03.25.08

It Might Be Opening Day, But Jeff Schultz’ Knee-Jerkiness Is In Mid-Season Form

Posted in Baseball, Sports Journalism, We Aren't The World at 6:58 pm by

Admittedly, I overslept this morning and missed Boston’s 6-5, 10 inning win over Oakland from Tokyo. But it’s not that big a deal — both clubs will have 160 regular seasons games within North America, and MLB’s global marketing manuevers (while obviously a commercial initiative) aren’t so rotten when you consider how the game is showcased. Compare and contrast this morning’s curtain raiser with last October’s Dolphins/Giants tilt at Wembley Stadium and ask yourself, which event made it’s respective sport appear exciting and which seemed like a huge bore?

Not that I’m usually psyched about ways to make the likes of John Henry and Hank Steinbrenner even richer, but consider how baseball will continue to grow and that exceptional athletes from far-flung locales who might otherwise try their hand at soccer or basketball, could well be playing in the big leagues soon. Hasn’t an international talent pool made the NBA relevant all over the world? Other than New York City, I mean.

None of those arguments, I’m sorry to say, are likely to carry much weight with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Jeff Schultz, who sneers, “I imagine Japan will reciprocate this breach of tradition by opening the sumo season at Fenway Park.” (link swiped from The Griddle)

I get the whole global marketing thing. I don™t get taking one of the few special traditions remaining in sports and turning it into some infomercial like a Vegematic.

The first pitch for A™s fans was scheduled for 3:05 a.m. Pacific time. Advantages?

œThere are a lot of bars that™ll still be open in Oakland, Roger Kahn said. œJack London used to drink there all the time.

Baseball officials want to grow the game in the Pacific.

Shouldn™t they be doing a better job nurturing the sport closer to home?

Now there are kids asleep before the first pitch of the World Series and the first pitch of the season.

The Braves open Sunday night in Washington, a made-for-ESPN event in the Nationals™ new stadium. They return home after one game. As unconventional as that is, at least they™re in the same time zone. And continent.

Opening Day was special for Hank Aaron. œNo matter how many years you play, when that bell rings, you get jitters, he said.

He tied Ruth in 1974 with a homer off Jack Billingham in Cincinnati. But his fondest memory came in 1956 as a Milwaukee Brave. It was another home run, but this one came off the Chicago Cubs™ Bob Rush in extraordinary circumstances. The Farmers™ Almanac database indicates a low of 33 degrees in Milwaukee on that April 17, with some rain and snow flurries.

œIt was cold ” I mean, freezing cold, he said. œThe manager, Fred Haney, had a meeting and said, ˜If anybody talks about how cold it is, it™s going to cost you $50.™ That was a lot of money back then. Then we beat the Cubs and I hit a home run. I™d have to say I remember that opener more than any other just because it was so cold and I was able to hit a home run.

Now, we have memories. Japan gave us Daisuke. We gave them Opening Day. Nice trade.

Interesting that Schultz would quiz Roger Kahn and Henry Aaron about the impact of an Opening Day overseas. As opposed to say, gauging the opinion of Japanese fans for whom seeing Jack Cust David Ortiz up close in a game that counts has great resonance.

That said, I do understand why the sanctity of Opening Day would register so strongly with an AJC columnist. Other than a 7th game of a World Series (maybe), that’s one of the few days each year the Braves are likely to sell out Turner Field. “Grow the game at home”? Despite record attendances and revenues in the midst of a) unparalleled competition for the entertainment dollar and b) a wide-ranging drugs scandal that failed to quell the public’s obsession with the game, Schultz would have you believe American kids are being fucked over.

At the risk of sounding like an apologist for The Used Car Salesman, maybe The Southern-Fried Mushnick can explain whether or not this event took place late enough in the day to bother tuning in?

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