SABR 48 – The Opener

To immerse oneself in the SABR experience, one needs stamina, coffee and energy bars. SABR 48 presentations and research committee meetings are scheduled from 7:30 AM until 7:30 PM. No break for lunch. Two or three sessions running simultaneously.

Good thing I’m prepared with my travel mug and lightweight Senators Fan Club backpack to hold my bars, apples, variety of nuts and a pen. (Thankfully, I never got hungry enough for the pen.)

SABR48-1st

I’m mesmerized from the very first session featuring two veteran Pirates’ official scorers. I know the official scorer in Harrisburg and enjoy hearing his take on hit/error disagreements from the dugouts, using video replay to make calls, etc.

This hour-long session flies by as do each of the rest. I attend presentation after presentation until 7:30 PM. Between sessions I meet more inviting SABR veterans. I share our great flood story from last evening with a few of them.

Highlights include Pirates’ President, Frank Coonelly, offering opening remarks. I learn much more about Roy Sievers’ baseball career and Negro League exhibitions in Pittsburgh. A research committee meeting featuring Women in Baseball and a panel discussion of Wendell Smith prove particularly enlightening.

As a former broadcaster, I enjoy Curt Smith’s history of Pirates’ baseball announcers. A sneak peek at Aviva Kempner’s upcoming film on Moe Berg takes us to 7:30. Aviva treats us to some incredible footage to be included in her project.

Tonight’s dinner is scheduled for the strip district. The good news is no flooding. The bad news is no parking.

Industry-Public-House

After circling and diligently trying side streets and alleys, we head for Industry Public House, which pinch hits nicely for our original plan. Following fish and chips and Hop Farm IPA, we need to pick up Mitch’s formerly stranded SUV and rest up for Friday’s SABR events.

 

 

SABR 48 – Who Ordered Water?

We walk through the hotel lobby and into a sea of black and yellow lanyards. Each SABR 48 registrant also carries a yellow canvas bag with convention goodies including a Pirates cap. We register, meet a few friendly folks and then duck outside to walk over to Pork and Beans.

Mitch wants to introduce Chris and me to one of his favorite pizza restaurants later, so this is simply a happy hour refreshment stop. Fortunately there’s room at the end of the bar for each of us and our drafts of choice: Bell’s Two-Hearted Ale for me, please.

Soon we’re on our way to our pizza dinner, except … the place is closed. Not to be deterred, we simply head for Mitch’s next pizza choice, except … we never arrive there.

Rain has begun to fall during our drive. Then it comes down harder. Then it rains so hard that visibility suffers. Then water doesn’t have time to leave the street.

Mitch pulls into a strip mall parking lot because he doesn’t trust the depth of the water on Washington Avenue. That’s when the show begins.

Driver after driver decides to push forward or pull over. Some high clearance pickups barely escape through the waves of water. A few cars and a white van aren’t so fortunate.

Washington-Aveune-Flood

An audience gathers on higher ground on either side of Washington Avenue. We’re all shocked to see how quickly the street has become Washington Avenue Lake.

Stranded cars bob in the water. One man exits his passenger door and wades to the parking lot where we all stand. The rain has stopped, but the lake persists.

A police SUV arrives. A fire truck blocks both ends of the lake to turn away more potential swimmers.

The lot where we park has no safe exit. It’s fenced off from adjacent lots. We and about a dozen others are stranded here.

Fortunately, there’s a small pizza shop directly behind us. Tomatoes II becomes our favorite pizzeria for a large special and a small pepperoni/mushroom. The workers are welcoming and very happy to wait on customers. Obviously, they can’t deliver. And soon after we finish our pizza feast, the rain pelts down so hard during a couple of thunderstorms that they can no longer serve others.

Finally, our next choice is simple: we either rest in the car or page Uber and walk to a dryer pick-up point. We choose Uber. Our driver gathers us up quickly, but we’re detoured twice due to high water and a downed tree.

If this is our first night’s experience of SABR 48, what can the rest of the week bring?

SABR 48 Between Inning Brewmasters

The Copper Kettle Brewing Company offers more than 40 recipes from which to choose. We belly up to the bar to sample a few. We decide on a Kolsch-style ale to celebrate summertime.

Houghs

Mitch had previously brewed an English Brown ale so he knows the drill. We mix the batch, name our brew, design the bottle label and then return in 3-6 weeks to bottle and walk out with our cache of goods.

Following a quick, delicious lunch at a nearby establishment (and a Dogfish Head 60-Minute), we return to begin our brewing process. The CKB staff member asks for a volunteer, but I’m at the ready before he finishes his sentence.

Within the next moment I’m scooping out the precise amounts of Carapils, Munich and Pilsen grains. We’re even invited to chew on a few kernels.

Once that all leaches into our kettle of water, Chris is stirring while I gently pour in about two pitchers of malt extract. Finally, Chris measures out the Hallertau and Tettnanger hops to add to our concoction.

That’s our final step … for 3-6 weeks. Mitch says it’s a built-in excuse that I must return to Pittsburgh within that time frame.

To keep my impatient mind occupied, we depart for downtown to register onsite for SABR 48!

SABR 48 – Top of the 1st

As the curtain falls on another school year and my continuing education, I become increasingly excited for SABR 48 and our peripheral plans. I’m to pull up to Mitch’s place by 11 AM on Wednesday.

A few days before, he explains that we have lunch reservations at 1. Afterward we could drive downtown to register for SABR 48 and attend the opening reception. Of course, we’d leave enough time to visit a downtown pub in-between.

“Wait a minute. Lunch ‘reservations’? Do I need to bring a suit and tie?” Mitch chuckles into the phone and assures me that wouldn’t be necessary. Nonetheless, lunch would be a surprise for me.

Despite some driving rains along the PA Turnpike, I make decent time and park in front of Mitch’s home at 10:55 AM. After a little settling in, the three of us are on our way to my “surprise” lunch.

We park on a narrow street in a nondescript neighborhood. We walk toward Hough’s, an inviting taproom on Greenfield Avenue.

Houghs-OnTap

Except that Hough’s doesn’t open until 4 PM! So Mitch casually pulls open the door adjacent to Hough’s. I walk into a large room filled with brewing kettles, glass jars of ingredients and delightful aromas.

Welcome to my surprise: brewing our own batch of ale at The Copper Kettle Brewing Company! Because I enjoy hoisting back a craft brew now and then, I’d been asked many times whether I’d ever brewed my own. My response is always the same: “I don’t have the patience.”

 

SABR 48, Us 1

Until this year, SABR was a faceless number-crunching organization. During baseball games, I’d hear “SABR-metrics” mentioned and obscure stats would display on my TV.

Only because the stars align in 2018 do I learn more. Much more.

Back Camera

SABR 48, the national convention, is scheduled for Pittsburgh in late June. My good friend, Mitch, invites Chris and me to stay at his place–less than 15 minutes from the downtown venue. (The three of us and others enjoyed UBT 10: five professional baseball games in five days in four different states. That’s why we call our annual events “Ultimate Baseball Trips.”)

As winter turns to spring, we research SABR 48. The full package is affordable, yet includes the D-Backs/Pirates game on Friday. Mitch and Chris schedule a few vacation days. I’m already off during the summer. Each of us become SABR members and sign up to attend it all.

Along with all of the SABR events, we plan to sprinkle in some craft brews and possibly another ballpark. Let the games begin!