Cheap beer, affordable tickets, swanky surroundings -- what's not to like about minor and independent league baseball parks? … In the world of marketing minor league baseball, where coloring outside the lines is the norm, anything within the boundaries of good taste is fair game. … Everything is content, and content is everything. … Even a bunch of whimsical Heat fans who ditched their team and missed a historic comeback. … "When it comes to marketing and promotions, we always try to stay topical, have fun with topical stuff," Seymour said. "During the NBA Finals, nothing was more topical than Heat fans leaving their team before Game 6 was over." … And with that, "Big Three" night at the Miracle's Hammond Stadium was born on Thursday, June 20. … In honor of Miami's "Big Three" (Heat-speak for the trio of LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh) and as a good-hearted poke at Heat "fans," all Miracle patrons wearing Heat gear would get into the game for the low, low price of $3 per ticket, under two conditions: First, they enter through the "Exit" gates and second, they stay for the entire game, which I would imagine was not very difficult for most of them to do, what with it being "Thirsty Thursday" (half priced domestic beers!) and all.
Miguel Cabrera looked as if he were wearing pajamas, untucked and mismatched, as he lumbered around the Detroit Tigers’ clubhouse in a sweaty gray T-shirt and a pair of Nike shower shoes. Known to his teammates as Miggy, Cabrera wore his hair dense down the middle and bare on the sides — in what he called “a faux-hawk.” In an era in which even baseball players have come to resemble souped-up Eastern bloc Olympians, Miggy packs more of a stonemason physique: he is 6-foot-4 with massive arms and torso, but also a noticeable paunch of fluctuating size and, God bless him, well-articulated man-boobs. Yet he is the reigning American League M.V.P. and quite possibly the best hitter of his generation. (One of the fun parts about writing about baseball is inviting a “best of his generation” debate before the first paragraph is even over.)
One of the most iconic careers in major league history is ending: Mariano Rivera, two months from turning 44, 23 years removed from his start in professional baseball, will throw his last pitch. Goodbye to the alltime leader in regular-season and postseason saves. Goodbye to his cut fastball, which belongs with Carl Hubbell's screwball, Sandy Koufax's curveball and Nolan Ryan's fastball on the Mount Rushmore of greatest pitches. And goodbye to that trim, tailored figure who could work the noisiest room the way Astaire or Sinatra could, with a preternatural, unhurried cool and a lightness of being that made the difficult look easy. Only the tuxedo was missing. ... The son of a Panamanian fisherman became baseball royalty, though it was a hegemony hard-earned, not given. Rivera signed with the Yankees in 1990 at age 20 for just $3,000 and promptly made the first airplane trip of his life to report to spring training in Tampa. He injured his elbow in '92 and had ligament-repair surgery. He was left unprotected by the Yankees in the expansion draft later that year but went unclaimed by the Rockies and the Marlins, nearly was traded to the Tigers in '95 for lefthander David Wells and in '96 to the Mariners for shortstop Felix Fermin, and washed out as a major league starting pitcher with a 5.94 ERA in 10 chances in '95. Only then and in the bullpen, especially in October, did Rivera make his indelible mark. ... The end to his career, however, is hardly the end of his imprint. Rivera's personage is so humble, godly even, that his legacy will go on. Few players in any sport have retired with more reverence from his peers. "Probably not since Koufax have we seen anyone leave the game with so much respect," says Joe Torre, Rivera's manager with the Yankees for four of his five World Series championships. ... Like Koufax, Rivera has become an enduring ideal, a template of what it means to be a pitcher, a teammate and a friend. But the oral history of Rivera has only begun. This is the story so far, from some of the lives he has touched.
Major League Baseball Advanced Media, or BAM for short. BAM began as the in-house IT department for the league’s 30 teams, a small handful of employees originally tasked with building websites for teams and clubs. But over the last 15 years, BAM has emerged as the most talented and reliable name in streaming video, a skill set suddenly in very high demand. ... BAM cemented its status as one of the most important players at the intersection of sports, media, and technology, announcing that it will be powering the mobile, web, and television offerings from the National Hockey League. It’s the first time BAM has been fully embraced by another major league. ... For years, BAM was a name known only to industry insiders, a sharpshooter organization called in to make sure the big game or series premiere streamed without fail. Over time, it forged long-term deals with clients like WWE and Sony Playstation’s Vue network. Now it’s moving from powering the platform to co-owning the content as well. ... Watching sports online has always had one major complication: regional blackouts prevent you from streaming a game in the same territory as a television broadcaster who owns local rights. That meant BAM had to figure out where a customer was and whether or not they could legally watch the stream. In fact, BAM’s very first post-season package wasn’t even broadcast live in the United States or Japan. Fox owned the national broadcast rights to the pennant race, so BAM’s first big broadcast took place in Europe. From the beginning, BAM had to perfect live video streaming on a global scale.
President Franklin Delano Roosevelt once told the head of the Office of Strategic Services (precursor to the CIA), “Give my regards to the catcher.” The catcher was Moe Berg, who spent 15 seasons in the majors before taking up espionage for the government. Spyball tells the extraordinary story of Berg, a linguist/Ivy-educated lawyer/.243 lifetime hitter whom manager Casey Stengel called “the strangest man to ever play the game of baseball.” Berg walked in eclectic circles, counting Babe Ruth, Albert Einstein, and the Marx Brothers among his friends, but it was his service to his country that truly distinguished him. His surreptitious filming of Tokyo during a 1934 baseball tour helped develop strategies for the eventual bombing of the city during World War II, and his cloak-and-dagger mind games involving a German scientist helped prove that the Nazis were failing in their attempts to develop an atomic bomb.
Somewhere in your favorite sports franchise’s front office, a team of analysts is teasing the truth out of a mess of misleading statistics. Regardless of the sport or the data source — Corsi, SportVU, or Statcast — the analysts’ goals are the same: to capture contributions that standard statistics omit or misrepresent, and to find the positive indicators buried beneath superficial failures. The shot on goal that goes wide? In a sense, it’s a good sign, since it might mean more shots in the future, some of which will find the net. The line drive caught by a leaping outfielder playing out of position? A double would’ve been better, but even an almost-double tells us that the player who came close to extra bases has the skills to drive the baseball at a speed and trajectory that would typically lead to a hit. Not all outs are created equal. ... Whether they know it or not — and nowadays, most of them don’t — all of these quants are re-proving the principle at the core of a product developed two decades ago by a company called AVM Systems, a small outfit founded by Ken Mauriello and Jack Armbruster, two businessmen based in the Chicago suburb of Wheaton, Illinois. AVM’s central insight sounds hackneyed now, but it was — to borrow a latter-day business buzzword — disruptive at the time: Process is important, because results are sometimes deceiving.
Meet the branding geniuses behind some of minor league baseball’s craziest logos and mascots. ... The negative attention didn’t bother Brandiose, the San Diego-based sports marketing company that came up with Hartford’s logo, which consists of a horned, bearded goat gnawing on a baseball bat. The brainchild of longtime friends Jason Klein and Casey White, the firm specializes in developing unique team identities. By now, the duo has learned that pushback against a name as strange as Yard Goats isn’t a bad thing. “You want it to be polarizing,” Klein said, because it shows that the public is interested. ... Over the last decade, minor league franchises have hired Brandiose (pronounced like “grandiose”) to sculpt distinctive name and logo combinations seemingly out of thin air. But as goofy as Brandiose designs can be, the story behind them must be carefully crafted. After all, small clubs in small cities often need ways to hook fans—particularly families with young kids—who might be less interested in watching hotshot major league prospects than they are in partaking in an inspired promotion.
Shohei Otani is the greatest thing to happen to baseball in a century. Not only is he Japan’s best pitcher—featuring a high-90s fastball and three strong secondary offerings—he’s also one of the country’s best hitters. Blessed with a towering frame and unteachable athleticism, Otani dominates on the mound and absolutely rakes at the plate. He’s a staff ace who hits in the heart of the order on the days between his starts. ... He’s a player many scouts believe is ready to step into MLB today as a front-of-the-rotation starter or an everyday outfielder with a middle-of-the-order bat—or maybe both. ... Outside of a couple brief, failed experiments, no one on this side of the Pacific has even tried what Otani is doing in a century—and certainly no one has done it as successfully. Ruth isn’t just a tall comparison for Otani—he’s the only comparison. ... Yes, Otani, a multi-millionaire and one of the most recognizable celebrities in Japan, lives in a dorm not unlike the one you inhabited during university. ... He says instead of going out, he fills his free time reading about training and nutrition or watching films about sports