Snow Angels In The Outfield

Things I need to stop doing in 2016:
  1. Going almost a month without blogging.
  2. Saying I'm going to stop blogging about baseball.
I mean, seriously. I work a lot of hours, yes, but I need to stop being lazy. I've also blogged about baseball enough times now that I should probably just come to terms with the fact that baseball is now amongst the topics I will regularly post about. You have been duly warned (if you haven't figured it out already).

I still have some hockey adventures to recap, but I figured I'd wrap up my 2015 baseball adventures before the new year (and, y'know, before spring training). That makes sense, right? Right. So, onwards!

If you recall, my friend Barbara and I found something of a home at Coors Field this season. At some point we decided that, after so many hours spent there already, we should really take a tour. We tried to go one weekend in October... but tours weren't being given that day. We tried to go one weekend in November... but tours weren't being given that day. (It was like a bad joke, honestly.) But finally, in mid-December, we did it!

...In the snow.

It was snowing in Colorado Springs when we headed out, and it was snowing in Denver when we arrived, and it continued snowing for most of the day. Perfect day to visit a baseball stadium, amirite?

Well, as long as you don't mind seeing grass and infield dirt, it was actually really cool.

The tour was slightly modified to keep us outside as little as possible, which was very appreciated. I've been on a pretty good number of stadium tours at this point, and they're all more or less the same. But one thing that stuck out to me was learning that Coors Field opened in 1995 and is the second oldest ballpark in the National League, behind only Wrigley Field. And Wrigley is over 100 years old. That is nuts! 

And the building we were standing in when I took the above picture -- now a restaurant within the stadium -- is actually older than Wrigley. Who knew?!

Tours only go into the visitor's clubhouse, as seems to be the industry standard. Apparently home clubhouses are significantly nicer. (Goals: see a home clubhouse one day.)

While we were on the field and milling around in the dugouts, someone opened the case to the bullpen phone. Our tour guide informed us that that's what triggers the call and, within a few seconds, we actually heard the phone in the bullpen ringing from clear across the field! That was a new tidbit for me! And of course, it's always pretty freaking cool to get to be on the field and in the dugout.

Also pretty cool? Mets stuff!

On the left is an apple that the Mets gave to each team in honor of the 2013 All Star Game that was hosted at Citi Field. And on the right is a David Wright jersey; in the hallway leading to the visitor's clubhouse, there's a jersey from each team displayed on the walls. Pretty neat!

After the tour, Barbara and I spent a few minutes in the team store (because when in Rome, right?) before grabbing an early dinner at a nearby restaurant. By the time we left to head home, it was dark outside and we were treated to some festive lights!

How cute is this! Do other stadiums get decorated for the holidays? Is this a phenomenon I've been missing out on? If so, I can't believe I didn't know this adorableness was going on. If not, Coors Field is my favorite.

Actually, Coors Field is my favorite either way.

I hope everyone had a wonderful holiday, whatever you may celebrate, and happy new year!
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It's after Thanksgiving and I'm STILL talking about baseball! It's a beautiful thing. (I mean, it's partially due to my own laziness, but it's also because the Mets were playing baseball into November. What a world.) At this rate I'll still be talking about the 2015 season when the 2016 season rolls around, but bear with me.

I'd been to two Rockies games before this year, mostly because Denver is kind of a schlep from Colorado Springs, and also because most of my friends out here don't particularly care about baseball. (I know, right? What a shame.) Last year I managed to scrounge up people to go with me when the Mets were in town, and this year I was prepared to go by myself. Because the 2015 Mets team was worth a two-plus hour round trip and sitting by myself at Coors Field for three hours. But the day before the game, my friend Barbara offered to go with me, and suddenly I had a baseball friend!

We headed to Denver intending to buy tickets at the stadium, and let me tell you, there are definite perks of going to games when the home team is bad. At will call, we just sort of asked what was available, and ended up walking away with field level seats for $20 a pop. TWENTY BUCKS to sit at field level. I'm sorry, what??? Even when the Mets were terrible (er, just about always), I think I only sat at field level once in my life. So this was pretty stinking cool.

 A Dickey compatriot!

And look at these idiots!

The children on the starting rotation thought it would be a good idea to sit on top of the wall during pre-game warmups. Children, I tell you.

The Mets played three games in Colorado, and I chose the Sunday afternoon game to attend... because it was Harvey Day. I wasn't missing an opportunity to see Matt Harvey pitch. But this was August, when he was making more headlines for his innings limit than for his pitching, so of course, this was one of his starts that was skipped. We ended up seeing Logan Verrett's first ever MLB start, and he was actually phenomenal. He pitched something like eight innings of one-run ball and the Mets won 5-1. It was great. Really hot, but really great. (Don't worry mom, I brought sunscreen and reapplied liberally. *thumbs up emoji*)

Two weeks later, the San Francisco Giants were in town. Barbara is a Giants fan, so it was back to Coors for round two. After such good luck at will call the first time, we headed up there with the same plan. We asked what was available, and the woman in the booth -- after seeing Barbara wearing a Giants shirsey -- said, "if I give you tickets, will you go inside and buy a Rockies shirt?" We both said yes, of course, and just thought she was joking about not selling us tickets because we weren't Rockies fans... but no, she actually meant giving us tickets. For free. She gave us free tickets. FREE TICKETS! So we did, in fact, run inside and hit up the team store. I got a shirt, Barbara got socks, both for the price we would've paid for tickets anyway, and then we enjoyed the game from our FREE SEATS.


The final game we went to -- two weeks later -- was for the simple reason that Coors Field had been so good to us. The Rockies were playing the San Diego Padres, and both teams had pretty terrible records so the game was essentially meaningless, but on the last weekend of summer it was only fitting to squeeze in one more game. Again, we asked will call what was available for around twenty bucks, and we got club level tickets for $25 each. Guys, Coors Field is the best place. If you're ever in this neck of the woods, I highly recommend catching a game there, because the price and customer service experience is out of this world. (Also, get the Helton burger. Delicious.)

That was not the end of our Coors Field adventures, though. Two weeks later (noticing a pattern yet?), Barbara and I were all set for hockey season and headed to Denver for our first Colorado Avalanche game! Our hockey adventures will get their own post at a later date, but for now I'll leave you with this: I noticed that I was eating a purple donut in front of a purple stadium. ~Aesthetic~ ensued.

...I hate myself a little bit.

We're planning on taking an actual stadium tour soon because, at this point, how could we not?! Coors has sort of become our touchstone in Denver; we've been so many times that we sort of know the area a little bit now. It's kind of crazy, but now I kind of feel like I have a second sports home. So hey, Coors, thanks for being awesome. :)

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My (Totally Fake) Fantasy Baseball Team: The Results

What, just because baseball season is over you expected me to be done talking about it? Ha, no. I need to catch up on all my backlogged baseball posts! (Okay, it'll only be one more after this one. Maaaaaybe two.)

Anyway, back in April I created a fake fantasy baseball team with the idea of helping me learn about some new players on the teams I follow; the Mets (obviously), the Blue Jays (for R.A. Dickey), and the Rockies (my new hometown team). I don't think it's my fantasy team's doing, but I definitely feel more attached to all three after this season; the Mets and the Blue Jays both made it to the playoffs for the first time in forever, and I went to three Rockies games within one month this summer. It was a wild season, guys. So let's check in with the players I chose and see how they did!

CATCHER: Travis d'Arnaud, NYM
2015 Stats: .268 AVG, 12 HR, 41 RBI, FPCT .995
I am SO HAPPY I picked Travis. He was injured for a lot of this season, which was really unfortunate, but he improved in all facets of his game from the 2014 season: his home run/RBI numbers are almost identical even though he played in much fewer games, and behind the plate he has so many fewer errors and passed balls. I'm psyched about this dude. He's great. Needs to work on preventing stolen bases, but I cannot wait to see how he develops next season.

2015 Stats: .244 AVG, 27 HR, 73 RBI, FPCT .997
Part of the reason I picked the Dude was because he led the Mets in home runs and RBIs last season. So what does he do this season? Leads the Mets in home runs and RBIs. What a guy. :) His season was pretty streaky -- he'd either be hitting home runs in every single at bat for a week, or not at all -- but I'm very pleased with the season he had. Also, Curtis Granderson started an Instagram account for him: wefollowlucasduda. It's just Grandy following Duda around and documenting him. It's the greatest thing that's ever happened on social media.

2015 Stats: .301 AVG, 6 HR, 61 RBI, FPCT .988
Look at that batting average! Holy cow! He led the Rockies in both batting average and on base percentage, and that is just damn impressive. He was one of the very bright spots on a Rockies team that had one of the worst records in the league. I'm here for this guy. I dig it.

SHORTSTOP: Jose Reyes, TOR (traded to COL)
2015 Stats: .274 AVG, 7 HR, 53 RBI, FPCT .968
...It's hard for me to talk about Jose, as he was just recently arrested for assaulting his wife. Needless to say, I can no longer be a fan of his. Numbers-wise he had a pretty good season, and I loved that he was traded from one of my teams to another and has now played for all three. But now it's all just kind of ruined.

THIRD BASE: Nolan Arenado, COL
2015 Stats: .287 AVG, 42 HR, 130 RBI, .966 FPCT
Winner, winner, chicken dinner. Guys, Nolan had himself a season this year. He led the Rockies in hits, home runs and RBIs. League-wide, he was third in home runs and first in RBIs. The most RBIs in the entire league! He's also won Silver Slugger, Gold Glove and Defensive Player of the Year Awards for his efforts. The guy is absurd. #NolanBeingNolan

LEFT FIELD: Michael Cuddyer, NYM
2015 Stats: .259 AVG, 10 HR, 41 RBI, .973 FPCT
Oh, Cuddy. People were so disappointed with his numbers this season, and it makes me really sad. Statistically, yes, he didn't live up to expectations (as much as I so, so wanted him to). BUT he was a critical piece in the Mets' clubhouse -- after wins he gives out a championship belt to the MVP! -- and I really don't think the team would've been the same without him. (Does anyone else have those players that might not be "great" but that you'd get into fights to defend them? That's Cuddy for me. Come at me about him.)

CENTER FIELD: Charlie Blackmon, COL
2015 Stats: .287 AVG, 17 HR, 58 RBI, .991 FPCT
Charlie (or Chuck Nazty, as he's known on Twitter) ended up being a very happy accident for me. One, he had a pretty dang nice season! Two, he's so freaking weird and SO FUNNY (seriously, please just look through his tweets). And three, this is his walk-up song. I mean, come on. This guy is definitely a new favorite of mine.

RIGHT FIELD: Jose Bautista, TOR
2015 Stats: .250 AVG, 40 HR, 114 RBI, .987 FPCT
Ooooh boy, Joey Bats. He had himself quite the season. But all you really need to know is THE BAT FLIP OF THE CENTURY. Legendary. Iconic.

1. R.A. Dickey, TOR
2015 Stats: 11-11, 3.91 ERA
Eh, okay, this really wasn't R.A.'s best season. It started off... really bad, actually. But his second half of the season was pretty phenomenal, and he won something like eight or nine starts in a row. Crazy. So while I wanted better for him, I'm incredibly happy with how he ended up performing!

2. Matt Harvey, NYM
2015 Stats: 13-8, 2.71 ERA
This season was quite the wild ride for the Dark Knight. Unfortunately a lot of it was bogged down with innings limit controversy and other off-the-field drama. But there wasn't a ton of drama on the field, and Matt was almost back to his pre-Tommy John form. When he was on, he was on. And it was phenomenal.

3. Jacob deGrom, NYM
2015 Stats: 14-8, 2.54 ERA
Can I be honest for a second here? I love Jacob deGrom. Absolutely adore him. Totally heart-eye emoji about him. His season was so wonderful. He finished sixth in the league in ERA and was in Cy Young talks for a stretch of the season. He made his first All-Star team and struck out the three batters he faced in 10 pitches. TEN PITCHES! And his postseason... oh man. Ohhhh man. This is my guy.

4. Daniel Norris, TOR (traded to DET)
2015 Stats: 3-2, 3.75 ERA
It's been a rough 2015 for this guy. Not just in baseball, though -- he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and is currently recovering from surgery. I'm still trying to keep my eye on him (even though he's playing for the Tigers now) and wish him nothing but the best!

5. Eddie Butler, COL
2015 Stats: 3-10, 5.70 ERA
Um, so, this was not a good season for Eddie. Like, at all. To be fair, all pitching on the Rockies this season was bad. But yeah, this gets a thumbs down. Whoops.

1. Brett Cecil, TOR
2015 Stats: 5-5, 2.80 ERA, 5 SV
Brett was a pretty critical piece of Toronto's bullpen. He ended up not being their closer, but they relied on him as a set-up guy and really settled into that role. Bullpens are really tricky, so a reliable guy in this position is super clutch. I dig it.

2. Boone Logan, COL
2015 Stats: 0-3, 4.33 ERA
Yikes, this is pretty bad. I've already said that the Rockies' pitching was all-around bad, but it bears repeating: the Rockies' pitching was really bad this season. Boone's numbers did improve from 2014, but that's... not really saying much.

So, what bit me? The back end of my starting rotation, and my bullpen. How true to life is THAT? Hah. Other than the pitching weaknesses (and, y'know, Jose Reyes being a domestic abuser...), I'm pretty pleased with the way things turned out, especially considering my comparatively limited knowledge of these guys earlier in the year. Now I'd be able to put together a much better team (and not put any Rockies on my pitching staff).

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"There's No Crying In Baseball" And Other Lies

*blows the layer off dust off of this blog*

Hey there, folks. What is this, the third time this year I've sort of accidentally taken an unplanned blogging hiatus? Sheesh, remember when I used to post three times a week, every week? (Nope, me neither.) And I would apologize for this one too, but honestly, I ain't even sorry.

It might sound kind of ridiculous to say that I was on hiatus because the Mets were in the playoffs, but... I was on hiatus because the Mets were in the playoffs.

Remember back in spring training when I followed my blind, misguided Mets faith and predicted they'd win the World Series? Well crap, they came far closer than I ever would've logically thought they would! And way back when I wrote that post, I didn't really think about the reality of what a Mets playoff run would mean. I mean, the last time they were in the playoffs it was 2006. Not only was I was a little preoccupied with other things that summer and fall, but it's long enough ago that I wouldn't really have many memories of it anyway. Before that? It was 2000. I was 9 years old. So, for all intents and purposes, I had zero playoff experience going into this season.

2000 vs. 2015. The picture on the right was taken right before the Mets clinched their World Series berth. I was having A MOMENT.

Which brings me to my first point: "there's no crying in baseball" is a lie.

I've been a Mets fan for close to 20 years. I watched them collapse in 2007 and 2008, and then death spiral from 2009 through 2012. I watched them through six consecutive losing seasons, punctuated with losing my favorite player(s) and all sorts of general awfulness. I could probably have counted my positive Mets memories on one hand. But suddenly I was subscribing to so I could watch the Mets clinch the NL East, blinking back tears when David Wright hit a home run to seal the victory. Suddenly I was FaceTiming my mom during the NLDS so we could watch the last out together, my free hand pressed over my mouth, unable to figure out if I wanted to laugh or cry and ending up doing a little bit of both. Suddenly I was watching as Jacob deGrom turned into Cy Young and Daniel Murphy turned into Babe Ruth, doing that same laugh-cry thing when Jake struck out eleventy million Dodgers in the NLDS and when Murph hit his sixth home run in six consecutive games to close out the NLCS against the Cubs. And if you think I was dry-eyed when they won that series too, you don't know me very well. And then, before game five of the World Series, when their elimination was a very real possibility, I was wiping my eyes at the thought of this season being over.

...That's right. I sort of cried a little bit because I didn't want the season to end. I'm embarrassing. It's fine. BUT I've said before that this season felt like lightning in a bottle, and the playoffs did nothing but reaffirm that. It was magic (...until the World Series. But. Let's not go there).

I decided to take the plunge and buy that deGrom shirsey! Best. decision.

Which brings me to my second point: "fans of bad teams are happier because they have low expectations" is a lie.

The Mets have been bad for approximately 95% of my life. Even they had fairly good records, they were bad (ahem, 2007 and 2008). And I sure as hell wasn't happy about it. Granted, this badness allowed me to emotionally detach from the team, and view losses as expected and wins as surprise bonuses. But for the most part, it wasn't really all that fun. It wasn't NOT fun, per se, but it just kind of... was. There was a lot of apathy.

This season? There was no apathy. Right from the earliest parts of the season, when the Mets won something like 11 consecutive games, I cared. A lot. June and July were definitely not pretty, which involved a whole lot of anger on my part, and the World Series was kind of a train wreck and had me mad enough to breathe fire, but at no point was I emotionally checked out. And when I look back on this season, the low moments pale in comparison to the highs. I'll remember literally happy-dancing in my kitchen during wins, and screaming myself hoarse for strikeouts and home runs and, yes, crying happy tears.

It's a pennant pennant! And I can't believe this is a real thing. 2015 National League Champions. Wow. Wow. Wow.

Sure, I spent most of the postseason stressed out to the point of nausea about baseball. But I have never had more fun as a sports fan, and I wouldn't have wanted it any other way. Give me sweaty palms and an unsettled stomach and a sore throat and a racing heart over numb apathy any damn day of the week. It's better to have loved and lost than never loved at all, or something like that. (This post puts it into words way better than I can: I Almost Married The 2015 New York Mets.)

So, I was absent because I was in a relationship with my baseball team, and then because they left me standing at the altar, more than a touch heartbroken. (#dramatic.)

BUT! Now I'm back, my time is my own again, and I'm frantically keeping up with offseason news and ready to do it all again next year.

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Woman Crush(ing It) Wednesday: Brianna Decker

Wow, did anyone out there watch that Mets game last night? I definitely spent three hours of my evening clutching my face and feeling like I was gonna barf, and this post very nearly almost didn't get written after that. But then I decided to get my ish together, because the National Women's Hockey League had its first games this past weekend, and that is EXTREMELY exciting. I mean, a paid professional women's hockey league? I am so here for that. And I'm not going to pass up an opportunity to talk about my favorite female hockey player!

+ Brianna here has been a big deal in the world of women's hockey for a pretty long time now. She grew up playing on boys' teams before playing four years of high school hockey at the acclaimed Shattuck-St. Mary's School, which is known as "the Hogwarts of hockey" and is "to hockey what Harvard is to law." Other alums include Zach Parise and Sidney Crosby. It's no joke. She won three national championships there, scoring 122, 124 and 126 points in her sophomore, junior and senior seasons, respectively.

+ After graduating high school in 2009, Brianna attended the University of Wisconsin. And she basically kind of dominated everything. She holds the program record for highest career plus/minus (the measure of a player's goal differential) with +175. UMMM, holy cow. Her college athletic bio is basically a laundry list of insane accomplishments, including the 2011 NCAA Championship and the 2012 Patty Kazmaier Award (given to the nation's top women's collegiate player).

+ Brianna tried out for her first Olympic team in 2010 and didn't quite make the cut. But it wasn't long before she was making her mark on the senior national team the way she had on the junior level. At the 2012 world championships she led the tournament with a +13 rating, and in 2013 she led the tournament with six goals, was named to the media all-star team and was voted one of Team USA's top three players. She DID make the Olympic team in 2014, scoring two goals and four assists in five games en route to the silver medal (let's... not talk about it). She is, however, a two-time world champion and served as alternate captain for the 2015 team (and scored the winning goal in the gold-medal game against Canada. Hell yes).

+ After all of this, Brianna played a season with the CWHL's Boston Blades. She was completely dominant, scoring 32 points in 12 games (omg?!) and finished second in the league in scoring. "What Decker accomplished this past season would be like Connor McDavid breaking into the NHL next season and eclipsing the 150-point plateau." Yeaaahhh buddy. The Hockey News lists her as the top women's player in the world after her 2014-15 season. She's now with the NWHL's Boston Pride, makin' history, y'know, all casual.

+ But personally, my favorite thing about Brianna is that she's comparatively tiny. She's only 5'3", which is really small for a hockey player -- she has to ask her taller teammates to help her get her helmet and gloves down from the top shelf in her locker before hitting the ice. (Girl, I feel you so hard on that!) But she plays a really physical game anyway, is deceptively strong for her size and is able to use her low center of gravity to her advantage; so basically, she turned her weakness into a strength. #yaaaasss

Like I said, Brianna's playing with the Boston Pride now, and all NWHL games will be streamed (fo' free!) on their YouTube channel. So check out a game or two (or all) and watch this tiny blond girl crush her competition. :)

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I'm Skinny... And Really Insecure About It

Hi, my name is Darci and I hate my wrists.

I'm aware that this seems like a very arbitrary body part to hate. But my wrists are the embodiment of something that I'm very insecure about, and it's almost impossible to cover them up.

They're really skinny. And there's absolutely no way to hide it.

I wore a watch every single day, from elementary school until college, partly for time-telling reasons but partly because it added some bulk to my left wrist. Long sleeves do the trick sometimes, until they ride up a little bit, or I get hot and roll them up myself. Then I'm just stuck looking at my bony wrists all day. And what can I even do about it? Is there a way to bulk up wrists? Do I do forearm curls?

Hi, my name is Darci, and I'm really thin and really insecure about it.

Now, I understand that we live in a society that glorifies thin-ness, and that it's much more difficult to be overweight than it is to be thin. I'm in no way implying otherwise. But to think that thin people don't struggle with insecurities about their weight is to be incredibly incorrect.

I wasn't always insecure about being thin. I've been insecure about my wrists for a really long time, but it wasn't until people started commenting on my thin-ness that I started feeling weird about it. A casual comment about how, oh, you're small so you must not like food. Someone who saw me eat every single meal every day for a month saying she nonetheless thought I was anorexic (seriously?????). One too many people showing me that, look, I can wrap my fingers the whole way around your wrist!

And what the HELL are these sizes that I have to wear????

Those things wore me down. Now when people say, "wow, you're so tiny!" I don't know how to respond. Thanks, I think? Are you telling me that as a compliment or because you think I have an eating disorder? When my family members ask what I've been cooking for myself, I instantly get defensive. Are you curious about my cooking abilities or are you worried that I'm not eating enough? When I wear boots, I always try to wear fleece-lined leggings and boot socks to beef up my calves a little bit. When it comes to jewelry, literally all bracelets are too big for me and don't even get me started on rings. When someone has to put a wristband on me, I always get the urge to apologize for my skinny wrists making it hard for them.

I'm sorry. I'M SORRY.

I feel like I should make clear that I don't have an eating disorder. I never have. My doctors have always told me I'm a perfectly healthy weight. I eat three meals a day, and more when I'm hungry. I just make healthy food choices, have been blessed with a fast metabolism and thin bone structure and small appetite, and (sometimes) work out. When you're not much more than five feet tall, you really don't have to weigh all that much. I'm a proportional human being, I promise.

And I generally like being thin. It's nice to always know what size clothes to get; small, always. Extra small if it's available. Petite sizes, even better. (That's not to say they'll always fit, because I'm often too small for the smallest sizes, but at least it's a good place to start.) And it's nice not to have to worry about losing weight. But just like you wouldn't comment if someone was overweight, I'd appreciate not getting comments on the other side of the spectrum. (Seriously, let's just stop feeling entitled to comment on people's weight.)

Because for every person that says "zero isn't a real size," there's someone who wears size 00 yelling at you to shut up.

Do any skinny girls out there feel me on this?

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Woman Crush(ing It) Wednesday: Malaika Underwood

Guys, baseball! Are you feelin' it?! 'Cause I sure am! I haven't been this excited about baseball in approximately nine years and I am just all about it right now. So today we're chatting about a female baseball player. There is, in fact, a U.S. women's national baseball team. I didn't know such a thing existed until this summer, but suddenly it was like I'd been waiting for it my whole life. And Malaika Underwood is like the original version of Mo'ne Davis.

+ Malaika has been ballin' since day one. When she was in eighth grade, she knew she wanted to continue playing baseball in high school. But she also knew that not all high school teams would give a girl the chance to play. So she wrote letters to the coaches at various high schools she could attend, giving them her Little League stats and asking for a fair shot at making the team. (Keep in mind that this was in 1995.) One coach said he'd give her that shot, so that's where she decided to go to school.

+ In high school, Malaika played on the girls' volleyball team in the fall and the girls' basketball team in the winter, and the boys' baseball team in the spring. But because the basketball season overlapped, she could only join the baseball team late in the season. She was never guaranteed a spot on varsity and had to earn it, despite pitching and playing second base on junior varsity for two years. But she was just as good as all the boys, so don't worry, she earned it. And the craziest thing? She was so good at volleyball that she attended the University of North Carolina on a full volleyball scholarship and was a four-year starter and ACC tournament MVP. As one does.

+ Once Malaika headed off to college, she figured her baseball days were done. She graduated in 2003 and spent a few years coaching Little League. But in 2004, USA Baseball decided to establish a women's national team, and Malaika joined up in 2006. She's since been on the national roster seven times, which is pretty unprecedented in women's baseball, and is one of the undisputed team leaders. The head coach calls her "the ageless wonder." She's played in the Women's Baseball World Cup five times (one first, two second and two third place finishes).

+ So, it's probably no surprise that Malaika is team captain of the women's national team. And this summer was a pretty nice time for her to be captain, as it was a pretty big summer for women's baseball. The Toronto 2015 Pan American Games included women's baseball on the program for the first time. And when I say "first time," I mean that this was the first time that women's baseball has ever been included in a multi-sport Games. Ever. Sooooo, kind of a big deal. The U.S. women went undefeated on their way to a gold medal (talk about a league of their own!) and Malaika was at the top of almost every single offensive category. She was first in batting average (.600), stolen bases (2) and runs scored (7), and second in slugging percentage (.667). Defensively, she was third among first basemen with a .975 fielding percentage (with 38 put-outs and three double plays, both category-leading numbers). So baseically, girlfriend killed it.

Malaika Underwood: the hero female baseball fans deserve.

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Woman Crush(ing It) Wednesday: April Ross

It's about time we got some volleyball going on here! And with the beach volleyball world tour finals happening as we speak, there's no time like the present to appreciate the best player in the world. (Yeah, I said it. Big words.)

+ April began her volleyball career as an indoor player, as a good amount of beach players tend to. In high school she was the top recruit in her graduating class, won the National Gatorade Player of the Year award when she was a senior, and played on the U.S. Junior National Team. Then she took her talents to USC, where she won just about everything (including back-to-back NCAA championships). She still holds USC's record for points and points per game, like, a decade after she graduated.

+ She began her pro beach career in 2006 and was named AVP Most Improved Player that season. She partnered with Jennifer Kessy before the start of the 2007 season and things immediately took off for the pair, as April was named the FIVB Top Rookie and they upset Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings at an AVP tournament. Their roll continued into 2008, but they just missed qualifying for the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games -- they were ranked 7th in the world, but there were two other U.S. teams ranked ahead of them, and each country can only send two teams per gender. So April and Jen missed out by a hair... but then they stormed back to win the 2009 world championships. That season she was named the FIVB's Best Hitter and Best Offensive Player.

+ April and Jen kept killin' it for the next couple of years -- April was named the FIVB Best Hitter and Best Server in 2011 -- and finally got their Olympic berth at London 2012. They went 6-0 before the finals, only dropping three sets in total, before winning silver behind Misty and Kerri. Not too shabby! April was also named the FIVB's Best Server again (and you should be noticing a pattern by now).

+ The 2013 season was April's last playing with Jen as she was stepping away from the sport, and they won all sorts of medals right up until the end. As Jen finished up in the middle of the season, April ended up playing with three other partners to finish out the year: Kerri Walsh Jennings, Jen Fopma and Whitney Pavlik. She and Kerri won two tournaments together (wasting no time!), and at the world championships, she and Whitney finished fourth. (Fourth in the world with someone who wasn't her regular partner. Casual.) April also led the AVP tour in hitting percentage, was second in aces and fourth in kills per game.

+ April began her partnership full-time with Kerri in 2014, when they won all seven AVP events and four FIVB events (out of the 10 they competed in), tying for the most of any pair. Not to sound like a broken record, but she led the AVP tour in service aces and kills per game, and was second in hitting percentage. 2015 was a strange season, as Kerri got injured and April had to split her time among a slue of other partners. But, as in the past, she just keeps doing great things with everyone. She played in an AVP event with Lauren Fendrick -- their first time playing together, ever -- and they won. She's with Lauren again right now, for the FIVB world tour finals, and they just beat the best team in the world. She played with Kerri while Kerri was dealing with her shoulder injury (and unable to serve overhand or attack effectively), and April literally kept their team afloat. She's been incomparably dominant this season.

Now, due to how the Olympic qualification system works, every international tournament this year matters in the rankings. So April's heroics could have very, very important implications for Rio.

Long story short, April is the bomb dot com and don't let anyone ever tell you otherwise.

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An Open Letter To The New York Mets

Hey Mets. Hey. How're we doing? (Dumb question. You clinched the NL East for the first time since 2006 this weekend. We're all doing pretty fantastic.)

It's probably pretty dumb to be writing a letter thanking you for this 2015 season before the playoffs have even started -- because, knowing you, you could bomb and lose the first three games of the NLDS and that'll be it -- but it's been a long road to this point. A very long road. So I'm going to take advantage of the positivity right now and just go for it.

I've been a fan of yours for the vast majority of my life and, for the vast majority of that time, I've regretted it. There were playoff berths in 1999, 2000 and 2006 (and a trip to the World Series in 2000!)... but that's it. I was so young in '99 and '00 that all I remember is Roger Clemens throwing a splintered bat at Mike Piazza (I still hate him for that).

It's like my brother and I already knew what the future held for our respective teams.

And any good memories from 2006 were completely wiped away by the agony of 2007 and 2008. Remember that, guys?

As a kid, I was fairly content to root for a bad team. I wasn't all that invested. But in 2007 and 2008, I was old enough to be invested and, quite frankly, horrified. I was embarrassed to call myself a Mets fan. That embarrassment endured for years. I have an extensive collection of shirseys from the players of my childhood, but stopped collecting them as my discontent grew. Digging into that pile of t-shirts is like opening a weird time capsule.

A small sample.

When people asked me which baseball team I root for, I answered with, "the Mets, unfortunately." When I moved away from New York to go to college, games were no longer easily accessible and I happily grew more detached. The only thing that kept me invested, honestly, was RA Dickey. But I despised the way the organization treated him, even when he won the Cy Young Award in 2012, and very nearly called it quits when he was traded after that season. (I cried. And I'll always harbor a touch of bitterness about that trade. Sorry.)

I tried to abandon ship. I really did. I hated everything about the Mets franchise and wanted out. I was tired of suffering with no payout, and I went so far as to say "I'm done being a Mets fan." That didn't last, though, and I still found myself getting angry at boneheaded organizational moves, disappointed at losing seasons and attached to the all too likable players taking the field every night. And, yeah, I was bummed when most of them got traded too.

But then 2015 happened. Jacob deGrom was the 2014 National League Rookie of the Year and Juan Lagares was a 2014 Gold Glove winner, and spring training left me with some unprecedented optimism. And that 11-game winning streak at the beginning of the season! Wow! The Mets were the best team in baseball! But this was a .500 team by the All Star break, and things weren't looking much better all through July. Everyone was injured, David Wright with a back condition that many athletes never come back from, and I was fully expecting the Mets to pull a Mets. I'd thrown in the towel and expected absolutely nothing from this season.

But suddenly, the team that was notorious for never making moves... actually made some moves! The roster needed some big bats, so some big bats were acquired. Guys recovered from their injuries and returned to the lineup. Promising prospects were brought up. And the most mind-blowing thing? Everyone was doing what was expected of them. Hitters were hitting. Pitchers were throwing gems. And I had absolutely no idea how to handle the idea that games were suddenly meaningful because the playoffs were an actual possibility. I downloaded the ESPN app just so I could get game updates sent directly to my phone and found myself checking it obsessively. I low-key started keeping an eye on the magic number when it was in the 40s, and started an actual countdown when it reached 10.

It was so great going into work yesterday and getting to cross off 3, 2 and 1. SO GREAT.

It doesn't hurt that the 2015 team is obnoxiously likable, y'know. I mean, just the pitching staff would've been enough to have me hook, line and sinker. The Dark Knight? Thor? deGnome? Bartolo? Check please. I love all of them. But there does not seem to be a bad human being on this team. How did you do that?! How did you do any of this?! How did that bungled Wilmer Flores situation leave us with a folk hero? Where did the rally parakeet come from (and, pray tell, how did it match Yoenis Cespedes's sleeve)? How has this team swept the Nationals TWICE this season, the second time with three late-inning come-from-behind wins? How have Mets fans turned every ballpark around the country into a home ballpark? (Seriously, where did all these fans come from? Was everyone just hibernating because they were as embarrassed as I was?)

I got to be one of those "away" Mets fans when they came to Denver to play the Rockies!

So, even if this season does amount to nothing, I just want to say thanks. Thanks for giving us diehards this beautiful, shining season that feels like lightning in a bottle. It has been more fun than I can even put into words. Who knew that stressing over games with playoff implications was so enjoyable?! Thanks for giving me a team full of wonderful men, and wonderful baseball players, who could win and do it with complete class. Thanks for giving me a team I can be proud of.

Now I don't root for "the Mets, unfortunately." I root for the Mets.

The east is ours. Ya gotta believe. Amazin' again 2015.

Let's keep it rolling.

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