In Praise of the Oakland Coliseum

I get it, the Oakland Coliseum isn’t the best place to watch a baseball game. There have been sewage leaks. The stadium is surrounded by parking lots, chain-link fences topped with barbed wire, and no place to hang out before or after the game. The seats are far away. Nothing about it screams like a good place to watch a game.

But there’s no accounting for the novelty of it. And the people there are second-to-none.

I went to my first game at the Coliseum in May of this year. I came in with zero expectations, and the BART ride through Oakland did nothing to increase that. Hoping off at the Coliseum stop left me wondering what the heck I was doing. To get to the stadium, you have to go down and out of the station, back up some more stairs to an open-air concrete skywalk topped by a chain-link fence to the grey Coliseum. Combine it with an overcast day and well, you get no visual stimulation.

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The only break you have from grey are the green and gold banners as you make your way to the stadium.

But along that walk to the stadium, I had my first encounters with A’s fans. In front of me, a couple were bringing their two young sons — who were all clad in A’s garb — to the game. Halfway through the walkway, a picnic table was set up by a local Little League team selling baked goods to support their organization. $2 for a cupcake designed like a baseball? You better believe I bought one (and it was darn good).

I went through security, which was a breeze considering it was still a couple of hours before the game, and shared a joke or two with the ushers and guards who were there.

My seat was behind home plate and I entered through centerfield, so I decided to do a lap of the stadium before heading to my assigned spot. The walk takes you through all the various stages of the 52-year-old ground. There was the old with the wide ramps and blocked off concourses. More modern were some of the suites and restaurant that provided a nice view of the field. They even had a social hangout spot for my fellow Millenials to grab a drink and chat while at the ballpark.

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For whatever reason, the view down the right-field line really struck me.

After I got my fill of the different views, I went to my seat — Section 217, Row 4, Seat 5. Right away, I was struck by how good the view actually was. I didn’t feel too far away from the action. Sure, Mt. Davis isn’t a great but hey, in a way, it’s become iconic.

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The views of the hills would have been better, but in a way, Mt. Davis has its own charm.

Seeing the monstrosity that is Mt. Davis awakened something in me. Yes, it isn’t going to help the Coliseum’s case as the best place to catch a game. Yes, there is way too much foul territory down the lines. But looking around at the field, it all hit me — this is the home to so many successful Oakland teams. I’ve watched countless playoff games from there on TV (with most involving my Yankees). There was a sense of history that you can feel that is hard to get with the newer stadiums.

Read more: My trip to Comerica Park

You walk around the stadium and it feels like you’ve traveled back to the ’80s. There’s something to be said about walking around in those concrete halls and the large seating sections that can’t be found at other stadiums. It’s really become a novelty and part of baseball history.

Maybe it was because I watched ‘Field of Dreams’ on my cross-country flight to the Bay Area, but once I was out there, I had nostalgia for ’80s baseball even though I’m a ’90s kid. And really, there’s no other place in baseball where you can get that. And what’s baseball without a sense of history?

Now, I’m not saying that the Coliseum should be the A’s permanent home. I would venture it’s not a great place to go for 81 games a year. But if you’re a baseball fan, especially a younger one, it’s definitely a place you need to go before it closes for good.

By capacity, it’s the seventh-largest stadium in the MLB with 47,170 seats, but can hold more that would make it the largest in the league.

It’s also the fourth-oldest park still in existence and second oldest in the MLB. And while it was built in 1966, it’s the ’70s and ’80s that still live nearly 40 years later. Heck, even the PA system still has that echo-y tone that makes you feel like you’re at a small high school football stadium. There’s just something neat about that.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t give some of the credit to the A’s fans, too. Their wackiness from the horns you’ll hear throughout the stands to the giant waving flags in the corner outfield is something that I haven’t seen to that magnitude at other places. A majority of them were wearing some sort of A’s sweatshirt and/or jersey with a fine mix of current and former players. I’ve always considered them among the best in the MLB and going to a game just cemented that notion in my mind.

For their sake, I do hope the A’s get a nice, smaller ballpark sometime soon. As an Atlanta resident, I’ve seen the improvements that a new stadium can make to a gameday experience.

But the notion that the Coliseum is just a dump and has no place in baseball is just wrong. I don’t know if I’ll ever get back there, but I certainly will always appreciate my trip there.

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Review: Photo Tour of Comerica Park

The general consensus among baseball fans is that PNC Park and AT&T Park are the two nicest stadiums in baseball today. Where things get interesting is when people name their third-favorite park.

After visiting Comerica Park in Detroit, I would be hard-pressed not to put it in that third spot.

Get your Detroit Tigers baseball cards here.

The first thing you notice when arriving to Comerica Park is that you’re definitely at the home of the Tigers. Sitting right next to Ford Field, the home of the Lions, Comerica is chock full of tiger status and tiger heads on the outside of the stadium. And it’s really well done.

Make sure to spend some time before the game to walk around the field and see all the different gates. Each one is designed slightly different, and there are plenty of places where you can tailgate or get a pre-game drink at one of the many bars around the park.

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Getting to Comerica early gives you plenty of time to explore the various attractions at the park, and to get some great views of the field and city.

If you have young kids, you can take them to the Ferris wheel and merry-go-round that inside the park. You can also teach them about Tigers history — and maybe learn some facts yourself — with the pillars on the concourse that host some memorabilia, and highlights key players in Tigers history.

If you want even more history, venture out to the outfield. The two brick walls in that go along centerfield feature the retired numbers and honored names in Tigers’ history, and there are statues dedicated to most of them out there too.

From centerfield, you can also venture down to front row and get a good view into the bullpens. I also found myself staying there for a couple of innings, and watching the action from the railing above the shrubs in center. It gives you a great view to catch all of the action.

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Once the game gets going, it’s hard to find a bad seat in the house. As mentioned before, the view from center is highly recommended and it may be hard to go to your assigned seat once the game starts.

Related: Is Justin Verlander a future Hall of Famer?

My ticket location was up in Section 338, a little past third base in the upper deck. There, you’ll get a fantastic view of the action, and can see the Detroit skyline. Even if you don’t have a ticket for that area, make a venture over there to check it out. Plus, there’s a section cut out of the seats on the other side, allowing you an ever-present view of the Fox Theater sign. That’s a nice touch.

The view from behind the plate allows you to see it all: Ford Field towering over the stadium by the left-field foul pole, the Detroit skyline, all the action going on in the bullpen. Right field has a more limited view of the skyline (which is one of the best features of having a ballpark in the city) but it is still pretty neat to have Ford Field as a constant in your sightline.

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Getting to and from Comerica Park is easy too. I was staying a little north of the city, and there was minimal traffic getting to the park on the Saturday evening when I went. I parked in the Ford Field parking deck for a very reasonable $15. Was only a couple minute walk to get to Comerica too. Even though the game ended around 12:30 a.m., it was a nice and easy walk back to the parking deck, especially with the sports area being one of the best districts in Detroit. Getting back on the highway was easy too, as it took maybe 2 minutes from the time I left the deck to getting back on the interstate.

And if you want to continue to hang around the park, there are plenty of bars and restaurants for you to grab something to eat or wet your whistle.

All in all, Comerica is a must-visit for any baseball fan, and a good time for all.

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How Jon Stewart changed my life

I used to be able to say that television has never made me cry. I used to be able to say that I had a decade-long streak of not shedding tears.

Jon Stewart changed all of that on Thursday night.

The funny thing is his career had a greater impact on my life than I had ever realized before this week.

I’m not able to pinpoint exactly when I started religiously watching ‘The Daily Show.’ I know it was some time around my sophomore or junior year in high school so it was the mid-2000s. By that time, the Bush Era had taken a definite turn south, the Iraq War was a struggle and America had lost a lot of its former luster.

Yet as America was undergoing much of its metamorphosis which has resulted in a greater political divide than in decades prior, I was also finding out just exactly who I was and what I wanted to be. I don’t want to dig too deep and make this out to be some profound post (because, really, it’s not), I’ll just say that it was your typical high-school growth.

The one big takeaway that came from that time was my desire to get into journalism. And for that, I can probably thank Stewart.

I was drawn to sports journalism but Stewart tended to direct his shows away from that topic. And for good reason. By that time, the Abu Ghraib scandal was back in the spotlight and Hurricane Katrina was ravishing the Gulf Coast.

Though what I wanted to cover was different than what was a mainstay on ‘The Daily Show,’ I still sub-conscientiously learned valuable lessons from Stewart. I watched how he treated his guests and made the interviews more into a conversation. I learned how to not take everything said at face value.

But the biggest thing I took away from it was how to have fun with it.

Whether you love it or hate it, journalism is now an industry that needs more than a good story to get by. You need to have an interesting way to present it and make sure your readers or viewers are engaged by it. If you don’t you could wind up like CNN — a network that is more and more irrelevant as Stewart might say (of course there would be other factors that go into CNN’s decline).

Stewart may have presented a “fake” news program four times a week but it sure felt real to an impressionable teen from N.J. And plus, if the “real” journalism career didn’t work out for me, the next best option was to join the “fake” news team. Sometimes that felt like a better option.

Yet here I am, having graduated with a journalism degree a few years ago from one of Stewart’s alma mater’s (William & Mary) rivals. I may not still work in a pure journalism role but it has helped put me where I am.

So before Thursday night, I could say the last time I fully shed some tears was when my parents announced they were splitting up. That was 2005, more than 10 years ago.

I didn’t want to cry while watching it, but it was impossible to prevent as Stephen Colbert gave his unscripted thank you. At that moment, I felt like Colbert was speaking for the both of us.

 

I told myself I wouldn’t cry again through the rest of the show. I was wrong. ‘Born to Run’ brought a new batch of tears as I realized this man that I idolized wouldn’t be there anymore to provide more lessons.

But just like Stewart was always able to find the one bright spot in even the darkest of stories, something came over me when I started crying the second time. Sure I was sad to see his run end, but these weren’t tears of sadness. No, these were tears of joy.

I was happy, thinking back to all of the times that Stewart was there for us as a nation and for me as a teen/college student. I was happy because I knew he reached the pinnacle of his profession and that it was time to move on.

And while the man I had secretly (it wasn’t really a well-kept secret) wanted to be when I grew up wouldn’t be there anymore, that everything was going to be OK. Stewart had put me on course to be exactly what I realistically wanted to be.

That was Stewart’s ultimate lesson. For that, I’ll happily shed those tears.

So Jon (if I may call you that), just know that while you¬†may not have solved all of America’s¬†problems, you helped me more than you’ll ever know. For that, I thank you a million times.

#JonVoyage, Mr. Stewart. You’re not dead (as you like to point out) but you will be missed.

Don’t forget to also browse through all the baseball cards,¬†football cards,¬†and hockey cards that I have for sale at my eCrater store.

 

Finding comparisons for BPL teams in the MLB

Like most Americans, I’ve recently really gotten into soccer. However, the way that it has happened may be a little more unconventional.

I like to compare it to a splash wave — there’s a good amount there, but it’s a little here and there. I don’t follow much of the British Premiere League, but rather follow more along the lines of a team or two in each¬†countries. For instance, I would consider my teams to be U.S. Citta di Palermo, PSV Eindhoven, FC Kobenhaven, VFL Wolfsburg, FC Porto and Fenerbahce.

So as you can see, there’s a lot going on there but it can be hard to follow those teams.

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Instead, without being able to see most of these teams outside of the Champions League (if they get there), I’m usually “stuck” with watching the BPL on the NBC networks. Unfortunately, I don’t really have a team in that league (Everton? Leicester City? Tottenham? QPR?) so it’s just a little harder to get into that league.

Instead, I’ll have to rely on comparing them to MLB teams. Of course, this may not be the most complete parallels drawn between the two but here’s my stab at it from a kinda, sorta outsider’s perspective.

(Aside: I’ll be getting help from FTW’s recent fan guide for the BPL to help make these comparisons.)

Manchester City: Los Angeles Dodgers

A large-market team flexing its financial muscle? That’s Man City. And it’s also the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Dodgers just recently took on a bunch of salary at the trade deadline (adding Mat Latos, Jim Johnson, Alex Wood, Alberto Callaspo, Bronson Arroyo) and who can forget that mega trade for Adrian Gonzalez, Carl Crawford and Josh Beckett? Man City did the same thing, ousting Stevan Jovetic for Fabian Delph, among others.

Manchester United: New York Yankees

Both teams used to be the dominant force in their leagues. Now both are still expected to challenge for a title, but it hasn’t happened in a while. Each also had one of the most hated (or loved) superstars in their generation: Cristiano Ronaldo with Man U., and Alex Rodriguez/Derek Jeter with the Yankees.

Aston Villa: Philadelphia Phillies

As I’ve learned from FTW, Aston Villa has a lot of players who are a few years past their prime. Sound familiar in the MLB world? Yep, it’s the Phillies. Ryan Howard. Chase Utley. Carlos Ruiz. Formerly Jimmy Rollins. Aston Villa hasn’t won a F.A. Cup since 1957 so they don’t have the same rate of¬†success in the past 10 years or so as the Phillies but it’s still pretty close.

Everton: Oakland Athletics

Everton has had some good players in the recent years. Marouane Fellaini. Tim Howard. Samuel Eto’o. Yet none of that has translated into much top-level success. The same can be said for the A’s. Going back to the days of Barry Zito, Tim Hudson, Mark Mulder, Miguel Tejada, and Jason Giambi to the recent¬†days of Scott Kazmir, Jon Lester, Ben Zobrist, and Josh Donaldson, the A’s have always had a moderate level of success. Yet they haven’t been able to take home any hardware.

Chelsea: St. Louis Cardinals

If only Tony La Russa were still the manager of the Cardinals, this would have been an even better fit. Jose Mourinho is a good coach but has the personality of a… grumpy shellfish. Yet both have been very successful throughout their histories and currently have a number of good, young players. The Cards have Carlos Martinez, Michael Wacha, Kolten Wong to pair with established veterans like Matt Holliday, Yadier Molina, and Adam Wainwright. Just look to Chelsea’s roster and you’ll see you young guns like Eden Hazard and Nathan Ake with players like Cesc Fabregas and Loic Remy.

Arsenal: Boston Red Sox

If FTW’s list is any indication of the truth, then Arsenal likes to do things differently. That sounds a lot like the Red Sox. The days of the ‘idiots’ with Johnny Damon, Pedro Martinez, and Kevin Millar were, well, different, and now they like to tout their scouting as different and embracing the ‘Moneyball’ aspect of the game. And both clubs have had star players stick with them a long time, most recently Tomas Rosicky in London and David Ortiz in Boston.

Bournemouth: Colorado Rockies

I quote, again, from FTW:

If you play the lottery every week and think this time my number will be called, you should root for Bournemouth. … If you like long shots, though, why not?

The same can be said with the Rockies. They look to have a long road to rebuilding ahead of them with the recent trade of Troy Tulowitzki and impending trades of Jose Reyes and Carlos Gonzalez. It looks like it will be a while before they can compete again. While Bournemouth will never get that chance, we’ll give the Rockies the same chance — for the next few years anyway.

Tottenham Hotspur: Detroit Tigers

Both teams have some high-quality players. Both teams should be challenging for league crowns. Yet both always come up short. Also adding to the fit, both have a long history of success.

Watford: San Diego Padres

An infusion of new talent before the season? That could explain either Watford or the Padres. Things haven’t worked out well so far with the Padres with Craig Kimbrel, Justin Upton, Melvin Upton, Wil Myers, Will Middlebrooks, Matt Kemp, and James Shields. Watford will hope for better results.

West Brom Albian: Kansas City Royals

FTW’s take:

If you think the way to fix a chipped tooth is to punch your dentist in the face, support West Bromwich Albion.

Think of the Royals this year, and all of their fights come to the forefront. Led by Yordano Ventura‘s fiery antics, the Royals have often found themselves in the midst of a dustup. And before last year’s surprising run to the World Series, the Royals and West Brom had about the same level of success.

Southampton: New York Mets

Southampton was a surprise challenger for much of last season before fading down the stretch and still finishing a respectful seventh. That run of young talent with surprising results parallels the Mets and their young stable of pitching. Matt Harvey, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler inspire a lot of confidence for the future. The same could be said at Southampton.

Leicester City: Tampa Bay Rays

FTW:

If you like taking lemons and making lemonade, you should root for Leicester City

The Rays know all about getting lemons throughout their history. Look at some of the talent they’ve lost recently. Carl Crawford, Ben Zobrist, David Price, and James Shields, just to name a few. Yet they’ve always found a way to hang around and make noise every once in a while.

Newcastle: Cleveland Indians

FTW:

There’s a particular blend of self-loathing and anger that has marked every Newcastle fan I’ve ever met.

This is too easy. Cleveland is the Factory of Sadness. Enough said.

Crystal Palace: Toronto Blue Jays

Both teams are known for their offense. Their defense (and pitching, in the Blue Jays’ case) lags behind. Crystal Palace gave up the second-most goals in the top half of the table last year. One of the main differences, though, is the Blue Jays have a much better offense with Josh Donaldson, Jose Bautista, Edwin Encarnacion, and Troy Tulowitzki. Whether the Jays will have more success is yet to be seen.

Liverpool: Washington Nationals

The Nationals haven’t even won a playoff series, but they sometimes act and are treated like one¬†of the game’s royalties. Maybe it’s the combo of Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper that causes it. But they really haven’t earned it yet. The same can be said of Liverpool’s recent run that has seen them come up short year after year. Both will spend big but ultimately fail to live up to expectations.

Sunderland: Arizona Diamondbacks

Both teams consistently languish in a state of mediocrity. Neither one is really threatening to do much in the league, but neither is really in danger of falling all the way into the bottom. Something has to give soon for both of them.

Swansea City: San Francisco Giants

OK, on the face this doesn’t look like a good comparison. But both have played way over their talent levels. Of course, the Giants have turned that into three World Series titles while getting contributions from the likes of Edgar Renteria, Cody Ross, and Pablo Sandoval. Swansea hasn’t had the same level of success but recently finished above teams like Everton and Aston Villa.

Stoke City: Milwaukee Brewers

Hey, remember that these two teams still play? Stoke has finished right in the middle of the table for the past seven years and has put up a decent showing in cup fixtures. Not too long ago the Brewers were a consistent playoff team led by Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder but haven’t drawn much attention the past few years. It can be easy to overlook both of these teams.

Norwich City: Chicago Cubs

FTW:

…This is a team that could have a lot of 0-0 ties. Organized, methodical, 0-0 ties. Fun times.

The Cubs will score more than Norwich, but their run differential is still just as bland. They currently stand at a run differential of +10, but they’ve scored the fewest runs in their division. The future is brighter for the Cubs than Norwich — and the Cubs are at least pushing for a playoff spot — but neither is doing much to separate itself from its opponents.

Don’t forget to also browse through all the baseball cards,¬†football cards,¬†and hockey cards that I have for sale at my eCrater store.