roster .

1933 American League All-Star game roster

National League Roster
Dick Bartell
Wally Berger
Tony Cuccinello
Woody English
Frankie Frisch
Chick Hafey
Bill Hallahan
Gabby Hartnett
Carl Hubbell
Chuck Klein
Pepper Martin
Lefty O’Doul
Hal Schumacher
Bill Terry
Pie Traynor
Paul Waner
Lon Warneke
Jimmie Wilson
Manager– John McGraw

1933 National League All-Star Game roster.

Babe Ruth entered history by hitting the first All-Star Game homerun.

In the old days, the fans selected the starting lineups, and the managers picked the pitchers and reserves. Today rosters are bigger, a player vote decides a large chunk of who is selected and the managers fill out the rest, including the starting pitcher slot.

Today there are 34 players on each roster, that number has been in effect since 2010. 17 players – eight NL and nine AL players – are selected through the fan vote. As America’s Pastime is evolving, this was the first year  all-digital voting was introduced, but not everything went as planned and as many as 60 million votes had to be revoked.

Fans pick the starting lineups, including the DH, but not including the pitcher for the AL team. Both teams use DH regardless of what ballpark they’re playing in, so the NL manager selects a DH for the lineup from someone on his roster.

In addition to this, the players elect nine AL backup position players and eight NL backup position players. The rest of the players are selected by the managers and by the Essurance MLB All-Star Game Final Vote.

Back in 1933 over 47,000 fans packed into Comiskey Park to experience the “Game of the Century”. The game was actually such a success that instead of being a one-time event, “the midsummer classic” was held every year since except in 1945 when it was cancelled due to wartime travel restrictions. There were two All-Star Games played each season from 1959 through 1962. The second game was added to raise money for the MLB players’ pension funds, as well as other causes. The experiment was later abandoned on the grounds that having two games watered down the appeal of the event.

By this day the game has evolved into a five-days-long All-Star FanFest, with countless opportunities for fans to experience baseball and meet their idols.


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4 Ways Technology Is Changing Baseball

In this day and age it is impossible to imagine a life without smartphones. They follow us everywhere and enable us to track and measure just about any activity we can imagine.

Around 50 million people used mobile apps to track their fitness activity, some as stand-alone apps, but others connect to wearables that saw a 32 percent increase in sales in the last year. More than 77 percent of these wearables were health and fitness trackers and this can only mean that technology is changing the way we look and participate in sports. We are obviously very much interested in tracking ourselves during sports and in our everyday life. We are becoming a society obsessed with quantification.

quantified-self

The same technology that is affecting your everyday life is also persistently entering the field of professional sport. Pro sport is all about success and when you introduce technology to the equation, the story doesn’t change. You’re simply seeking a better way to win. Here are the 4 ways technology has influenced America’s favorite pastime – baseball.

Technology is changing how ball players practice.

The quickest way for players in any sport to improve is by watching themselves perform, and building on what’s right or wrong. Ubersense, Coach’s Eye, SKLZ Cam, Sports Camera Analysis or iAnalyze are all apps that enable the coaches and players do just that. With Hudl, coaches can also give their team full access to video analysis tools from any computer or mobile device.

Major League Baseball recently came up with the MLB.com Digital Academy, which is an interactive instructional platform that brings professional-level pitch and swing analysis, tips and resources to youth players, coaches, parents and leagues. Through this service one can compare his delivery or his swing to the best MLB players.

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Not only that, brain science researchers are also trying to enhance player performance by getting into the head of athletes. This was enabled by the advancement of technologies such as eye tracking technologyelectroencephalography (EEG) and functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI). It should be noted that vision training, while promising and still developing, is not new to the MLB. Many baseball players, such as Carlos Beltran and Hunter Pence, have been using vision training for years to help them improve their abilities to pick up pitches easier and make better contact with the ball.

DeCervo, a tech startup, is using a combination of neural mapping and pitch simulations to understand the quick decisions of major league batters. There are two possible applications for teams to use their technology, first as a form of scouting.  A team will be able to see which players are capable of quickly and accurately choosing the pitch type and pick the players who show the best ability to do this. Another application would be as a supplemental training tool.  If a team finds a player that displays the best ability to see a pitch, the teams can try to identify what that player is seeing and then try to replicate it with other players. The researchers at the Columbia University have even started a Kickstarter campaign, through which they want to provide public with the app for measuring ordinary people’s reaction time and decision making.

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Whether you’re a parent, Little Leaguer, or advanced player – you can learn tips and drills in a new fast-paced, easy to follow format of the app called Baseball Gameplan. Through this app you can identify your needs, follow the drills and watch your hitting, pitching, fielding, catching and overall game performance improve. In a similar manner, GOsports is the first mobile youth sports coaching curriculum & team communications tool.

If you are looking for an immediate feedback, you might want to use a solution like HitTrax – a baseball simulator that brings innovation to the baseball industry by measuring real-time data and displaying live results for immediate feedback. In a similar manner, SmartKage is an invisible technology that defines athletic performance by capturing up to 75 metrics for baseball and softball players. SmartKage measure player’s skills in pitching, hitting, throwing, catching, strength, running and agility. By determining player’s exact strengths and weaknesses, he can understand his potential, play smarter and compare his skills to other players on his team, facility, or across the nation.

When it comes to perfecting your baseball swing, Zepp Baseball technology or Diamond Kinetics might be the right startups for you since they are both developing hardware and software solutions to analyze the swings of baseball and softball players. You might also want to try the Axe Bat with an asymmetrically designed handle to give the player added benefits such as performance grip, more efficient power transfer and reduced risk of injury.

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People are also innovating the ways you meet the coach to help you improve your game. An online platform CoachUp is a service that connects connects more than 100,000 athletes with more than 13,000 private coaches for one-on-one and small group training to help those looking to develop skills and reach their goals.

And not only players, also coaches can benefit from technology. To give you an example – TeamSnap is the No. 1 online sports team management application for coaches, managers and organizers to save time organizing their teams and groups. GameChanger mobile app and website also provide scorekeeping, stats and team management for the coaching staff. So coaches can finally put their pencils down.

Sport Ngin is a powerful platform intended for managing the entire sports organization. Through the platform, one can access millions of photos, videos, comments, stats and live scores from one’s smartphone.

Umpires are also not excluded from the technology benefits. Umpire Live goes beyond the common umpire’s clicker by allowing the umpire to broadcast the data being entered. Baseball, softball and kickball umpires can use the app to enter balls, strikes, outs, base runners, keep score and manage a game clock. Players and spectators can use Umpire Live to see real time game information for as many as five games simultaneously. Umpire Live is great for fields where no scoreboard is available, or for budget constrained leagues wanting to reduce expenses. It is great for tournaments and is an excellent way for leagues to report game scores.

Technology is changing how ball games are being played

The most obvious way in which the technology is affecting how ball games are being played is the newcomer to the diamond arena – the somewhat controversial pitch clock or the pace-of-play rules, as MLB calls it. Pitchers in the upper levels of minor league baseball are subject to new rules in 2015 in an effort to speed up the pace of play. According to the “pitch clock rule” the pitchers must begin windup or begin motion within 20 seconds or an automatic ball will be called, per new minor-league rules at AAA-AA. MLB instead introduced a series of less radical changes in an effort to stymie the escalating length of games.

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On a strategic level, reports have been made that an unnamed MLB team recently purchased a Cray supercomputer with the intention of being able to analyze large volumes of information in a very short amount of time. Specifically, the supercomputer will allow the team to process information during a game quickly enough that they will be able to use the information to influence strategy during the same game.

New safety measures are also entering the game due to some serious head injuries. For the past few years, Major League Baseball has been studying whether pitchers should wear an elastomer-Kevlar Unequal Technologies liner in their caps as protection from batted balls or wooden shards from a shattered bat. Kevlar is a woven synthetic fiber that is renowned for its light weight and tensile strength. The material is commonly used in bullet-proof vests. New York Yankees’ Hector Noesi and Esmil Rogers along with four other pitchers in the MLB had used its Kevlar padding insert in their caps during this season. While pitchers are free to wear protective headgear of their choice, as long as it doesn’t give them a competitive advantage and it doesn’t interfere with the MLB licensing agreements, the Kevlar padding hasn’t been officially approved by the MLB yet.

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The days of paper scoresheets are over. Apps like iScore, Scorefinger, or PenScore help coaches, parents and fans keep track of the games. SingleScore is a fun and unique way to keep score at the ballpark. The SingleScore box and App replace the bulky gray scoreboxes with an easy to use App and gives you the ability to move around as you score. Not only that, game data can be shared with Event-Cast webcasts to give remote viewers updated game status as it happens.

Not only that – apps like Score More Baseball allow amateur, recreational, or youth baseball teams to apply the same “Moneyball” optimizations as the professionals. After just three games, there’s enough data for the app to start optimizing their lineup. With the same players and same number of hits, Score More Baseball creates the batting order that helps their team enjoy longer rallies, strand fewer runners, and ultimately, score more runs.

Technology is changing how ball players are being recruited.

Technology is also changing the way athletes are being recruited. Social networks for baseball recruiting and scouting BeRecruitedFieldLevel, RecruitU, ViewRecruit or ReelRecruits are such examples. A player can get discovered by coaches by simply creating an online athletic profile, where he can showcase his ability by adding stats, videos, and more.

online-recruiting-tech

On the other hand, coaches and scouts can use revolutionary mobile, cloud-based player assessment solutions such as SportsBoard, iProScout Baseball or iRecruit. Not only that, now general managers of professional sports organizations have the option and the ability to preselect the candidates for their roster based on brain science experimental research – this new scouting method even got a name, namely “neuroscouting”.

Technology is changing the fan experience.

To its credit, baseball has invested heavily in new technology to make the game available on a variety of platforms. MLB AtBat is the leading mobile sports app on both iPhone and Android, and MLB Advanced Media (MLBAM), baseball’s digital arm, is a world leader in the streaming of sports programming — not just its own programming but also programming for third-party clients like ESPN and the NCAA. The latest MLB.com Ballpark application sldo allows users to personalize their game experience.

One thing that has changed the fan experience in the last decades the most was probably the development of social media. This gives the fans the opportunity to look into the locker rooms of their favorite teams and see the human side of their idols. Some baseball teams have gotten very good at communicating with their fans through social media. Also advertising became very much digital – at the new Marlins stadium, for instance, every sign is digital, giving sponsors the opportunity to buy every ad in the place for a brief period and allowing concession stand specials to be promoted all over the park.

The teams have already made a big leap forward with the implementation of beacons in their stadiums to give fans personalized experience such as getting upgrades of their seats, special discounts or just knowing where they can buy a great burger. And if you want to imagine how the stadiums of the future will look like, read the article on how smart, digital stadiums are changing the way we watch sport or an article on the 14 possible stadium innovations for the future.

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Ever since the first televised MLB game in 1939 we’ve been used to watching our favorite team from the comfort of our own home and seeing every single detail and every statistic. Sportvision’s Baseball product suite provides the most influential and talked about data in the market. With technology like the ever popular PITCHf/x® system that illustrates the flight of the ball, and the Emmy-Award winning K-Zone™ system that makes the strike zone seem tangible, Sportvision continues to influence the way people view and analyze the game.

But this year MLB has started using Statcast to track new metrics, such as the speed of a player stealing a base, how hard a ball is hit, spin rate of a pitch and more. Though the novelty has not been well accepted by all fans, the analysts say it has the potential to change they view certain players.

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There are also apps like Trade Rumors that provide fans with the latest rumors in baseball among other sports and with GameChanger live stats and play-by-play streaming parents and fans will never miss another game.

A novelty you might find surprising is that just recently, Twitter started selling sports tickets in tweets, starting with NBA but probably also expanding to MLB later on. Two live-streaming apps, Meerkat and Periscope, could also change the way we watch sports, although the NBA, NFL, and MLB currently have policies that restrict both reporters and fans from live-streaming game action.

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Scoutee merges technology with tradition

We’re all excited about the future integrations of sports and technology. Scoutee will add to these developments by introducing a solution that will transform the way ball players train and get noticed.

Technology can be of great help to the athletes. However, one thing is sure – the athletes will still have to do their magic no matter how good technology might get. That is until we stay out of the cyborg age.


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11 tips to make the most of Opening Day

A long wait is finally over! Baseball fans rejoice as the Opening day is here! We know that the whole experience of watching your favorite team play again will be enough to make your day, if not your week. But still, we want you to make the most of this first day of the season. This is why we have prepared some tips how to enjoy the games in best way possible. Please note that they also apply to any other day of the season.

1. Do you need a day off from work? Brewers made sure you won’t have any problems with your boss. Gentlemen, here’s a note to your boss:

Ladies, this one’s for you:

2. If you’re staying home, you have to make sure you know when your favorite team is playing.Here is a link to the OFFICIAL SCHEDULE of all the games.

3. Make sure your better half knows today is Opening day and that this is Opening week and that it is better not to plan anything in these days, because you won’t be able to attend.

Did you just forget about that 10th anniversary?

Did you just forget about that 10th anniversary?

4. Make sure you have enough of your favorite snacks and there’s enough beer in your fridge. It would be a bummer if your supplies ran out in the middle of the game, wouldn’t it?

Forgot about your snacks?!

Forgot about your snacks?!

5. If you plan to watch the games with friends, make sure you go to the one friend that has the biggest and most comfortable couch and the biggest fridge.

Snacks, anyone?

Snacks, anyone?

6. Even more important than 5. is that your friend has a big TV.

Can you see?

Can you see the game?

7. Get that favorite baseball jersey of yours out of the back of your closet and wear it for the game to get you in the right mood.

Get into the mood!

Get into the mood!

8. We already know you’ll be wearing your team’s hat, so we won’t tell you to do that.

A true fan!

9. Have a glove on you. You just can never know where the ball is coming from.

10. Make sure you still know the lyrics to the Seventh-inning stretch song… You know that one: “Take me out…”. If you forgot the lyrics, repeat before the game, as you don’t want to end up like this guy:

11. Last, but not least, here are Team-by-team previews and odds by CBS, to know what you can expect.

There you go, you’re all set now!

Play Ball!


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How Spring Training became an essential part of baseball

Every March millions of fans flock to Arizona and Florida and it’s not just because of the weather conditions. In fact it has little to do with the weather. Fans migrate to one of these two states to see their favorite baseball teams in action even before the  beginning of the season. There, they can even get a ball signed or a chance to talk to their idols. Spring Training is an incredible one-month experience. Only last year Spring Training in Arizona and Florida drew 3,172,910 fans to 435 games, which equates to an average gate of 7,294. This is how important Spring Training is to fans:

But not only fans, also the host cities devote incredible amount of effort and funding to provide suitable training conditions for the MLB teams. The tradition of Spring Training is around 140 yers old now. But it all started in a very different way. The first club that ever went “Down South” to get away from the winter conditions was Boss Tweed’s Mutuals, that spent some time in New Orleans in 1869.

However it is generally accepeted that the birth of Spring Training happened year after that, in 1870 when the Chicago White Stockings and the Cincinnati Red Stockings made spring trips to New Orleans, not only to hold baseball camps, but also to play some exhibition games. Compared to today’s standards, the early spring trainings were simple and far from fancy, but in those days the whole deal of traveling South was considered an advancement. Before the trips the trainings were done in local gyms, rented halls, sheds, rinks, or any other shelter available.

In the 1870s other clubs also followed the example of the White Sox, Reds and Mutuals. New Orleans was a favorite training base at that time, but clubs also went to other places like Washington (Cleveland), Savannah (Louisville, Pittsburgh and Detroit), and Charleston in South Carolina (Phillies). One of the main reasons for the teams to make trips to spring trainings was to get the players physically prepared for the season.

But one baseball legend reveals also another story. In February of 1885 the White Stockings player and manager, Baseball Hall of Famer Cap Anson spotted one of his players in a bar. The pitcher was wearing a too-tight vest from “living the winter good life” and downed several beers in front of his manager. At this moment Anson decided to take his players to Hot Springs, Arkansas, to “boil out alcoholic microbes” out of his players.

Albert Spalding, who was the team owner at that time supported the idea and later told a newspaper reporter:

I have written to a professor down there, and he is making arrangements to build a vat in which he can boil the whole nine at once… I boil out all the alcoholic microbes, which may have impregnated the systems of these men during the winter while they have been away from me and Anson… If that doesn’t work, I’ll send ‘em to Paris next year and have ‘em inoculated by Pasteur.”

It seems this “sweating out the toxins” worked; at least, the Chicago White Stockings won two straight championships, in 1885 and 1886. Soon after, the boiling-out process was considered essential for getting rid of the effects of winter “lushing,” as drinking was called then, and Hot Springs became a center for big league clubs.

1885-1886 Chicago White Stockings

1885-1886 Chicago White Stockings

It was about that time that teams went for the spring training to Florida for the first time. The first team that went to train to Florida were the Washington Capitals who went to Jacksonville for Spring Training in 1888. No northern professional team had traveled this far south before. The team traveled for two days.

As Connie Mack told about their experience:

“When we arrived in Jacksonville, four of our 14 players were reasonably sober. The rest were totally drunk. There was a fight every night, and the boys broke up a lot of furniture. We played exhibition games by day and drank much of the night.”

The team had quite a lot of problems with accommodation, they were turned away from several hotels due to their bad behavior and just for being baseball players. Northern players namely didn’t have a great reputation down south at the time. The Jacksonville trip didn’t do any good for the team, they had an incredibly bad season. After this, it would take spring training baseball 15 years to return to Florida.

But not all were fans of travelling to the South. Some claimed the players were subject to “sore muscles and cold” when they returned to winter after six or eight weeks in the South. Some players rather stayed at home, worked out by themselves and played in informal scrub games wherever they were spending the winter. The spring training in the South quickly started becoming an attraction and developing into a business. A. M. Gillam, writing for the Philadelphia Record, offered three dollars a day for short bulletins on 1887 training camp activities, scores of games, merits of players, and so forth, because he understood the interest people would have in the games. By 1890 a newspaper announced that the South was overrun with Northern ball players, and in the course of the decade spring training in the South was adopted by all major league clubs.

The man who truly redefined spring training was Ned Hanlon, the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. He brought his team to Macon, Georgia, where he drilled them for 8 hours a day for eight weeks. The team went on to win a pennant in 1894 and the two following years.

Manager Ned Hanlon (in business suit, center) with the 1896 Baltimore Orioles.

Manager Ned Hanlon (in business suit, center) with the 1896 Baltimore Orioles.

By the 1910s the spring training was already a marketing institution and around that time the Grapefruit League became an official league. St. Petersburg’s mayor Al Lang helped get a waterfront stadium built specifically to lure teams to St. Petersburg. First he got a deal with the Braves in 1923 and then with the Babe Ruth’s Yankees in 1925. It was significantly later, around World War II that spring training happened in Arizona.

The teams had traveled west for spring training already at the turn of the century, though. The Chicago Cubs were the first to travel to Southern California for Spring Training in 1903, first near downtown Los Angeles, two years later they moved to Santa Monica. The New York Giants, The Chicago White Sox, and the Boston Red Sox followed the Cubs’ example and spent the spring in Los Angeles for several years. The Cubs returned to South California in 1917, this time to Pasadena, and moved to tropical Catalina island in 1922. There they practiced and played exhibition games at a field that was an exact replica of their home field in Chicago.

One of the most important factors that contributed to spring training making its way to Arizona during the 1940s was the war. During this time, baseball commissioner Kennesaw Mountain Landis established the “Potomac Line”. This line was a compromise worked out between the Commissioner and Joseph B. Eastman, director of the federal Office of Defense Transportation to ensure teams would spend their spring training close to their home bases, north of the Potomac and Ohio Rivers and east of the Mississippi. During wartime the trains were crammed with supplies and troops, and in that context transporting baseball players and their fans seemed to be a frivolous use of precious resources. The Cardinals, the White Sox and the Cubs were limited to training in Missouri, Indiana or Illinois, the New York Yankees ended up training in Asbury Park, N.J., while the Red Sox trained Tufts College in nearby Medford, Mass.

After the war, the teams were again allowed to travel west, but during the time passed the teams’ owners had already considered new spring training locations. The Cactus League’s origins can be at least partially traced to a visit made by Giants owner Horace Stoneham in the late ’40s to a place called the Buckhorn Mineral Wells and Baths in Mesa, not far from the current location of HoHoKam Park. Originally the site of a gas station, the Buckhorn location was converted into a motel that offered mineral baths and massage treatments after a hot-water aquifer containing significant deposits of potassium, silica, magnesium and iron was discovered on the property. Stoneham was introduced to the Buckhorn baths by officials from the Phoenix Chamber of Commerce while scouting for possible training sites, and was so enticed by the rejuvenating effects of the baths and therapy treatments that he thought it might make an ideal place for players to get in shape.

Seattle Mariners vs Colorado Rockies game at Spring Training in Peoria (AZ) 2015

Seattle Mariners vs Colorado Rockies game at Spring Training in Peoria (AZ) 2015

Around the same time, Stoneham received a call from Bill Veeck, the owner of the Indians who had a winter home in Tucson. Veeck had already been thinking about moving his team to Tucson for Spring Training, and thus, the Cactus League was born. Spring training has come a long way from since its humble beginnings.

Every March 15 MLB teams play in each league, the Grapefruit League in Florida and Cactus League in Arizona, and they all hope that the good work they do in the spring will add up to a victory in October.

References: 

5 minutes a day can save your arm

A former MLB pitcher Bruce Hurst once said that a simple and fast daily workout can save a player’s shoulder and thus his career. He went on and explained that had he known and used this daily workout routine earlier, he might not had to go through the tough times of injury, surgery and rehabilitation. However, these exercises are not only intended for pitchers but rather for ball players of all positions.

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You only need two 5lbs dumbbell weights for this workout (you can also use heavier weights, depending on your current strength). When you’re travelling, you might not be carrying the weights around with you. However, you can still follow your daily routine by simply taking the two empty water bottles and filling them up with some sand or gravel (remember: where there’s a will, there’s a way).

The workout consists of four cycles of four simple exercises: 1) side lift, 2) side drop, 3) front lift, and 4) reverse front lift. One cycle consists of fifteen side lifts, fifteen side drops, fifteen front lifts and fifteen reverse front lifts. You have 15 seconds between each cycle to rest. You can do the workouts with both hands simultaneously to save time.

The first exercise is called the Side Lift. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and with weights in your hands and resting beside your body. Start the exercise by lifting the weights sideways up to the shoulder-height (about 90 degrees angle), and then lowering them down again. Do this process slowly and control the breathing. Repeat fifteen times.

The second exercise is called the Side Drop. Again, stand with your feet shoulder-width apart. Start the exercise by holding the weights at the shoulder-height and then “drop” the weights and catch them soon after you drop them (before they get too far off or hit the ground).You will probably need some time before you get used to catching the weight after dropping it – our advice is to first try this exercise somewhere, where there is soft floor (grass or similar). Control the breathing. Repeat fifteen times.

The third exercise is called the Front Lift. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and with weights in your hands and resting beside your body. Start the exercise by lifting the weights up frontally to the shoulder-height (about 90 degrees), and then lowering them down again. Do this process slowly and control the breathing. Repeat fifteen times.

The fourth exercise is called the Reverse Front Lift. Stand with your feet shoulder-width apart and with weights in your hands and resting beside your body (hands twisted by 180 degrees). Start the exercise by lifting the weights up frontally to the shoulder-height (about 90 degrees), and then lowering them down again. Keep your hands twisted by 180 degrees during this entire exercise. Do this process slowly and control the breathing. Repeat fifteen times.

Four cycles of four times fifteen repetitions plus four times the fifteen seconds break equals to only five minutes of your precious time. Let this routine become your daily routine. Your shoulder will be eternally grateful.

United colors of baseball

For starting pitchers we have two Dominicans, one Italian, one Mexican and one Japanese. In the bullpen we have a Venezuelan, a Mexican, a guy from the United States and a guy from St. Louis.

Tommy Lasorda

The main baseball league – Major League Baseball in the United States of America – is pervaded with different nationalities. Since the 19th Century, Major League Baseball has enjoyed a rich, diverse, world-wide set of talent not seen in any other major league sport. According to Baseball Almanac every state in the United States of America, and more than forty-five countries, have had at least one player make it to the show.

According to the latest data, the 224 players or 26.3 percent of all MLB players were born outside the U.S. They represent 16 countries and territories outside the U.S., the highest total since 16 countries were also represented in 2008.

The Dominican Republic again leads the Major Leagues with 83 players born outside the United States. Venezuela ranks second with 59 players, marking its fourth-highest total of all-time. Cuba places third with 19 players, setting a new all-time high and surpassing last year’s record-high of 15. Rounding out the totals are Puerto Rico (11); Canada (10); Japan (9), Mexico (9); Curaçao (5, surpassing its previous high of four set in 2009 and 2012); Colombia (4, matching its previous high set last year); Panama (4); Nicaragua (3, matching its previous high set in 2012); Australia (2); South Korea (2); Taiwan (2); Aruba (1); and Brazil (1).

According to Wikipedia, the list of current Major League Baseball players by nationality includes even more, namely 19 countries.

However, probably the most interesting data on this is the data from UX.Blog, which adopts the proportional point of view, taking into account the MLB’ers Per Million of the country population. According to this data, Curaçao, Dominican Republic, Aruba and Puerto Rico are undisputed winners, with Curaçao boasting with as many as 46.49 MLB’ers Per Million people.

It’s been 67 years since Wesley Branch Rickey and Jackie “42” Robinson introduced color to the MLB. Thanks to that great day of April 15, 1947, we can now talk about the United Colors and more importantly United Talents of Baseball.

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