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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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.

 

 

 

Post 100

By S. Samek

Hard to believe, but Hammer Down has reached 100 posts. This post has a bit more of the celebratory than the informative. Taking a look at our best posts and any of significance so far.
Starting off of course with the first post ever written. This was my post on Mitch Keller as a top Pirates prospect. It was a fun post to write and has enjoyed some success as far as being viewed. Check it out here.
Next let’s keep with milestones and hit up post 99. It’s a piece on UBA expansion into Los Vegas. It’s based off the relative success on my post talking about the league may do well with an expansion in Portland, Maine. Read them here.
Moving on let do some editor’s choice. This would be my all-star team of some of the best posts we have to offer so far.
Our first pick is a couple options on Jose Fernandez. Both were incredibly well written by two excellent classmates and writers. Give them some love here. And Here.

Next would be the most popular post by views on the blog. Talking about rank Pirates closers here. A good read worth seeing why it’s so popular.
Another favorite of mine was one from a couple weeks ago. I never thought I would cover something as wild as snail racing. Here it is though, good for a laugh, or two.
This is one I just feel really proud of. A bit disappointed it hasn’t been viewed much.  Support it there if you please.
While it has been a great run it would not have been possible without a lot of people. A lot of great classmates of mine contributed to the foundation of this blog. It would be missing a lot if it wasn’t for them. So many thanks to them, they know who they are.
I also want to than the fans and followers. It’s always so rewording to know someone appreciates the time and effort spent on these posts. Thank you fans.
What’s next you ask? Well here’s to another 100 posts I hope. I really was surprised to get this far. It almost was a done for blog in December. Though I made it through a tough couple of months and have done a decent job so far.

I’m happy with the consistent up-ward direction of the blog. Looking to keep it that way and keep expanding best I can. Thanks again to all for your continued support.

Striking Distance

Pirates have chance to gain ground in division.

By S. Samek

 The Pittsburgh Pirates have started out strong in the first two games of a four-game set in Milwaukee. The Pirates have outscored the Brewer’s 15-four in what I think could be a pivotal point toward the rest of the season. The Pirates it just four games out of first place and a half game back from second in the NL Central. Even taking just one of the next two keeps them at four games back from first place in the division. Plus depending on what the Cubs do against San Diego, a move up to second place is possible.

 

This would then lead them into a series against St. Louis, a team they are currently tied with in the standings. Having momentum from a big series in Milwaukee, should help the Pirates do well against the Cardinals and add separation between the two for at least third place in the division.

 

Then the Pirates end June and enter July with series against the Rays and Giants. The Rays being similar to the Brewers in record can be hung with, more so being at home where the Bucs have a winning mark at 19-18. The Giants then come into town with one of the worst records in baseball and provide another chance to gain ground by beating them.

The schedule keeps staying easy with the Phillies and Cubs rounding out the pre-all-star game slate. The Pirates realistically could go 11-6, or 12-5 during this stretch. This puts them at 44-44, or 45 – 43. This would then give them strong momentum going into the All-Star game, before seeing the Cardinals and Brewers immediately after the break.

Having the separation from before the all-star break would help a lot. Then With more games scheduled against the Giants and Padres, now could be the start of the big month that plays into a playoff spot.

The Pirates are currently on a 7-3 run in the last 10 games. This includes a pair of wins against the Marlins after losing two games to the them. A two-one series win against NL West leading Colorado, a win over the Cubs and the two in Milwaukee. Showing a sample of how teams better than the Pirates can be beaten.

The offense is picking up for Pittsburgh. Jordy Mercer has a 10-game hitting streak going. He is hitting .389 with a homer and five extra base hits during the streak. He hit his third triple of the year last night as part of a 2-4 effort.

Andrew McCutchen is also hitting better in the sixth spot in the order. McCutchen went 3-3 last night with a home run, walk and three rbi. This is part of a resurgence in which McCutchen is hitting .406 with six homers and 19 rbi in June.

Jose Osuna, Josh Bell and Elias Diaz are developing well in the bigs, and break out second halves could be just what this team needs. Josh Harrison is also contributing with regularity.

The Pitching is still a work in progress, but with Jamison Taillon back and Ivan Nova and Gerrit Cole pitching consistently this team has a chance.

Starling Marte is also due back in Mid -July. Having his glove and bat in the lineup is a major plus. This addition would put some confidence back into the outfield and combined with McCutchen and crew could keep the Pirates around in a weaker NL Central.

 

 

 

LA Lights Up

Rookie displays big power.

By S. Samek

The American League and National League always seem to go head to head over which league is superior. This season is no exception. Taking the American League by storm is Yankees outfielder Aaron Judge.

To counter punch for the national league it’s the LA Dodgers Cody Bellinger. Bellinger is bringing the power knocking 21 homers after a two-homer night on Monday.

 This continues a string of nine home runs in nine games.  Hes played in just 51 games this season after his April 25 call up. Bellinger is the fourth player to mash 20 home runs pre-all-star break being younger than 21. The last person to do so was Miguel Cabrera in 2004.

Bellinger is hitting .269 with 10 doubles and 47 rbi this season. The 21 home runs are tied for second in the majors behind only Judge and his 23 dingers. Though while Judge is doing well in the all-star balloting, Bellinger is not. He hasn’t ever cracked the top 15 in outfielders.  In fact, in the ESPN article it looks like it would take quite a bit of work to get the man into the all-star game.

While this would be a shame, I think it is going to happen and Mr. Bellinger will be staying home. Though I feel like the snub will only motivate the kid to do bigger and better things. Like win a rookie of the year award. He has a very early edge if nothing else.

Bellinger is another home-grown product. In 2016, he hit 26 homers in the upper two level of the minors while hitting .271. When he was called up this season he was hitting .343 with five homers and 15 rbi in 18 games for the Oklahoma City Dodgers.  He was a Double-A all-star for Tulsa and played in the AFL, where he was all-prospect team and an AFL rising star. He also owns two Dodger’s organization all-star nods.

Bellinger won last month’s rookie of the month award on the National League side. He also won the player of the week honor for the week of May 7th,2017.

While Bellinger has caught a lot of national attention like Judge has. Bellinger may serve as a symbol of the new culture of baseball.

 The idea of drilling the ball hard, his average exit velocity is almost 93 mph, or failing he has 65 strikeouts proves this.

This is very true with all the advanced metrics of the game and obsession with pitchers that hit triple digits on the gun. Not a bad thing, as who doesn’t love seeing the ball go sailing 500 feet out for easy runs. Who doesn’t love to see dominant pitchers rack up strikeout numbers in the teens. It’s an evolution of the game. If seeing players like Judge and Bellinger come around by the hundreds over the years that would be great. It gets media attention and fans in the stands. I embrace Bellinger and wish him the best of luck this year, Judge too.

As for which is better, time will tell. It’s only been a small sample for Bellinger, and Judge is still less than a full season into his pro career. Open the debate back up in five years for a more fair comparison.

West Virginia Black Bears 2017

By S. Samek

Tonight, the West Virginia Black Bears begin season number three. The Black Bears had a .500 campaign in 2016 with a 38-38 record. This was after taking the championship in 2015, their first year in the league as the Black Bears.

Taking a look at tonight’s opening roster. The team looks rather pedestrian.  One of the top 30 Pirates prospects have been assigned to the roster.

Mitch Keller is listed, but it is as a rehab assignment. He belongs with Bradenton.  Michael Suchy is also on a rehab assignment.

The rest seem to be call ups from the Gulf Coast league and Bristol.http://www.milb.com/roster/index.jsp?sid=t5020. No one stands out to even have done anything really worth noting. The closest thing to doing something is Jonathan Schwind. Schwind has seen time at the Double and triple a level. He just hasn’t done much with the bat and isn’t really considered a prospect. This just has to be lineup filler.

Sandy Santos returns to the black and gold after spending last season with them. Santos was with the West Virginia Power, but struggles this season have led to a demotion back to Morgantown. Santos tied for second on the team with 34 rbi, while hitting .281, also second best on the team.

A fast start with the Bears and it won’t surprise me if he gets returned to Charleston. Last season he showed a bit of dominance, but nothing top 30 worthy, yet.

Though aside from the yawn fest of a line up, the Black Bears have an interesting addition to the coaching staff. Joel Hanrahan is an assistant pitching coach for the team. Hanrahan was a former all-star closer in Pittsburgh with 100 career saves. This gives that big league feel and experience to the young pitchers and should serve them well.

I will say though even with a lack of pedigree in the lineup I can see moves being made to improve this roster. Shane Baz, the first-round pick that recently signed with the Bucs could perhaps make an appreance here. Though the most likely spot for him would be the GCL. Recent draftees from the college ranks maybe sent here as well after signing.

 

Though it won’t surprise me either if top 30 ranked pitchers in Braeden Ogle, Travis MacGregor and Max Kranick see time in West Virginia after short, or successful stints in the GCL.

Plus, with no expectations comes the high possibility of a sleeper prospect emerging.  First pitch for the season is at 7:05 p.m.  against Mahoning Valley.