More yardage to go on ‘Going Yard’

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In 2005, Stan Fridstein and his son Eric, with Kelvin Yamashita and his son, Ryan, enjoy a moment in the Cleveland Indians’ dugout at Jacobs Field.

Following up on today’s Sunday Q-and-A with Stan Fridstein as we discuss his new book, “Going Yard: The Ultimate Guide for Major League Baseball Stadium Road Trips” (linked here), available both on Amazon.com and on Fridstein’s website www.goingyardjourney.com — and not part of our “30 Baseball Books in the 30 Days of April,” but a bonus selection as we move toward the end of this month:

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Q: Was the book a result of the fact as you said you were kind of blazing your own trail and had no real reference guides to go by, so people could learn from your trial and error?

A: I couldn’t find anything out there that was in a single, comprehensive place. I did a lot research, and there’s so much information out there. For example, you go to the TripAdvisor.com website, and you can find 800 things to do in New York City. You’ve got an extra day, so what are you going to do with a 10-year-old kid? What’s relevant to a sports-minded person? It was about ferreting though and all that and calling people and making connections. A lot of the information existed online and if you checked all the blogs and websites, so you could probably find all this somewhere. It just wasn’t in one place.
I was concerned that my son have a great time, and the goal during the first year was to have so much fun that he wanted to do it again next year. So I went overboard in researching to make sure the two boys’ every minute was so full of fun, they’d want more.

Q: Is there also the chance a kid will get exhausted from trying to do too many parks in a row?

A: For me, the baseball park visits were a foil for what the real opportunity was that I was trying to accomplished. For seven to 10 days every summer for seven years, I got to own my son. That’s an amazing thing, to do it a way where there’s so much joy and in a completely unthreatening mode, without his sister and mother and not a lot of static going on. If I had said to him upfront – let’s go on a tour of some interesting cities and see some museums and, you know, maybe take in a baseball game, my son wouldn’t have been interested. But when you position it as taking a baseball trip – that’s only three hours a day. You’ve got another 21 hours to fill. But if you do things right, and pass the time doing the right things, it’s an amazing experience for both of you. You visit cities that you’d otherwise never have a reason to be in discovering really neat things, learning new things.

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Q: In your book, you estimate that it’ll cost about $3,900 per family per trip to do these annual excursions. Is that a number that’s somewhat inflationary proof?

A: That’s a real ballpark figure – no pun intended. But I think the key is you have to be careful who you travel with. The Yamashitas have been great to travel with because we share a lot of the same values. We didn’t need to stay a Four Seasons hotel, or buy great tickets to every game, take guided tours, have unlimited budgets. You have to go with people who you aren’t in a position to start making compromises. These trips can be expensive, or inexpensive. I just sort of came up with $4,000 because I think that’s pretty close for most people who would try this.

Q: You explain in the book about the art of writing a letter in advance and ask each team if they can help you with private tours, tickets . . . Do you think most people are brave enough to ask for those things?

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A: I don’t think most even think about it. People don’t realize that each team has employees full time in the community relations and they want people to feel good about their team. The bottom line is even if they give you a free ticket, you’re still going to spend $100 in drinks and the gift shops or somewhere there. Unless it’s a team like the Yankees or Red Sox or Cubs, maybe the Giants, where they sell out 100 percent of their seats, there will always be empty seats. But when you can contact a team ahead of time and arrange for things like access to a locker room, get on the field, meet players and get a sense of standing on the field, realize what it must feel like with 40,000 people screaming in the stands. It’s pretty awe-inspiring than being at a Little League field with just 20 parents there.
I found teams to be very receptive of my letters because I was genuine about it. Some people are less likely and more fearful to use the social network to secure tickets or get special access. But that was hugely successful for us. This was long before Facebook, maybe 10 years ago, and I had no problem with sending out emails to everyone I knew to tell them about what we’re trying to do – go to a city, visit the parks and look for a great experience. I was shocked not so much that I did get help, but from some of the people who helped me. For example, one friend of mine who was so much not a baseball fan, couldn’t name five teams if he had to, was a contact, and it turned out one of his father’s best friends were part of the Katz family, one of the owners of the New York Mets. And through that connection we were able to get on the field and hang out at one point with Tom Glavine. But my friend was the last person I figured could get me on the field at Shea Stadium, but it was really cool he was willing to make that call on my behalf. You might have friends in other cities who have a sister working for the radio station that carries the team’s games and has access to tickets. My experience: Don’t be shy. Today, with a more effective way to ask for things with Facebook, I think other people are excited to see what we were doing and wanted to help.

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Q: What’s your key advice about landing tickets? Do you find some people skimp on buying good seats as a way to save money?

A: As it turned out, in many cases, I got free tickets. We maybe only bought tickets to five or 10 games tops. You can always find tickets. Sometimes we were promised tickets and it didn’t happen. But when you buy a ticket, that’s another personal decision. There’s one who need to be between first and third five rows up, or others are fine anywhere except what they’d consider to be the worst seats. We wanted decent seats, nothing great. Sometimes you’d get the best seats imaginable. If the difference between a good and a poor seat was $10 or $15, we could do that, but we weren’t paying $200 when you could get a perfectly good seat for $40. For me, sometimes I’d rather spend $40 than $25 for another section, too.
The ‘bleacher bum’ seats at Wrigley Field may be the cheapest, but I know some people who wouldn’t sit anywhere else in the park because of the spirit out there. And then there’s seats now atop the Green Monster at Fenway that are ridiculously expensive, and they may be the worst seats in the house.
I don’t think where you sit makes or break the experience. First off, you’ll probably end up walking around, tasting beer, eating hot dogs. It goes back to the same choice if you want to stay at a Ritz Carlton versus a Marriott Courtyard.

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Q: There’s an updated version coming out someday?

A: They’ll be building a new field for the Marlins, and you’ve got to think they’ll be new stadiums someday in Tampa Bay, so there’ll always be more trips to make. The thing I found out – there were some parks where there were places to visit I wasn’t even aware of. I didn’t know the Negro League Hall of Fame was in Kansas City, or the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum was within a 9 iron of Camden Yards in Baltimore. So now I want to go back and update all that information. While this isn’t a travelogue, some of the things we did do were kind of yawns, and my son helped me with saying, ‘We’re bored and we hated doing that.’ That’s good to know.

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 23 — Have you met Mr. Met? At least he’s not Mr. Meadowlark

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The book: “New York Mets: 50 Amazin’ Seasons — The Complete Illustrated History”

The author: Matthew Silverman

The vital stats: MVP Books, 208 pages, $30

Find it: At the publisher’s site (linked here) as well as at Powell’s (linked here), Amazon.com (linked here) and Barnes & Noble (linked here).

The pitch: While not fielding a team until 1962, this would be the New York Mets’ 50th season. Do the math. It’s as good a time as any to break out this amazing-size scrapbook of memories that even a non-Mets fan can appreciate. To an extent.

Silverman, who runs his own Mets fan website (www.metsilverman.com) culls the files of the New York Times, famed baseball writer Jack Lang and other team fansites such as Centerfield Maz, Faith and Fear in Flushing and Mets Police to flush out the team’s history in a real neat kind of way, one that kids and adults can appreciate.

The cover alone is unique — a pull tab at the top allows you to change the four photos on the front, from Seaver, Kranepool, Stengel and Kingman to Gooden, Hernandez, Piazza and Wright.

Since it’s Mets’ history we really after here (but we do enjoy the eye candy), consider these gems you have have forgotten:

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 22 — A 100 seasons in Fenway, and beyond

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The book: “Remembering Fenway Park: An Oral and Narrative History of the Home of the Boston Red Sox”

The author: Harvey Frommer

The vital stats: Stewart, Tabori and Chang, 238 pages, $45.

Find it: At the publisher’s website (linked here) as well as Powell’s (linked here), Amazon.com (linked here) and Barnes & Noble (linked here).

The pitch: The Red Sox’s four-game series against the Angels in Anaheim — they don’t play each other in Boston until early next month (May 2-5) — gives us a hook to look back at Fenway from its birth in 1912 and as it readies for its 100th anniversary season in 2012.

And, again, we’re hooked.

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The Media Learning Curve: April 15-22

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You may have seen how a robot — basically, a souped-up Segway — designed to throw a baseball did in its debut, asked to toss the ceremonial first pitch before a Philadelphia Phillies game the other day.

It was so lame, the Phillie Fanatic motioned to the bullpen for another reliever.

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There’s also this story that came across our radar this week: Did a robot outwrite a sportswriter? Well ….

National Public Radio (linked here) investigated, based on a tip from Deadspin.com.

There’s a sentence we never thought we’d write.

Basically, a software program created by Narrative Science to write a basic sports story based on information put into a computer could have done a better job reporting a perfect game that was pitched by the University of Virginia’s Will Roberts against George Washington University. Especially after a Deadspin follower found the report of the game on the GW sports information website that basically buried the lead.

After today’s media column (linked here), read on for more notes as we plow through more media notes from the last few weeks that are worth making a fuss about:

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== DVR alert for all those who remember ABC’s “Wide World of Sports”:

ESPN begins a tribute to the 50th anniversary of the anthology series starting with marathon programming on, what else, ESPN Classic. It begins Monday at 4 a.m. and runs through Thursday, April 28, finishing up with the show’s 30th and 35th anniversary specials.

Originally envisioned as a fill-in show for one summer, Wide World of Sports debuted April 29, 1961, with Jim McKay hosting a show that action the Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, and the Penn Relays from Franklin Field in Philadelphia.

The rest is historic, bolding going where no sports shows had gone before. Sunday’s ESPN: “Outside the Lines” with Bob Ley (6 a.m.) talks to the show’s producers and on-air personalities to discuss its legacy.

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Then ESPN Classic starts with these episodes worth saving:
==Mon., April 25:
=4 a.m.: Arnold Schwarzenegger wins Mr. Olympia, mountain climbing with Bobby Kennedy; 7 p.m.: A review of daredevil Evel Knievel’s famous motorcycle jumps; 8 pm.: Howard Cosell and Muhammad Ali discuss the boxer’s career.
==Tue., April 26:
=6 p.m.: Track & field from Russia, U.S. volleyball in Cuba, gymnastics in China, soap box derby in Akron, Ohio, rattlesnake roundup and cutterhorse racing; 8 p.m.: More with Ali, his 1975 fights against Chuck Wepner, Ron Lyle and Joe Frazier in the last of their trilogy.
== Wed., April 27:
=5 p.m.: Hydroplane racing, skateboarding championships and ice boat racing.
==Thurs., April 28:
=6 p.m.: The 1968 Dune Buggy Championships, the 1965, ’66 and ’68 Reno Air Races, with a crash by the “Red Baron,” Steve Hinton; 8 p.m.: A series of interviews with Howard Cosell talking to Ali, Wilt Chamberlain, Pete Rozelle, Joe Namath, Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs; 9 p.m.: The first Wide World of Sports – Drake Relays and Penn Relays.
==Friday, April 29:
=6 p.m.: The 30th anniversary special, hosted by Jim McKay; 7:30 p.m.: The 35th anniversary special, hosted by Robin Roberts.

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== We don’t know who’ll be on the cover of “Madden NFL ’12″ — you apparently have that decision (linked here) — but the New York Times (linked here) reports that the new EA Sports video game will be more concussion conscious, forcing any virtual player who sustains a major head injury to the sidelines for the rest of the game. The broadcasters on the video game will also explain why the injury is serious enough to result in this action. “Madden NFL 12″ executive producer Phil Frazier says “I wouldn’t say this is a full public-service announcement, but it’s a means to educate.” Adds Madden: “Concussions are such a big thing, it has to be a big thing in the video game. … Concussions are really serious: if we show players playing through them, then kids won’t understand.”

== AND FINALLY:

== There’s more of a chance to read between the lines from a Wall Street Journal analysis (linked here) about how Fox Sports is trying to keep in the good graces of Dodgers owner Frank McCourt by supplying loans than what the L.A. Times supplied (linked here) in Friday’s coverage.

Why? The WSJ is owned by Ruppert Murdock, who runs News Corp., which runs Fox Sports. That connection is made in the WSJ story, as ethically responsible as it can be.

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30 baseball books in 30 days of ’11: Day 21 — Wake up, Wakefield: A knuckleballer’s dream career is about to end

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The book: “Knuckler: My Life with Baseball’s Most Confounding Pitch”

The author: Tim Wakefield and Tony Massarotti

The vital stats: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 288 pages, $26

Find it: At the publisher’s site (linked here) as well as at Powell’s (linked here), Amazon.com (linked here) and Barnes & Noble (linked here)

The pitch: Chances are that Wakefield will make an apparence against the Angels sometime in their current four-game series — either as an emergency starter, closer, short reliever, middle reliever, set-up man … late-inning defensive replacement?

Wakefield, who hits 45 later this season (in August), is this ultimate survivor. A team player. A utility pitcher with a pitch that is a recipe for disaster. But one that deserves his story told on more than 250 pages?

It’s a stretch, but, as it turns out, one that the reader will, page by page, realize he’s part of Wakefield’s dream ride, which even in baseball lore is pretty far fetched. He is the every-man player, doing whatever it takes to stay in a uniform.

For those who don’t remember: This was a utility infielder and bullpen catcher who was about to get released by the Pittsburgh Pirates before a minor-league coach noticed him messing around with a knuckleball. That became his ticket to the big-leagues, being promoted to the Pirates in time for a run into the playoffs in 1992. Manager Jim Leyland called him “the (explective) Elvis Presley of the National League.”

But as is the pitch’s fate, it left the building the next year. Three seasons later, the Pirates released him.

The Red Sox’s foresight was to have Phil Niekro tutor him not just on the pitch, but how to mentally master it. Niekro was the Wakefield Whisperer. “Use the uncertainty (of the knuckleball) to your advantage.” Mix up speed and elevation within a mechanically sound delivery.

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