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SABR - BBTF Chapter
— SABR's First Virtual Chapter
Monday, August 08, 2016
By Mike Webber
SABR 46 in Miami will always be remembered as the year we had “The Greatest Ballpark Experience of All-Time”. We’ve had good seats before at SABR conventions, but this year we were 40 rows from the field, between home plate and the first base dugout. The Cardinals pounded the Marlins 11-6, so it wasn’t much of a game, but Ichiro was just two hits from 3,000 yet as I write this a week later he’s still just two hits away.
But the event that made this “The Greatest Ballpark Experience Of All-Time” was finished two hours before the first pitch was thrown. Prior to the game, SABR had arranged four 20 to 30 minute interviews with Don Mattingly, Andre Dawson, Tony and Eduardo Perez, and finally Barry Bonds. That’s a mind boggling lineup, and SABR member Barry Bloom did an excellent job of making them comfortable and getting them to open up in the interviews. Mattingly gave a fairly standard manager’s interview, but he did give insight about Mr. Steinbrenner when telling a story about his arbitration victory over the Yankees. Dawson talked about the Hall of Fame election process and his experience with collusion in the winter of 1986. Eduardo Perez interviewed his father Tony, which made for lively banter and was entertaining. Then Bloom returned to interview his friend Barry Bonds. Bonds spoke primarily of his experience as a hitting coach this year. Barry was laughing and engaging.
Following Barry was Claude Delorme, VP of Operations. How would you like to be that guy, following the manager, a couple of Hall of Famers and the all-time home run king? But he gave a great talk on how the Marlins built the stadium and tried to justify the insane color scheme the park has. I’m sure it is the talk he’s given to every Optimist, Lions and Rotary in South Florida, but still it was very entertaining.
While Delorme is talking, a big guy named Fernandez jumps in the batting cage and starts pounding the ball 50+ feet over the left field fence power. I double checked his number, and sure enough it’s pitcher Jose Fernandez. Fernandez hit balls further than Giancarlo Stanton did when his turn in the cage came around. When the pitcher’s home run derby finally comes about, put your money on Fernandez.
Miami Hyatt Regency was a solid convention hotel, though the bar shut down at midnight, even on the weekend. I’m assuming local blue laws weren’t the issue, just a lack of understanding of what kind of revenue they could have generated by staying open one more hour. The Whole Foods across the street made for a convenient, quick breakfast/lunch spot and there were several good restaurants within a half mile walk. The week included Peruvian, Italian, Ball Park and Cuban food.
If you haven’t been to a SABR convention in the past half-decade or so, you may not realize how much the quality of the presentations and player panels have improved. Michael Hill, former GM and current President of Baseball Operations for the Marlins, started the convention and was more forthcoming than most in similar positions about his team, including answering a couple of questions about the big contract he signed Stanton to and the process involved with it. That was followed by a 2003 Marlins panel with Jack McKeon, Juan Pierre and Jeff Conine. Other panels included former players Ozzie Guillen (who did not cuss through an hour long panel which lost me a bet), Mike de la Hoz, Leo Posada and Jackie Hernandez.
Some of the better presentations included our own Chris Dial’s history of modern defensive statistics, Michael Haupert’s “What would Josh Gibson make; How to calculate a wage that was never earned”, and Mark Armour’s presentation about the MLBPA boycott of Topps in 1967 and 1968, which explains why Johnny Bench looks to be about 14-years old on his rookie card.
Other than Ichiro’s drive for 3,000, the biggest talk of the convention was the next convention. SABR is returning to NYC for the first time since 1991 – assuming the Mets or Yankees are at home. I believe that 726 attendees in St. Louis in 2007 is the record for the most to ever attend a convention. One well-connected SABR member suggested that next year we should not only break that record, but possibly clear 1,000 attendees.
While this year will likely be the GOAT ballpark experience, next year if we can clear 1,000 attendees and include the BBTF Softball game that same weekend, maybe that will be The Greatest Convention Of All-Time.
28 comment(s)Posted: August 08, 2016 at 08:47 AM |
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