Gone to the Bees

It’s a beautiful summer evening for….

a minor league baseball game!! a couple of skate-tribe friends casually mentioned they might go. So Jess and I rode our bikes to this absolute jewel of a park, to watch the AAA Salt Lake Bees.

I think there might be no sport more different from long track ice than baseball-

Lets think of some attributes-

winter, ice, solo, electronically timed, steel bladed shoes, brutal effort, you travel fast, coaches yell clear words & numbers

vs.

summer, grass, team, no time limit, leather gloved hands, pastoral contemplation, you throw things fast, coaches use mysterious silent hand signals.

We go to the ticket counter, and ask for seats in the shade, $16 later, we get our randomly assigned seats, wander up to the stands and sit down next to

ALL SORTS OF SPEEDSKATERS!

Bottom row: short trackers Cherise Wilkins & Sonia Milan, then LT-er Ron Macky.
Top row: Jessica, Matt Hotchkiss, John Loquai, & Nate Defranco & his girlfriend

It was nice Chatting with Cherise, we know many people in common from the Rochester skate tribe & even though we had never actually met, we had been to each other’s websites.

Skating is a very small, very weird world.

The baseball game was very exciting, the beer & nachos & home runs flowed, and conversation ranged from how they pick the world cup team, to training, to what kinds of beer cans make the best beer can pyramids (there were was an expert architect in attendance who shall remain nameless).

Not only does he have one of the best “pain faces” in the entire skating world, no one can sing take me out to the ball game like Ron Macky, seen here resplendent in his Milwaukee Brewers hat & jersey.

You can take the man out of Wisconsin, but never can take the Wisconsin out of the man, or baseball from your heart once it’s there.

We never did cross paths with the folks we intended to, but they saw our locked bikes & left a note.

Once part of a subculture, always part of a subculture!

11 Responses to “Gone to the Bees”

  1. Andrew, I may be in SLC over the weekend. Is there anyone to inline skate with and where should I go? drop me an email or call my cell.. thanks, Jay Jackson

  2. To the contrary. Long Track speed skating and baseball have a whole lot more in common than you may think.

    They are sports that appear to many to be dull, and often devoid of action - yet as you peel the layers of the onion back, are intricate and rich beyond what the average observer may comprehend.

    Baseball is pastoral, with moments of action. A baseball game is a place you can follow the action, yet still have a conversation - interruped by a pitch every 30-45 seconds. A speedskating meet is a place where you can do the same, interrupted by a lap passing at about the same interval. A long race isn’t a whole lot unlike an at-bat at all.

    They are sports of numbers and probabilities - both have legions of stats geeks who live and die by their calculators and scorecards both live and at home.

    And baseball is actually a team amalgamation of individual skills - prepared for and executed more or less in the same way every time a situation occurs; Much like the preparation and execution done by the long track speed skater.

    Breaking down parts of the game reveal even more commonality. Look at the action of pitching. The way a pitcher loads his weight on the back leg, drops into a slight knee bend, and then uses a gravity induced “fall” and drives off the rubber to deliver a pitch encompases amost the EXACT same motion a long track speed skater uses to apply maximal force to the ice. The commonality is SO much that I am inclined to think that pitching coaches may well profit from studying the motion of a long track skater.

    Long track skaters, by the way, make decent pitchers - because while you may hear talk of a guy’s “arm” because it is the weakest link in a chain of muscles that throw the ball, the real force behind a well thrown pitch comes right through a stong core from the same thigh and glute muscles that speed skaters are known for.

    I’ve got more, but not time to share at the moment - but this will probably get the discussion started.

  3. Fred, I knew you would have something to say about this….

    excellent comment!!!

    especially about the skate statistics enthusiast/geeks…. I am amazed at them the same way I am amazed by folks who can do things like remember batting averages & ERA’s of players on teams long gone, like, for example:
    the 1986 Mets (Bro? Dad?)

  4. The ‘86 Mets are not discussed in my home…but if you’d like to talk about the ‘04 Cardinals, have at it.

    In all seriousness, anyone who follows speed skating and knows the ‘86 Mets ought then to be aware of the most direct connection of all between Major League Baseball and speed skating.

  5. I do know that George Steinbrenner helped out Eric Flaim & Bob Fenn once.

    (we don’t talk about the Yankees in our house, so it’s ok)

    but I am unaware of the connection with the Mets…

  6. […] world. National Allaround team member John Loquai has shown up (I urged him to race this at the Bees game), and 2 good fellows I trained with last year, Michael Stein & James “Clay” Cholewins […]

  7. I thought my post was cryptic - but I haven’t got any idea what that guy is saying.

    By the way, Lee Mazzilli says hello.

  8. So, George Steinbrenner helped out Eric Flaim. Can anyone else come up with a list of wealthy benefactors who helped various speed skaters in the 1980’s…you know, before it “became common knowledge” that all American elite athletes live in Olympic training centers for free, sleep on plush Hilton mattresses designed by NASA, have all of their nutritious meals cooked for them, and sit around playing video games all day long?

    Just for my own information…

    Fred, for those of us who don’t follow baseball, what is the connection between the ‘86 Mets and speed skating?

  9. Eva,

    from gossip I have heard, it was much worse back in the 80’s than today… in terms of support of the athletes… but I was not there…

    Someone told me Harley-Davidson sponsored Heiden… but again, I have no confimation…

    Lee Mazzilli was an 8 time speedskating national champion when he was young, before going on to a prolific 14 year career in major league baseball…

    he was a star with the mets for a while, was traded away, and arrived back to the Mets in the middle of the 1986 season…

    Teams that have a shot at the world series often hire a few versitile, solid veterans in the middle of the season, & he was a natural fit…

    I was a huge Mets fan for the whole 80’s (including before they were good, my favorite player as a kid was Dave Kingman) and I certainly remember Mazzilli, but I knew nothing about speedskating then…

  10. But at least everyone KNEW it was worse, so when an athlete went out looking for sponsorship, it wasn’t like, “Oh, so you’re on the World Cup team. You get everything for free.”

    Yes, it’s true that those people who are “chosen” by USSPEEDSKATING have access to a lot of perks in these days. I mean, look at Nick Pearson. He doesn’t even have to skate any trials, he just walks on and off the sprint team any time he decides that real life sucks more than training.

    But for those skaters who have to do it on their own because they are out of favor with the “powers that be,” things are worse now, because now, not only do they have to find the same amount of support as previous skaters did, because they’re NOT getting any from the USOC or USS — now they have to contend with the hypocritical and false image that they ARE supported, when they really are not.

    Gossip from the past is nothing compared to the experience of a skater who has actually lived it.

  11. My first baseball game was a Mets game @ Shea, in ‘78. Still remember it well, against the Astros. Since the Mets were in the cellar then, and the Yanks were winning another title, I got more into the Yanks as an impressionable 7 year old. But I always liked Maz, #16. He was their lone all star around that time. I hear they used to call him “baby Lee” when he was skating. Oh yeah, “King Kong” Kingman. It seemed like whenever the guy came to bat he either struck out swinging or hit one in the parking lot.

    Having had experience with baseball and (much more recently) speed skating, I notice one more similarity - turning left. Rounding the oval is a little like rounding the bases, especially on the home stretch. One time, coming around the final turn, I pretended I was rounding third and heading home with a throw coming in. I think it helped me skate just a hair faster (not that fast, but faster no less - I’m still developing).

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