Month: July, 2011

Massachusetts Baseball, BBFF, and Infographics

My best friend lives in Massachusetts, and though he’s not around on a daily basis, his influence is tremendous.

Even from a distance, he’s quite the enabler and has been trafficking baseball loot to me for years.

He likes to send packages stuffed with baseball cards, and I squeal with delight when I open the mailbox to find an otherwise nondescript yellow envelope with his hand-drawn version of the MLB logo on the outside of the package.

Recently, one of those envelopes contained a disc filled with photos that chronicle the past three seasons of baseball, which I scrolled in great delight as I saw images of Varitek blocking home plate, Josh Spence in a Yoda backpack, and that kid from Philadelphia who got tased.

We’ve sent each other Starting Lineup figures, talked about statistics, and enjoyed ice cream in baseball helmets at Fenway and US Cellular on our yearly vacation to see each other (it’s his turn to visit, don’t think I’ve forgotten).

Meet Fudgy, y’all.

The ultimate gift that my BBFF (baseball best friend forever) has sent was a hand-made T-shirt with the New Bedford Bay Sox logo on it. This ringer tee features a whale (which we’ve nicknamed Fudgy) swinging a bat, which is arguably the cutest thing I have ever seen.

After Fudgy arrived in the mail, I started to pay more attention to my BBFF’s escapades in minor league and independent league baseball in Massachusetts, which seemed to be frequent and involved teams I had never heard of.

I’d get picture-texts with captions that did not make a ton of sense, because I was not aware there were so many baseball options in one state.

“Headed to a Paw Sox game!”

“Enjoying a beer with the Bay Sox!”

“Beautiful night for a a Brockton Rox game!”

“Cape Cod League game tonight!”

After half a dozen of these text messages, I innocently made the comment that it seemed that Massachusetts had a LOT of baseball.

I mean, Chicago has a lot of baseball… after all, we have two major league teams and some other teams in the distant suburbs (which admittedly I have never attended, because the suburbs are ‘far away’ as I like to describe them).

But as the texts increased, I started to think he was messing with me.

The Brewster Whitecaps? Bourne Braves? Yeah, sure. Those are real teams.

North Adams Steeple Cats? What the hell is a Steeple Cat*?

And when I thought he was finished, he just kept going, raising my suspicion that either these teams were made up or that or that every square inch of Massachusetts was actually covered by baseball fields.

Perhaps the thing I love most about my BBFF is his attention to detail.  If you ask him a question, he’s going to make sure that your question has been thoroughly answered through a detailed explanation, perhaps a link to supplemental reading, and in this case… a carefully crafted infographic.

I love infographics.  Every picture tells a story, but especially when you include words. Since I was doubting that this much baseball actually existed in Massachusetts, the BBFF made this incredibly helpful infographic that resulted in just one conclusion: there is in fact a (expletive deleted)-ton** of baseball in Massachusetts.

This infographic captures the precise location of all of the baseball teams in the state, including their league affiliation, their founding date, and most importantly: their logo/mascot. The pennants at the bottom also indicate their accolades as league champions, which surely makes Massachusetts the winningest state in terms of baseball championships.

I’ve taken this infographic as a bit of a challenge: I’d like to attend a game of every team in Massachusetts, including the ones that I am still not sure exist (Falmouth Commodores? Does Lionel Richie play there?).

This trip would not be just for posterity, but I’m sure it’d be a great adventure for me and the BBFF.

Consider it officially a part of the baseball bucket list, Nick.

* I googled this, and apparently a Steeple Cat is a cartoon cat that looks like an elder statesman holding a baseball bat. Seriously, I still have no idea what a Steeple Cat is, and I’m not sure if it’s one word or two words. I also don’t know if Cat is capitalized or not.

 ** This is an inexact measurement, containing a four-letter word starting with ‘S’ that is often used when one wants to express the fact that there is indeed a lot of something. i.e. “there are a (expletive deleted)-ton of asterisked words in this article…perhaps you should write for Grantland.”

Creatures Of Habit

Call me a commitment-o-phobe.

I did not develop good habits of consistency  growing up, and that’s translated into an adulthood of confusion and change.

Exhibit One: I’ve never purchased the same toothpaste more than once.

There’s a lack of brand loyalty and picking a toothpaste can be a cause of great anxiety. I push my shopping cart off to the side as I labor in front of the toothpaste shelf for what seems like hours.

I read the labels and the false promises of whitening, strengthening, and coffee-stain removal, while folks reach around me to grab the toothpaste that has never let them down from the shelf.

They are quick, even smug, in their selection as they reach for the Crest that has serviced their mouths for years as I try and decide if I’m more concerned with healthy gums, white teeth, or flavor profile.

I hope one of these smug assholes will smile. Not because I’m friendly, but because I’d like to check their gums for gingivitis as a grade for the toothpaste they select.

Often, I look at the kid’s toothpastes and pick whichever one has the most appealing cartoon character, much to the chagrin of my dentist who seems to know that I’m a grown adult using bubble gum flavored paste (perhaps it’s the fact that I demand a sticker after a cleaning?).

And my fear of commitment has led me to where I am today: living alone, after I failed miserably at living with someone else.

But with three years alone, I’m finding myself in a pattern of consistency that is oddly comforting: I’m becoming a creature of habit.

Since I don’t have to share the washing machine with a significant other, it’s easy to pick laundry day.

So, I picked Mondays.

And since I’m sleeping alone, no longer dealing with a cover-hog, I can put the pillows into whatever Tetris-pattern of my choosing.

I am the queen of the bed and I make the rules.

And as the sole guardian of the television remote, the lead climate control specialist, and the head chef, things become simple and it’s easy to find a routine.

And now the routine has become the one piece of adulthood that I relish.

On a typical weeknight, I shut down my work computer, head to the kitchen and the dog follows me. I turn around and ask, “Hungry, Lola?” in that voice that every dog-owner uses when alone with their dog. She replies in kind with a shrill bark that bounces off of the hardwood floors, and it’s all I can do to get food in her bowl immediately to stop the ear-bleeding.  And while she’s satiated, I work on provisions for myself, which can be anything that I want to make (Full disclosure: sometimes this means peanut butter directly from the jar).

While dinner cooks, I watch the MLB Network. And while sauces simmer and vegetables roast, I check my fantasy lineups and curse at how terrible I am at managing a baseball team. I was naïve early on to believe that my lineups were unbeatable, and now get a weekly spanking from some 20-year-old twerp I’ve never met, but continues to destroy me in head-to-head (I wish this were an exaggeration).

After dinner, Lola and I walk to the local park and watch a baseball league, one of the few men’s baseball leagues in the city. I take a pocket full of treats and we sit on the same bench nightly. Lola gets treats when she plays nice with small children or Mindy, the West Highland Terrier, who desperately needs obedience classes.

When home, Lola musters up enough energy to bring me her tennis ball, and I throw a side-session of cutters and change-ups against the old armoire 20 feet away. Like the Energizer Bunny, Lola runs back and forth between the armoire and my pitching mound, hoping for a wild pitch that will give her the opportunity to slobber on the ball as she retrieves it for another pitch.

When my arm is fatigued to the point of Tommy John, Lola sticks her whole face in the water bowl as a sign of exhaustion and concession after another successful evening of stimulation.

And if the Dodgers are at home, I turn on the game to listen to Vin Scully, which is my favorite bedtime story. A habit that started years ago with my first purchase of, it’s the lynchpin of creature-of-habitdom, and a sense of comfort and an unconventional anchor for my life that is often unpredictable.

I return from the bathroom where I’ve washed my face and brushed my teeth with whatever toothpaste I’ve acquired under duress at the last store visit, I find the pillows arranged in the exact fashion I’ve left them the night before, with the apartment temperature at the precise degree I require for restful sleep.

And within the hour, there we are with our Pavlovian conditioning to Vin Scully’s call of the Dodgers game… finding rest and comfort in living with some semblance of habit.


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