The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Monday, July 19, 2004

Back from Cincinnati

Well, I’m back from Cincinnati and my first SABR convention today.  Actually, I got back last night – which, not coincidentally, was also about the same time that I finally got comfortable spelling Cincinnati.  For whatever reason, I really struggle with that word. 
To be brief, the city and the convention were great.  I stayed at the Westin, which was the host hotel of the convention.  It’s a very nice hotel in the downtown area, which is within walking distance of the Reds’ Great American Ballpark and even the Bengals’ Paul Brown Stadium.  According to my latest Green Book, the Westin also plays host to four or five National League teams when they come to town (although the Cardinals were down the street at the Hyatt Regency this weekend).  Other than the elevators, which there were few of and the ones they had were slow, everything about the hotel was great – especially Westin’s signature Heavenly beds.  You wouldn’t think a little thing like a bed could be so pleasant, but it would make me pay a few extra bucks for a Westin over another hotel that didn’t offer something quite so nice.  Anyways, on to the conference…
I arrived on Thursday morning, and while I was far from the first person to register, I arrived in time to see many of the presentations.  Overall, I was highly impressed by the presentations, the presenters, the written work, and everything done by my fellow members.  Granted, some presentations were better than others, but what I found was that the biggest thing separating the best from the not-quite-best was how polished each work was in terms of presentability, form, and format.  The analysis and research that went into each presentation was stellar.  Even topics that didn’t seem to be particularly interesting to me – such as a history of baseball in 1900 in Virginia were very well done and held my attention.
My favorite presentation was Andy McCue’s “Rickey vs. O’Malley and the Mysterious Buyout Clause.”  McCue’s presentation, which won an award for the best at the convention, was informative and interesting, even though it was on a topic that I knew nothing about beforehand.  Mr. McCue was particularly impressive in his handling of questions taken after his presentation, as many of the questions were only loosely related to his subject matter.
During McCue's speech where he accepted his award, he said something which I found to be really true.  I'm paraphrasing here, but you'll get the idea:
"For those of you first-timers here at the convention, don't be intimidated.  I remember my first SABR-event many years ago, and it was very intimidating.  I think all of us go from being the most knowledgeable baseball person amongst our friends, family, co-workers, or whatever little group we're in.  Then you come to something like this and you feel like you know less about baseball than anyone in the area.  That's not really the case.  We all have our specialties and things that we know.  You just have to enjoy it all for what it is..."
Andy's sentiment was really true.  I remember thinking throughout the weekend that it was a really intimidating group of baseball knowledge.  I am almost positive that I was less intimidated on my first day of high school, college, and graduate school than I was during my first few days walking around the SABR convention.  I started to go with the flow though and feel more comfortable everywhere and around everything.  Next year should really be fun.
Although I was late to the panel, the discussion of the 1919 World Series and the banishment of the White Sox who allegedly helped to throw the series was also very interesting.  It was also nice to see Alan Schwarz in person after reading his articles for so many years.
The reason I was late for the White Sox panel was that I went on a tour of the Great American Ballpark earlier in the morning.  The tour ran long, but was well worth it.  I have been on many stadium tours, but this one was far and away the most informative.  I suspect that our guides were handpicked, as our guide noted before the tour began that he was nervous about giving a tour to a group of SABRen.  He held his own though and even provided some trivia that stumped everyone in the group (I think he picked up a few tidbits too that he’ll use on future tours).  We learned a lot about the stadium – particularly it’s rich history in terms of what has been carried over from Crosley Field and Riverfront Stadium).  If you’d like to see some pictures from the tour, click here to send me an email, and I’ll send you a link to where they can be found on Ofoto.
On Friday night a group of more than 700 of us attended the Cardinals – Reds game.  While the game itself was exciting (back and forth, decided late), everyone was talking about one thing: Jim Edmonds catch.  In the 8th inning Edmonds scaled the centerfield fence and took away a home run from the Reds’ Jason LaRue.  It was the second homer that Edmonds has taken away from LaRue and the fourth he’s robbed from the Reds in the last two years.  While Edmonds is regularly good for highlight reel quality catches, this one was particularly noteworthy as most of his body was on the home run side of the fence when he caught the ball.  To those of us sitting in the outfield seats, as soon as the ball left LaRue’s bat, we all felt it was destined for the seats.  And it was.  We just didn’t anticipate that Edmonds would go over the wall to bring it back in for an out.  I haven’t really seen replays of the catch, but I can still see it in my mind.  If you check out my pictures, you’ll get a good idea of what an impressive feat it was.  There’s one of me standing in front of the centerfield fence.  I’m about six feet tall and there’s a lot of room between the top of my head and the top of the fence.  Edmonds had to make an NBA quality leap just to get on top of the fence – let alone to get into position to catch that ball.
I also had a fair amount of Skyline Chili while I was in Cincy.  For those of you who don’t know, it’s the most famous food (that I know of) from Cincinnati.  In fact, Skyline Chili is even the official chili of the Reds (does your favorite team have an official chili?).  Before I arrived in town, I thought that making a visit to Skyline Chili would be similar to visiting the Varsity in Atlanta.  Well, it’s not.  I’m fairly comfortable in stating that there are more Skyline Chili’s in Cincinnati than there are McDonald’s.  This is probably a good thing, but still very unusual.
There’s lots more to say about the SABR trip and all the fun I had, but I’ll leave it at that for now.  I’m sure that plenty of other folks will be sharing their thoughts about the experience soon.  If you didn’t make it this year, I strongly encourage you to attend next year’s convention in Toronto.  I know that I won’t miss it.



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