This is part of a series of articles in which I contribute to uniting our world by showing off a part of my own. A while back, I proposed writing articles to bring people together by showing us something special about your world that you want to share.
Today’s topic: the joys of taking in a baseball game.
One of my favorite activities is to take in a ballgame. It relaxes me, it’s fun (although I understand why a lot of people find baseball to be boring), and (for those of us who do “get” baseball) it can be mentally stimulating. I’m one of the people that you’ll see keeping score at a ballgame. People who find baseball to be boring often don’t understand that baseball is actually a chess match — the managers are making moves based on probability, and certain strategies are employed based on certain situations (e.g. what kind of pitch to throw, whether or not to steal a base, substituting a player, and so on). I’ve had a lifelong love affair with baseball, going all the way back to my early teens, and I will take in a ballgame whenever I have a chance to do so. I’ve even been known to schedule vacations around Major League Baseball schedules. I even wrote a previous article in which I talk about the ballparks and arenas that I’ve visited.
With that, there are things that I make sure I do whenever I visit a ballpark. Every ballpark is an experience, and with the number of different stadia around the country, each experience will be different.
Mingle with the fans around you. Fans are often representative of the local culture, and you can often experience a lot just by talking to fans. They can often tell you about things to experience, places to eat, and maybe talk a little about the history of the home team or the area that you’re visiting. Conversations with local fans can often be quite interesting. And often, you’ll speak the common language of baseball, even if you’re rooting for opposing teams!
I once attended a game at Fenway Park (a dangerous place for a Yankee fan like me, I know), and I struck up a conversation with a lady sitting next to me. After a while, she said to me, “you’re from New York, aren’t you?” I said, “yeah, how’d you know?” She said, “something you said. You definitely have a New York accent.” To this day, it’s the only time I’ve ever been told that I have an accent of any kind!
Sample the ballpark fare. I mentioned in my previous #TheBestOf article that I make it a point to sample food that’s representative of an area that I’m visiting. The same holds for ballpark food. Most, if not all, ballparks have their standard hot dogs, of course, but a lot of ballparks will often have fare that’s representative of their locale. I’ve sampled, among other things, streak sandwiches and bacon on a stick (a friend who accompanied me to a game once said to me, “that’s not bacon, that’s a pork chop!”) at Yankee Stadium, Fenway Franks and hot cocoa at Fenway Park, coffee and garlic fries (not together, mind you!) at Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park), and French fries at SkyDome (now Rogers Centre). Granted, a ballpark isn’t a four-Michelin-star restaurant, but a lot of concessions have come a long way since the days of a hot dog and a beer (although you can still get those).
Explore any unique features of a ballpark. Not all ballparks are created equal. I love to explore ballparks, especially one that I’m visiting for the first time. Fenway has the Green Monster. Yankee Stadium has Monument Park and the Yankee Museum. Tropicana Field has the manta ray tank (I was going to mention the Ted Williams Museum, but was sad to see that it had been closed). Many ballparks have features that are usually worth checking out, and if they’re fan-accessible (Monument Park is one of my favorites), I suggest you go check it out!
Buy a souvenir. Any tourist will often get souvenirs unique to his or her trip. Ballparks are no different. I have a small collection of items from ballparks I’ve visited. I have caps, shirts, jerseys, and other swag for the Toronto Blue Jays, Seattle Mariners, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles, Montreal Expos, and Colorado Rockies (and maybe a few others that I’ve missed). (Okay, as a Yankee fan, the only memorabilia I won’t buy is anything for the Boston Red Sox or New York Mets! 🙂 ) They all represent ballpark experiences I’ve had, and even though I’m a Yankee fan, I will wear these items proudly!*
(*Well, okay, maybe except on days when the Yankees play them!)
Keep score. I regularly keep score at ballgames. A scorecard does a number of things. It makes you pay attention to whatever is happening on the field of play (and, if you’re new to baseball, it can help you better understand the game). It can be a conversation piece; often if other fans around me see that I’m keeping score, they’ll often ask me things like, “what did such-and-such batter do his last time at bat?” (I remember someone once said to me, “if you’re keeping score, you immediately become the god of that section where you’re sitting!”) And at the end of the game, your scorecard becomes another souvenir of the ballgame!
Admire the history and the architecture. It’s often said that sports are a reflection of society. As such, a great deal of history comes along with a ballclub. (If you want a good synopsis of the relationship between baseball and history, check out Ken Burns’ Baseball.) Understanding the history of a ballclub, as well as the architecture of the ballpark, often reflects the history of the municipality that it represents.
Enjoy the environment. There’s a reason why baseball is called “America’s Pastime.” For me, there’s something very satisfying and relaxing (or exhilarating, if an exciting play happens) about spending a beautiful summer day at the ballpark along with good friends (or even by myself), a scorecard, a hot dog, and a beer.
Visit the surrounding area. Areas surrounding ballparks can often be attractions in and of themselves, and they often provide great destinations after the game is over. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is within easy walking distance from Camden Yards. Denver’s LoDo neighborhood is a stone’s throw from Coors Field. Fenway Park is right around the corner from Kenmore Square and Boston University. And Safeco Field/T-Mobile Park is only a short distance from Seattle’s Pioneer Square and the waterfront.
If you are as big of a baseball fan as I am (or even if you’re not), and if you like to travel, make sure you take in a ballgame. It will enhance your travel experience so much more!
If you’re a ‘blogger who’s looking for something to write about, read on. Perhaps this will give you an idea.
This afternoon, I was doing a mundane, household chore (specifically, I was washing dishes and doing some cleaning in the kitchen), and whenever I do mundane chores like that, of course, my mind tends to wander. So today, I decided to write about what my mind was wandering about.
I don’t know what sparked this idea — maybe it was because I had Andrew Zimmern’s Delicious Destinations on the TV in the background. First, a little background. As a first (or maybe it’s second — I never know how these things work) generation Korean-American, I tend to appreciate cultural diversity. I love experiencing cultures and traditions that are not my own. I enjoy traveling, and I wish I could do more of it (only the lack of time or money — usually both — and these days, the COVID-19 pandemic — keeps me from doing so). I have friends and family around the world — maybe not as many as other people who’ve traveled more than I have, but nevertheless, I have friends I’ve made either by friends I already knew who have relocated to other countries, people whom I’ve met through my association with SQL Saturday or other PASS-related endeavors, or through work or school.
I also thought about things to bring the world together. I don’t need to tell you how divisive the world is these days. A while back, I wrote an article about bringing the world together. I started thinking of a way to do that.
So with all that said, here’s the idea that my wandering mind cooked up.
Let’s say that you have a friend from a foreign country or culture — one that is not your own — over to your home area for a visit. You want to show him or her the best of what your culture or your home turf has to offer. What do you show or tell him or her?
Personally, I would like to show my friend everything that my home state of New York has to offer — New York City, Niagara Falls, the Finger Lakes, apple picking, the Adirondack wilderness, Buffalo chicken wings, the Baseball Hall of Fame, music, county fairs, festivals, historic sites, etc. There’s a lot here to show off.
So, I’ll write an article now and then (usually whenever the mood strikes me) in which I talk about something — whether it’s a place, an art, a sport, a food, whatever — that is significant to me, and I’d like to show off to a visiting guest. I’ll precede these articles using the hashtag #TheBestOf followed by whatever I’ll write about (e.g. “#TheBestOf… Baseball” or whatever).
Here are some ground rules for this project. The topic — whatever it is — is something special or unique to me that I think a visitor would appreciate. It can not be divisive, disrespectful, or disparaging — partisan politics, for example, is verboten — unless it’s within the context of something historically or culturally significant (e.g. Benedict Arnold’s role in the American Revolution, etc.).
And if you’re a ‘blogger and would like to take part, knock yourself out. The best way to think about this little project is to pretend you’re a travel writer describing your home turf or culture. I would enjoy reading about what makes your world special, and what you’d show off if I came over to visit. If you’d like, feel free to refer to this article for reference or context.
Let’s see how this goes. If you’d like to take part, great. If not, no worries. For all I know, this might be the only article in which you’ll see this hashtag.
As people who know me are aware, I am a huge baseball fan. I’ve often heard people refer to PASS Summit as being “the Super Bowl of SQL Saturdays.” Looking at the speakers list (and being the baseball fan that I am), I equate it more as being the “SQL Saturday All-Star Game.”
People such as Bob Ward, Steve Jones, and Grant Fritchey (yes, you, Steve and Grant!) represent the big hitters. They are Willie Mays, Ken Griffey Jr., and Mickey Mantle, people who are perennial SQL stars and are pretty much shoo-ins for being selected to Summit year after year. (And I’m sure that if my friends Steve and Grant are reading this, they might give me an “aw shucks!” for equating them with Junior and The Mick!) On the other hand, people like me are more like Willie Randolph or Kent Hrbek — players who had solid careers and made an occasional All-Star game now and then, but weren’t necessarily household names outside of their home teams’ markets.
I’ve seen interviews with ballplayers who talked about how humbled they were about being selected to play in the All-Star Game. Having been selected to speak at PASS Summit for the second time, I understand how they feel. I am awed and humbled with being associated alongside some of the great players in the business.
Being the baseball nut that I am, of course, I had to import baseball statistics, so I decided to reimport the most recent data from Sean Lahman’s baseball database. The last time I did this exercise, I downloaded a database format. I don’t remember what format I used (the links all say “Access” — which I don’t remember downloading), but the files I used had an .sql extension. This time, I used the comma-delimited version, which downloaded a zip file containing files with a .csv extension.
I wanted to import the files directly into my database and have them create the tables upon doing so, so I opened up my SSMS, created a new Baseball database, and looked into how to do this. After poking around a bit (and a little bit of Googling), I found that flat files could be imported by right-clicking the database of your choice (in the below example, “Baseball”), clicking Tasks, and selecting Import Flat File.
Selecting this opened an Import Flat File wizard. First, it prompted me to select the input file. (Note: if you are importing multiple files, as I did for this little exercise, the wizard is smart enough to remember your last folder when you click Browse.)
When it looks at the flat file, it gives you a preview of the data that you’re importing. Since, for this exercise, I’m importing comma-delimited flat files, it was able to put my data into nice, neat columns.
Clicking “Next” brought me to a screen where I could modify the columns. I like this option a lot, as it gives me an opportunity to set up my data schema the way I want. If you’re a SQL or database newbie, I strongly suggest that you learn about primary keys and data types and take the time to set them up at this point.
In this particular example, I set my yearID to char(4), stint to int (I will likely change this to tinyint), teamID to char(3), lgID to char(2), and pretty much everything after lgID to int. I also set my first five columns as a composite primary key and everything else to be nullable.
I must have set these columns up successfully, because when I ran it, it did so without complaining.
I wish I could say that I imported all of my flat files without a hitch, but I did run into a few that didn’t run successfully the first time. Here are some of the issues that I came across.
I had opened a file in Excel to check data types, forgotten to close it, and the import complained that it couldn’t work because the file was still open.
I miscalculated a few field sizes, and came across messages saying that my column sizes were too short (for example, setting nvarchar(10) for a column that included data with 15 characters).
There were a few cases where I simply had the wrong data type.
My Pitching table included a column for ERA, which I was surprised to see. Reason: ERA (Earned Run Average, for those of you who are baseball-challenged) is a calculated statistic, like batting average. However, batting average was not included in the Batting table. So, I set the column data type to float. However, when I tried to import it, it failed. When I looked at the data, I found entries under ERA that said “inf” (for “infinity”)*. In this case, I did some data cleansing. I got rid of these entries and saved the flat file. It then imported with no problem
(*Some of you might be wondering, how do you get an ERA of infinity? Answer: you give up runs without getting anyone out! Mathematically, you would get a divide-by-zero error for calculating ERA, but in baseball parlance, it means you give up runs and can’t get anyone out!)
So hopefully at this point, you now have an idea as to how to import flat files into a SQL Server database (and maybe even got a small taste of data types and primary keys). And hopefully, this little utility saves you a lot of grief when trying to import flat files.
I’ll admit that the COVID-19 crisis has had me fall into some bad habits. This morning, I decided to address one of them.
Since gyms have been shut down due to the crisis, I have fallen off the wagon when it comes to my CrossFit workouts. I’ve been doing a lot of sitting on my duff. Since I work in IT, it’s the nature of the beast and a job hazard. I woke up this morning to a sunny morning (for once — we’ve had a lot of rain, sunny days have been few and far between, and it’s directly affected my mood, not to mention my motivation), and decided to do something.
I went to the Couch to 5K website and did a little reading. I’ve toyed with the idea before, but never pulled the trigger on it. For whatever reason, this morning was different. I downloaded the C25K app to my phone, put on my shirt, shorts, and CrossFit shoes, and followed the instructions for Day 1 as I went around the block several times. Day 1 is essentially a 20 minute AMRAP (or maybe EMOM might be more accurate — I’m not sure) that alternates between 90 seconds of walking and 60 seconds of jogging (not including a 5 minute warm-up and cool-down walk at the beginning and end). It sounds pretty easy, but I was still winded by the time I was finished.
Will I keep this up for eight weeks? We’ll see. Right now, the jury’s out. For all I know, I might wake up tomorrow morning and decide that I want to stay in bed. But hey, we all need to start somewhere. Maybe at the very least, when the COVID-19 crisis is over and I’m allowed to go back to my gym, I won’t cringe when the coaches tell me that the WOD is a 5K run.
One of my admitted addictions is my Xbox 360 and EA Sports NCAA Football 2013. With all of us shut in during the COVID-19 crisis, I’ve had a lot more time on my hands lately, and I’ve been playing football on the Xbox a lot more than I care to admit.
One of the things that NCAA Football 13 allows me to do is align my own conferences. So I decided to have some fun with it.
With conference realignment, we have teams that, geographically, don’t make much sense. West Virginia in the Big Twelve (a conference whose easternmost school was once Missouri)? Seriously? Also, college sports conferences often have their own identity relative to their geography. With no Eastern conference, that identity no longer exists.
When I was a student at Syracuse, there was no eastern football conference (at that time, the Big East was basketball-only). Instead, there were a bunch of eastern independent football programs under the umbrella of the ECAC (not an organized conference) that pretty much played each other every year, so for all intents and purposes, they informally made up their own conference, even though there wasn’t one at the time.
The late Joe Paterno once said that we need to have an all-sport Eastern conference (this was before Penn State joined the Big Ten). I’ve often thought, if we had an Eastern conference, this is how it might have looked. Well, since NCAA Football 13 allows me to align my own conferences, I could make that happen. I decided, why not!
NCAA Football 13 represents the 2012 season, which is the last season of the Big East conference and the year before Syracuse and Pittsburgh joined the ACC. It means that, in this gameplay universe, there would always be a Big East conference, and the American conference doesn’t exist. Additionally, the four-team FBS championship hadn’t yet been implemented, so I’m stuck with the BCS (boo!). It is what it is.
So in setting up my all-Eastern dream superconference, I decided to kick out any non-traditional Eastern football teams (so long, USF) and bring back the old, traditional Eastern independents (hello, Boston College, Penn State, Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse, Temple, and West Virginia), as well as pilfering other traditional conference teams and independents (looking at you, Maryland and Notre Dame — in this fantasy world, Maryland leaves the ACC, where they were at the time; in 2012, they hadn’t yet joined the Big Ten — and Notre Dame relinquishes its independence. Hey, before you Golden Domers yell at me, this is my setup, and I can do what I want!). I also kept other Big East teams that weren’t “traditional” — Cincinnati, UConn, and Louisville.
Of course, since I took teams from other conferences, I moved some teams around in order to balance them out. It’s interesting how your own fantasy conference realignment affects the other conferences as well! So, among other things, UCF and USF became ACC schools, Missouri went to the Big Ten, and Texas A&M went back to the Big Twelve. (I might have made some other moves as well, but I don’t remember what they were off the top of my head.)
Including twelve teams allowed me to split my conference into two divisions, along with an end-of-season championship game, so I created Eastern and Western divisions. When all was said and done, my new Big East conference looked like this.
Big East (Eastern Division)
Big East (Western Division)
(Note: yes, I know Cincinnati is further west than West Virginia. I wanted to keep as many of the traditional Eastern powers together as much as possible. Hey, my scenario, my rules!)
I also set up cross-division rivals, similar to what the ACC currently has — Syracuse (Atlantic Division) plays Pittsburgh (Coastal Division) every year, and so on. So in this setup, Notre Dame plays Boston College every year and Louisville plays Cincinnati. (I don’t remember what other pairings I had; I think I paired Penn State with Maryland, Pitt with Temple, West Virginia with Rutgers, and Syracuse with UConn.)
(Speaking of which, EA Sports keeps insisting that SU vs. UConn is a major rivalry. As far as I know, that rivalry only existed in basketball, and it wasn’t all that heated, like SU vs. Georgetown. Personally, I have nothing against UConn, except when we play them!)
I set up a championship game played at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia. I actually wanted to set it up at Met Life Stadium in East Rutherford, NJ, but unfortunately, NCAA Sports 13 doesn’t offer that as an option, so I tried to pick the most centrally located stadium in a big metro area (so Penn State was out) that was offered by the game.
(Okay, maybe Pittsburgh is more centrally located. The game does allow me to change it at the end of each season. We’ll see.)
It makes for an interesting setup. I keep the geography of the former Eastern independents, and it has its own Eastern identity. If I could imagine what a geographically-sensible college football realignment might have turned out, this is how it might be organized. Oh, what might have been.
By the way, I just finished playing a season in which I took my 14-0 Syracuse team to the national championship.
I enjoy attending sporting events. My previous post got me thinking about the sports venues that I’ve visited, and I thought it’d be fun to compile that list!
A few caveats: I only list venues (along with their home teams and/or events) in which I’ve actually seen a game. For example, I’ve set foot in Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor, but I didn’t actually see a game there, so it’s not on my list.
I don’t list opposing teams. I’ve been to so many events that I don’t remember them all. Also, for “home” arenas in which I’ve seen large numbers of games, they’d be too many to list, anyway.
I also denote any arenas that are homes to “my teams.” While I live two hours away from Syracuse, I still consider the Carrier Dome as my “home” arena. Geographically, Siena and UAlbany are only minutes away from me, and I do root for the home team in those arenas, but they’re not necessarily “my” teams or home arenas.
I only consider organized professional (major or minor league) and NCAA (any division) teams or events. Organized non-professional or collegiate events (e.g. Little League World Series, Olympic games, etc.) count too, although I’ve never been to one. The pickup game of touch football in the public park doesn’t count.
These are listed in no particular order, although I try to list my “home” arenas, places I’ve visited more often, and places geographically close to me first.
I mark arenas that either no longer exist or are no longer used for that sport with an asterisk (*).
All games are regular season games, unless denoted.
I have never been to an NBA, NHL, or major soccer game, which is why you don’t see them listed.
So without further ado, here’s that list.
Arenas I’ve visited
Yankee Stadium (new), Bronx, NY — NY Yankees (home arena), ALDS
Yankee Stadium* (old), Bronx, NY — NY Yankees (home arena)
Joseph Bruno Stadium, Troy, NY — Tri-City ValleyCats (home arena)
Robison Field, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (home arena)
Fenway Park, Boston, MA — Boston Red Sox
Shea Stadium*, Queens, NY — NY Mets
Citi Field, Queens, NY — NY Mets
Kingdome*, Seattle, WA — Seattle Mariners
Safeco Field (now T-Mobile Park), Seattle WA — Seattle Mariners
Camden Yards, Baltimore, MD — Baltimore Orioles, All-Star Game
SkyDome (now Rogers Centre), Toronto, ON — Toronto Blue Jays
MacArthur Stadium*, Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Chiefs
Alliance Bank Stadium (now NBT Stadium), Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Chiefs
Olympic Stadium*, Montreal, PQ — Montreal Expos
Veterans Stadium*, Philadelphia, PA — Philadelphia Phillies
Tiger Stadium*, Detroit, MI — Detroit Tigers
Coors Field, Denver, CO — Colorado Rockies
Tropicana Field, St. Petersburg, FL — Tampa Bay Rays
Damaschke Field*, Oneonta, NY — Oneonta Yankees
East Field*, Glens Falls, NY — Glens Falls Redbirds, Adirondack Lumberjacks
Stade Canac, Quebec City, PQ — Quebec Capitales
Dwyer Stadium, Batavia, NY — Batavia Trojans
Silver Stadium*, Rochester, NY — Rochester Red Wings
Places where I’ve never seen a game, but are on my wish list: Wrigley Field, Chicago; Dodger Stadium, Los Angeles; Oracle Park, San Francisco; Kaufmann Stadium, Kansas City; Petco Park, San Diego; Nationals Field, Washington DC; PNC Park, Pittsburgh; any Nippon Professional League game in Japan
Carrier Dome, Syracuse, NY — Syracuse Orange (home arena)
ECAV Stadium, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (home arena)
’86 Field*, Troy, NY — RPI Engineers (home arena)
Bob Ford Field, Albany, NY — UAlbany Great Danes
Alumni Stadium, Chestnut Hill, MA — Boston College Eagles
Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, MD — Navy Midshipmen
Michie Stadium, West Point, NY — Army Black Knights
Veterans Stadium*, Philadelphia, PA — Temple Owls
Yale Bowl, New Haven, CT — Yale Bulldogs
Met Life Stadium, East Rutherford, NJ — Syracuse Orange
Giants Stadium*, East Rutherford, NJ — Syracuse Orange
Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH — Ohio State Buckeyes
Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans, LA — Sugar Bowl
Pontiac Silverdome*, Pontiac, MI — Cherry Bowl
Tampa Stadium*, Tampa, FL — Hall of Fame (now Outback) Bowl
Sun Devil Stadium, Tempe, AZ — Fiesta Bowl
Yankee Stadium, Bronx, NY — Pinstripe Bowl
Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL — Camping World Bowl
Places where I’ve never seen a game, but are on my wish list: Harvard Stadium, Harvard; Memorial Stadium, Clemson; Beaver Stadium, Penn State; Rose Bowl, UCLA; Michigan Stadium, Michigan; Notre Dame Stadium, Notre Dame
I became interested in this ‘blog for several reasons. I am an alumnus of an NCAA Division I power conference basketball school. I am a college basketball fan, and a sports fan in general. I was a pep band member in college, so that fandom tends to be amplified. I enjoy visiting and exploring sports venues. And I love to travel (although I don’t always have the time or money to do so).
I became curious about his ‘blog. I did a quick skim of his impressions about my “home” arena. I also have two Division I basketball schools within fifteen minutes of my home (Siena and UAlbany), so when I have a chance, I’ll have to read those as well. His ‘blog looks interesting, so I’ll have to read through it some more when time allows!
I applaud the gentleman’s efforts. While I’m not as ambitious as he is to try attending 350 basketball arenas, I do enjoy catching games whenever I can (I recently caught a St. John’s game at Madison Square Garden during a weekend getaway down in New York). I will confess to having a pipe dream of attending games in all thirty Major League Baseball stadiums. (So far, I’ve made it to Yankee Stadium [both old and new], Citi Field, Shea Stadium, Fenway Park, Camden Yards, SkyDome/Rogers Centre, Olympic Stadium, Tiger Stadium, Veterans Stadium, Kingdome, Safeco Field [or whatever they call it now — T-Mobile park, or whatever it is], Tropicana Field, and Coors Field. Whew! I think that’s all of them!)
Everyone needs to go out and experience life. One of my ways of doing it is attending sporting events. Whatever it is you enjoy, go out there and enjoy life!
Being the trip planner that I am, I mapped out my plans for this trip a while back. Plans for this trip have actually been in the works for months.
Planning began back in May, when I submitted my presentations. For planning purposes, whenever I submit presentations to any event, I assume that I’ll be selected to speak, even before I find out whether or not my submissions are accepted. As soon as I submit, my plans for whatever event I apply are pretty well written into my calendar, unless either (1) I end up not getting chosen for the event, or (2) some conflict that I can’t get out of comes up for the same date.
Ordinarily, I don’t firm up my travel plans until I know for sure that I’m selected to speak, but this time around, there were a couple of twists. First of all, I saw Thomas Grohser, one of the event’s organizers, at SQL Saturday in Albany in July. He told me that I was going to be speaking in NYC. Granted, Thomas is a friend, but nevertheless, it was still not an official selection. I wanted to make sure that I had the official selection email before I started booking my train and my hotel room.
In early August — still before I received the official acceptance notification — I got an email from Amtrak (I’m a Guest Rewards member) that included fare specials. I discovered a round-trip fare from Albany to Penn Station that was too good to pass up. Unfortunately, the deal had an expiration date, so I had to act fast. I decided to pull the trigger on it. Okay. I had a train reservation. Now I was committed to the trip, regardless of whether I was chosen to speak or not. It wasn’t a big deal; I regularly attend SQL Saturday in New York, regardless of whether or not I’m speaking.
I selected an early afternoon train to New York. I wanted to leave myself time to make the speaker’s dinner, if they had one. As it turned out, that would not be the case, as I’ll explain later on.
Now that my train was reserved, I needed to find a place to stay. My two siblings both have places down in The City, and my sister has repeatedly told me that I can use her place in Brooklyn. While I’m appreciative of the offer, I also wanted to stay someplace closer to the Microsoft office in Manhattan, preferably within walking distance, where SQL Saturday takes place. Of course, as anyone who has traveled to New York City can attest, inexpensive places to stay in midtown Manhattan are nearly non-existent. It also didn’t help that the office was located near one of the world’s biggest tourist traps. (I usually try avoiding it, but that was impossible for this trip.) I checked a variety of places, including a few on AirBnB and a few places that were farther away but near subway lines. I found a few places that had potential, but kept looking.
I hit the jackpot when I tried Hotwire. They advertised a deal where I could stay at an (unnamed) midtown hotel for $109. It promised that I would be booked at one of three hotels, which they listed. The actual hotel would be revealed after I booked. I looked at their locations, decided I could live with them, and decided to take the chance. I ended up getting booked at the Sheraton New York Times Square. The final damage was $173 after taxes and fees — granted, more than the advertised $109, but still a steal for a Sheraton in midtown Manhattan near Times Square!
At some point — I’m not quite sure when — I looked at my own speaker’s profile, and noticed that three of my submissions were now listed as “Regular Session,” not “Submitted Regular Session.” This is usually a pretty good indication that I’ve been selected to speak, although it still isn’t official yet. I was surprised, however, that three of them were listed. I figured, either (1) it was a mistake, (2) they were still working on the schedule, or (3) I was going to be one very busy boy on October 5!
In August, I got an email from Thomas Grohser. It was no mistake. Indeed, I had been selected to give three presentations! Thomas asked me, “let me know if this is too much or not.”
I sent him back a two word reply: “challenge accepted!”
So things were in place. Travel plans were set, and I was definitely speaking. I went about my business, awaiting the first weekend in October to arrive.
A funny thing happened along the way. I’m a big Yankee fan. The Yankees ended up winning the American League Eastern Division. At some point, I looked at the dates for the Yankees’ first two playoff games: October 4 and 5 in New York.
Hey, I was going to be in New York on October 4 and 5!
I looked into getting tickets for ALDS Game 1. They definitely weren’t cheap, but they weren’t so expensive that they would break the bank, either. The only thing that made me hesitate was that no game time was announced. If it was an early afternoon game, there was no way that I’d be able to make it. When they announced that it was a 7 pm game time, I pulled the trigger and bought myself a ticket! I’ve been going to ballgames for years, but I’ve never been to a playoff game before, and attending a postseason game has been on my bucket list for a long time. A weekend that was already going to be fun had just become more exciting!
At this point, all the plans were set. I only had to wait for October 4 to arrive.
Friday, October 4 arrived. My wife dropped me off at Albany-Rensselaer train station around 12:30. Other than the fact that my train, which was supposed to depart at 1:05, was about twenty minutes late, the train ride to Penn Station was uneventful. I arrived in New York around 4:00.
I took the E subway to my hotel. Upon exiting the subway, I had my first (pleasant) surprise of the trip. While I was at the street level, looking for my hotel, someone said hi to me. I was surprised to see that it was Michelle Gutzait, one of the SQL Saturday speakers, and her boyfriend! We spoke briefly. She was speaking at our user group in November, and said she was looking forward to speaking. They were looking for a theater for a show they were seeing that night, while I was looking for my hotel.
Randomly bumping into Michelle on the street turned out to be the first of numerous surprises on this trip.
I found my hotel, dropped off my bags, and proceeded up to the Bronx.
Now, I’ve been a baseball fan since I was around 12 or 13. I grew up rooting for the Yankees. I’ve attended numerous regular season games, more than I can remember. However, despite all those years going to regular season ballgames, I have never been to a postseason playoff game. It’s something that’s been on my bucket list for quite some time. When I saw that the Yankees’ first two playoff games were at home at the same time I was in the City for this trip, I jumped on the opportunity and bought myself a ticket for Friday night.
Friends told me that it was a different atmosphere from a regular season game, and it did not disappoint. The atmosphere was electric, and the crowd was loud — much more than a regular season game. Fans hung on to nearly every pitch during the first seven innings. By the time the seventh inning rolled around, the Yankees had scored ten runs and held nearly an insurmountable lead. I stuck it out until the end of the game and hopped the subway back to my hotel. I did stop to get a couple of slices of pizza on my way back (I can’t pass up genuine New York-style pizza!). It was well after midnight by the time I got back to my room, and around 1 am by the time I went to bed.
My alarm went off at 6. After hitting my snooze button a couple of times, I got up around 6:20. I rolled out of bed, showered, dressed, checked out of the hotel, and proceeded to Ellen’s Stardust Diner for breakfast.
This was the second time that I had gone to breakfast at Stardust; the first was when I spoke at NYC SQL Saturday last year. Now, I’ll say that the food at Stardust is good, but not great. If I picked a place to eat based on the food alone, Stardust would not be my first choice. However, I love Ellen’s Stardust Diner. It isn’t about the food; it’s about the experience. Stardust is known for their singing wait staff, and they put on a good show!
Amusing note: my waiter was named Kansas. Kansas is my favorite band! I told him as much, and he told me he was so named because they were also his parents’ favorite band! I hoped that he (or someone else) could sing a Kansas song before I finished my breakfast, but it wasn’t to be.
I could’ve sat there all morning and listened to the wait staff sing (and I told Kansas this), but alas, my first presentation was at 9:00. I wanted to get to Microsoft as soon as I could so I could prepare. Upon finishing my breakfast, I proceeded to the Microsoft building and SQL Saturday.
I wrote earlier about my presentations, so I won’t rehash them here. I will say that the combination of doing three presentations, combined with waking up at 6 am after having gone to bed at 1 am made for a long and tiring day! After lunch, for the sake of my own sanity, I decided not to attend any more sessions until I presented my own. There were some couches outside the speaker’s room, so I attempted to take a power nap — a plan that was thwarted by a security guard who kicked me awake (literally — he kicked the couch I was on) and told me, “you can’t do that here.” Sheesh.
At one point during the day, Matt hilariously sent this tweet. I got a good laugh out of this!
My trip of fun surprises continued at the end of the day during the conference closing session and raffle drawings. I was sitting in the front row. James Phillips, one of the co-organizers, was running the raffle. Since I was in the front row, he had me pick one of the winners. I stuck my hand in the bowl with the tickets, mixed them up, pulled one out, and gave it to James.
Mind you, I did not look at the ticket. Upon seeing the ticket, James shook his head and said, “I don’t believe it.”
He showed me the ticket. It had my name on it. I had pulled my own ticket! I’d won a Bluetooth speaker!
After SQL Saturday was over, I proceeded to 32nd Street, where Koreatown is located. It’s one of my favorite neighborhoods in Manhattan. As a Korean-American, I feel somewhat obligated to visit this place now and then, but as one who was born in New York State, I also feel at home when I come to this place to visit. I picked out a Korean BBQ place — one where I’d never been before — and had myself an excellent meal.
While I was waiting to be seated, a gentleman who had seen my shirt came up to me and introduced himself as a fellow Syracuse University alum. Yet another example where my clothing became a conversation piece! We spent about ten minutes talking about our alma mater before we were finally seated.
I had purposely scheduled a late train back home so that I could enjoy dinner while I was in Manhattan. After dinner, I walked the block west to Penn Station so I could catch my train.
Upon boarding the train and finding myself a seat, I heard a familiar voice say, “boy, they’ll let anybody on this train!” I turned around and saw Greg Moore sitting a couple of seats back. Yet another surprise on this trip!
Although Greg is very active in the SQL Server community, he did not attend SQL Saturday. Instead, he attended ComicCon with his daughter. (Greg wrote a nice ‘blog article about their ComicCon experience; you can read it here.) I moved back to sit across from them, but we didn’t converse much (if at all) during the ride; we were all pretty tired, and we planned to sleep on the train ride home. No matter; I see Greg often enough, anyway. (I’ll see him next week at our next user group meeting.)
I didn’t sleep well on the train; no matter how much I tried, I couldn’t get comfortable. My wife picked me up at the station, and I arrived home sometime after midnight.
Despite getting very little sleep, I had an absolute blast on this trip!
Mind you, I always have fun every time I go to a SQL Saturday, but I especially have a blast whenever I travel to New York City. It was an opportunity to get together with #SQLFamily, it was an opportunity to network, I got to practice my presentation skills (again), and as an added bonus, I got to attend a postseason baseball game! I absolutely love taking this trip, and I hope to do this again for NYC SQL Saturday again next year!
This is my last scheduled SQL Saturday for 2019. I don’t have any more SQL Saturdays lined up — I applied to speak at Boston BI SQL Saturday, but I will likely withdraw because of a conflict. There are “save-the-dates” listed for Rochester, Philadelphia, and Boston (non-BI) set for next year, and I intend to apply for them once they go live. (I might also apply to Virginia Beach as well; we’ll see.) And, of course, our Albany group usually has our SQL Saturday at the end of July.
I also noticed something else that was going on in The City while I was there — and I decided to jump on the opportunity!
Did I mention that I’m a big Yankee fan? As it turns out, Friday and Saturday also happens to be Games 1 and 2 of the American League Division Series! It’ll be the Minnesota Twins vs. the New York Yankees those days. And lo and behold, I’ll actually be in The City on those days! Can we say, opportunity knocks?
The only issue was the game time. My train arrives at Penn Station at 3:45. If it was an early afternoon game, there was no way I’d be able to go. When I found out the game was at 7 pm, I went online and splurged on a ticket for Game 1.
I’ve never attended a postseason baseball game before. It’s been on my bucket list for a long time. Granted, I’d prefer that it was a World Series game. But it was a situation where opportunity was knocking. The first two playoff games are in New York, and I’ll be in town when they happen!
So I will be in attendance at Yankee Stadium on Friday evening!
As I’ve written before, every now and then, you need to say, what the heck! Your professional life is important, but so is taking the time to stop and smell the roses (or, for me, to catch a ballgame). Opportunities don’t come around very often. And if one comes around, and you have the wherewithal to make it happen, then jump on it. Make it happen, and enjoy yourself!