Kid In A Candy Store

I know that there are about three of you out there that have been waiting for this post, but I hope the rest of you enjoy it as well…

This past weekend was the first Midwest Baseball Writer’s Conference, held at the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame in Springfield, Missouri. I know, a long trip for me, but worth every second. I got to leave the snow of Wisconsin, enjoy a few days of sunshine in Missouri, see a truckload of sports history, and talk baseball for an entire day? WIN.
For those of you (I’m assuming most of you) that have never been able to check out the Hall of Fame before, I snapped some pics on my dumbphone (that would be a non-smartphone) for your enjoyment.
Stan’s corner, complete with a TV showing his enshrinement
into the hall (he played his harmonica!)
Main Cards section, including lots of momentos from the
2006 World Series
I know that I could have spent several more hours reading all of the various plaques that were in the upstairs of the museum. Some of my favorites included…
Branch Rickey
Rogers Hornsby
Jack Buck
Stan Musial (of course)
Of course, I checked out all the sports fun and games. For the record, I am horrible at the football throw, but think I could take most of you at shooting free throws. An interesting one was the simulation where you could watch a major league pitch. The Cardinal player you could pick was Darryl Kile, so of course I had to see what his 12-to-6 curveball would look like coming in to me at the plate. It’s definitely worth the trip to see the history, but the little kid in me couldn’t walk away from the games either!
Of course, if you go to a conference, you should actually talk about the presenters, right? Up first on the day was John Lofflin, a journalism professor at Park University in Parkville, MO (and writer over at i70 Baseball). John’s section was labeled “Interlopers in Eden: Sports Writers, Gamblers, Gurus and Women.” He talked on many different baseball books, what the author’s intent was, the thought process that readers go through as they journey through the stories, and how the different ‘villains’ (for lack of a better term) were portrayed. I had to laugh at the inclusion of women in the title, considering I was the only one there! Matt Kelsy made a good point in the discussion when he stated the following:

These stories aren’t about baseball. They’re about life. They just use baseball to tell the story.

I couldn’t agree more. One of the best things about this conference was the discussion feel of it. We weren’t there to be lectured at, but to be chatting about the game we all obviously loved.

Roger Erickson was up next. Roger is the head of the Kansas City chapter of SABR, that is, the Society for American Baseball Research. To be perfectly honest, I had no idea what all SABR had their little hands in, but in reality it is quite a lot. People point to them as the creators of more advanced sabermetrics such as WAR, WHIP, and many other statistics that we’ve just accepted into our mainstream baseball vocabulary. I got a good laugh when the first thing he stood up and said was, “The first thing I want you to know about us is that we are not all baseball nerds.” I looked around the room… do you really think any person in there listening to him was not a baseball nerd? Nice.
Steve Sommer from Gashouse Graphs was last up on the agenda, and my math background had a major geek-out during this one. Steve and Erik run an amazing site using all kinds of advanced statistical analysis to do anything from predict trends in current players (like this post on Motte’s fastball velocity) and do things like this post on Jim Edmonds where they prove that he is a no-doubt Hall of Famer. Steve actually sat down and explain in broad terms how WAR is calculated, which I was happy about. It seemed like this mystical number that people came up with, and in reality… umm… it kind of is. Okay, take it back, there is a method to it, but there’s still a lot of room for interpretation too. Obviously not an exact science, but there is some reasoning, so I feel better.
Long story short, y’all should have been there. I think that we all walked away learning a little more, enjoying some great history in the museum, and, if nothing else, getting to enjoy a day of talking about baseball, both past and present. I’ll let Jack Buck tell you how I felt about this day…
Yes it is Jack… yes it is.
Oh, this is what happens when I’m left unsupervised with baseball history all around me.
You know, in case you were wondering…

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