24 October 2015: Exactly Why ESPN Does Need a Softball Player in the Booth

Earlier this year, a particular headline caught my attention. It reported that Jessica Mendoza was becoming the first female MLB commentator and making her debut on Monday Night Baseball. I chose to watch the game (it was a Cardinals game, after all) and while it was clear that Mendoza was still learning to navigate her new position in the press box, the game ended and I had not once experienced the urge to mute the television — a common problem I encounter with new commentators. In fact, I appreciated the insight Mendoza offered throughout the game and looked forward to her future coverage with ESPN.

Mendoza made her MLB broadcasting debut on ESPN's Monday Night Baseball - August 24, 2015

Mendoza made her MLB broadcasting debut on ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball – August 24, 2015

When Mendoza was announced as the latest addition to the MLB crew, I joked around that she had taken my dream job. Every time I sit down to watch a game, I find myself not only commenting on the plays on the field, but also on the often-ridiculous remarks that are said in the press box (this is how Sez You was born, after all). I have watched baseball since I was a kid, back when my brother was swinging a Mark McGwire-brand plastic wiffle ball bat, and I played softball competitively for seven years. I have been a dedicated Cardinals fan for 10 years, staying up past my bedtime to watch every playoff game I could. I study the headlines during the season, analyze trades in the off-season, and count down the days until Opening Day. And I believe, that if given the opportunity, I could hold my own in a press box offering semi-snarky, yet valuable insight into the game of baseball. And yet, I’ve never technically played baseball.

As the weather cools down (for most places outside of Tennessee), post-season baseball heats up, and often, there is no shortage of emotion. Still, social media continues to teach us an important lesson about emotion and its consequences: sometimes it’s productive, sometimes it’s not. Earlier this month, Atlanta-based radio host Mike Bell took issue with Mendoza’s commentary for one reason: she has never played baseball. Yet, after reading his line of terribly offensive tweets regarding the matter, it is clear that lack of baseball experience (which does not, by the way, take into account her vast experience as a professional softball player or Olympic gold medal) was not the issue. Plenty of announcers in the ESPN crew are not former baseball players. Further, Mendoza was able to move to Sunday Night Baseball broadcasts because of the suspension of, former player — Curt Schilling — for offensive comments made on the Internet (Bell and

Mendoza representing the U.S. Women's Softball team at the 2008 Olympics

Mendoza representing the U.S. Women’s Softball team at the 2008 Olympics

Schilling may get along in that department). Talent on the field does not equate to a good fit in the booth (I for one have listened to plenty of former players who are infuriating with a mic). Which leaves one conclusion: Bell’s problem did not lie with Mendoza being a softball player – or not being a baseball player. Instead, it was with the fact that she is a woman, in a job that historically belonged to men.

Well Mr. Bell, your comments were offensive to me as a woman, but also as a fan of baseball. Implying that men are inherently better suited for a job in sports is a dangerous slope to tread on – dangerous, not to mention misguided. My passion for baseball has grown over the years, in part, because those around have encouraged me and embraced my opinion. And as a female who periodically corrects her male peers when it comes to the game of baseball, I can say, with certainty, that y’all are not intrinsically more knowledgeable about our nation’s pastime.

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Katie Thompson is one half of the Sez You Crew: baseball lover, coffee drinker, picture taker. Ashley Judd lookalike. Take your pick. 

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18 September 2015: A Letter to Bryce Harper, and My Former Hometown

Running into Mr. Harper on the streets of D.C. and informing him of what’s to follow would have been a much better story, but I moved south, and this letter will have to suffice

Hey Bryce,

How’s it going?

Let me start by telling you something you’re already well aware of: you are one of the most talented young players in the game – hands down. Good job with that. Every time I want to take a shot at the hype surrounding you, I turn on SportsCenter and watch, slightly frustrated, as you launch another ball out of whichever park you were playing in that night.

Nationals’ star Bryce Harper doing what he does best: watching balls leave the park

That being said, I grew up in the D.C. area.  I was here when the Expos came to town and renamed themselves the Nationals. I was here long before Bryce Harper became a household name, way back when the buzz was all about a pitcher named Strasburg. I observed the frenzy that followed the addition of the “most talented young prospect in the game” to the Nationals’ franchise, and I know that people far more important than me spent a lot of time and money building the organization around you. And despite my team allegiances (forever a Cardinals fan, sorry), I find myself continually trying to root for you.

But here’s the problem I have: I root for your talent. I root for those ridiculous homeruns. I’ll even allow the hair flip. But what I don’t root for is a kid who gets thrown out of games and then blames the umpire. What I don’t like is when a person deals with a frustrating season by calling out the fans, the same fans, in fact, that he took credit for bringing to the park a few weeks prior. I know you play hard, most times, and I know you speak your mind. But sometimes playing hard leaves you concussed on the warning track of Dodger Stadium, needing stitches after an angry outburst, or out at second when you get a little greedy on a single. Sometimes speaking your mind, no matter your intentions, leaves you looking like a hotheaded kid who picks the wrong battles to fight, gets ejected from important games and isn’t grateful to the fans who have been your support system for years. You’re no longer a rookie, and I no longer view “passion” or “outspokenness” as valid excuses for bad behavior.

Now Nationals fans, you’re not completely off the hook here. I get it – this whole baseball thing is still relatively new to a lot of y’all, and let’s face it, the D.C. area is pretty conditioned to accepting disappointing athletic endeavors (the Redskins anyone?). But here’s the thing: you have to stick with your team. You can’t praise Bryce when he hits a homer and then boo him if he strikes out in his next at-bat (yes, I’ve witnessed this happen first-hand). If you’re going to complain, you have to understand the game and exactly what is going wrong. And when your team is fighting for October, even unsuccessfully, a lack of support makes a difficult situation for the team nearly impossible. If you’ve given up on the 2015 Nationals, feel free to stay at home (although I’m not sure the MASN broadcast crew is really worth beating some of the traffic). But if you’re going to support them and all their bullpen blunders, go to the park and give them some energy – even if it means accessorizing with a Trader Joe’s grocery bag.

Nationals Park opened its doors to fans in the spring of 2008

Note: These thoughts were written prior to the Nationals being swept by the Mets earlier this month, which makes them conveniently more relevant. Here are some thoughts from the half of the Sez You crew that was in attendance over the weekend: Harper, if you’re going to continuously reiterate that you “play hard,” can you please run out a ground ball? And Papelbon, if you want the fans to cut you some slack for giving up the Mets’ winning run, next time don’t call them out for their lack of energy in the days prior. And Nats fans, an insider note for baseball fans: you don’t leave a tied game. Ever. You don’t even leave when your team is down a run – or six. By the end of the endless 7th inning meltdown the other night, the tiny but vocal crowd of Mets fans easily out-roared the Nats crowd in a rapidly emptying stadium. 

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Katie Thompson is one half of the SezYou crew: baseball lover, picture taker, coffee drinker. Ashley Judd lookalike. Take your pick.


2 September 2015: Why I like #pitcherswhorake

Editor’s Note: After a way-too-long hiatus, SezYou is back in action. If this is your first time stopping by, welcome to a lightly snarky father-daughter duo with a passion for baseball and too much to say. So we say it here…comments welcome.

For most of the 22 years I have spent on Earth, I have been watching baseball. And inning after inning, year after year, one thing remains consistent: pitchers aren’t supposed to be hitters. In fact, I became increasingly aware of the image of the pitcher who does not simply struggle, but is embarrassingly bad in the batter’s box – holding his bat as if it were a foreign object and waving at three consecutive fastballs or curveballs, or anything the opposing pitcher serves up, prior to his retreat to the dugout.

And yet, as a die-hard St. Louis Cardinals fan, somewhere along the way, I also fell in love with the

September 17, 2014: St. Louis Cardinals Starting pitcher Adam Wainwright

St. Louis Cardinals starting pitcher Adam Wainwright rips a hit during the 2014 season.

National League and the way the game is played in that league, with the pitcher batting ninth (and sometimes eighth). My love for the way the National League plays the game extended into the late innings as I tried to predict the manager’s moves when it came to double switches, pinch hitters and when to bring in a reliever. As a young fan, I watched Adam Wainwright transition from post-season closer to an integral part of the Cardinals’ starting rotation, and then again to fill the role of “ace” following Chris Carpenter’s retirement. During this time, I noticed something about the way Wainwright approached the plate. He didn’t seem to be intimidated by his opponent on the mound. Now, maybe some of that confidence comes from Waino being 6’8” (I, mean, who really can intimidate that?), but the more at-bats of his I watched, the more assured I became that he believed he could give his team the lead, and in turn, I believed it too.

Fast forward to 2015, and every other MLB headline I read is about Madison Bumgarner or Zack Greinke adding another huge hit to their ever-growing collection of huge hits. And yet, there are whispers here and there about how MLB should make the switch to having the designated hitter in

Detroit pitcher Daniel Norris celebrates after his first HR...in his first professional at-bat.

Detroit pitcher Daniel Norris celebrates after his first HR…in his first professional at-bat.

both leagues. Sure, most pitchers are not Bumgarner or Greinke. Sure, there still are plenty of pitchers who are going to hate every second of standing at the plate waiting for their inevitable demise. And yes, I am aware that the very pitcher to whom I partially credit my current opinions regarding the DH is out all season with an Achilles injury he suffered while running out of the batter’s box. And yet, Bumgarner is performing late-inning heroics for the Giants as a pinch hitter. And recently, Tigers’ lefty Daniel Norris gave his team the lead with a home run to dead center field in his first professional plate appearance (meaning his first at bat in both the Major and Minor Leagues, folks), becoming the first American League pitcher to ever hit a homer at Wrigley Field. That, to me, is exciting baseball in a time when we’re trying to remind people how much fun this game can be.

If I had to guess, I would say the Dodgers feel like they’re going to win when Greinke takes the mound, as well as when he steps to the plate. I would guess a 7-year old Norris could not have envisioned a better first at-bat at Wrigley. And I would guess that next season, Wainwright is going to continue to step to the plate with the same confidence I saw years ago as a kid staying up too late to watch her favorite team.

Not to mention, at 6’5”, 235 lbs., who is going to volunteer for taking a bat out of Bumgarner’s hands? Anyone? I certainly am not.

Katie Thompson is one KThalf of the SezYou crew: baseball Lover, Picture Taker, Coffee Drinker. Ashley Judd Lookalike. Take your pick.


1 July 2011: How do I love thee? And a poll!

Who doesn’t love birthdays? Ok, well, a lot of people don’t, but when the nation has a birthday, most people get a day off and all 50 million of them head to the beach at the same time.  Not yours truly.  I’ll be on my deck grilling various cuts of meat and watching as much as baseball as the teevee will allow.  Which, lately, hasn’t been much, unless you count interleague games (which I don’t).  Around the DC area, the good news is thatthe Nationals are finally (finally, finally) a .500 team — and that’s cause for celebration.  Unfortunately, the Nats commentators are still well below average.  They make the WGN crew seem erudite.  So, most of my baseball this weekend will be watched with a finger on the mute button.

 

Speaking of baseball, did you know there was such a thing as Class A baseball in Canada?  Of course you didn’t.  That’s what I’m here for.  The Vancouver Canadians, a Toronto Blue Jays affiliate (natch), have put together a nifty little parody commercial. The parody?  Their take on “Major League.”  Those wacky Canadians, eh?  And speaking of “Major League,” none other than ESPN’s “Mike and Mike in the Morning” discussed Charlie Sheen’s supposed steroid use while filming “Major League” and expressed, essentially, the same thing I did yesterday — who cares?

Man oh man, guys, there is probably a lesson to learn here.  For reasons unfathomable, a love letter (well, that’s Yahoo is calling it; it’s more like a teenageboyangst letter) from Michael Jordan to a high school girlfriend has surfaced. And this passes for news. The lesson may be never NEVER commit to paper anything even remotely resembling a human emotion lest it go viral 30 years later. Of course, that lesson may also only apply if you are responsible for six NBA championships, changed the way your sport is played, have more than God and have/are one of the most recognizable brands in the world.

 
Finally, I’m going to try something new. Following a lengthy debate with a co-worker after reading a Consumer Reports piece that declared In N Out Burger as the best burger around (I disagree), I decided to conduct my own research (see poll below). Vote early, vote often.


30 June 2011: It’s all the (‘roid) rage

By now, you’ve heard that Charlie Sheen has made yet another revelation about his drug-addled past.  In an interview with Sports Illustrated, he details his use of steroids as he labored through his role as Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughan in the still-funny Major League. It’s an interesting read, more so because I learned that (a) former Dodgers all-star catcher Steve Yeager provided a great deal of technical advice during the movie and (b) many of Tom Berenger’s scenes in the “tools of ignorance” were in fact Yeager. But I have to admit I’m a little dubious of the steroids revelation. First of all (and all this really falls into the “Who Really Cares?” category), did Sheen really think he needed six weeks’ worth of steroids (by his own admission) to play the part better? I know he loves baseball (and can hit — there’s a YouTube video of him belting one over the fence at Dodger Stadium) and wanted to look the part. But ‘roids?  Second, how convenient that Sheen, not exactly on a lot of people’s Christmas card list these days, only now makes it known — a few weeks after the furor over “Two and a Half Men” has all but gone away. What better to get back on the radar than to combine a track record of drug use, Hollywood and the MLB steroid scandal? Call me jaded, but it just makes me wonder.

At Wrigley Field, the fans have a tradition of returning home run balls, which I always enjoy — but only in Wrigley, not when some lame copycat in, say, Seattle, tries to act original and throw the ball back.  As Sean Connery said in “The Untouchables,” that’s the Chicago way.  This kid, however, has no business in the stands.  He ought to be in right field.

Next, this is much ado about nothing, really: Last fall, Broughton (N.C.) High quarterback Will Cooper set a state football record with a 600-yards passing game. Last fall. Today, after exhaustive (and unnecessary?) analysis, naysayers are claiming that the total should be reduced by 15 yards, because six of the plays originally logged as pass plays were, in fact, rushes.  The new total only ties the state record.  The full story is here, but, really, does this even matter?  A 600-yard game, regardless of the pass/rush combination is pretty impressive.  Who needs the nitpicking?

Ever wonder what playing basketball would feel like when you’re stoned? Probably this.

At last, the truth about life after the Olympics.  Mary Lou Retton talks about hip replacements and parenting.  And she’s 43.


And because it’s never inappropriate to discuss football, even Canadian football, even preseason Canadian football, this clip of Stu Foord getting de-cleated is worth a look.

Finally, this is just too funny. Leave it to the MLB network to really make something out of nothing. In an incident that was only barely worthy of a highlight (and only because of its humor), the MLB crew not only holds forth on the importance of a bull pen pitcher “owning his ground,” they set up a demonstration that didn’t quite work out the way Harold Reynolds thought it would.

Today’s Birthdays

MLB pitcher Chan Ho Park (38)

Champ/movie star Mike Tyson (45)


29 June 2011: Sounds like …

OK, I may be way off base here (pun intended), but I’ve been listening to Aaron Boone’s commentary on ESPN’s Monday Night Baseball for a while now, and I have come to the conclusion that his voice sounds very similar to Tony Gwynn’s. In fact, nearly every time I hear him in the booth, I think it is Gwynn and have to remind myself, no, that’s Aaron Boone. Now, before you start saying, “No way,” the two do not have exact voices, but they do seem remarkably similar, especially when you hear only the voice. Hear for yourself and comment on your own verdict. Here’s a clip of Gwynn at a hitting camp. And here’s a clip of Boone being interviewed about his game-winning homer as a Yankee in the 2003 ALCS. What do you think? Like I said, not exact, but similar, right?

It’s not often you can work weed, tattoos and Ohio State football into the same sentence, so this may be my only shot.  An Ohio tattoo shop owner/marijuana dealer is in big trouble. No, not for the tattoos and, well, yeah, for the marijuana thing (which includes money laundering, natch. You can’t be having your cash smelling like weed, right?), but a more heinous crime (at least in the eyes of Buckeye Nation). Shop owner Edward Rife also bought sports memorabilia from some OSU players and/or gave them discounts on tattoos for the purchases. Turns out Rife got the double whammy — the memorabilia revelation led to the NCAA investigation that ultimately cost Jim Tressel his job AND Rife was convicted of drug trafficking and money laundering. Full story here: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/football/ncaa/06/28/ohio-state-tattoo-parlor-owner.ap/index.html?sct=hp_t2_a18&eref=sihp

The University of South Carolina won its second straight College World Series yesterday with a win over Florida. Congratulations, Gamecocks. It was good to see an SEC v. SEC matchup, but my animosity toward Florida football bleeds over into any athletic endeavor undertaken by the university in Gainesville.

From the OK, Whatever Dept.:  North Korea claims that the reason its women’s soccer team collapsed against Team USA this week had nothing to do with the youth and inexperience of the team.  Or the skill of the American team.  No, the Koreans claim the reason for the 2-0 was … lightning striking the team.  Not a member of the team.  The team.  Goalie.  Defenders.  Oh, and some midfielders, too.  Probably the coach.  The trainer got a little singed.  The whole freakin’ team!  They went to the hospital! It’s a miracle they could even take the field.  Riiiiight.  It’s a miracle they don’t get laughed off the field after that excuse.  But, does that make that match a (snicker) lightning round?  Story here: NKorea vs. USA

And while we’re on the subject of soccer (but not for long, I promise), the USA women’s team’s new unis have come under fire for being, in a word, ugly.  According to one critic, the ” … USWNT shirt can always be distinguished from the USMNT shirt by the two stars that the women’s shirt prominently displays over the USSF badge – one star for each World Cup trophy they’ve won (1991, 1999). That difference is not enough for Nike and the USSF. They want you to know, for sure, that this is a not a man’s shirt. So the FIFA #1 ranked women’s team will go to Germany in a nurse’s uniform.”  Furthermore, Nike weighed in with this: “The kit is designed specifically for the female athlete, to enhance the range of motion and create a uniquely feminine silhouette.” Nike went on to say that the black away uni was “inspired by the beautiful but deadly Black Widow spider.”

I don’t know, I kinda like the “Black Widow Nurse” concept. Quentin Tarantino could make a movie trilogy out of that one.  Judge for yourself.

Today’s Birthdays:
Former NFL player/Annoying sportscaster Dan Dierdorf (62)
LA Dodgers pitching coach Rick Honeycutt (56)
Former Dodger star/confused cocaine customer Pedro Guerrero (55)

28 June 2011: Back to the weirdness…

After a long hiatus, I’m going to give this blog another shot. Mainly because I have more time these days (no, I did not get fired) and because in the world of sports there is no shortage of the comical, the absurd and the just plain weird.

Speaking of the latter — and this is the real reason I re-started this blog. Last night in San Diego, two remarkable things happened at Petco Park: (1) the Padres did not take the field in their atrocious (and over-worn) “military appreciation” jerseys, and (2) a Cirque du Soleil performer threw out the first pitch.  Sort of.

Ok, props up front. Dude threw a strike. After flipping and twisting through the air. I don’t know the technical name for the maneuver, but I call it Damn Difficult.

Still, the Cirque du Soleil? Really? Anybody else a little creeped out by this eerie, otherwordly troupe? Maybe it’s the association with clowns. Or the acrobats. Or something. But whenever I watch the performances, I’m somewhere between fascinated and trying to keep my skin from crawling.

My daughter, the die-hard Cardinals fan, is going to kill me for this one, but I loved the creativity too much to let it go by unnoticed. Via Vimeo, a  hilarious mash-up of Edwin Encarncion’s 9th inning HR and “The Natural.” Baseball translates in any generation.

 

I love Jim Leyland. Great manager. Great people skills. Inspiring leader. Vast vocabulary. What’s hilarious about this clip is the reactions — or lack thereof — by his player and base coach. “No, no, Skip, you got this one.”

 

 

Finally, today’s birthday wishes go to John Elway.