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Local Column

Heimerman: A baseball fan's outlook on progress

Christopher Heimerman
Christopher Heimerman

It had been six-plus years since I’d been at a professional sports game.

Blasphemy, right? Well, after re-exploring Miller Park, home of our beloved Milwaukee Brewers, on Sunday morning, my wife, Kayla, and I settled into our bleacher seats to devour our ballpark fare before opening pitch.

After Junior Guerra threw three pitches, it dawned on me: I forgot just how hard it is to tell from up here what’s a slider, what’s a splitter, and what’s straight-up cheese.

When I watch the games at home, which I confess I do religiously, it’s clear as day where the catcher is setting up, whether the pitcher misses his spot, and what sort of pitch he throws, as well as with what sort of effectiveness.

Over the next three hours, though, I was repeatedly reminded on why I so badly missed going to live ballgames. In the past six years, sabermetrics (advanced baseball analytics) have exploded.

It was eye-opening to watch the game within the game as infielders shifted for left-handers who nearly exclusively pull the ball.

After the Brewers finished their demolition of the Atlanta Braves, I put the Cubs-Reds game feed on my phone and heard how former Cubs and current Reds skipper Jim Riggleman brought five of his defenders into the infield in order to (temporarily) keep the winning run from scoring.

The game changed fast. The world did, too. If I’d been at a game six years ago with what I have now – a smartphone – I might have missed a lot of the nuances of the game I was so enthralled by Sunday.

As much as I relished being at the ballpark – the sites, the smells, the gratuitous amount of food I ate (and did I mention the beatdown of the Braves?) – I couldn’t stop thinking about sabermetrics and watching them live. Love them or hate them, the data prove out that they’re an integral part of the game.

Data, again love it or not, don’t lie, so how else do we use it in our daily lives? On something of a tangent, how can we do things differently, rather than continuing to use a phrase that makes me grind me teeth –
“It’s the way we’ve always done it.”

Look, I’m not saying we should do anything rash, such as appoint an economic developer with no public office experience as DeKalb’s city manager, just because he’s willing to do it for free.

But in my limited time here, I’ve been impressed with the city’s outreach – as well as outreach from other municipalities. They seem to embrace the power of social media, but there’s always room to do more, right?

Here at the Daily Chronicle, we’ve rolled out some new initiatives in order to reach a new audience.

For instance, we now have newsletters we email weekly: a DeKalb City mailer one for DeKalb County, and a catcher-upper on crime and courts activity from the week leading up.

It’s a sort of insider report on government activity, and oftentimes the tidbits from the newsletter are later fleshed out into bigger stories in the paper. But as insiders, you get on the ground running, stride for stride with us.

We’re constantly trying to reach new audiences, figure out new ways to tell stories and, perhaps more importantly, keep our thumbs as firmly on the community’s pulse as possible in order to get you the news you need now.

So in baseball terms, we’re adjusting to the curveballs, and when we know a fastball is coming, we sit dead red and try to crush it as best we can. Purists should enjoy that. Analytics be darned, we’ve still got to execute and hit the ball.

• Christopher Heimerman is the editor of the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at cheimerman@shawmedia.com.

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