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Monday, February 20, 2012

Grantland: Fuld: Game 162

“The Tampa Bay Rays’ Sam Fuld revisits last season’s historic night”

I like to consider myself a coordinated person. I make a living running after baseballs in the outfield, sometimes dodging bullpen mounds, dancing along unpadded walls, even leaping over oncoming teammates on occasion. I think I could more than hold my own on those Japanese obstacle course TV shows. But when Evan Longoria lined a walk-off homer in the bottom of the 12th inning against the Yankees during the last game of the 2011 season to put us in the playoffs, and it came time to climb the three steps that lead from our dugout to the field, I lost all semblance of body control. I ate it. Face-first.

This is what first comes to mind for me when I think about that historic day in Major League Baseball, September 28, 2011. The Yankees had clinched the AL East a few days earlier, while we were tied for the wild-card spot with the Red Sox, who were on the verge of the biggest September collapse in baseball history. Over in the National League, the St. Louis Cardinals were mounting a comeback against the Atlanta Braves almost as improbable as ours. National media were having a field day covering the Sox and their $160 million payroll. This was a team that had gone from World Series favorite to the brink of squandering a playoff berth to the cash-strapped, overachieving Tampa Bay Rays.

...Then, a Baltimore double coupled with a Yankee baserunning blunder gave the food room a jolt of life. It felt like a sports bar, not a clubhouse. We were all just fans, powerless to control the outcomes of these two gripping games. Even Dan Johnson, proud smile and all, had transformed himself from hero to spectator. But it wasn’t fun! When you’re playing, or even just available on the bench, you don’t feel as nervous. You can’t. You have to convince yourself that what you’re doing doesn’t matter, that nobody’s watching, that your job and money and pride aren’t on the line. The dozen of us that had gathered in that room all knew this role well. But the role of fan? We were as comfortable as a bunch of dads at the Little League World Series, except we had TWO games to watch at the same time.

Repoz Posted: February 20, 2012 at 04:01 PM | 15 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: history, rays

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   1. Gold Star for Robothal Posted: February 20, 2012 at 04:15 PM (#4064935)
So Sam Fuld is a better writer than 98% of working sports writers.
   2. Random Transaction Generator Posted: February 20, 2012 at 04:33 PM (#4064958)
it came time to climb the three steps that lead from our dugout to the field, I lost all semblance of body control. I ate it. Face-first.

I can just picture it happening with that "holy ####\" wide-eyed open-mouth smile.
   3. AROM Posted: February 20, 2012 at 05:55 PM (#4065034)
Yeah, Sam is really good. I'm halfway through or so. Fuld even uses things like win expectancy, but primarily gives the insider point of view. I love this stuff. A lot of sportswriters could really benefit from reading this and trying to be more like Sam.
   4. ESPaul Posted: February 20, 2012 at 07:00 PM (#4065084)
Terrific stuff. Rarely does an insider convey the excitement of being a fan so well.
   5. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: February 20, 2012 at 07:08 PM (#4065093)
Well, I'm ready for baseball season!
   6. toratoratora Posted: February 20, 2012 at 08:30 PM (#4065153)
Ok. I'm a Red Sox fan and reading this is about as much fun as a root canal-that said,from a purely detached perspective, this is a great read.
How can you not like a kid who says, "It was 3 p.m., and I was already speculating on the Yankees' lineup as if I were the owner of a fantasy team."
   7. Juilin Sandar to Conkling Speedwell (Arjun) Posted: February 20, 2012 at 09:33 PM (#4065189)
This was a really enjoyable article. I've become even more of a fan of Sam Fuld than I was before.
   8. base ball chick Posted: February 20, 2012 at 10:17 PM (#4065214)
checked out sammy

he has a significantly better education than 98% of working sports writers

how kewl that doug glanville has made it OK for baseball players to be out of the closet about having brains and being able to talk or write well
   9. Weekly Journalist_ Posted: February 20, 2012 at 10:56 PM (#4065233)
Let me get this straight: Fuld has a B.A. in Economics from Stanford and a Master's degree in statistics, and he was an intern at Stats, Inc. charting pitch types and velocities? How awesome is that. Future GM material! Is he friends with Jeremy Lin?
   10. Jim Wisinski Posted: February 20, 2012 at 11:16 PM (#4065242)
Frankly, I'm not good enough to have any baggage and remain employable.

This was really funny.

Last offseason I thought Fuld was dismissed too easily as a relevant part of the Garza trade. He's clearly a backup but his skill set seemed to be well suited for a reserve OF and that turned out to be the case, fluke start aside. He provided more value to the Rays than what they could have gotten in-house so he was an important piece in his own way.
   11. SoSHially Unacceptable Posted: February 20, 2012 at 11:52 PM (#4065262)
he has a significantly better education than 98% of working sports writers

It sounds like he has a significantly better education than 98 percent of the working just about anythings.

   12. Bote Man Posted: February 21, 2012 at 01:03 AM (#4065283)
Great read. Even beyond that, that one night of baseball made fans out of a number of casual onlookers.
   13. JoeC Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:08 AM (#4065314)
Oh, that was an excellent read. I loved the pacing and variety in sentence structure - it's little things like that that get you to the end of an article feeling like you've been on a smooth ride where the language never impeded the story. Doesn't hurt that the topic was one of the greatest days in regular season baseball history, either.

Imagine how much fun the Glanville/Hayhurst/Fuld broadcast booth would be!
   14. Boxkutter Posted: February 21, 2012 at 04:26 AM (#4065317)
Brian Bannister is another guy who I think could write some good articles when his playing career is for sure over. He wrote some stuff for Fangraphs (I think) a few years ago and he had great insight into his own pitching. He talked a lot about Pitch FX, hit rates, GB%, etc. Also about how he was trying to learn a new pitch because of the low rate of success hitters had against it overall. I believe he spent some summers working with like Bill James or STATS Inc as well, but I don't remember off the top of my head.

Sam Fuld is an easy guy to root for. He seems to stay humble and introspective with some self-deprecating humor. I've liked him since he was up and down with the Cubs a few years ago. Great defender, can take a walk and steal some bases. But I've always had a weak spot for slap-hitters with speed.
   15. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: February 21, 2012 at 07:31 AM (#4065332)
I am friends with Sam's parents (I've never met Sam), and they are an extraordinary family. His father is the Dean of the College of Liberal Arts at the University of New Hampshire, and just about the nicest guy you'll ever meet. His mother is a former multi-term State Representative who is now the State Senator for his home town of Durham, NH - and is also about the nicest woman you'll ever meet. He attended Phillips Exeter High School, one of the premier prep schools in the country, and he is a diabetic who has figured out how to make it work in the context of a big-league career. Extraordinary family, and he is going to be extremely successful at whatever he chooses to do after baseball.

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