Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Sports Awards 2015 — I WAS THERE!

IMG_4467Have you ever wondered how a red carpet event works for an awards show?  I had an insider’s view last week when I had the most amazing experience.  I was granted media credentials and tickets for the 2015 Kids’ Choice Sports Awards at the Pauley Pavilion at UCLA in Los Angeles.  I covered the event from the Orange Carpet and then had great seats for the awards show.  Here’s the behind the scenes view from Nickelodeon’s Kids’ Choice Sports 2015.

Kids’ Choice Sports is an annual show on Nickelodeon where kids are able to vote for who they think are the best athletes in the world. The categories are really fun, like Best Cannon, Biggest Powerhouse, and Most Enthusiastic Player. Attendees included Golden State Warriors star player Stephen Curry, last year’s host Michael Strahan, Carli Lloyd, Alex Morgan, and Abby Wambach representing the United States Women’s National Soccer Team, and Legend Award winner Derek Jeter. The host was Super Bowl XLVIII-winning quarterback Russell Wilson, who plays for the Seattle Seahawks.  Also attending the event was Malcolm Butler, who famously intercepted Wilson’s goal line pass to give the New England Patriots the Super Bowl victory.

Me with NFL star Malcolm Butler

Me with NFL star Malcolm Butler

The event was broadcast live at 8:00 ET / 5:00 PT, but press check-in began at 1:15 PM.  The Orange Carpet arrivals didn’t start until 3:00 but it took time for all of the press to get settled in time for the “talent” to to the show. (I learned that Public Relations people call celebrities “talent”).

When we checked in, all media were given a big packet containing pictures and names of the athletes and other “talent” that were expected to attend.  I was amazed at the HUGE list!  I’m a really big sports fan, but I don’t know too many football and basketball players, so I was really glad to have pictures and descriptions of all the people expected to walk down the carpet.  Even still, I was kind of worried that I wouldn’t have enough time to learn everyone’s name, face, and team to recognize them as they walked by.

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All of the media were sent to a waiting area near the alumni center at UCLA.  I grabbed some of the complimentary snacks and drinks.

When it was time to go, they let photographers go first, then reporters for big magazines and TV shows, like People and Access Hollywood, and finally the bloggers, other print reporters and YouTubers were sent in. There was a number on our Press Pass, and that was the order in which we lined up.  The whole line of media walked a few blocks to the actual arrivals area.  We walked through throngs of kids who were waiting to get into the arena to watch the show.  I bet they were wondering why I got to get into the Orange Carpet and they had to wait outside!

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I walked onto the carpet, through bright signs and lights advertising the show.  The carpet wasn’t actually a carpet- it was AstroTurf painted orange.  I took in the scene.  The Orange Carpet was shaped like a racetrack oval.

When talent walked down the carpet, they first were photographed in front of the big blue “step and repeat” screen.  The photographer’s area was very well lit with huge lights, but was tented to prevent too much sunlight from affecting the pictures.

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Then the talent walked out of the tent and encountered bleachers full of fans and bigger outlets, like Access Hollywood, Extra, and People Magazine.

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At the far end of the racetrack were a basketball hoop and football target for the athletes to play.

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Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons

Andre Drummond of the Detroit Pistons

Finally, at the curve of the oval, bloggers and YouTubers, were lined up.  I saw my placard (that had an incorrect spelling of Matt’s Bats) showing me where to stand in the line.  I took my spot and waited for the talent to arrive!

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Me with USWNT soccer star Carli Lloyd, who scored 3 goals in the final game to give the Americans the win.

It took a long time for talent to come around to my end of the oval.  There were so many photographers and reporters along the first side, plus all the games, that it took a while for the athletes to walk through.  Also, I noticed that there was a secret exit that people could take before they made the turn to my side of the carpet, so some of the attendees didn’t even walk past me.  For example, Russell Wilson and Ciara, Rico Rodriguez from Modern Family, Erin Andrews, Abby Wambach, Lindsey Vonn, and Nick Cannon didn’t walk down my side of the carpet.

Other attendees, like Michael Strahan, Stephen Curry, and Derek Jeter walked really quickly by but didn’t do interviews.  When I did try to get Derek Jeter’s attention, he did stop, wave and yell back to me.

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Then I got lucky because other people saw I was a kid and stopped to do interviews or take pictures with me, even though they didn’t stop to talk to any other reporters.  I took selfies and pictures with Klay Thompson of NBA Champions Golden State Warriors, Carli Lloyd (US Womens Soccer Team), Ashley Wagner (US Olympic Figure Skater and National Champion), Tito Ortiz (MMA Fighter), Malcolm Butler (New England Patriots), Jennie Finch (US Softball), and others.

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Jennie Finch

Ashley Wagner

Ashley Wagner

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Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Marvin Jones loves visiting Southern California, especially his hometown San Diego.

It turns out I didn’t have to worry about learning everyone’s name and face – all of the talent was led down the carpet by a “handler” holding a white sign with the celebrity’s name.  This was VERY helpful!

In addition to the athletes, there were also a lot of Nickelodeon TV stars on the carpet.  I took a selfie and a posed pic with Owen Joyner, Jaheem Toombs, and Jack De Sena from the show “100 Things To Do Before High School.”

Me with the cast of 100 Things To Do Before High School

Me with the cast of 100 Things To Do Before High School

Most of the reporters had to go home after the Orange Carpet.  Not me!  I was lucky enough to have tickets for the show too.

There were three stages at the event- two on the sides, and one in the center. On the floor, there were no seats, but many kids were able to stand around the stage and watch. When an award winner’s name was called, the person would walk through the crowd and give high-fives to the kids on the floor.

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Also, everyone in the audience had light-up wristbands that changed colors during the show. It was really cool and gave a great effect.

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The U.S. Women’s National Soccer Team came out to start the show, holding American flags. Everyone was chanting “U-S-A! U-S-A!” as they came. Then the host Russell Wilson came out on the stage.

The first award they announced was the Clutch Player of the Year award, featuring the only Washington sports nominee, Alexander Ovechkin of the Capitals.  Ovi didn’t win, despite my cheering.  Instead, California local guy Steph Curry of the Golden State Warriors won.

After that, a 12-year old named D.J. tried to throw a football 30 yards into a net to win $50,000. He did not make it, but two other kids attempted similar challenges with a basketball and soccer ball, and both made it.  Nick gave $100,000 awards to the kids.

Sports trick YouTubers Dude Perfect came out to do a stunt with Russell Wilson.  Wilson was strapped to a target and the Dude Perfect guys and other athletes got themselves dizzy and threw water balloons filled with green slime at him.  There were only three times that someone got slimed, and if you are wondering, one was not me.  And I am happy about that.

People all over the country could watch the show live on on Nickelodeon, but there were a few things that TV viewers weren’t able to see.  When Alex Morgan won her award, for instance, she wasn’t actually out on the stage to accept it. Her acceptance speech was previously recorded, but people at home had no idea that the video they were seeing wasn’t live.  Instead, the crew was actually changing the set during those few minutes.

The highlight of the show was Derek Jeter getting honored by receiving the Legend Award.  His nephew, Jalen Jeter-Martin, came out on stage with him and tipped his cap to Derek when he came out on stage after being introduced by Mo’ne Davis.  They played a video to honor Jeter.  While the video was playing, before the show returned, Russell Wilson had to teach everyone the “Der-ek Jet-er <clap, clap, clap-clap-clap>” chant.  I guess a lot of people on the West Coast never saw or heard the fans at Yankee Stadium do that when The Captain came up to bat.  But he didn’t have to teach me; I already knew the chant.

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As a finale, in Nickelodeon tradition, Jeter got covered in gold slime.

Derek after being slimed

Derek after being slimed

I was still really exited after the show ended.  We went back to our rental car in the media parking lot, which happened to be the same lot that the players parked in. We saw Carmelo Anthony and Derek Jeter. I was hoping to get Jeter’s autograph and talk to him, but his bodyguards and entourage didn’t let anyone get close. Even without a Jeter autograph, it was really cool being at Kids’ Choice Sports.

We also had a great time sightseeing around L.A. We explored Los Angeles and Santa Monica. In Santa Monica, we picked up our passes at Viacom’s headquarters. We spent the morning at the pier and at the beach. In the afternoon, we turned our L.A. tourist on. We first went to Hollywood and Highland to get a view of the famous Hollywood sign. After that, we went to the Walk of Fame and the famous Chinese Theatre, where I put my hands in the same place Steven Spielberg put his.

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For dinner, we went to Cali staple In-N-Out Burger, which I think makes the one of the best burgers in America. We went to Diddy Riese in Westwood for dessert.  If you ever go to Los Angeles, you should really visit. It’s a place that makes custom ice cream sandwiches. We even drove out to Chavez Ravine to see Dodger Stadium another morning.

I had so much fun in L.A. I had a good time exploring the City of Angels while having one of my greatest experiences ever. I really want to thank Nickelodeon and Viacom for offering me this opportunity.  Even more, I want to thank the people who contributed to my Indiegogo campaign to help me make the trip.  It really is very generous and thoughtful for people to support me like this!

My Experience at Big Train Nationals Camp

IMG_0053Last week, I attended the Bethesda Big Train Celebrity Summer Camp. The Bethesda Big Train is a Summer Collegiate baseball team in Bethesda, MD. They are a part of the Cal Ripken Collegiate Summer Baseball League, which is a league for college baseball players to improve their skills during the summer. They play at Shirley Povich Field in Bethesda, near Montgomery Mall. Big Train alumni include 2015 All-Star Brian Dozier of the Minnesota Twins, Hunter Renfroe, the 13th overall in the 2013 draft, and Brennan Middleton, a shortstop drafted by the Nats in the 10th round of the 2013 draft.

The best part about Big Train camp is that you get personalized instruction from college baseball players, and get to play games each day on great quality ballparks with the friends you make. At last week’s Nationals celebrity camp, one Nationals player made an appearance at lunch each day. Big Train runs camps all summer, including a free sports journalism camp, where you learn reporting skills and cover the CRSCBL All-Star game.

The camp’s counselors are the Big Train players. We played baseball during the day, and the Nats players came at lunch. The coaches for my age group were: Luis Collazo, a senior pitcher from of Virginia Tech, Josh Thorne, a senior pitcher from Stetson, Justin Morris, a sophomore catcher from Maryland, Tony DiLeo, a junior catcher from Eastern Michigan, Ryne Willard, a senior shortstop from North Carolina State, Logan Farrar, a junior outfielder from Virginia Commonwealth, and Cody Brown, a junior outfielder from Mississippi State.

IMG_0034Aaron Barrett, Drew Storen, and Tyler Moore came out to Shirley Povich Field to sign autographs for the campers on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.  I got a chance to talk to all of them.  Aaron Barrett was impressed with the camp, which reminded him of the camps he attended as a kid. “I went to a bunch of pitching clinics, a couple college camps where you work on baserunning,fielding, pitching,” he said. “This is real good for you guys because I did the exact same thing when I was your age.”

I thought one of the best opportunities was to get instruction from great athletes and to meet your baseball heroes.

The Bethesda Big Train has games through the end of July. They square off against teams from around the DC region, including teams in Alexandria, DC, Gaithersburg, Herndon, Rockville, and Vienna. The quality of play is very good, and some of these guys may be the future of major league baseball. You can learn more about the camps at bigtrain.org/summercamp. They run other great events during the year, including a charity auction and a celebrity softball game.

Finally, if you missed it, I have a great opportunity to go the Los Angeles this week for the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports 2015 Awards.  I have a fundraiser page, which you should please visit.

Selfie with Tyler Moore

Selfie with Tyler Moore

Aaron Barrett signs my brother's shirt.

Aaron Barrett signs my brother’s shirt.

Selfie with Drew Storen.  I'm sad that he was snubbed for the All Star Game.

Selfie with Drew Storen. I’m sad that he was snubbed for the All Star Game.

Drew Storen Signs my 2015 Topps Card

Drew Storen Signs my 2015 Topps Card

Interviewing Barrett

Interviewing Barrett

I’m Invited To Cover Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports 2015 Awards!

kcs2015 Late Thursday night, after I was already asleep, TV giant Nickelodeon offered me media credentials and the chance to go to Kids’ Choice Sports Awards 2015 in Los Angeles!

Kids Choice Sports is an award show on Nick that gives kids the chance to vote their favorite sports stars for a wide variety of awards. A lot of famous sports stars will be there, including LeBron James, Mike Trout, Alex Ovechkin, and Peyton Manning, and more.  The show will be aired live from UCLA’s Pauley Pavilion on July 16, 2015 at 8:00 PM (ET) on Nickelodeon. For their second annual Legend Award, baseball legend Derek Jeter will be presented the Gold Blimp.

I’m really excited to go, but it is very expensive to travel to LA on short notice.  We have set up a page if you would like to help contribute.  I’ll have a private Instagram for donors where I’ll send pictures from the Orange Carpet. I’ll also write a super wrap-up post after.  Please contribute if you can.

PLEASE VISIT MY INDIEGOGO FUNDRAISER PAGE:

http://igg.me/at/4b-aKF0L-f0

 

Editor’s Note: Whether you have been following Matt online at MattsBats.com, his @MattsBats Twitter account, or through his weekly MASN guest blogger columns, you know that he has a keen eye for baseball and a unique perspective of the game through the eyes of a kid.  Matt writes Matt’s Bats as a hobby.  He does it for the love of the game and because he enjoys writing.  He does not receive compensation from MLB or MASN and receives none of the revenue from the ads placed on his website.  He writes Matt’s Bats out of enjoyment, not for profit.

Through his persistence, this budding journalist has achieved some amazing successes and been offered some incredible experiences, including behind the scenes tours of MLB ballparks, interviewing athletes, and befriending other fans and celebrities.  Now a remarkable opportunity has come up—Matt has been offered media credentials at the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Sports 2015 awards in Los Angeles this coming Thursday.  Matt will be given access to the athletes and celebrities on the Orange Carpet and attend the awards show.  However, the opportunity does not include travel expenses.

As his parents and biggest fans, we’ve committed to rewarding him for his years of hard work by accepting the opportunity offered by Nickelodeon and Viacom. But last minute travel expenses are not insignificant. Therefore, we’re humbly appealing to Matt’s other fans to support him in this opportunity. His readership is notoriously generous, for example, helping him raise over $15,000 for charity in the past 2 years. If you’ve enjoyed Matt’s work, or want enable him to expand his horizons, please make a contribution. We will acknowledge contributors with whatever incentives we can muster.

Thanks again for your support!

 

My Picks For The 2015 MLB All-Star Game

2015ASGThe All-Star starters are going to be announced today at 7:30 on ESPN. Every year (2013, 2014) I write a post about who I think should become an All-Star. Here are my 2015 selections.

AMERICAN LEAGUE

CATCHER: STEPHEN VOGT- OAKLAND ATHLETICS

Vogt has had a breakout 1st half, with 13 HRs, 53 RBIs, and a .295 average for a struggling Oakland ballclub. He had a fantastic May, and I think he should get the start over bigger names like Russell Martin, TOR, Evan Gattis, HOU, and Salvador Perez, KC

1ST BASEMAN- ALBERT PUJOLS- LOS ANGELES ANGELS

With 24 home runs and 51 RBIs, my vote for starting first baseman is Albert Pujols.  He is a future Hall of Famer and is having his best season since leaving the Cardinals.  He has a lot of competition, including Jose Bautista (a DH who plays first base in inter-league games), Mark Teixiera, who is having a great year for the Yankees.  I think there’s also a good case for Logan Forsythe, a name that not everyone knows.  He’s a utility player for the Tampa Bay Rays who sometimes plays first base.  He leads all AL 1st basemen with 7 stolen bases, and has only committed 1 error the entire year. He also sports a .278 average.  However, my vote is for the safe choice: Albert Pujols.

2ND BASEMAN- BRIAN DOZIER- MINNESOTA TWINS

While he isn’t having a season like he did last year, Dozier’s cause for the ASG is backed by the statistics. Dozier has 40 RBIs for the Twins this year, and he has scored a whopping 61 runs. He also has hit 16 home runs for Minnesota. Other contenders include the guys who will likely start over Dozier, Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros and Jason Kipnis of the Indians.  Another possibility that probably won’t happen is Jimmy Paredes of the Baltimore Orioles who is having a very good year but is not going to win the All Star vote popularity contest.

3RD BASEMAN- JOSH DONALDSON- TORONTO BLUE JAYS

The winner of the 2012 Triple Crown, Miguel Cabrera, has a .345 average with 53 runs batted in for the Tigers this year, and I would make him my first choice for the AL All Star team. However, his injury on Friday probably means that even if he gets the fan vote, someone else will start. And I think that person is going to be Josh Donaldson, who has played fantastically this year for Toronto.  Other contenders: L. Valbuena, HOU, and M. Machado, BAL.

SHORTSTOP- HANLEY RAMIREZ- BOSTON RED SOX

Even though he was on the DL earlier this year, Hanley Ramirez, the Red Sox signee over the offseason, has power and productivity, and they should call his name when they announce the lineup in Cincinnati. He has 16 homers on the year, 43 runs scored, and 39 runs batted in for a team in the cellar of the AL East. Ramirez deserves the spot, and lots of Red Sox fans will probably help him get there. Other contenders: J. Iglesias, DET, J. Reyes, TOR

OUTFIELD: BRETT GARDNER, NEW YORK YANKEES, MIKE TROUT, LOS ANGELES ANGELS, J.D. MARTINEZ, DETROIT TIGERS

Mike Trout is always a definite start for the All-Star Game: he was the only non-Royal to have a lead in a position when all the Royals fans hacked the All-Star ballot. But I think that J.D. Martinez from the Tigers and Brett Gardner from the Yankees have the skills to beat other major contenders to get spots starting. Other contenders: J. Bautista, TOR, N.Cruz, SEA, B. Burns, OAK, L. Cain, KC, C. Colabello, TOR.

PITCHERS– DALLAS KEUCHEL- HOUSTON ASTROS, WADE DAVIS, KANSAS CITY ROYALS, GLEN PERKINS, MINNESOTA TWINS

The pitching positions are selected by the manager, not fan vote.  And it’s hard to list all the pitchers who will appear in relief.  However, my pick to start for the AL is Dallas Keuchel of the Houston Astros.  Keuchel has been phenomenal in his starts for Houston. He has a 10-3 record in 17 starts this year for the first place ‘Stros. Keuchel has a 2.03  ERA for the Astros, and should get the start.

In the bullpen, the Royals set-up man Wade Davis, who has an ERA under 0.30, should definitely get a spot. So should the MLB saves leader, Glen Perkins.  Perkins has the talent to become the AL’s top closer, and to get the closer role here in the ASG.

NATIONAL LEAGUE

CATCHER- BUSTER POSEY- SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

An obvious choice for All-Star game voters, Posey leads all NL catchers with 14 homers and 57 RBIs for the team. Posey is a fan favorite and frequent starter in the game– usually fans vote for either Posey or Yadier Molina of the Cardinals to be the NL starting catcher. Since Molina has been on the DL and he hasn’t been playing well, it’s Posey for the win.

1ST BASEMAN- PAUL GOLDSCHMIDT- ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS

Goldschmidt has been playing amazingly for the Diamondbacks. He has hit 20 home runs and driven in 66 RBIs for Arizona in 2015. Goldschmidt’s name should be called on Sunday when they announce the winners.  The next closest contender is Anthony Rizzo, who has slugged 15 home runs and racked up 45 RBIs, with 12 stolen bases.

2ND BASEMAN- JUSTIN TURNER- LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Here’s my underdog pick.  Justin Turner of the L.A. Dodgers deserves a spot on the diamond playing next to his NL West foe Paul Goldschmidt. He’s hit a grand total of 11 home runs, and he has driven in 37 runs for the Dodgers this year. The biggest challenge for Turner to actually make the teams is overcoming the challenge of Dee Gordon, the speedy Marlins second baseman. Gordon leads the league in stolen bases and average for 2nd basemen. So it came down to fielding. Gordon has made 4 errors this year, while Turner hasn’t whiffed at 2nd base.

3RD BASEMAN- TODD FRAZIER- CINCINNATI REDS

Frazier is going to get a big applause and cheer from fans at Great American Ball Park when his name is called. With 25 home runs, he leads all MLB third basemen, and he has the most runs scored out of all NL 3Bs. Todd’s closest competition is Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies, who is 2nd in almost every category.

SHORTSTOP- BRANDON CRAWFORD- SAN FRANCISCO GIANTS

Finding an outstanding shortstop in the NL this season is hard.  I think Brandon Crawford should be the NL’s starting shortstop. He has a whopping 47 RBIs so far for the Giants, and has eleven home runs for the team too. His productivity at the plate for San Francisco is huge, and that should get him into the game in the 1st inning on July 14th. Other contenders: T. Tulowitzki, COL, J. Segura, MIL, A. Simmons, ATL

OUTFIELD:BRYCE HARPER- WASHINGTON NATIONALS, RYAN BRAUN, MILWAUKEE BREWERS, JOC PEDERSON- LOS ANGELES DODGERS

Bryce Harper is the obvious choice for oufield, having taken the lead among all NL outfielders in runs, homers, and RBIs. As a Nationals fan, he is fun to watch everyday, and fans all across baseball should get to see him play.  Joc Pederson of the Dodgers has torn up the NL West with his monster blasts into the seats and is one of the best young talents. Finally, Ryan Braun, who used to be one of the elite baseball players in the league, turned it on this year, after coming back from his PED suspension.  Braun should be the Brewers’ representative at the ASG. Other contenders, and there are a lot of them: A.J. Pollock, ARI, D. Fowler, CHC, A. McCutchen, PIT.

PITCHERS– MAX SCHERZER- WASHINGTON NATIONALS,  TREVOR ROSENTHAL– ST. LOUIS CARDINALS, MARK MELANCON, PITTSBURGH PIRATES

Max Scherzer has got to be the unanimous choice for the starter. He has pitched amazingly in his past few games, including a near-perfect no-hitter.  He sports a batting average higher than his ERA.

The bullpen will also definitely include Trevor Rosenthal of the Cardinals, who has a 0.70 ERA with 24 saves, and Mark Melancon of the Pirates, who has more saves than any other NL closer.

Whoever makes the team, it’s always fun to watch the best players face off in the Mid-Summer Classic.

Did you like my picks? If there was anyone I missed tweet to me @MattsBats or leave a comment.

 

Baseball Summer Reading List for MattsBats.com

Imagine you as a kid, waiting for the bell to ring on the last day of school. In your head, you count down the time. 2:45, 2:46, 2:47 until the teacher assigns summer reading to the class. The class groans. Well, if your school year just ended and you did get assigned summer reading, I’m sorry.

I’ve decided to take the same concept and switch it up a little. Here is the MattsBats.com Baseball Summer Reading List! It is a list of books about baseball that I lover or that I will be reading this summer!

There are books on here for adults and kids.  So if you happen to be flying somewhere far away this summer or just sitting on the beach, here are a few books to check out.

HIT AND MISS- DEREK JETER AND PAUL MANTELL

hamHit And Miss is the 2nd book in Derek Jeter’s series for young readers. It is about a young Derek who meets a boy from Beverly Hills named Dave, who has a personal driver and a Mercedes, so everyone thinks he is a stuck-up rich kid. He turns out to be best friends with Derek. Buy your copy here.

 

 

TY COBB: A TERRIBLE BEAUTY- CHARLES LEERHSEN

tcAtb This book by former SI sportswriter Charlie Leerhsen is a biography on the Georgia Peach, Ty Cobb. This is a great biography on the league’s most interesting player ever. This is a book mainly for adults and asks whether Cobb’s reputation as a racist is true.  Click on the link above to learn more about Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty.

 

 

1 iut fr thor OUT AT HOME- CAL RIPKEN

Out At Home is a book by Cal Ripken about a guy named Zoom who is an arrogant player who tries to fit in with the rest of his team.  They try to defeat the mighty Yankees to win the championship and readers get to see a transformation in the main character.  It’s a great light reading book for kids.  Buy your copy at the link above.

 

THE CLOSER- MARIANO RIVERA

The Closer: My Story by former Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is an autobiography of 1 mbMariano’s storied career as the closer for the New York Yankees, and the last active player in MLB to wear #42. It takes you through Mariano’s career through the Minors and as a fisherman in Puerto Caimito, Panama. There is also a children’s version, available here.

 

 

THE LAST NATURAL- ROB MIECH

TheLastNaturalThe Last Natural is a book by Rob Miech about Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper and his journey as a baseball player at the College of Southern Nevada. Rob followed Bryce through his college years, so he was able to write about his baseball career and his personal life at the same time. Click on the link above for more details.

 

 

 BALLPARK MYSTERIES- DAVID A. KELLY

fenwayfoulup David A. Kelly writes a series called Ballpark Mysteries, where 2 kids named Mike and Kate go to different ballparks around the country to solve mysteries. Although the next book doesn’t come out until February 23, 2016 (The Rangers Rustlers), you can enjoy the other books. They are: The Fenway Foul-Up, The Pinstripe Ghost, The L.A. Dodger, The Astro Outlaw, The All-Star Joker, The Wrigley Riddle, The San Francisco Splash, The Missing Marlin, The Philly Fake, The Rookie Blue Jay, and The Tiger Troubles.

 

These books are some of my favorite baseball books. If you read them too, tweet me @MattsBats on Twitter and tell me what you think.  I hope you have a good summer!

Max Scherzer’s Near Perfect No-Hitter: Bring On The Chocolate Sauce!

scherzchocolatesauce Nationals pitcher Max Scherzer tossed a no-hitter against the Pittsburgh Pirates yesterday.  It was amazing, because last week against the Brewers he went 7 innings without giving up a hit, and the only hit of the game was a blooper just over Anthony Rendon’s head that might have been catchable.

Yesterday, he was 1 strike away from perfection, as he had a 2-2 count on Jose Tabata. In a perfect game, a pitcher has 27 straight outs without allowing a batter to reach base.  That means no walks, errors, hit by pitch, just 27 up and 27 down.  Scherzer took his perfect game into the 9th inning with 2 outs.  The outcome was like the squirrel in the Phillies game this week– it all came falling down.

Tabata obviously leaned in on Scherzer’s slider and broke up his perfect game. As you can see in this Vine, it’s obvious that Tabata leaned in to get the HBP and end the bid for perfection.

Here are some thoughts about the historic almost perfect no-no:

  • In the last 57 batters faced (28 yesterday, 29 last week), Max Scherzer has only allowed 1 hit.  He has gotten 2 hits himself during that span. He’s had more hits than he’s allowed. 
  • Jordan Zimmermann, who threw a no-no to end the 2014 season, doused Scherzer with chocolate sauce during the postgame interviews. Anthony Rendon did the Gatorade, and Bryce Harper and Jayson Werth dumped more chocolate sauce on him. Werth hit sideline reporter Dan Kolko with sauce too– read about Kolko’s reaction to getting doused in my Matt’s Bats Chat with him.

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  • Scherzer’s no-hitter put the Nats back in first place in the NL East. 
  • This was Scherzer’s third complete game.  His second was last week.  His first was last year.In both Jordan Zimmermann and Max Scherzer’s no hitters, the second out of the 9th was caught by the centerfielder and the third was caught by the left fielder.
  • The last perfect game in MLB history was thrown by Felix Hernandez in 2012.  Armando Gallarraga almost threw a perfect game in 2010, but umpire Jim Joyce called the 27th batter safe at first when he was actually out.  He later apologized for the missed call that broke up the perfect game and no-hitter.  This led to baseball adopting instant replay.
  • I asked on Twitter who Nats fans are going to hate more: Jose Tabata for breaking up the perfect game by leaning into the pitcher, or Pete Kozma, who scored the go-ahead run against the Nats in the 2012 NLDS.  My readers overwhelmingly picked Kozma, mainly because the stakes were higher in the playoff game.  Still, 8 people thought Tabata is the bigger jerk.
  • The Pirates gave Scherzer and the Nationals a nice tip of the cap on Twitter

 

  • Do you think Tabata, who’s in the starting lineup, or the best Pirates player, Andrew McCutchen, will get intentionally hit by the Nats today?  I don’t think he should. Read why here.
  • Can you imagine what the reaction would be like if Bryce Harper broke up a perfect game by leaning into a pitch?  Baseball would be going crazy with the hate! #OverHated
  • This was the 5th no hitter in WSH/MON franchise history.
  • After almost pitching a no-hitter last week, and almost pitching a perfect game this week, what is he going to do his next start? Will he be the next Johnny Van Der Meer (the only pitcher in MLB history to throw back to back no-hitters) and throw 2 straight no hitters?  Will he pitch an immaculate game– 27 straight strikeouts?  Or maybe a 27-pitch perfect game!

 

The Washington Nationals’ Triple Crown Winners

This was originally published yesterday on MASNsports.com  To see all of the posts I have written for MASN, visit my Archive.

If you’re like me, you were glued to the TV on Saturday evening, watching the Belmont Stakes to see American Pharoah win the Triple Crown. In horse racing, the Triple Crown means that a horse wins the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and the Belmont Stakes in the same year. American Pharoah was the first Triple Crown winner since a horse named Affirmed did it in 1978. American Pharoah’s win on Saturday ended a 37-year drought for thoroughbred racing’s biggest prize. (It was also more fun to watch than the Nationals games this weekend.)

The race got me thinking about another hard to achieve prize – baseball’s Triple Crown. In baseball, winning the Triple Crown means leading the league in batting average, home runs and RBIs. The last major leaguer to win the hitting Triple Crown was Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera in 2012. Miggy was the first Triple Crown winner in 45 years. He was the first to do it since Boston’s Carl Yastrzemski in 1967.

There’s also a lesser-known Triple Crown for pitching. To win that, a pitcher needs to lead the league in ERA, wins and strikeouts. The last time there was a pitching triple crown was in 2011, and it was shared by Detroit’s Justin Verlander and the Los Angeles Dodgers’ Clayton Kershaw.

As the Nationals celebrate their 10 year anniversary, are there any players in Nationals history good enough to be declared Triple Crown winners? I looked at the players over the 10-year history of the Nats who had at least one year playing with the team.

When it comes to batting stats, we have a clear Triple Crown winner – Ryan Zimmerman. The Nationals’ face of the franchise, Zimmerman leads all of the Nationals in all three hitting categories, and like American Pharoah, he wins this category by several lengths. Over the course of Zimmerman’s career, his batting average is .282, he’s driven in 744 RBIs, and hit 189 homers. So far this year, he is batting .213 (well below his career average), and has five home runs and 34 RBIs. He averages about 24 homers and 96 RBIs a year over his career, so about one-third of the way into the 2015 season, he’s a little behind pace there, too.

Zimmerman leads the Nationals in almost every career hitting category. He has the most runs scored, highest slugging percentage, most hits, longest hitting streak and most extra base hits. He has the most career home runs in Nationals history, and also most singles and doubles. The record for most triples, interestingly, belongs to Cristian Guzman, with 28.

When it comes to pitching, there is no single player who wins the ERA, strikeout and wins categories. Jordan Zimmermann wins in two categories, and Stephen Strasburg wins in one, but it is a very close race.

Zimmermann has the most wins of any pitcher in Nationals history with 62. Strasburg has 46. Zimmermann easily wins this leg of the Triple Crown.

On the other hand, Strasburg leads in strikeouts, with 791. Zimmermann is right behind with 787. It’s Strasburg by a nose!

At the end of last season, Strasburg led the ERA category with a career average of 3.02. This year, however, his ERA is up to 6.55, which increased his career number to 3.25. Zimmermann now sports a slightly better 3.23 ERA. This category is also a photo finish!

Keep in mind that Zimmermann joined the Nats a year earlier than Strasburg, and has pitched 38 more games in his career than Strasburg. Zimmermann came back from his Tommy John surgery before Strasburg went on the DL for his. The comparison between them may be a little bit unfair, then. Although it’s not part of the Triple Crown,

Zimmermann did pitch the first no-hitter in Nats history, so he gets a special recognition for that achievement.

It’s easy to declare Zimmerman the American Pharoah of the Nationals. The race for the pitching Triple Crown is a very close one between Zimmermann and Strasburg, and it will be interesting to see which horse wins.

First Time At Fenway!

IMG_4200As many of you know, I visited Boston, Massachusetts over Memorial Day Weekend. I had a great experience at Fenway Park, the home of the Boston Red Sox since 1912. It is the oldest baseball stadium in the MLB. Keep reading to see some of the pictures and hear about my amazing encounters with Mike Trout, Hanley Ramirez, Mike Napoli and others.

Before I tell you about my experience, I’ll tell you about the history of Fenway Park.  James E. McLaughlin, a builder from Boston, Massachusetts, got a plot of land in between Ipswich and Lansdowne streets in downtown Boston to build a ballpark in 1911.  Construction finished in 1912.  Now, 103 years later, Fenway Park is one of the most popular spaces in Boston.   The Red Sox won the World Series in the first year they played at Fenway Park, then not again for 86 years, in 2004, the year I was born.

The largest crowds in Fenway History came not in 2013 (when almost 37,500 fans watched the Sox win the World Series), but in 1914, when 50,000 people came to watch three elephants parade though the streets on their way to the Franklin Park Zoo!

IMG_4229One of the most unique parts of Fenway Park is the Green Monster, the highest wall in a MLB ballpark.  It is 37 feet tall and 240 feet long and looms over left field.  Balls hit off the Green Monster are in play, so you’ll often see outfielders set themselves up to play the ball off the bounce.

The Green Monster holds the only ladder on a major league field of play and a manual scoreboard. For the first 91 years of Fenway Park, you couldn’t sit on the Green Monster, but starting in 2003 you can now sit and watch a game from seats built into the top.  For die-hard Sox fans, you can actually buy the exact same paint they use at Fenway at Benjamin Moore stores in Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

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The deepest part of Fenway Park is in straight-away centerfield, at 420 feet from home plate. Fenway is tied with Comerica Park in Detroit for the 2nd longest distance from home plate to center field, more than Marlins Park in Miami and 15 feet smaller than Minute Maid Park in Houston.

A lot of people compare Fenway to America’s other iconic baseball stadium, Wrigley Field, which I visited last year on its 100th anniversary. Fenway has the Green Monster, but Wrigley has the ivy covering their brick outfield walls.  I think Fenway has a little more charm to it, but maybe that’s because they’ve spent a lot of money renovating it and making it a comfortable place to watch games.  They have built in displays of memorabilia in the walls, so you can learn about things at the game.

One of the museum-like displays around Fenway Park.

One of the museum-like displays around Fenway Park.

Wrigley is starting to go under construction now, so it’s probably more fair to compare Fenway to Wrigley in a few years from now.  Wrigley has added a couple of videoboards, but Fenway added three jumbotrons in 2011.

Now, let me tell you a little more about my amazing day.  We got to the stadium about 4 hours before the game because the Red Sox left pre-game field passes for me.  First, though, we walked around the ballpark and took pictures.  We went to the top of the Green Monster and went in the seats up there. I tweeted it to #myFenway and my picture ended up on the Fenway Park videoboard during the game.

I also sat in the red seat in right field, which is where Ted Williams hit the longest home run in the history of Fenway Park. 

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Then we went down to the field in the nearly-empty stadium.  It was really cool that I was stepping on the same dirt that Ted Williams, Carl Yastrzemski, and George Herman “Babe” Ruth stood on in years past.  There were tour groups that were there for the majority of BP. If you ever visit Boston, you can join a Tour Group that gets you on the field and up to the Green Monster.

Some highlights from batting practice: Mike Napoli tossed me a baseball, which I later got Hanley Ramirez to sign when he was mingling with the fans.  That night during the game, Napoli hit 2 home runs.  Ramirez didn’t hit any during the game, but during BP he hit a series of humongous homers, some of them clearing the Green Monster and landing on Landsdowne Street.

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While the Angels were taking BP, bench coach Dino Ebel came over to the sidelines.  I saw he was holding Albert Pujols’ glove, and he let me try it on.  Pujols is a future Hall of Famer, so this was an incredible opportunity.

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The biggest highlight was when one of the best players in baseball, Angels outfielder Mike Trout, came over to me to sign autographs. I was lucky enough to get his signature on my baseball, and I was really excited.

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I also got to meet the broadcasters for that day’s game, Joe Buck and Harold Reynolds. They were both interested in hearing about my blog.

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Around 7:15pm, the game started.  We had fantastic seats, thanks to a family friend. Four of them were right in front of the on-deck circle– Section 34 Row 1–and the other 4 were near the batters box in the front row– Section 38. It is so awesome sitting so close.  David Ortiz photobombed us in the background! I got another baseball from sitting so close.  We were on TV a bunch of times, and it was a nationally-televised Fox game.

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It was also a good game.  Angels outfielder Kole Calhoun opened the scoring with a double off the Green Monster, scoring Albert Pujols and Erick Aybar in the 1st inning off Boston’s knuckleballer Steven Wright. But in the 2nd, Mike Napoli cut the lead in half with a liner over the wall for a home run. The funniest part is that the ball landed just short of a sign that said “HIT IT HERE”.

The view from our seats

The view from our seats

The next inning, Shane Victorino was pulled out of the game with an injury, and Mookie Betts replaced him. Betts singled in a run.

There wasn’t any more scoring until the 6th inning, when Mike Napoli creamed a CJ Wilson pitch over the Green Monster and onto Landsdowne Street for a huge homer. That was his second of the game.  After the home team homers, the John Hancock sign above the videoboard in straightaway centerfield blinks and is lit up.

In the middle of the 8th inning, the Red Sox play Neil Diamond’s Sweet Caroline. The lyrics have nothing to do with baseball, but it became a Fenway tradition to sing in the 8th inning.

The Red Sox didn’t end there, getting RBI hits from Xander Bogaerts, Blake Swihart, and more from Mookie Betts.  Mike Trout also recorded an RBI. The final score after Koji Uehara struck out Johnny Giavotella was Red Sox 8, Angels 3. Knuckleballer Steven Wright got his 2nd win and C.J. Wilson got his 3rd loss. Alexi Ogando got his 4th hold. There was no save situation.

I want to thank the Red Sox and Abby from the Media Relations department for giving me this opportunity to go on the field at Fenway Park.  I also want to thank our friends who got us the tickets. It made a special day much better.  I felt like a superstar, and it wasn’t just because a lady asked me to autograph a ball for her!

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This is the 11th MLB ballpark I’ve visited.  Fenway Park may not contend with the exterior beauty of places like PNC Park in Pittsburgh or AT&T Park in San Francisco.  It may not have as many activities as Petco Park in San Diego, and certainly is not as modern as Marlins Park in Miami.  But it is definitely one of the best places in the world to watch a baseball game and feel both a part of the history and all the conveniences of the 21st century.  I am glad that I had a great experience at a great ballpark, and got to see the home team win.

First Month on MASN

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It’s been a great first month as a weekly guest blogger for MASN, the official TV broadcast of the Washington Nationals and Baltimore Orioles.  Yesterday, I published my 5th post for the MASNsports.com website.  My column comes out every Tuesday, so check online at the Nationals Buzz section of the MASNsports.com website, or follow MASNnationals on Twitter.  Or follow me on Twitter at @MattsBats or sign up to get an email every time a new post publishes.  To get the email, sign up on the right side of the MattsBats.com main page.  You can also follow on WordPress or using this RSS link.

In case you missed any of my posts so far, here are links to them.

Think Pink On Mother’s Day- Why Louisville Slugger Makes Pink Bats

Pink Bat For Ryan Zimmerman to use on Mother's Day

Pink Bat For Ryan Zimmerman to use on Mother’s Day

You will see something unusual if you watch a MLB baseball game today.  MLB players will be using Louisville Slugger pink bats for breast cancer awareness in the contests on Sunday.  Pink everywhere on Mother’s Day!

In the ten years MLB and Louisville Slugger have teamed up, over 5,000 bats have been swung for the cause.

The bats are made the same way as a regular baseball bat. They are made just the right length and weight for each individual player.  However, when they get to the painting station, they hold and turn the bat in pink paint until the bat is either half covered or fully covered in pink paint (according to the player’s choice). After it’s stamped with the player’s name and autograph, it’s ready for shipping.

 

 

Louisville Slugger Factory worker checks pink bats as they dry after being dipped.

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On Mother’s Day, players will also wear a symbolic pink ribbon on their uniforms and pink wrist bands. The games will be played with a pink-stitched Rawlings baseball. Fans can bid on authenticated, game-used Louisville Slugger pink bats from Mother’s Day games on MLB.com to benefit the fight against breast cancer.  Fans can also buy their own pink personalized Louisville Slugger bats on MLB.com or sluggergifts.com, and $10 from each sale will be donated to breast cancer charity.

You may recall my Matt’s Bats Chat with National Symphony Orchestra violinist Glenn Donnellan who occasionally plays the National Anthem at Nats Park. Well, in honor of Mother’s Day a couple years ago, Glenn played the Star-Spangled Banner at Citi Field on a Pink Electric Slugger. Isn’t that neat!

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Each MLB team also has its own “Honorary Bat Girl.” This person was voted on by the public through a contest to choose the baseball fan who has been affected by breast cancer and who is committed to eradicating the disease. Tracy Lustig from Alexandria is the Nats’ honorary bat girl. I hope she does well at the game today!

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