Backyard Sports Games

A tribute to one of the all time greats on an anniversary.

S.Samek

Sports and video games often seem like they don’t go together. That often those that play video games don’t watch sports. Conversely those that play sports don’t have time to play video games.
Though the perfect match is sports video games. Taking time to play as your favorite NFL, or NHL stars in virtual form can be a lot of fun. I was quite the fan of NHL 01 when I first got my PlayStation two for Christmas in 2001.
Most of my gaming was and still is done on my computer. It was one title in particular that was the reason for this. It had numerous forms that I would pick up and play depending on what I was feeling that day, or time of year. It was the Backyard Sports series.
The most well-known of these titles is baseball. It fact it just turned 20 years old the other day. You can read all about it here.

I too would love to give a shutout to the games that shaped my future career path the most. These games even a bit to this day are put into a cd room drive and hoped that they work so that I can practice announcing.

The first game I played in the series was baseball back in 1997. This was the original version with no pro athletes as kids. I remember playing with the easy ball and not being very good.

I picked the Bombers as my team name and a bunch of random kids, including the goat in Pablo Sanchez. They never won the championship. I later restarted as the Giants. This was a team that I stacked with better talent such, as Jocinda Smith, Keisha Phillips, Pete Wheeler and of course Sanchez. It was this team that would carry me to my first backyard sports title. I would then pick up the 2005 edition to replace it and it’s still my favorite of all the backyard games.

I then remember getting backyard football 2002. There I took a Pittsburgh Steelers team of almost all quarterbacks and won it all, multiple times. I then switched to a more accurate team with actual position players and continued to win big.

Backyard Soccer then came into the mix in 2004. There I got my first taste of MLS. It was a fun game, but just not my favorite. Though It would be my pick for most challenging as you had to win your way through three divisions like in real soccer to even have a shot at the championship title.
Next to the mix was basketball and hockey. Both equally as fun. In fact, basketball is the one I played most recently.
Then finally we have skateboarding. Overall this maybe the worst of the main series games. They only made one of this game. It was on the trickier side if I recall. You had to remember some button combinations for each trick. Some of which could be rather long. I haven’t beaten this title yet in fact. I got through to the medieval level’s final boss and it keeps beating me. Still pretty fun though.

 
Now why this game is so useful. I like to use it as a broadcast practice tool. Even before I knew I wanted to study broadcasting I would do play by play during each game. It didn’t matter the sport, nor the team, or even time of day. Yes, I was told to quiet down after announcing games at midnight, or later.

 
It didn’t matter to me though, it was always fun. Weather it was a big run by Pablo Sanchez, or routine ground out back to the mound for Dontrelle Willis to Carlos Delgado each play was done best I could. Often in a very informal style, but best I could.

 
After I learned a bit more of theory I would try to apply it to each game. Though it was a bit tougher at times. Three on three hoops aren’t five on five. The in-game power ups don’t have real world applications, even if they are fun to use. Yet it was still a chance to get experience even if just for fun and myself.

 

Overall, I just think this game has contributed greatly to my passion for sports. Didn’t matter if I was just a pick-up game, or the last game of the Astonishingly Shiny cup of all cups tournament. I was immersed in a game and it meant something to me. It was a chance to chase the passion, to dream my future dream. Even if it was just for 4 minutes of entertainment.

 
Sadly, most of my editions no longer work from trying to download on multiple computers. Also, doesn’t help that even if you find a disk it’s either expensive, or you don’t have a disk drive on a laptop.
Yet the legacy lives on. It lives on in my heart and mind as I remember those hours spent drafting, practicing and playing around. Winning games by absurd margins using strategy that would never work in real life. It instilled in me that passion for sports that is just as present today as it was back in 1999. Here’s to a great game celebrating a fantastic run.

 

 

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NLDS 2017 Preview

S.Samek

We have four teams left in the National League. Let’s take a closer look at each division series matchup.
First is LA and Arizona. This is an NL West division battle, set up by Arizona’s win over Colorado, also of the NL West.
LA is no stranger to the playoffs and winning. This year they would win the President’s trophy for best regular season mark with 104 wins. This was 11 better than the Diamondbacks total.

According to ESPN the Dodgers have the best fielding team left in the tournament and best roster. If you have a roster than boasts, Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Alex Wood, Cody Bellinger and more you deserve that mark.
Bellinger stands out because of his success against Zac Greinke. Bellinger hit .293 against him this year with a .655 slugging percentage.

Arizona should rely on Greinke and Robby Ray to win them games pitching. Paul Goldschmidt and J.D Martinez should care the Snakes offensively. The pair mashed 36 and 29 homers respectively during 2017.

Though Goldschmidt struggles against Kershaw to the tune of .227 career and 0-5 during 2017 against him.

The bullpen may be a bit shaky, especially with closer Fernando Rodney. Big reason why the snakes pen is ranked seventh of eight remaining teams in bullpen war.

Though recently the Diamondbacks have the Dodgers number, winning the last six in a row. It won’t be enough as La wins this series

Second offering is the defending world series champions Chicago Cubs and Washington Nationals. This is a matchup of the two teams that emerged in rather weak divisions.
Chicago may still have a bit of a spark from winning it all last year. They also have Kris Bryant, Antony Rizzo and company hitting well for them. They also returned Jake Arrieta and Jon Lester to the staff that took it all last year. They will be a tough out in this round.

The Nationals were five games better than the Cubs, with 97 wins. They did this with a core of Bryce Harper. Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. With an improved bullpen from trades this team looks complete and ready to compete.

Harper should have an advantage over Arrieta, as he hit left handers .322/.433/.654 this season. It should be close, but Washington has just enough to sneak by.

2017 ALDS Preview

S. Samek

Moving past the wild card game to set up each division series. Here would be my pick for team s advancing to the Championship series. Starting with the American League.
Our first match up is the Indians and Yankees. The Yankees are fresh off an 8-4 win in Tuesdays wild card game. While Luis Severino did not look good in that game it shouldn’t matter as the Yankees bullpen looked good. Severino should be able to rebound and pitch closer to the dominance he saw during the regular season if he is needed in this series.

Aaron Judge, homered in the wild card game and had 52, tops in the American League during the regular season.  Gary Sanchez hit 33 homers as well. The power is there for New York.

Cleveland wins plan and simple. The won last year’s American League championship and lost in the World series final game. They won 102 games this season, most in the American League and second most in all of MLB.

They own the record for wins in a row all time as they strung together 22 wins during the season. They have a 42-8 record in the past 50 games.
They pitch well. Indians bull pen has the best era, while their starters have the second best. Cory Kluber leds this staff with a 1.62 era in his last 23 starts.

The Indians can hit too. Edwin Encarnacion had the big stick with 38 homers this year. Francisco Lindor and Jose Ramirez also combine for 62 long balls this season. If the Yankees have power, so do the Indians.

Cleveland has a 58.3 percent chance to win according to ESPN and I agree. Indians win.

Next matchup is Houston and Boston.

Houston won 101 games, third best overall record. The have four great pitchers in the rotation, led by Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander. They have strong hitters like Jose Altuve, Josh Reddick and George Springer. They are a complete team built to compete.

The Red Sox won the East division and 93 games. The have a rotation with Chris Sale, David Price and Rick Porcello. Offensively they have Mookie Betts and his 24 home runs. Betts does well against ground ball pitchers, like Keuchel and should be able to give Boston a nice boost on offense.

think Houston’s depth in the rotation should be able to send them on, when combined with a strong hitting core. Astros take this series.

 

 

 

 

Wild Card Predicts 2017

S.Samek

As the calendar tunes from September to October it means its football season right. Not quite as its baseball playoff time. The first game of the playoffs goes down tonight with the American League Wild Card Game.

This matchup is the Twins and Yankees. The Twins seem to be big under dogs in this one. The Yankees seem to have an advantage at most of the positions on the field.

The Bronx Bombers also won six games more than the Twinkies. During the most recent series between the two It was New York sweeping a three-game set.

The Pitching matchup seems to be getting the most attention. The Yankees are sending Luis Severino against Ervin Santana. Severino is dominate with a 2.98 era against Santana’s 3.36. It’s not a huge difference, but maybe just enough of an edge to give the Yanks the win.

If era isn’t it would be the stakeout numbers. Severino sends hitters back to the dugout at almost a 30 percent clip. This is ten percent better than Santana. That’s about a third of Twins hitters not getting on base. You don’t get on base you don’t score. No runs scored, you don’t win the game.

Santana doesn’t also fare well in Yankee stadium. He is 0-5 with a 6.43 era there.

Minnesota does have Byron Buxton to watch though. Buxton hit .253 with 16 homers and 51 rbi during the year. However, he is hitless against Severino.

New York counter punches with Aaron Judge. Judge had 52 long balls this season while hitting .284.

Gary Sanchez also has 33 homers for New York, making there no shortage of power for the Yankees. Santana has also given up seven homers while pitching in Yankee stadium, so there’s plenty to be worried about if you’re a Twins fan.
Yankees win this one.
In the second wild card game the National League has the Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks.
Arizona won 93 games to Colorado’s 87 games. Both finishing behind the 104-win Dodgers. It’s the same Dodgers that loom on the horizon for the winner of this game.
Colorado should make this a competitive game with big hitters such as Charlie Blackman, Noland Arenado and Carlos Gomez. Gomez has homered five times and has 14 hits in 42 at bats against Zac Greinke, who looks to get the ball for Arizona.

The Snakes have Paul Goldschmidt and a resurging J.D Martinez to help power them. This should be enough to overcome the Rockies. This one should be close though.

 

Minor League Championship Games

By S. Samek

The triple -a baseball season wrapped up for the 2017 campaign on September 19,2017. The matchup for the level championship was the Durham Bulls and Memphis Cardinals. Th champs of the International League Durham won it thanks to a big grand slam by Kean Wong in a 5-3 victory.

As I was looking on twitter I saw a tweet asking why the other levels of the minors didn’t have national championship games. I figured it would be something to look into.
I think that it would be a good idea to see championships be played at other levels of the minors. It gives teams another game to play for a championship. If nothing else it’s a couple extra at bats and innings thrown for your pitcher. No down side really. Sure, injuries may occur. But these always a risk of those anytime you play.
If anything, you would think that the Triple A game wouldn’t be played. This is because most September call ups occur from Triple A. So, a decision is in play to call up players for the big club, or stay pat and try to win a triple a title. Double A players may get called up as will some high a players. Levels lower than this shouldn’t have this issue.

One issue though is the number of leagues.

Triple A has two leagues in the states, so they just play. Double A and High A have three. Class A and short season have two apiece, while rookie has five leagues. So, would the other leagues, just take the best two records, or play a round robin. I think that would be the hardest choice to make. Which team gets to host said game could be an issue to. I would just solve that simply by rotating it between leagues.
Plus, if it’s only one game, or even a round robin it’s only an extra day at most. A double header could be played with the three entrant classes and it would be over without elongating the season. Giving players time to relax before fall leagues and instructs. Call ups would then be able to join the MLB clubs for at least a solid month of development.
I’m all for more baseball and a chance to see elite prospects more times. A championship game for each class would give that opportunity. Make it happen MILB.

Holy Toledo

By S. Samek

Took the weekend and visited Toledo. Here are some pictures from my tip to visit the world famous Toledo Mud Hens.

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Copy of the Game Program.
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Hat for the collection. Road version

 

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Give away of the night: Fidget Spinner

 

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Night shot.