As a runner and a baseball fan, I found this story from Runner’s World particularly entertaining. Atlanta Braves mascot, The Freeze, is actually 26-year-old Nigel Talton of the stadium grounds crew, and he is mind-bogglingly fast. He’s so fast, in fact, that he nearly qualified for the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials. That didn’t pan out, however, so to earn a living, Talton becomes The Freeze at Braves home games.
Braves fans who take on the Beat the Freeze challenge rarely are successful, even in spite of the ridiculous head start they are granted in each race.
Here’s an interview he did with ESPN a few months back. You can’t help but keep your fingers crossed for his running career. They bring up a good point — he’d make a heckuva pinch runner.
I’ve gotten faster in my own running, but I wouldn’t stand a chance against this guy. You can find the Runner’s World story here.
ESPN.com posted this video a couple weeks ago, providing a sort of umpire’s perspective on the pitches of Aroldis Chapman. I have to confess that I was a tad underwhelmed the first time I watched it. However, when I imagine trying to actually swing at these pitches, I realize just how hard he really can throw a baseball. It’s pretty impressive, really.
The Huffington Post published this interview with Tim Kurkjian a couple days ago, which I found an interesting read. The interview was initiated as a result of the publication of his latest book, I’m Fascinated By Sacrifice Flies – Inside The Game We All Love. I’ve not read the book, nor do I have cable television to watch ESPN, so I’m afraid I can’t speak to Kurkjian himself nor my impressions of him. But I did enjoy reading this interview.
He discusses the skill level involved in baseball as compared to other sports and the declining popularity of Major League Baseball as compared to the NFL or NASCAR. I particularly love how he advocates against parents and coaches pushing their kids to specialize in a single sport, bemoaning the decline of three-sport letter winners in high schools. He points out that “when we have 14 year old kids having Tommy John surgery, then something is really wrong with this picture.” I often think the same kind of thing when the Little League World Series comes on, wondering about the futures these kids have given the stress they put themselves through so young.
Most of all, I just love the fact that Kurkjian’s love for baseball shows through so clearly in this interview. People who have a passion for this game — as many of you reading this have — absolutely fascinate me. And I enjoy reading and hearing about the reasons people love it so much.
Framing is the art of making a pitch that is near the strike zone appear to be a strike when it may not actually be one. A catcher, who can frame well, can be extremely helpful to a pitcher working the corners of the plate and has been particularly valuable in the major leagues. The act of framing is a very subtle tactic, an action which occurs just as the catcher catches the ball. Since no umpire is ever going to be fooled by a jerk of the glove to drag a pitch back to the strike zone, successful framing is a very slight action, almost indiscernible.
ESPN did this fascinating feature story, “You Got Framed,” discussing the value of a catcher who can turn a borderline pitch into a called strike. The increase in strikeouts in the major leagues, they argue, is not merely due to the propensity of hitters to swing for the fences. It also has to do with the increase in catchers who are successful at framing.
The act of framing isn’t foolproof, of course, and I’m sure that umpires do sometimes feel as Laz Diaz is comically depicted in this Onion article. “You catchers seem to think that I was born yesterday. Some of you even believe you can fool me by holding your glove there for an extra long time, as if to say, ‘See, I’m holding it here like this because it was a strike.’ Well, this umpire is not falling for that. Not today, not ever.”
One of my favorite television political and sports commentators is Keith Olbermann, who also happens to be a baseball junkie. A few nights ago, on his ESPN2 show “Olbermann” (original name, I know), he did a commentary on why baseball has experienced such a decline in viewership over the years.
Blunt and direct, which is what I like about Olbermann. Still, the information he presents is rather sobering, isn’t it?