‘Expect the Unexpected’ is an expression I find myself thinking about regularly in baseball. Almost every game day fans ask me the same simple – yet complicated – question, “Are we going to win today?” I usually respond, “I hope so,” but the reality is, I can never know for sure. Baseball is such an unpredictable sport; it rarely goes as planned. The same can also be said of live television, even life in general. How do we handle the surprises? Or, to put it in baseball terms, the curveballs thrown our way?
Late July and early August bring the trade deadline, making it an unnerving time for many big league players. Some guys pay attention to the rumors, others ignore them. But everyone is aware of who may find themselves on the trading block. In the case of the Royals, this season saw two of their biggest names dealt away. We knew that both Whit Merrifield and Andrew Benintendi might be moved, but we didn’t know when or to what team. To everyone’s surprise, the Royals sent Benintendi to the Yankees while we were en route to New York. No more than 24 hours later he suited up as a Bronx Bomber to answer media questions, and led off against his friends – and former teammates – that night.
Five days later I watched the Royals emerge from the dugout tunnel in Chicago. The team began its stretches at 5p with one player notably missing – Whit Merrifield. Rumors suggested a deal might be in the works, and the timing of his absence only fueled speculation in my head, but I always wait for official confirmation. Sure enough, Royals manager Mike Matheny confirmed not one – but two – trades shortly after during our pre-game interview session. Merrifield had been sent to Toronto, and backup catcher Cam Gallagher was dealt to San Diego.
To do our jobs, my broadcast partner Jeff Montgomery and I have to be completely comfortable with breaking news on the pregame show and storylines not going as originally planned. In fact, we relish the adrenaline of adjusting on the fly. Thanks to a great behind the scenes team that can handle last minute graphics, research and adjustments with ease, we’re always ready to hit a curveball and expect the unexpected.
I never thought I would use the words “Yankee Stadium” in the same sentence as “favorite stadium,” but here we are. After all, this month’s newsletter is about expecting the unexpected, right? To be clear, Yankee Stadium does not make my top ten. Maybe its a Midwest, small market type of inferiority complex that always makes me want to go against them. Or perhaps it’s just less nostalgic than “The House That Ruth Built.”
I found myself disliking the newer complex since it opened in 2009, but my opinion changed this year. It feels less like a pristine palace and more worn than in the past. And after not traveling for two years due to the pandemic, I missed the spectacle of the big stage. There’s something about The Bronx that makes ever moment bigger.
That was certainly true when the Royals traded star outfielder Andrew Benintendi to the Yankees on July 27th. The team – Benny included – was en route to New York for a weekend series and he didn’t even learn about the deal until we landed. He still stayed in the Royals team hotel after playing against them as a newly-minted Bronx Bomber. What else could I expect at Yankees Stadium, except the unexpected?
I’ve said before that I’m not the best with dinner reservations since we usually work nights when on the road. Most of the time we grab something from whatever stadium we’re visiting. And to be fair, the Yankee Stadium Media Dining Room is among the best in the MLB. But in a nice change of pace, I was able to enjoy some cool spots on our recent trip to New York.
At the recommendation of my longtime TV friend David Schwartz, I went to the French cafe Buvette for breakfast. Day or night it’s always busy, and was best described by a New York Magazine article that wrote it was, “not just ridiculously charming, but it also manages to hit the spot on any number of meal-period and appetite-specific levels.” This gem is nestled in the West Village, so if you’re looking for delicious food or a cool area to explore, I recommend you give it a try. I also love a good food truck, which fortunately you can find on every corner – and offering every type of cuisine – in Manhattan.
My favorite new discovery on our trip to NYC was Little Island, a new public park on the Hudson River. With breathtaking views, walking paths, incredible landscaping and even a theatre, it’s a must see spot. Not too far away is the High Line, which is an elevated walking path on Manhattan’s West Side. Flanked by sky-scraping buildings and views for days, it’s a unique experience for a new perspective, in more ways than one.
I really do love New York. It just has a certain energy. From the spectacle of Yankee Stadium to the endless diversity and opportunities to explore, it would be hard not to. But despite my affections, you won’t ever catch me buying a touristy t-shirt to declare it.
Rounding the Bases Rewind
If you caught the July edition of Out of the Park: The Power of Storytelling, you know it included a behind the scenes look at a very different trip I recently made to New York. In July, I went to Cooperstown on assignment and realized my lifelong dream of covering a Hall of Fame induction. This special episode of Rounding the Bases shares the sounds of that weekend as fans, friends and fellow Hall of Famers gathered to celebrate the late, great Buck O’Neil.
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Drew Waters’ career is a lesson in how to expect the unexpected. As a Georgia native, everyone thought he would go on to become a local superstar. After all, he was drafted out of high school to his hometown Atlanta Braves. However, other prospects surpassed him and Atlanta traded Waters from its AAA affiliate to Kansas City’s top minor league team last year. It was his sixth year of pro ball. He excelled playing in Omaha, and was called up to the big leagues just 42 days after the trade. Confusion over the game time caught him off guard. Batting with the bases loaded in his first MLB at bat did too, but he grounded into a double play. Faced again with a bases loaded chance later in a tie game, Waters knocked in the winning run with a walk to complete his memorable – and unexpected – debut.
Drew Waters hasn't quite taken it all in just yet: "I actually almost missed the game. I was told to be here at 2:00, and so I got a phone call this morning saying, 'Where are you?' Next thing you know, I was on the way to the stadium and the lineup."#Royals pic.twitter.com/hbbk9JNxYQ
— Bally Sports Kansas City (@BallySportsKC) August 22, 2022
Keeping the Score
Every week on my podcast Rounding the Bases I get the opportunity to interview business leaders, athletes and everyone in between. No two experiences are alike, but each conversation tells a significant story and provides an enlightening lesson.
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