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Against my better judgment I attended one of the three Oriole-Yankee games at Yankee Stadium in early May. Predictably, despite being fresh from a three-game sweep over the Red Sox at home, Baltimore reverted to form and played Washington Generals to the Yankees’ Harlem Globetrotters as they have been doing with numbing regularity in recent years.

I planned the game so I could see Brian Matusz the Orioles coming star southpaw. He did not disappoint in his ability to follow the mantra of Ray Miller the Orioles pitching coach in their glory years: “Work Fast, Throw Strikes, Change Speeds, Hold ‘Em Close.” Matusz did everyone of these things but since the Orioles provided him with only one run he had to be perfect and that is not possible with most teams, and certainly not the 2010 Woerioles. The result was a predictable and dispiriting 4-1 loss. (The following Sunday in Minnesota Matusz threw his first bad game in a 6-0 loss but he's not Superman and I think he'll bounce back quickly.
It's just the anemic spiritless offense that is driving Woeriole fans crazy, those of us who are still left.)

It helps to watch baseball games without TOO much emotional involvement although I think you best enjoy baseball with a rooting interest. On Friday afternoon May 7th I saw an excellent regular season high school games between defending New York Public Schools Athletic League champion Norman Thomas HS of Manhattan and perennial contender Beacon High. It was one by Thomas, 5-2, in one of the crisper games I’ve seen in Central Park.

I always marvel at how every field in the playground of my youth (not that I played much there as a youth but that as they say is another story) has an obstructed view for spectators. Whether it comes from trees that block a view of home plate or wire fences that make seeing outfield foul lines all but impossible, it is remarkable how hard it is to watch the full diamond.

Yet the top competition in the blessedly wood bat-PSAL always is rewarding. As always in any close baseball game mistakes proved the undoing of the losing side. An easy fly ball dropped in the first inning by the nonchalant Beacon centerfielder Erik Poltroo (the name is Estonian by the way and he has a good lefthanded batting stroke that bears watching) led to two runs and a lead that Thomas never relinquished. Beacon surely showed though that they belonged on the same field as Thomas.

Saturday May 8 I braved the rain and winds to see my alma mater Columbia try to regain the Ivy League baseball title from Dartmouth up at the windy Robertson Field just north of the Baker Field football stadium in northern Manhattan. An outstanding complete game from sophomore Pat Lowery in a 13-2 opening game rout gave Lions fans hope but the Big Green rallied to win Game 2 15-10. Again basic plays were not made in the field by Columbia and Dartmouth pounced on the opportunities. Big Green freshman catcher Chris O’Dowd - he is the son of the Colorado Rockies general manager Dan O’Dowd - had a perfect day at the plate and hit the game-changing three-run HR. The next day Dartmouth came from behind again and clinched the title and the automatic NCAA bid with a 11-5 rubber game triumph.

I didn’t attend the Sunday game because I opted for the wood bats of the Mets-Giants at the new Shea Stadium that I will never call CitiField. Oliver Perez was awful - walking seven and throwing over 100 pitches in less than four innings of work - but Mets rallied against Cy Young award-winner Tim Lincecum only to lose it on a HR in 8th by Aaron Rowand. Brutal wind played havoc with every ball hit to the outfield, bloop or blast.

It was my first visit to the upper deck of New Shea which has more charm and quirks than the new Yankee Stadium that basically is a very expensive reconstruction of the botched second Yankee Stadium with a Great Hall downstairs that looks like it was designed by Albert Speer, Hitler’s architect.

New Shea is at least an improvement on the utilitarian dreariness of the original. But its incessant between-innings promos grew tiresome in a hurry. One was for a new body lotion, another featured third baseman David Wright hosting a speed text contest, and a third bestowed free passes to Hershey Park to the kid who threw the fastest - 49 mph - in the booth that gauges such things. Sure hope the eager lad is not on Dr. Andrews' surgery list in the near future.

I sorely missed the real organ sounds of Jane Jarvis who died earlier this year at age 94 and was memorialized in a beautiful ceremony at the jazz church St. Peter's in the Citicorp Center on Manhattan's East Side Monday May 10.

I returned home to see the Oakland A’s Dallas Braden complete his perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. I’m happy for him, for he now has some creds in attacking the insufferable preening of Alex Rodriguez. Always nice to see a 24th round draft pick like Braden, a southpaw from Stockton California who played at Texas Tech in Lubbock, make a name for himself in the bigs. Let’s hope though that Braden doesn’t put too much pressure on himself to repeat his perfect game. That may well have happened to the White Sox lefty Mark Buehrle after his perfect game last summer also against the Rays.

The 2010 Rays showed a lot of moxie in bouncing back from that perfect game loss to win a series in Anaheim for the first time in over 10 years. For those of us who root against the Yankees the Rays and perhaps the Twins look like our best hope in 2010. I get my first look at the Twins this weekend and will report my views later this month.

Ciao for now!
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