A brief introduction to what turned out to be a very long first blog. I am writing this after I finished the blog entry feeling it fair to whomever stumbles across this blog to know what the blog is about before spending the time to read. The general nature of the blog will be my son, Zac’s and my experiences in baseball and the unique time the game allows us to spend together, as well as with our family and friends. We will share our stories about the athletes, the charities they support, the teams, the ball parks, Zac’s baseball life, and what baseball means to us…we hope you enjoy.
My son, Zac, came out of the womb a Baseball Fan, and if I had it my way an Angel’s Fan!
I am pretty sure that helmet is from an ice cream sundae that his big sister, Aubrey, got at the stadium.
I literally have video of him running around the house in diapers swing his bat. I would pitch wiffle balls to him in the house until his started ripping them into our TV. I will hunt that video down and add it at a later post. Some of the first phrases he spoke were, “Swing the Bat”, “Hit the Ball”, “Throw the Ball”, and “Over the Top”.
Here are some picture from Zac’s 3rd Birthday, showing his love started at an early age.
This blog is about the amazing adventures Zac and I have and the time we get to spend together because of our love for baseball.
So you know all of the characters, my name is Steve Baker. Here are a couple of pictures of me and Zac and baseball.
Before I tell you more about the star of the story, I will give the story of my love for the game. I promise, to keep the part about me short because Zac is a way more interesting character in this story!
I grew up a baseball fan, more specifically an Angels fan. I loved to follow Major League Baseball. From about the time I could read, I would start my day grabbing the Orange County Register Sports Page and would instantly turn to the previous day’s box scores. I would scour the stats to see how my favorite player’s stacked up and where my Angels stood in the AL West Standings. I was the kid who could tell you every stat about every Angel’s player up to the minute. A curious thing happened as a result of my religious ingestion of baseball information, I developed a huge respect for those that consistently dominated the game, Rickey Henderson, Wade Boggs, George Brett, Roger Clemens, Mike Schmidt, Ozzie Smith, Steve Garvey, Cal Ripken, Ryne Sandberg, Don Mattingly, just to name a few. Though my favorite players were always my Angels, Rod Carew, Don Baylor, Brian Downing, Bobby Grich, Fred Lynn, Bert Blyleven, Devon White, Gary Pettis, Jim Abbott, Chuck Finley, Mark Langston, Mike Witt, Bob Boone…I could keep going, but you get the idea. I don’t remember going to games as a young kid, though may have got to go to a few. Once I was about eight or so, I would get to go to the Big A once or twice a season. I still remember sneaking down from the upper levels as the games went on to get a better view of the action. When I was nine I got to go to picture day, this was during the 1984 Season.
For those of you who are curious, going top row left to right Bob Boone and Bobby Grich, second row Gary Pettis and Jimmie Reese, and bottom row the Manager John McNamara and Reggie Jackson, the Angel who wore #44 when I was a kid, we will get back the significance of #44. I remember as a kid chanting RE-GIE, RE-GIE, RE-GIE, though by the time he played for the Halos he was winding up his HOF career. As loud as the chants for RE-GIE were, nothing rivaled the chants of WAL-LY, WAL-LY, WAL-LY once Wally Joyner broker into the Big Leagues in 1986. This was about as close as it got to meeting or interacting with one of my heros.
I was an average ball player as a kid, but loved to play the game. My old man wasn’t around much and my Dad who raised me didn’t have a passion for the game. I remember as a real young kid probably between the ages of 5-7 playing in recreation leagues at the Harbor Area Boys and Girls Club in Costa Mesa, CA. Shortly after that my mom remarried and we moved several times which meant new schools and making new friends. Playing baseball didn’t quite fit the family plans at the time. I remember finally getting to play Little League Baseball somewhere around 12 years old. I played for two years in the San Clemente Little League where the field were once again at the local Boys and Girls Club. I played for two seasons and I was on the Red Sox and then the Cubs. Naturally those became my next favorite teams.
Here is the only picture I could find of my Little League playing days. It was posted by an old teammate of mine on facebook.
That is me on the right in the back row. I love that only six kids showed up for picture day and I am pretty sure the coach that season quit, think Bad News Bears Buttermaker, without the heroic turn around. What can you do, I grew up in San Clemente which was the ultimate beach town. My baby sitters were the B&G Club and the beach.
I was an above average outfielder, at least in my memory there wasn’t a ball that hit the ground and an incredible base runner, if I was on first, I scored. In my mind I stole bases like Rickey Henderson and ran down fly balls like Gary Pettis, now if I could have just learned to hit like Rod Carew, maybe there could have been something there. The reality for me was the stars weren’t aligned for me to be a MLB player. Once my “playing days” were done, I wish some one had pointed out that there are many careers in Major League Baseball other than being a ball player,
For the record, I still live the dream:
This is The F.O.G., the recreation soft ball team that I played on just this past spring. We were made up mostly of Little League Dads over 40. The team name, well the O.G. stands for Old Guys, you can guess what the F stands for.
Wow, this blogging can definitely get ramblin’..now on to the real story and the star of the BakerBoys and Baseball Blog, my dude Zac! It was a few year after Zac was born that I bought into a 1/3 share of season tickets in Section 125, now in 124 at Angels Stadium. For those of you not familiar with Angels Stadium, this is the field level, 1st base side, between the pitcher’s mound and 1st base.
I think Zac was almost three the first time he got to set foot on the filed at Angels Stadium, which was the first time I got to as well, I was 34. Interestingly enough it was Picture Day 2009. Here are a few of those shots.
This was me with three of my favorite dudes, Zac and my nephews Alex and Garrett. Zac was especially excited to meet Erick Aybar who was his favorite player’s name to say…”I like Aybar”(over and over and over) at games and Jared Weaver. Back then Zac rocked the long locks like Weave and similar glasses. If I didn’t know better, I would have to look into that, he could be a dead ringer for a Mini Weave in that shot! In all sincerity though, the players for the most part could not have been any cooler. Taking the time to pose for pictures and chat with fans before a game is a huge sacrifice
This was twenty-five years after my first picture day at the stadium, wow have things changed. Not just the stadium and the access to the players, but I mean for me in my life. I was a father of two wonderful kids and life was really getting rolling.
Needless to say, Zac loved going to the ball park and I loved taking him. I was getting to share something that I loved with my favorite dude.
A little sidebar, just so it doesn’t go unsaid…I love taking my daughter, Aubrey, to the games as well. She just doesn’t love it back quite the same, nor is she interested in learning the game the way Zac does. Here are some Aubrey at the game shots over the years:
So there have been many great memories made at the ballpark for Aubs too.
Back to the story, so about the time Zac was four, and was really start enjoying the games, he would complain that he couldn’t see very well from our seats. Now we have great seats, but when you are only this big:
it is understandably tough to see over 20+ rows of people, so I did what any good Dad would do and moved a bit closer to the action. Then we made an amazing discovery, when you are a cute little kid and can get close to the action, ball player’s (even the opposing) team throw you baseballs! I had gotten two baseballs my entire life, one at BP as a teenager and a foul ball in Section 125 Row W about 2010. Zac as it turns out is a ball magnet.
I mean it is a miracle how this boy has a magnetic attraction to baseballs, I could post dozens more picture of him getting baseballs. I will save that for another day. So what does a good boy do when he has too many baseballs, he gets them signed by his favorite players, he gives them away to his friends
he gives them to other kids he has never met, at last nights game without prompting from me, he gave the two balls he got tossed up to him to the two kids sitting next to us.
He has even given them to his Grandpa.
So the point of this wasn’t to tell that my kid is cute, get’s lots of baseballs and has a generous heart, though all of that is true, it was to just segue into the #44! So getting this close to the action a certain four-year old instantly became a fan of the 6′ 4″ 1st Baseman who grew up a stone’s throw from The Big A, Mark Trumbo! Every time we came to the park, it seemed like Mark was launching his Trumbombs into the stratosphere. The bat made a different sound when Trumbo squared a ball up, and even four year old Zac could tell the difference. In 2012, we were able to go down on the field for BP and Zac got to swing one of Trumbo’s bats! (a special thank you to Mark’s friend John from BadCat Amps)
In 2012, when Mike Trout burst on to the scene Zac would and probably still will argue with you that Mark is faster than Trouty. Remember, he is only eight so I let him have that one, at least for a little while longer. When Trumbo opened the 2015 season with triples in back to back games, he was adamant that I haven’t given Trumbo his due. These tête-à-têtes have become common place for us at the ball park. Debating whether to throw a fast ball or off speed pitch during a certain count to a certain batter, predicting what the next batter will do in an at bat. Now we don’t always debate things, we also analyze the different batting stances or pitching mechanics of the players.
Baseball is a game of moments, with pauses in between each moment. Whether it’s the pause between each pitch for a pitcher and the hitter, or the pause between each at bat for a hitter, or the pause between each play for the fielders, there are pauses all over the place in the game. A pause between each series, a pause between each game, a pause between each season, even a pause between each rep at practice…it’s is what we decide to do between those pauses that defines who we are as people. Defines what kind of player our hero’s are on the field. Sometimes it’s what you chose to think about during those pauses that allows you to be ready to react in the next moment.
Sharing baseball with my son has allowed me so many chances to fill those pauses. Admittedly, we talk a lot of baseball…and I mean a lot, but that is not the limit of those pauses. We talk philosophy, religion, character, philanthropy, and so much more. I love that I have the chance in these moments to share with my son the thoughts that I hope will make him ready to react when his moments arrive.
On of these moments arrived December 11, 2013 before the 2014 season when the Angels traded Zac’s favorite player to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Zac was crushed that his guy wouldn’t be there to cheer on when we went to the Big A. I must say as a Dad, the many moments that Zac was able to interact with Mark, whether it was at a signing event, at the ball park, or at a charity event, I easily supported that Zac looked up to him. Mark seems like a guy that really enjoys giving back to his fans, especially the kids. Just two days after he was traded, Mark attended the Los Angeles Angels Kid Foundation Holiday Party.
It was this moment, Mark being traded, that Zac’s eyes were opened to more than just the Angels as a baseball fan. Much like I did when I was scouring the box scores and standing of the sports page, Zac was now recognizing there were so many more great players to watch and learn from in the game. Such an amazing cast of characters, many already on the Angels roster. Unlike me reading the box scores in the sports page, Zac grabs for the Ipad and goes to the MLB at Bat app where he gets to see so much more than a box score…how times have changed.
We have been able to explore new ball parks, we went to both Dodgers Stadium and Petco park when the Dbacks were in town last season. Definitely a more fan friendly experience with better accessability to the players at Petco and the food was great in the ball park, I recommend the Tri-Tip Slider and Tri-Tip Nachos. Dodgers Stadium has it’s charm because of the history, but it is showing it’s age. Of course, Mark took the time to stop and talk with Zac.
Zac even shared that he donated his allowance to ALS and called out Mark in his Ice Bucket Challange! I never heard if Mark took the challenge.
We learned the story of Pete Frates and the amyotrophic lateral sclerosis disease. We learned that ALS is also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. It all comes full circle, as Zac and I were now talking about Lou Gehrig, both as a man and a ball player. I told him about Gehrig’s Luckiest Man speech when he walked away from the game. I am not sure he grasped all of it, but I know baseball will allow us more moments to revisit it, remember he is only eight.
Zac being a lefty realized at a young age that lefties really only have five positions on the field they can play. Naturally, in spite of the striking resemblance to Weaver when he was younger, he gravitated to CJ Wilson a.k.a. Lefty, as his favorite pitcher. We learned about CJ’s charity, CJ Wilson’s Children’s Charities and his support of research for Hemophilia. We learned about Robert Champagne and his son, Micah who has hemophila. Here is a poem Micah wrote:
I am a boy, who cannot clot,
And that is why I get shots.
Because of my port,
I can’t play sports.
But I still have fun and like to run
And play in the sun.
I also need help to grow,
And sometimes I like to be slow
But that doesn’t stop me from wanting to play in the snow.
As long as I do what the doctors say,
I will always be able to play!
Here are some pictures from the event last year:
He has learned that baseball players are so much more than just what you see on the field. He has learned to talk to them and listen. Now don’t get it twisted he is still an autograph hound at the stadium, but he has learned to ask for advise from his heros as well. In addition to talking change up grips with CJ, he talked about PMA (Positive Mental Attitude). Check out the inscription from CJ on the ball he had him sign:
Zac, You can do it! Never Get Intimidated. Talk about powerful stuff that translates well beyond just baseball. CJ also gave me another talking point with PMA, this is a shout out to you OG punk rockers, I introduced my son to the Bad Brains, the original preachers of PMA!
He also got to meet Alex Curry and even made the Angels Weekly coverage of the event!
Though he was shy in talking with her, he loves watching her on Angels Weekly and we were able to talk about peripheral careers in baseball.
He got to take the field with Albert Pujols and instead of letting the moment intimidate him, he congratulated Albert on his 500th HR and wished him luck in chasing his 600th. Instead of just running out and getting an autograph he took the time to have a moment that will last him a life time.
After this day, we took the time to learn about the Albert Pujols Foundation and the work he does helping those with Down Syndrome. We learned about Albert’s daughter that has down syndrome. Zac made a pledge of $1 for every HR Albert hits this year to donate to the Pujols’ Family Foundation, I rounded it up to $5 per homer. The way Albert has been raking, I might be writing a big check, I hope so!
Zac got to meet one of my heros, Rod Carew and asked him for some advice on hitting. His advice was simple, “work hard” and when you step in to the batter’s box, no matter who is pitching, tell yourself. “I can hit this guy”! The advice served Zac well this baseball season.
At the Angel’s Wives Mystery Gold Ball event that Kristen Weaver organizes to support the Special Olympics, we had the pleasure of speaking with an athlete who was helping Tami Butcher and her daughter sell raffle tickets. His passion was inspiring and it was great getting to talk to him and with Tami. Tami was certain that Zac was going to be lucky and win a gold ball. We didn’t, but we did get to talk about what a great cause the money raised goes to in supporting the Special Olympics and are going to look into volunteering by working at an upcoming Special Olympics event. Well it turns out that Tami was right, Zac and his “too cool for school” look was lucky. The very raffle tickets we bought resulted in a phone call Monday saying he won an Erick Aybar helmet. Here is the picture of the helmet and the “too cool for school look”.
Thank you Tami Butcher for bringing us luck! He got even luckier at the game Wednesday after we picked up the helmet when he got Evan Longoria to sign the batting gloves he tossed up to him last year.
Then he added Mike Scioscia and Mike Butcher to this year’s team hat, which now includes Trout, Calhoun, Shoemaker, Weaver, Joe Smith, Carlos Perez, Don Baylor, and Hector Santiago…and still adding more!
We were all set to head out to Arizona and visit Chase Field to visit Zac’s favorite player. We had plans on attending both games at the Big A and then both at Chase field. I literally had bought tickets directly behind the Dbacks dugout the day before Mark got traded to Seattle. I even had agreed to root for the Dbacks for one game and had bought a Dbacks T-Shirt, the things a Dad will do for his boy! Instead we will go and cheer on our favorite team, Lord I hope he doesn’t want to be a Mariner fan now, though I think it is inevitable. Where ever Trumbo goes, that team has a fan.
As the seasons go on, I will share our experiences at The Big A and any other ball parks we visit. I will also do my best to spread the word about the many charities the athletes support. We will continue to cheer our favorite players on, Trumbo and my current favorite is Torii Hunter, as well as all of our Halos! I will provide a follow up blog after our road trip. In the mean time, keep filling the in between pauses with meaningful, thoughtful moments and go out to the ball park and have some fun with your friends and family!