Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Boys Of Summer

TigerBlog's first memories of watching sports on TV go back to the 1969 World Series, when the Mets defeated the Orioles in five games.

As an aside, when TB's friend Corey graduated from college, as he was standing there holding his diploma wearing his cap and gown, his brother Brad told him "it was the biggest miracle since the 1969 Mets."

Tom Seaver was TB's favorite player on the Mets back then. He was everybody's favorite. Everybody's second favorite was Bud Harrelson, the tiny shortstop who got into a fight with Pete Rose in the 1973 playoffs.

The Mets were TB's favorite baseball team from the time he could remember until 1990, when a series of factors led him to switch allegiances. Among those factors: the unavailability of SportsChannel where TB was living, the signing of some overpriced free agents, MotherBlog's move to Atlanta, TB's meeting with David Justice on an airplane, the presence of Braves' games on TBS.

The fact that this time also corresponded with the Braves' rise to perennial power didn't hurt. And so, with Justice, as well as Greg Maddox, John Smoltz and the rest as his new favorites, TigerBlog rooted for the Braves for the next 15 years or so.

Then, TBS went away from showing Braves' games in favor of shows that were "very funny," some of which actually are and others of which aren't.

And, TB began to get really fed up with 1) the economic structure that permits the Yankees to outspend the competition by overwhelming levels and 2) by the obvious performance enhancement that baseball became, and so his interest in Major League Baseball began to seriously dwindle.

And so, after more than 40 years of rooting for the Mets and Braves, TB's two new favorite teams are the San Diego Padres and the Pittsburgh Pirates. If you picked them to play in the NLCS this coming October, you're probably going to be wrong. Of course, the same would have been said about picking Butler to play for the NCAA men's basketball title.

As an aside, TB said: "How great would it have been if that shot went in" to a bunch of people yesterday, and the response of all of them was to grumble something about Duke.

Back at baseball, the obvious rooting interest in the Padres and Pirates is the presence of three Princeton alums on those two rosters.

The Pirates feature Ross Ohlendorf, who makes his 2010 debut this evening in Pittsburgh against the Dodgers. Ohlendorf, whose spring ERA was nearly 10.00, is a fascinating story in Major League Baseball these days, both for his potential as a durable starter for a team trying to turn around 17 straight losing seasons and for his off-field persona, which included an internship with the Department of Agriculture in the off-season.

The Padres feature Chris Young and Will Venable, both of whom contributed in big ways to San Diego's 6-3 win over Arizona last night.

Young, who had season-ending surgery last August, returned to allow just one hit in six innings, while Venable hit his first home run of the season.

Young and Venable, of course, were both basketball players at Princeton, and for TB's money they were better college basketball players than baseball players. Still, they have both found a home in San Diego, Young after getting traded from Texas and Venable after coming up through the minor league system.

TB has never met Ohlendorf, though by all accounts he's a tremendous young man. TB did see every basketball game Chris Young played and almost every basketball game Will Venable played at Princeton, and he knows from first-hand knowledge that they are as well.

Young, as TB has said before, is the most beloved Princeton athlete he's seen in his time here. Maybe it's because he's a larger-than-life gentle giant, with a touch of sadness that Tiger fans never got to see his junior and senior years in basketball and baseball.

It didn't take long for TB to realize that when he was watching Venable and Young that he was watching really, really special athletes, athletes with legitimate pro potential. Maybe he just didn't realize he was watching them in the wrong sport.

And now, a few years later, they are off to a good start to the 2010 baseball season. Hopefully Ohlendorf will start strong as well.

Hey, when you're a die-hard Padres/Pirates fan like TB, early April is the time for optimism.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

As a Pittsburgh-area native, I've been a Pirates fan through thick and thin (a lot of thin). All I ask from this team is to finish 82-80 this season and get that monkey of a losing-season streak off the organization's back (heck, I'll even settle for an 81-80 record with a rainout ... as long as it's above .500 when the season ends).

I hope Ross Ohlendorf plays a big part in any successes they may have this year.