Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium is way more than just a game. As with any superstar, it’s the end of an era. For a lot of us (whether
you’re a Yankees fan or not – I’m not) Derek Jeter is not only a great baseball player and guaranteed hall of famer; he’s a stellar role model and representative of what I want for my kids. He is the quintessential sportsman, the face of baseball. In an era plagued by steroids, domestic abuse and and illicit conduct, Derek Jeter brings integrity back to the sport. I will sorely miss him as a player but I have a feeling his baseball career is just taking on a new role. But that’s another story.
Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium may be the end of an era and the last game for the baseball icon, but it is also a financial windfall for the Yankee organization. Ticket prices for the game start at close to $400 for bleacher seats and there are reports of some seats going for as high as $250,000! That can buy an awful lot of baseballs! The average ticket price right now is reported in the $800 range. I wonder what they’ll charge for parking?
Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium will be covered by national and international news and surely will be one of the biggest baseball news stories of 2014. But let’s go back a few years. Derek Sanderson Jeter was born June 26, 1974 in Pequannock, New Jersey; the oldest of two children of Charles and Dorothy Jeter. No he wasn’t named after the famous Boston Bruins’ star, by Derek’s admission he was named after his grandfather, Sanderson Charles Jeter.
As a young boy he spent summers with his grandparents and played a lot of catch with his grandmother Dot who took him on numerous sojourns to Yankee Stadium. They lived just on the other side of the bridge of Jeter’s beloved ‘Bronx Bombers’ whom he claimed would have him in pinstripes someday. How many kids have that dream?
During the school year he lived with his parents in Michigan and by Derek’s high school days it was apparent he was a gifted athlete. In his career he batted over .500, had only one strikeout in his senior year and was voted the 1992 Player of the year by the American Baseball Coaches Association and USA Today. He was also the Gatorade High School Athlete of the Year. He was signed by the Yankees at the end of his senior year; a prediction he boldly proclaimed as far back as elementary school.
As a professional in the minor leagues he was voted the Most Outstanding Major League Prospect by South Atlantic League Managers, and Baseball America voted him the South Atlantic League’s Best Defensive Shortstop. Other awards included Minor League Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player of the Florida State League.
To list all of Jeter’s achievements and awards would take a while but here’s some of the list; Rookie of the Year, 5 Gold Glove Awards, 5 Silver Slugger Awards, All Star Game MVP, League MVP, World Series MVP, Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year Award, Roberto Clemente Award, Hank Aaron Award, Hitter of the Year Award, Baseball Digest Player of the Year Award, Lou Gehrig Memorial Award, Willie, Mickey and the Duke Award and the Commissioner’s Historic Achievement Award.
Tonight, the world will get to see (hopefully, depending on Mother Nature) Derek Jeter’s last game at Yankee Stadium. As I have mentioned before, I’m not a Yankees fan, however I’m a huge Derek Jeter fan. He exemplifies all of the finest attributes a professional athlete should embody. What Derek Jeter means to baseball and the fans of this era is eloquently explained by commission Bud Selig.
“When I was a kid, as I reminisced the other day, my favorite player was Joe DiMaggio,” Selig said during a pregame news conference at Yankee Stadium. “What Joe D meant to my generation, Derek has meant to his. I’ve been overjoyed to see Derek join the heroes of my youth — Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and all the other greats. He is a great champion in every way.”
What’s cooler than a wiffle ball tournament? How about a wiffle ball tournament that raises half of a million dollars for charity! At my friend Paul Chiasson’s insistence, this past Sunday I had
the pleasure of being at The Travis Roy Foundation “Little Fenway” Wiffle Ball Tournament with Paul, his son Brandon and my son Steve. I can’t tell you how much fun we had while we were supporting a great cause but I will say that you should definitely take the opportunity to check this place out. Imagine being at a mini replica of Fenway Park, Wrigley Field and The Field of Dreams…all visible from one location. It’s absolutely magical! While I was there I had the pleasure to talk to Pat O’Connor, the man behind the dream and how this amazing event all came to pass. Little Fenway Website
“We’re huge baseball fans and our favorite park is Fenway, we used to take the kids there all the time”. Pat talked about how he and his younger brothers took a multi week trip in 92 to see games at all the major league teams and parks. “We rented a van with unlimited miles. That was quite the trip”. But back to Fenway. “We had this idea about putting a field on our 11 acre property and wiffle ball was the best way to do it….that way more people would get the opportunity to enjoy it and maybe hit one over the green monster.” They broke ground in October 2000 and the mini replica was ready for the first wiffle ball party in July of 2001. “We sent out flyers, made up Red Sox shirts and expected about 75 people or so….well we got about 200! The event was planned to last about 3 hours and went on until dark and a friend of ours even had two F16s do a flyover. It was wild!” Later that summer they, they planned on a recognition event for the Little League kids that went to Williamsport when 911 hit so they changed it to raise money for New York. That event raised $1400.
Afterwards Pat decided that they could do other successful fundraisers because, “we knew right after we built it that this place was kind of magical!” They partnered with a local radio station and funded events for a girl that needed a kidney transplant, a man that was in a boating accident and Vermont military assistance. They also held events to support breast cancer, ALS and other charities.
“Then I read Travis’ book, 11 Seconds, and was inspired by the story so I decided to call the foundation”. They scheduled a tournament and “that first year we had seven teams including ‘The Boston Beef’, ‘Hot Damn’, ‘The Staten Island Yankees” and ‘Reverse the Curse’ who after 2004 changed their name to ‘The Curse Lifted’. All four of those teams return to play every year”. In spite of the fact that it rained all day, they still had a great turnout, raised about $4000 for the Travis Roy Foundation, most of the teams vowed to return annually… and in Pat’s own words, “we knew we had something special”.
Initially, each team paid a $300 entry fee and that made up the bulk of the funds but Pat knew that he could do way better so they changed the concept; all of the teams do their own fundraising throughout the year and donate that money to the tournament proceeds. Revenue kept increasing and then Pat had the idea to add ‘Little Wrigley’ so they could put more teams in the tournament. Somewhere along the line, the one day event turned into a three day weekend, they added more teams, more sponsors, and this year added ‘Little Field of Dreams’. You have no idea what a feeling it is until you actually see it. My sentiments were echoed by Pat and all of the devoted members of the committee.
“If there’s anything I’d like to say it’s that you really have to be here to feel the magic!” It’s no doubt magic that has translated into over $500,000.00 this year alone and over 3 million since it’s inception. Not bad for a little game of wiffle ball.
“This is the coolest place on earth for this weekend. By the way, just two words, the garage” as he points to a Travis Roy Foundation Little Fenway Wiffle Ball Tournament tee shirt. “Fifteen bucks and they’re going fast”. He wasn’t kidding, when I got to the garage they were sold out! Tim bounced around like a super ball for the whole day we were there, making sure all of his charges were at their appointed tasks… the disposition of a golden retriever and the precision of a Swiss watch. As the field coordinator, Tim has to line up all of the volunteers for the wiffle ball tournament, which by the way is no easy task. Anything that happens under the tents is Tim’s responsibility. DJ’s, scorekeepers, announcers etc. to the tune of 600 slots for the 104 games played in this year’s tourney. Thanks to Tim’s attention to detail it ran like a well oiled machine. 28 teams, from Vermont to Staten Island (the furthest distance any of the teams traveled), and several teams from Massachusetts, 17 officials; all of whom are Vermont certified referees, scorebook keepers and announcers ran on a timetable closer than two coats of paint.
Fundraisers, while all for good causes, don’t generally garner an excess of media coverage….this one’s different. Maybe it’s because this is such a massive undertaking and planning for it will literally start when the last guest leaves on Sunday night…maybe because it raises so much money (over 3 million since it’s inception)… or maybe the fact that it’s for such a good cause. I was fortunate to run into Stephen Watson, the sports anchor at WPTZ and got his views on the tourney.
As I was marveling at the replica fields, I just couldn’t believe how it felt. “It’s really cool,” said Watson. “Every kid grew up playing wiffle ball at some point or another, and to play at some of the most iconic baseball fields in history, it’s pretty amazing to see. They really are identical replicas. I’ve been out to Wrigley a couple of times and there’s the ivy on the wall and the scoreboard…the green monster at Fenway and even the Citgo sign that overlooks center field”. “Pat O’Connor, the owner of this complex puts a lot of time and money into it! Building the ‘Field of Dreams’ this year was obviously a big investment but you come out here and you see why he does it…..there’s so many people that are so happy!
Did you happen to see the viral video of Connor Fleming leaping into the bullpen to make a fabulous catch at little Fenway? I asked Steve if he got the money shot on that one. “I wasn’t filming at the time but the good folks at Pack Network were kind enough to let us use the video. It was a great catch and the fact that it went viral was such great exposure for the Travis Roy Foundation”. I asked him what he likes the most about the tournament. “I think it’s the number of people that come together for a common cause….and it raises so much money. I talked to Travis and he said that thirteen years ago when the tournament first started, he would never have imagined it would turn out like this!” He continued, “To have your health is so important…you see someone like Travis who had it all taken away, yet he has such a good head on his shoulders…it’s really inspiring to see!”
“I know it sounds pretty cliche, but everybody’s winning out here, even if you’re not winning on the field…everyone is having so much fun…just to come out here and see these fields! And it’s true, you can’t really get a feel for it unless you see it!”
Some of the volunteers that are so critical are the unsung heroes that don’t get to watch the tournament. The dedicated women that run the concession in the garage at Pat’s house come in on Friday and don’t leave till Sunday night and are responsible for all of the souvenirs, tee shirts, candy bars etc. that get sold. Judy Galdi, the
head of that branch of the tournament, brought me up to speed on her role and the significance of the Jet Blue tee shirts. “We have been so fortunate to have Jet Blue as a major sponsor. They contribute a large amount of money to the foundation and also to building and maintaining the fields and we’re very grateful. We also get a lot of the materials donated and that really helps. I don’t think we could put a figure on what all of this costs…but it’s a lot”.
As a member of the team for twelve of the thirteen years of the tournament, she won’t get rookie of the year honors, but she is highly valued and serves on the steering committee which meets all throughout the year. “There’s about fifteen of us and it’s the best committee I’ve ever worked on and I’ve done a lot of volunteer work!” She and her partner Tanya Carpenter, both former hockey moms, met Pat years ago when they were all ‘hockey parents’. “We’ve known Pat since the hockey days and that’s how we got involved. It’s a lot of work but it’s one weekend and I tell my whole family not to plan anything on this date because I have to be at my tournament”.
That led to a funny anecdote about how her son met Travis Roy and exclaimed, “My mom runs a tournament for you”…later, when he told Judy of the account she said, “It’s not my tournament, I’m just one of the members”…”But mom, you always call it YOUR tournament!” Well Judy and Travis both got a laugh over that. She went on to tell me, “Once you come here and then meet Travis, well you’re hooked and I can’t think of anyplace I’d rather be for this weekend.”
Travis Roy is a former BU hockey player, motivational speaker, artist, writer and inspiration. He is the only player in BU history to have his number retired. His book, 11 Seconds: A Story of Tragedy, Courage and Triumph, tells the story of his accident and life, coping with the changes since his injury both physically and psychologically. He may be somewhat limited physically, but the man is unstoppable in his quest to recover from his spinal damage and help others with spinal injuries. The Travis Roy Foundation has raised and donated millions to the study of spinal chord injuries and to help the victims and families affected with spinal chord damage. Travis spends half of the year in Colchester, Vermont and the other half in Boston. He is heavily involved in the ‘Little Fenway’ Wiffle Ball Tournament. Watch the video for Travis’ story.
If you like this story please share it so we can help Travis raise more money for spinal chord research and help the victims of this type of injury.
Travis Roy Foundation Little Fenway Wiffle Ball Tournament UVBA.org
When you live in the northeast, you’re constantly at the mercy of Mother Nature to determine the length of your spring athletic season. I can remember years that saw melted snow and dry fields as early as late March and years that saw bulldozers clearing snow in mid April. It’s times like these that an indoor sports academy really can add the necessary practice time that makes all the difference on how your team will play when you finally hit the field. The bottom line is that it takes at least one to two months to develop the muscle memory to be in peak condition.
I can honestly say that I’m not a fan of kids playing one sport year round; especially in a small school. The talent pool is generally limited and playing one sport exclusively takes talented athletes away from other sports. Not to mention that playing multiple sports is great for general athleticism and prevents the ‘burnout factor’ from coming into play.
On the other hand; I will say that athletes should focus on one sport and give it some extra attention during the year. For example, baseball and softball players can play fall ball while still playing another fall sport. In addition, they can take advantage of indoor sports academy facilities to ‘keep in touch’ with the sport through the rest of the year. For serious athletes, this will make a huge difference in their regular season performance and possibly be the ‘deal maker’ for a potential college career.
How many times have you lost a practice to to poor weather or worse still gotten an injury from a slippery field? That’s the beauty of an indoor practice/training facility. It’s a short enough season in the northeast without losing any valuable practice time. The spring of 2014 was probably the shortest spring season I’ve ever seen and if we had an indoor sports academy, then that wouldn’t have been a factor.
An indoor sports academy will give you a controlled playing environment which is some times better than an outdoor facility. When practicing new techniques and practice methods, it’s nice to have a consistent field that will give you a predictable play. This will give the player more comfort and confidence when trying to learn a new skill.
In most indoor sports academy facilities there are a host of other opportunities available. Training in weight rooms, speed and agility training, and even other sports make the workouts more interesting and complete.
A NONPROFIT indoor sports academy does not survive strictly on operating revenues. A nonprofit organization typically will rely on grants, donations, state and federal funding and fundraising ventures. Also, they can employ community service volunteers to keep the overhead low. Add to the fact that a nonprofit indoor sports academy has less or no tax burden and it makes the overall operating expenses much lower compared to a typical for profit business. That allows it to have significantly lower fees and also provide scholarships for financially challenged families.
UVBA is working to make this happen in the Upper Valley of New hampshire and Vermont. To find out how you can help, call
Steve Cerrone at 802-296-5987 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
6 Advantages To A Nonprofit Indoor Sports Academy www.UVBA.org
Sabermetrics And MoneyBall; A Tale Of Baseball Evolution
We’ve all heard the term sabermetrics, but…do we even know how the term was coined and where it came from? Have you ever seen the movie MoneyBall? And what do those two questions have in common? It all stems from SABR — The Society for American Baseball Research.
SABR is a “Membership organization dedicated to fostering the research and dissemination of the history, record and culture of baseball.” In addition, they are concerned with the preservation of research materials associated with the sport. Might sound a little nerdy but what Darwin was to evolution, SABR (Sabermetrics) is to baseball!
The organization was established in Cooperstown, NY in 1971, at a meeting in the Baseball Hall of Fame library called by sports writer Bob Davids. The original 17 members saw steady growth leading to their incorporation as a charitable organization in 1974. At present there are over 6500 members, chapters in almost every major city where a professional baseball franchise is located and representation in Tokyo, London and even Australia.
Every summer since their origin, SABR members have gathered for an annual convention. This year they will be in Houston from July 29 – Aug 3, and most of the 500 attendees will go together to a ballgame. Before the game they will spend hours with top Astro executives and front office staff in several panel discussions.
Everyone Is Welcome
While talking to local long-time member F. X. Flinn, who serves on the board of directors, I learned that there’s no test to become a SABR member, no age or gender restrictions and there’s even a junior subchapter of SABR located in Burlington, Vt. The annual fee starts at $45; everyone is welcome and membership contributes a substantial amount to their financial make up.
Sabermetrics and MoneyBall
SABR has evolved into much more than their original mission statement reflects. The use of mathematical and statistical analysis of records has indeed changed the way professional baseball operates their very business model.
In the early 80’s, Bill James published a series of books on baseball analytics titled ‘The Baseball Abstracts‘ which he called sabermetrics in honor of SABR. By the late 1980s, Billy Beane of the Oakland Athletics incorporated sabermetrics in building World Series contenders. The subsequent film MoneyBall is the story of his implementation of sabermetrics to acquire and utilise undervalued players in a baseball world dominated by totally different ‘Metrics’.
Sabermetrics, or statistical analysis dates back to the work of Allan Roth for the Brooklyn Dodgers, a 1964 book by Earnshaw Cook called Percentage Baseball, and the groundbreaking Hidden Game of Baseball by John Thorn.
But sabermetrics is more than just statistical and mathematical analysis. It is more the statistics as they relate to other players and statistics. Terms like VORP (value over replacement player), Runs Created, Similarity Score and Pythagorean Expectation supplement the simple counting of RBIs, or the basic rate calculations of Batting Average.
Another classic example of how this has affected baseball is the process of determining the annual Gold Glove Award winner, a tradition created by Rawlings in 1957. The coveted award is given to one player of each of the nine positions in both the AL and the NL. The managers of each team vote for the players but there has been substantial controversy over the years with the results. Some critics claimed that players won because of past reputation, offensive statistics or even just plain popularity, and not by defensive capability. Rawlings decided to seek SABR’s help and last year began making a sabermetric measure, the SABR Defensive Index, count for 25% of the decision process.
“As we looked to marry ‘The Art of Fielding with the Science of Baseball™,’ the composition of the SABR Defensive Index is exactly what we were hoping to achieve,” said Mike Thompson, senior vice president of marketing for St. Louis-based Rawlings. “Since its inception in 1957, the Rawlings Gold Glove Award has relied on the major-league managers and coaches’ invaluable insights and keen understanding of the art of fielding to reward the best defensive players in the game. The new sabermetric component in the selection process is just another example of how the iconic Award has evolved throughout history as the industry standard honoring defensive excellence at the highest level of baseball.”
Big Papi, Sabermetrics And The Defensive Shift
While sometimes it isn’t a good idea to over analyze a situation, take a look at ‘Big Papi’, David Ortiz of the Boston Red Sox and the defense used by opponents when he bats — yet another perfect example of how more sophisticated data collection process is reshaping the thinking in MLB.
“That’s what happens when you have people who say, ‘I wonder what we would learn if we started collecting data about where each ball was hit from every pitch that was thrown, and to go one step further, where each player was on the field when that pitch was thrown'”. Flinn continued, “Now you have teams that are paying people to watch the games and collect that data…AND…those teams are putting it to use internally and hence the defensive shift.”
SABR Moves Into A New Era
The Annual Analytics Conference, ‘A New Baseball Standard’
According to Flinn, in the early 2000’s, the board of directors wanted to do some ‘radical surgery’ on their batting order. Instead of simply producing two journals, a book and an annual convention, SABR added a web-based membership system and began moving resources online.
“During the first decade of the 2000’s, we worked very hard to turn our data assets into data bases that were well organized and tightly integrated so that people who were looking to commercially exploit that data could come to SABR and we could license the use of it…. a change from the old SABR that perhaps focused too much on what happened on the 1920’s and 30’s baseball history”.
In 2010, headquarters moved from Cleveland to Phoenix. “Phoenix is one of those 365 days a year baseball places,” he said, “offering many more opportunities to create ties with the baseball industry.” They also reconfigured their staff so they had someone dedicated to being a full time web producer giving the organization additional credibility and visibility.
But the biggest new addition to the SABR lineup is the Annual Analytics Conference held in Phoenix, the 2nd weekend in March during spring training. Flinn notes, “…it has become a very important industry conference for baseball. The attendees, by and large, are people who work for MLB teams in the analytics area or they’re executives with teams who are coming to hear and share in the latest trends. That’s been a huge success for us and running that conference is like adding another thousand members.”
Focusing On Youth
When asked about SABR’s initiative to recruit younger members, Flinn jokingly mused, “We’re trying to get our member’s average age under 50!” Although humorous, there’s a lot of truth said in jest. “We have our arms open to the younger generation and we welcome initiatives like the youth chapter in Burlington. We are absolutely committed to continuing the Jack Kavanaugh award, an annual contest which is presented by SABR for the best essay or research paper on a topic related to baseball.” (There are middle school, high school and college divisions)
“I would also like to find youth baseball sites across the country to give kids access to what SABR is all about.”
“I believe that over the next decade, SABR is going to become markedly more present-oriented. That in turn will bring in everyone who has this level of interest in the game into the fold which will serve the whole baseball research community well.” The incorporation of sabermetrics into management decisions is more prominent than ever.
One last thought Flinn added to the conversation was about the Bio Project which has been in the works for the last ten years. SABR is writing a full length, 1500 word biography of every player that ever played Major League Baseball! That encompasses about 18,000 players! In addition you can find information about Ball Parks, Executives, Spouses, Managers, Umpires, Games, Scouts and Broadcasters. click here
This is not just your father’s SABR. It’s truly an organization that serves the entire baseball community, both young and old, player or fan. They’re embracing both the past and the future and they embody the notion that you don’t have to be a player to be in professional baseball.
Let your love of the sport be infectious and make the game a better place for having been there.
Sabermetrics and Moneyball; A Tale of Baseball Evolution UVBA.org